We have some Nepali neighbors and one in particular has become quite a good friend, though a friend with whom we don't share a single word in common. He speaks no English and we speak no Nepalese (except "goodbye" and "thank you" which we can both say in English and Nepalese). Sam refers to him Namaste because that's what we have taught him to say, while putting his hands together to greet this gentleman.
In the summer he comes by to admire the garden and we often give him produce. He talks to Sam and loves to pick him up and to hold and talk to hold Vivian. He often makes gestures as if he's blessing the kids. He's like a sweet grandpa and Sam really likes him. Some days he sits and watches Clay at work in his shop. One day he asked Clay, in gestures only, to build him a little shrine, just a simple shelf really.
Weeks went by and Clay just never had time to devote to the project (still waiting on those benches... *ahem*), but it was always on the back of his mind, and Namaste (as we call him) stopped by often and asked about the bench. Finally, one Saturday before Christmas he built this sweet shelf and delivered it to Namaste's house. They were overjoyed! Some younger girls helped translate, which was a treat as it was the first time they'd really conversed.
Although there wasn't a lot of diversity in Maine, my parents always cultivated a love of, respect for and curiosity about other cultures. We were lucky enough to travel a bit (my dad even visited Nepal!) and have interesting friends from interesting places. One of my mom's dearest friends is from what was then the Belgian Congo. Her mother was the queen of a tribe there and her father a Belgian army officer! She was raised in an orphanage with her "sisters," daughters of Belgian fathers and African mothers. She is one of the most Christ-like, beautiful, sweet women I have ever met. Anyway, that wasn't really the point of the story, that was just an interesting tangent. Where I was headed, was that once one of her sister's was visiting with her little son and it was his 8th birthday. They hadn't planned anything special, but my mom who adores feeding people (I think it's her Swedish heritage) decided to throw him a little party and make a birthday cake and just go all out. This always stuck with me as being such a great example of how to treat people visiting our country, whether tourists on vacation, or refugees here for the long haul.
It's amazing how food can be such a bridge between cultures. While we don't understand most of what the other person is saying, when we share food with Namaste, we connect. Once he brought us a paper plate of food from a celebration with his family and we were so touched. Equally, he has always recieved food from our garden with such gratitude and enthusiasm.
PS This is kind of what I wrote about in my last edibleWasatch article (zoom in to read).