The Humble American
Trip Start Dec 31, 2004
71Trip End Apr 22, 2005
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For four straight days I was welcomed into countless homes, dry goods stores, sweet shops, clothing stores, car part stalls, an appliance store and a gas station. I toured an English language school and greeted each class. Entire neighborhoods packed themselves in kitchens awaiting my arrival their heads peaking out behind curtains and doors smiling and nervously giggling in anticipation. The women and children were in their best finery from batik Punjabi pants and tops to embroidered saris and a few expatriates who'd returned home successful were dripping in gold and gems. In one house I smelled fresh paint and another I watched people scurrying about madly as they prepared for my entrance.
When walking down the streets even a slow gait seemed an invitation for conversation starters such as, "Madam what country?" and "What is your name, please?" Those queries were generally preceded by offers of a hot or cold beverage
I was given two lungis, three blouses, a personally inscribed diary, a basket of fish and in one home as I was leaving a woman motioned for me to wait then raced back into her home and returning breathlessly handed me a carved wooden ship. I was also offered $10,000 by a shop owner if I could get him an American work visa. Hanan and Aktar drove me around everywhere and even took me to a gorgeous tea garden with a waterfall and never in the entire time I was with them or in Beani Bazaar was I allowed to even reach for my wallet. The hospitality shown me is sincerely and without hyperbole the most overwhelming I have ever experienced in my life.
On my last day I awoke early and had breakfast in the dining room and of course was prodded again and again to eat more
I think the most lasting image of my trip to Beani Bazaar will be that of Aktar's family and neighbors who walked me to the car when I was leaving. They crowded around in the rear and then more people poured out from their homes and lined the street. Traffic stopped. A girl I hadn't met before came over and asked, "How are you enjoying my country?" I smiled and with glazed eyes told her I was "enjoying it very much." All these people, I thought, all these people came out here to see me and to say goodbye to me. They had opened their homes and their hearts to me and had given me so much more than they could ever know.
I was waving from the back seat as we drove away when I heard Aktar sum it all up, "My people are very small but their heart is very big."
Bigger than I thought possible.
To the people of Beani Bazaar I humbly thank you.