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Archive for May, 2018

On Friday afternoons, unless it’s pouring buckets or absolutely freezing, I walk to get my lunch from an Italian restaurant near where I work. It’s not far, not quite half a mile, and it’s my treat to myself while getting in some steps to appease the Fitbit.

I’ve come to really enjoy my Friday walks. I enjoy walking in general, but walking here gives me a perspective on the vibrant neighborhood that thrives, unbelievably, in the shadow of the Ford Rouge Factory and the other factories around it.

While Ford has made great strides in cleaning up its act in recent years, the pollution is all around. You can witness it in the belching smoke stacks, the thousands of semi-trucks that thunder past my school down Wyoming every day, and in the acrid chemical smell that mingles with the mouth-watering scent of meat from Dearborn Sausage next door. There are unidentifiable black specks that coat my car some days and during lessons, train cars crash together on the tracks in the train yard directly across from the teachers’ parking lot. It’s a gritty kind of place.

The area I teach in is not a rich neighborhood, not by any means. While there are some new houses, most have been there for several decades and they look it. Some of the small front yards are fenced in and remind me of the front yards, or gardens, in England. Like any neighborhood, some yards are better taken care of than others. There are porches littered with lawn furniture for evening visits and back yards with fire pits. Broken glass litters the sidewalk in some places and there are wrappers scattered about. Still, the community in the South End is an amazing one, tightly knit together by culture, family, and tradition.

The small neighborhood is made of up of mostly Arab-Americans, mainly Yemeni, whose children I teach. Some families have been here for generations and some arrived last week. It borders on the city of Detroit and has the busy roads of Dix and Vernor running through it, where I pass by on my walk.

Dix is full of small businesses; medical buildings, a Yemeni travel agency, small grocers, and, I love this, two live poultry shops right next to each other. When I go past, I can sometimes hear the clucking and on warm days, I can definitely smell that there are live chickens. It brings me right back to the farm when I used to gather eggs in the mornings or on coop cleaning day. Friday afternoons are usually busy at the poultry shops with cars pulling up haphazardly in the parking lot and parking wherever they like. The customers nod and smile pleasantly at me every time. In fact, in my school year there, I haven’t had one unkind word, look, or gesture on my walks. It makes me feel happy.

After getting my pint of chicken pastina and bread (the bread is the entire reason for going), I head back to school. If I’ve timed it right, I hear the call to prayer coming from the mosque on Vernor, just a block away. On my way back to school, I pass all sorts of people headed to the mosque for the Friday lecture and prayers. There are older men walking alone, wearing traditional clothing, and clumps of women in black abayat, all heading to the mosque for the holy day. The call to prayer, the people walking, all contribute to the overall feeling of this part of my city like nowhere else. It has an exotic feel, a good feeling, a feeling that makes me happy to be there and witness the day-to-day busyness.

I know I’ve painted a pretty-ish picture of life in a tough area, but really, I’m struck by the people. I’m not Muslim, but I love seeing their devotion. I love seeing their pride in where they come from and how they’ve adapted their culture to life in the States. I am a recipient of their kindness and hospitality. I admire their resilience and their sense of community.  Of course, there are issues. What community doesn’t? I don’t pretend to be oblivious to that, but that’s not what this part of my city is about. That’s not what this post is about.

It’s about an observer, me, seeing the wonderful things that another culture has to offer to, just for a moment, get lost in their daily world on my Friday walk. It’s about seeing my neighbors live their lives despite the looming shadow of an industrial area. It’s about embracing all the differences of humanity and loving it for what it is.

I love my city.

The End.

 

 

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