Last week I had the opportunity to go to a Kazakh home. The couple who own the home were not at home. I actually went with a friend to see their maid, who does sewing for people. My friend was having a smaller jacket made out of a gorgeous coat with traditional embroidered trim from Turkmenistan.
Anyway, a lot of energy seemed to be involvec with trying to explain to this little woman what needed to be done for the jacket (and I was invited to go along because I'm an experienced seamstress too), between three different languages flying through the air, and a phone call to her boss who was in the US to aid in translation, we got it all figured out. There was a lot of laughing going on, and this woman seemed to be happy to work on the project. She was actually a very knowledgable seamstress.
So, what I'm getting to is that in one fun moment of multicultural camraderie, this little woman felt the need to come over and grab my obvious belly with both hands and give it a good shake. I don't know why, and there was no way to ask her why in that moment, but it seemed to give her some gratification for some strange reason. I was at a complete loss of how to respond, so I resorted to my passive aggressive nature and stepped out of the conversation and backed out of the room. And I decided I wasn't ever coming back while her employer wasn't there.
Eventually, though not quickly enough for me, we left the little maid to her own devices and headed home. My friend was a bit embarrased for me, and felt the need to try to explain what was going on, but didn't really have any good explanations for me...at least none that made me feel better about this little woman. I chalked the experience up to another multicultural moment, where cultures didn't understand boundaries and behaviors. It wasn't my first experience with it.
I went to a corporate function today. There was a presentation given about possible international employment opportunities. A light refreshment was provided, most of which was fried and greasy-looking. I chose to skip the snacks and just had a bottle of water. I sat at the back of the room and just took in what was being said. At the end of the presentation, I made my way to the front of the room, towards the speaker, in order to thank him for his presentation. I was stopped by one of my neighbors midway, who felt the need to share with me that she saw that I hadn't gone over to eat any of the snacks. Was that an attempt at a conversation? I just smiled and offered that the food didn't look too appetizing to me. And she smiled back and continued on out of the room. No, it wasn't a conversation. It was someone telling me she was watching me. (And it wasn't her first time, either.)
I've been trying to process those two events today. I guess the behavior of those two people was more about them than it was about me. Perhaps I've already spent more time thinking about their actions/comments than they did.