To awaken from the dream means recognizing the illusory nature of this constricted self concept and perception of the body and mind, not as a means as of gasping at the ephemeral pleasures of the world or as a prison enclosing the self, but as an instrument for learning and communicating in various languages.
Before the Move
Two months before moving to New York, my friend William, thought he would be kind enough to warn me about the vast culture of the, “Big Apple.” William begins by telling me that I would not be able to survive the cultural diversity and I would not be able to get a good paying job or housing because of my ethnicity. Well, was he very wrong. Since I commuted to and from New York three times, a week I decided to put in a transfer from the company I was employed with to work in their satellite office in New York. When speaking with Cindy, one of the customer service representatives already living and working in New York, I mentioned to her that I was relocating to the New York office but did not have a place to live. Immediately, Cindy who I did not meet at the time
offered me full living quarters with all the amenities for a charge of $445.00 a month. Gleefully, I accepted without even looking at the place.
I had two oversized suitcases and my brother at my side, who kept telling me to, “You can make it.” Because I was somewhat familiar with my surroundings, it was no problem for me to jump on the “E” train from Manhattan to Queens, New York. It was not until my brother Jerry and I got to Jamaica Queens that William’s words replayed in my mind. “You will not be able to survive the cultural diversity.” There were so many people from different cultural background gathered in one place ranging from: Jamaican, Guyanese, Trinidadians, Indians, Hispanics, Caucasians, Blacks and Mexicans. They were shopping, walking, talking, waiting for the bus and catching the dollar vans, going to their different destinations.
After I stood there for a moment (relieving myself of the shock), while almost getting knocked down, I called Cindy on my cell phone to let her know I had arrived at the arranged pick-up spot. Prior to that day, when speaking with Cindy, I never knew she masked her Trinidadian accent. I heard her loud in clear, when she said, “Chile I’ll be dere and what cha’ look like.” I told her I was black, with golden blond wavy hair, tall, medium built, wearing blue jeans, brown penny loafers and an oxford shirt.
Veil of Illusion
When Cindy drove by four times in her red pathfinder looking for me, I laughed. I had to wave my company backpack so that she would be able to find me. She jumped out of her truck, ran over to me, hugging and touching my face as if she could not believe I was black. Quite naturally, I had to grab her hand to let her know, “I am live and in living color.” Cindy blurted out, “I just knew you were white and no one at the company would
give me a description of how you look, and they just told me wait and see.” I was curious to know why Cindy responded to me they way she did. Therefore, I asked Cindy, “What eluded her to think that I was not black.” Sure enough, she told me, it was the way I spoke and how I pronounced and annunciated my words. It was at that moment when I began to realize the misconception people have when it comes to language and communication.
A month after I settled in apartment at Cindy’s house, I went to go and meet William at the “Puerto Rican Day Parade.” I saw a few of my co-workers and they began speaking Spanish to me, “Como su el fin de samana?” Buena, habla manana por la manana en trabajo (How is your weekend, Good, speak with you tomorrow at work). William had this incredulous look of surprise on his face, because he never new that I spoke Spanish. Since when did not verbally express his surprise, I told him that I learned to speak Spanish when I was taking voice lesson. In addition, I refuse to limit my learning abilities to not understanding others.
The potential alternatives is that through teaching and learning situations, each one learns that giving a message and receiving a message is the same. The demands that is drawn between the cultural roles, the minds, the bodies, the needs, the interest and all the differences people think that separate us from one another weaken, grow dim and disappear when we embrace cultural diversity and language.