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  • Writer's pictureSharon Gubbay Helfer

People along the way and in San Antonio

This is the front yard of a house around the corner from us.

At the cash at Walmart in San Antonio

Two days ago. A tall Black man, 56 years old he told us. Originally from the Detroit area and therefore he is comfortable with us being from Canada, since he was just across from Windsor growing up. He has just recently moved to SA because his son is playing basketball for the University. Bursting with pride, he told us how great a kid his son is, yes a really good basketball player but also an excellent student and wonderful human being. One of his four kids. I used my US dollar credit card for the first time to pay. I had been having trouble with it, so I yelped with pleasure when it came through. He laughed with delight at my delight. It was a lovely exchange.

In the parking lot at the grocery store H.E.B.

A Black man speaks to us in French. Reflexively I say, "Vous êtes haïtien!?" Mais non, je suis français, de Paris! We learned that he is almost finished his law degree at St. Mary's University in San Antonio and congratulated him. He expressed how nice it was for him to have a conversation in French.

I know how to parlez-vous français!

Another snippet involving French happened at one of the gas stations where we stopped on the drive down here. Peter was filling up when a large man in a cowboy hat noticed the Quebec license plate and said "Bonjour!" He explained that he was from New Orleans, so he had to be able to "parlez-vous français"! This man was a truck driver, whose tank took a long, long time to fill up with diesel. I was inside when he came in and started complaining to the man behind the cash, a man who looked to have roots somewhere in the subcontinent (as had the man at the motel checkout we had left earlier that morning; he chattered away super-fast to someone on the phone in Hindi or Urdu, at a guess). I was afraid that our Bonjour friend was being impolite to the cashier based on ethnicity. But then Mr. Bonjour explained that he was going to be moved to another part of the US, "so I don't get to see this ugly guy's face again for a while!" An affectionate sentiment, expressed with warmth.

Our lovely landlady

She explained to us that their family had been living in Monterrey, Mexico. Her mother came up to Texas to work, to make enough money to bring her children here, so they could have the advantages of a better lifestyle and education. Maria Helena was five years old when she arrived here. "I didn't speak a word of English! My only friend was a little girl up the street. She was a White girl. She didn't speak a word of Spanish, but we made it work!" She now works as a parole officer.

Maria Helena recommended this Mexican seafood restaurant around the corner, Mariscos. The clientele appeared to be exclusively Latino except for us and our very nice waiter Francisco spoke next to no English.

The food was wonderfully fresh and nicely prepared. I had catfish. Despite my stomach turning at the thought (and not having a clue what catfish actually is) ... it was really good!

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