Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Maybe it's the weather

One of the things that has been strange for us, but particularly hard for Jorge, is how strangers in Seattle aren't very friendly. We don't get out a lot, but when we do, we're always surprised that people can walk straight past us, in our own neighborhood, and act as though they haven't even noticed our existence.

At first I thought Jorge was just making this phenomena up, but I've been testing it out lately. For the last two days, I've gone for a walk in a nearby park. I pass dozens of people, and I make a point of looking them in the eye and smiling as they pass by, and only about one in ten will smile back. Sometimes I get a curt nod. Mostly they pretend they haven't seen me and continue walking.

I find this especially funny, because at 38 weeks pregnant, I look like a laughing buddha on a good day, and Danny Devito as The Penguin on a bad one. You just have to look at me, there's no way around it. And once you do, I imagine it's hard not to smile, even just a little. I would totally smile at a little round pregnant lady if I saw one.

In Malawi, children run out to the roadside to wave at me when I drive past. As a white person, I find it's usually me who tries to avoid making eye contact, because I know half the people I encounter will either want to chat or ask me for a job. But if I say hello to anyone, anywhere in the country, it's pretty much a guarantee that I will get a warm greeting in return.

I'm hoping that it's just that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) problem that everyone talks about here. Or maybe it's the food. The high cost of living, or the credit crisis? Who knows. At any rate, Jorge is very much missing Louisiana and Africa every time he goes out for a run and people shun him as though he's a leper.