Saturday, September 12, 2015

Slavic at the Market

Since I came back to Chicago, the Brown Line has been rerouted every weekend due to construction. It makes weekend traveling a bit more difficult downtown, but CTA works hard at making sure people are able to get where they need to go. 

There is a shuttle running on the weekends between the Fullerton stop and Downtown, and my study destination this weekend was right in between. The rain came down intermittently today, and somehow I missed it outside each time, which was perfect. I don't mind the rain and enjoy getting wet sometimes, but today I didn't mind staying dry inside the coffee shop!

I walked down to the Brown Line shuttle and stood there for a few moments before looking across the street. 

I could see the familiar white canopies of the Farmer's market peeking through the trees, and made a beeline for the lovely sight. It was almost the end of the day for the market, so the crowds had come and gone and only a few people meandered around the booths. I admired the fruits and vegetables before settling on a few choice carrots, a tomato, and some delicious crisp apples. 

Today's farmer's market had one other little surprise too though. I was at a booth picking out some apples when I heard her voice. It was an accent I would be able to pick out anywhere in the city, especially when I turned my head and was met with the usual sight of a headscarf tied under her chin. I usually can't resist, and just have to stop and say hello if I get the chance, and to ask her where she's from.

"I am from Russia," she said, rolling each of her r's.

"Oh, I'm from the Czech Republic!" I respond. "ńĆesko!" is what I usually add on to the end of that, since they often don't recognize the English word for "Czech" right away.

I am always amazed by the Russian grandmothers here who respond so kindly and fondly to me after we make that connection.

"We are Slavs! We understand each other!" she replied.

It warmed my heart instantly when she said that with a glint in her eyes. We know that our cultures are different. Czech doesn't even necessarily have the best history or connection with Russia. I also recognize that this sense of "Slavism" has been used for good and for bad in the past (see Pan-Slavism). The term carries much weight, yet I know this grandmother meant it in a kindred way. Somehow in Chicago, on this crisp September day, our history brought us together instead of separating us.

The sweet lady went on with her shopping, but the girl behind the table at the booth called over to her dad.

"Did you hear that? She's from Czech!"

Turns out, this little girl (probably 12 years old?) is actually Czech too. I didn't have the chance to hear her whole story or even understand what the connection was, but she said she speaks Czech and actually just visited her grandparents in Moravia three weeks ago. She got to go to Prague and Slovakia for the first time on this trip, and thinks Czech is a beautiful country. I'm guessing, based on the dad's response, that her mom is Czech and her dad is American, but who knows what brings them to Chicago?

There are so many stories here and I wish I could sit down and just listen to people like the family at the farmer's market. Today was a sweet taste of home and a reminder that this world is small and you never know who you'll meet when you least expect it.

My apples, carrots and tomato were impeccable, by the way. I'm pretty much a softie when it comes to farmer's markets.

And hey, if the Brown Line hadn't been rerouted, I would never have seen the farmer's market or met those sweet people today! The Lord surprises us, doesn't he? 

1 comment:

  1. Just think, you'll have that kind of connection with Czechs and other Slavic people your whole life! Such a sweet post!


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