Even though I've been in my kitchen most of the week, just a few feet away from where I now sit writing this, I feel as if I've been out of the country.
Recent guests here at my bed and breakfast were Americans from Bosnia. Anita is a chemist with a pharmaceutical company; her friend Janja is a biologist with the same firm. They are quick to explain the differences.
Looking directly at Janja, Anita stated proudly. "Iím a scientist."
"Iím a scientist!" Janja retorted, glaring at Anita. I had the feeling this conversation wasnít new.
"Youíre a tree hugger," Anita said.
"Youíre not natural," Janja accused. (Every woman knows this accusation goes straight to the root of the problem--the hair root to be exact--and those are fighting words!) For a minute I thought the Bosnian hostilities would re-ignite, but in the end, itís all science, and these two have a pretty good chemistry, so they get over the differences, concentrate on the similarities and remain friends.
Anitaís husband Allen doesnít get involved in the debate. He has his own challenge: the English language. Allen is an intelligent man, but at times, because of what he claims is verbal laziness, he confuses some words. He was telling me the story of his immigration to America, "I had to hop the hoops," he said about fulfilling all the legal requirements.
The conversation eventually turned to Maine wildlife. I mentioned that my daughter Holland is certain she saw a panther; he questioned us about the rarity of that cat. "Isnít it nearly extinguished?" he wanted to know.
The Bosnians stay with me several times a year. Our conversations usually turn to the stories of these families and their days in their homeland during the conflict that displaced over 1.8 million people. Allen told us about his father, a refugee from a slave labor camp, who now lives in Florida.
"Why did he choose to live in Florida?" I asked.
"The United States government gave him a choice of three places to live: Utah, upstate New York or Florida."
"Why?" I asked.
"They want immigrants to live in uninhibited areas," he explained.
I didnít laugh, although the effort not to nearly choked me. I politely corrected him, "I think you mean uninhabited places, uninhibited means everyone who lives there runs around naked." Anita did laugh--heartily--and then she added yet another story to the collection.
"Allenís father came to this country not able to speak a word of English. He went to work in Florida where he is learning the language from backwater southerners. His English isnít broken--itís crushed!" she said.
On this trip the Bosnians brought a friend I hadn't met before: Mehran, from Teheran, Iran. Iím not even going to attempt a play on words here.
We also had a clothing designer as a guest, a Asian woman named Milui, as wiry as thread. Her tiny size and the huge amount of food she consumed made me think her styles are still waiting to come into fashion.
Joni was the only guest from my country and the only one out of my realm. She is a middle aged woman who has decided to change her career from a councilor to Joyologist. She wants to make a living spreading joy (joy the state of mind, not Joy the dish detergent). I believe cleaning the crud out of your life goes a long way toward finding joy, but Iím not convinced joy is something you can get just by someone spreading it on you. Joni was here with her friend Dean, a perfusionist at large hospital. A perfusionist is the person in charge of artificially replacing the circulatory or respiratory functions of a patient undergoing open heart surgery. I immediately identified the possible collaboration in Dean and Joniís professions, but Dean didnít think Joni should be adding stuff to someoneís heart that wasnít there before surgery. He didnít want his patientís hearts bubbling over with anything just after an operation; it might make their recovery a bit too lively.
He has a point, unlike this column.
L.E. Hughes is a columnist, author and owner of Diamond Corner B&B in Stratton, Maine. She welcomes your thoughts and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© July 2006, Lew-Ellyn Hughes. All Rights Reserved and Retained by the Author.