Tuesday, February 26, 2013

refugee kids' take on history and political correctness

On today's trip to drive my family of African refugee kids to tutoring, the kid sitting in the front seat noticed my library CD of Martin Luther King sermons, which prompted the following discussion:

First kid:  Is this Martin Luther King?

Me:  Yes.

Second kid:  If it wasn't for Martin Luther King, you'd be a slave, Hamadi.

Third kid:  It wasn't Martin Luther King who freed the slaves, it was Abraham Lincoln.

Second kid:  It was both of them.

First kid:  No, it was Harriet Tubman.

Fourth kid:  Yeah, she freed the most.

[some further discussion about slavery]

Third kid:  And did you know that in 1942, you could be killed if you were Jewish?  It's because Hitler hated the Jews.  You know Jews?  Like, they invest money and get rich from it, which is why Hitler hated them, so he locked them up.  And then they only got one piece of cereal a day.

Second kid:  No, one piece of bread a day.

Third kid:  No, one piece of cereal a day.  Actually, one piece of cereal a year.  That was all they got -- one piece of cereal a year.

Second kid:  And one piece of bread a year too.

Third kid:  Yeah, that's right.

. . . .

[some time later]

Fourth kid:  I had this dream that all the black people were on a separate bus--

Third kid:  Dude, that's racist.

Fourth kid:  Okay, I had this dream that all the African-American people were on a separate bus . . . .

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cindy Lou and the Mystery of the Disappearing Earring

Today I demonstrated my superior talent for bizarre mishaps by losing an earring within a two-square-foot area in an almost empty hallway.  I am, indeed, a master at what I do.

After hanging up my coat, I was walking down the hallway in church when I felt my earring slipping off my left ear.  (I don't have pierced ears, so I was wearing some comfortable screw-back earrings.)  As soon as I felt it slipping, I stopped in my tracks.  There was only one other person in the hallway at the time, a guy who'd been walking behind me, and he managed to change direction and walk around me without any trouble (although probably with some internal mumbling).

I figured it would be a simple matter of grabbing the earring as it fell -- or from the ground if I didn't catch it soon enough -- and then putting it back again.  If only things could be so simple.  I wasn't fast enough to grab it, and I felt it fall completely off.  And then it simply disappeared.  I looked at the floor -- no earring.  I broadened my search, in case it had bounced or something along those lines.  Still nothing.  Nor did it end up in my clothes or my hair or an open pocket in my purse.  It wasn't anywhere.

By this point, other people had come into the hallway and were undoubtedly wondering why I was standing in the middle of the hall basically performing a pat-down search on myself.  I told a passing friend what had happened, and she and another girl helped me scour the floor.  Still no luck.  I went into the bathroom and shook out my sweater.  Still nothing.  My earring had simply vanished.

After some brainstorming, I came up with three alternative ideas of what might have happened to the missing earring

#1: The Bilbo Baggins Theory
Hypothesis:  When I tried to grab my falling earring, I might have somehow managed to deflect it into the unknown passing man's clothes.
Possible Solution:  Challenge every man in the building to a game of riddles, in the hope that he'd be unable to come up with a riddle, would instead ask "What have I got in my pockets?," and would thus give me a perfect opportunity to astonish him with my guess that it was my missing piece of jewelry.
Problems with this Solution:  I might end up losing an awful lot of games of riddles before finding the right man.  Depending on the stakes, this could be very problematic.  And what if the right one knew enough riddles that he never got around to the pockets question?

#2:  The Delayed Sensation Theory
Hypothesis:  My earring actually fell off before I got into the hallway, but my ears were so numb with cold that the message didn't reach my brain until I thawed out -- rather like text messages that arrive en masse when you get back into an area where you have cell phone service.
Possible Solution:  Retrace my steps back to the last time my ears were warm.
Problems with this Solution:  It rather feels like my ears haven't been warm for the past six years, and that gives me a lot of ground to cover.

#3:  The Black Hole Theory
Hypothesis:  On its way to the ground, my earring was sucked into the same black hole that's responsible for the permanent disappearance of several individual socks, my California driver's license, my first birth certificate, and various other items that have mysteriously vanished over the years.
Possible Solution:  Hang out around washing machines and filing cabinets and other places that stuff tends to disappear from.
Problems with this Solution:  I might end up permanently disappearing into a black hole too, and even the presence of my socks wouldn't cheer me up then.

So, after some serious contemplation, I decided that the possible benefit simply wasn't worth risks.  Instead, I just had to resign myself to the loss of an earring.  But if you happen to end up in the black hole of missing items yourself, please take a look around for a silver screw-back earring.