So you're blogging, right, and you read some blog you've never read before, and you like what you read, so you comment there a few times. And then that blogger visits your blog and comments back. And then, if things go well, suddenly you have this new friend. Except that you've never actually met each other. Sometimes (even though in a way this is part of my job), I forget that you can develop connexions with people in real-time, in real life.
The other week when I was wandering around the shops of Noho, my wandering took me into a place called C.S.O.R.K. Peru. The front of the store said something about fair-trade clothing. I like clothing. I also like fair trade. I went in.
There were clothes displayed about the room, as one might find in any boutique, but at stage right there was also a fireplace (not, unfortunately, lit) a few couches, and a desk with various pieces of computer equipment and a sewing machine on it. A South Asian woman was sitting on one of the couches, and a West Indian woman and two adolescent girls were looking around, but they were all also loudly engaged in an uproarious conversation about intercultural communication. Mostly they were joking about how American standards of political correctness would never fly in their respective countries of origin.
Some of the examples they were giving of this reminded me of my own encounters with this phenomenon when I worked with refugees in London. The conversation was too loud for me to avoid hearing it, and too funny for me to avoid laughing, and so eventually they pulled me into the conversation.
After a while the customer with the two girls left, but Raya, the woman who had been sitting on the couch, was obviously still interested in talking. It turned out the store was an idea of her daughter's, a college student studying textiles and fashion design. This young woman's late father was Peruvian, and so, in order to get back in touch with her roots, she had spent some time in Peru working in an orphanage. While there, she realised that the woman cooking the food for the children were amazing embroiderers and seamstresses, and she conceived the idea of starting a boutique of clothing designed by her and made by these women, sold at a fair price.
Apparently her mother and stepfather had the means to make this dream happen, because the young woman in question is studying out of state, but there is the store, and there is her mother, running it for her. Raya was very enthusiastic about the whole enterprise, fortunately, and I was, too, although there was no way I could afford anything in there. No matter; Raya wanted me to try everything on, because she was sure I would "look great" in it all. She advised me on colours to bring out my eyes and things, and then oohed and ahhed as I modeled them for her. I would like to say, "Whatever," dismissively and with embarrassment, but it really was kind of fun. And I'm not going to lie. The clothes did look pretty good.
It also turned out that Raya has written a fictionalised autobiography. We swapped stories about being unknown writers. We also swapped email addresses.
It was nice to make a friend in person. I'll go back to Noho one of these days, and visit her again.