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Isn't it pretty?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My Trip to Alabama - Thanksgiving Day

I flew into Birmingham on Thanksgiving Day. I was worried about traveling on such a busy day, but I guess everyone decided to leave the day before - LaGuardia Airport was the calmest I have ever seen it. The staff, all having to work a holiday, were actually in great moods, everyone being really friendly and nice. I had a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I first began to sense the Southern feeling that I miss up here in Yankee territory. In Charlotte, I managed to get myself switched to an earlier flight into Birmingham, with fee waived because of the holiday. My brothers picked me up at the airport, and it was so good to see them. As we were driving towards my mom's house, I requested a quick stop to see "The Man Who Moons Homewood," also known as "The Vulcan." The Vulcan, which Birmingham boasts as the largest cast iron statue in the world, had been down for repairs the last few times I had visited, so it was nice to be reunited with him. As you can see, he happily posed for pictures so everyone could take part in his sentry. Shortly after arriving at my mom's house, the family began to arrive. It was a celebration of Thanksgiving and my grandmother's 80th birthday, and she had no idea I was coming. Along with my visit, three sets of great-aunts and uncles joined us in Birmingham (all surprising my grandmother as well) for the festivities. It was really nice seeing all the family. I sat down and had a wonderful talk with my favorite of my great-aunts, who the Princess likes to point out doesn't really suit her name (but that's another story). My great-aunt teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) and she was telling me about some of her students who are refugees from Africa. She was saying how they don't even know minimal things like to sit in desks and many basic American courtesies. She mentioned how difficult it was to integrate these students into the rest of the school; to keep the other students from giving them a hard time and steering them wrong. But she also mentioned that it just really takes a lot of patience and care to get through to these students, and a lot of understanding about the fact that they just come from a really different culture. It was interesting, because there were parallels between these stories and the stories my great-aunt tells about her step-daughter and family. Her step-daughter and son and their eight children live in Brooklyn in some Chassidish community, I am not sure which one. She kept saying how there were certain topics and books that were "assur" for her to mention around them. She loves them, and really makes efforts to be able to relate to them, but, like her African students, in some ways, they are just part of a different culture. After a great Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to hang out with my brothers a bit. We took a trip to my dad's house, then my oldest brother (who is still quite a bit younger than me) and I went to a bar to hang out. It was weird to me that my brother is old enough to hang out in a bar, and that we could sit and have a drink together. We had never done that before, and it was great to just sit back and relax and enjoy my brother's company. We got home late and went to sleep, to get ready for the next day's adventure - stay tuned...

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