The View From the Other Side

17 Jan

Our regular organist was away today, and the substitute was somebody we’ve had before. The Squire and I had a chance to visit with him for a while during coffee hour.

Henry came to America from mainland China in 1947, when he was himself just seven years old. He said the most amazing thing to him was – and still is – the amount of meat we consume. “In China, meat is a condiment! In America, you treat the vegetables as condiments.” He still sounded in awe of the entire thing.

When they arrived in America, it was not too long after the war, and Japanese people were not exactly greeted with open arms. Being Oriental, he was automatically treated with suspicion and segregation as the Law of the Land in Virginia, where they settled. “Which bathroom do I use? I’m not white, but I’m not black, either.” His dad guided him toward the “Whites Only” facilities. I admitted that most Caucasians couldn’t tell the difference between  Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese, but I knew they knew the difference. I had been with a girlfriend at a museum and she’d walked over to another family and began chattering away in Korean, but as much of a cliché as it may be, they all look alike to me. Henry laughed and said people had told him that, but he couldn’t see why. “It’s so obvious.” Ah, but can you look at a white face and know that person is German or Irish?

Well, no.

Henry is a chemical engineer, and does all of the cooking in their house. He says he tends to think in terms of reactions and interactions. At least he understands why you shouldn’t put baking soda in the string beans!

He no longer has a permanent job as an organist, so he hops all over the Diocese, playing at various churches. The “highest” churches in Baltimore are St. James, Lafayette Square (former home of Michael Curry, our new Presiding Bishop) and St John’s in the Village. He admitted he’d never been to Grace and St. Peter’s, which was a bit of  a surprise to me, as that is the home church for the Chinese community in Baltimore. For a long time, they even had services, including Sunday School, in both Cantonese and Mandarin. “Well, at least they don’t have to reprint the bulletin.”

We had our first snow of the year today. It flurried almost all day, but honestly didn’t amount to a thing. The temps have been around 40 during the day so the ground was too warm for the snow to stick. Mind you, it’s been in the 20s at night, so maybe we might have gotten a quarter inch if it had fallen after sundown.


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