Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adapting to Change

A few years ago two Canadian couples visited Chiclayo, Peru and asked Maribel and I to guide them to non-touristy places. On the first day we took them to Collud, one of the more primitive villages in the Lambayeque Region. Stepping out of the car their faces took on a stunned expression. One of the women muttered, “My God…it’s like walking into a National Geographic article.” As is so often the case, being told in advance what to expect doesn’t do it…you need to see and feel it yourself.

Now, I am not saying that the town of Rossville, Georgia where we now live is anything like those Peruvian villages I grew to love, but in the past six weeks we have often had the feeling that we’ve stepped into the 1940s. Take this morning for instance.

We’ve got nearly all of the furniture we want but haven’t found a TV stand we like. We live in rural Rossville. It’s more like country than city. About a quarter mile from our house on a side road is a collection of old buildings…a few houses, a gas station and a used furniture store. We were on our way to downtown Chattanooga; about a 20-minute drive when we decided to check out the store. If you’re familiar with Norman Rockwell paintings you’ll have some idea of what the ‘town’ looks like as well as the store front and interior. The building served some other purpose years ago. Now it is crammed full of used furniture, mostly wooden items. Prices range from $50 to $150. There weren’t any TV stands but there were a few tables that could serve as a stand. In a corner was a table and matching chair with some of the most beautifully grained wood I have ever seen, with a $150 tag on it. I looked long and hard at that item but decided we didn’t need it.

While we were inside looking around the proprietor was out back unloading some chairs from an old pickup truck. He looked to be about 80, wearing faded jeans and plaid long-sleeve shirt, a baseball cap and worn leather boots. When he had finished his work and came into the store his southern drawl was so deep and so slow that neither Maribel or I could understand him (the southern drawl has been a problem for us more than once. When I commented to a woman that I couldn’t understand her accent, she said, “I’m from Tennessee and this is the way we talk! You’re the one with the accent!).

When we left the store I shook hands with the man and thanked him for letting us look around. That led to another five minutes of near unintelligible conversation. The whole experience…the town, the store, the man was indeed reminiscent of the 1940s. And that’s not an isolated case. There are what I call pockets of the past all over this area, including downtown Chattanooga. In time we’ll get used to these pockets of the past but at the moment there’s a feeling of being off balance when we find ourselves in these situations.

I had my army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in the early 1960s. When I returned home after six months my mother asked, “Why are you talking like that?” It was then I realized I had picked up a southern twang. A few days ago, after only six weeks here, Maribel asked why I was talking like that. I think I’m adapting to change.

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