Chinese Teahouse: The People of February

IMG_4049Happy March! After a snowy and dark February I am delighted with our Colorado Bluebird Day that we are having today. To continue my regular monthly updates for my 100 People in 100 Days project, here are my musings on some of the people that I met in February:

Number of new people met in February 2015: 65

 

How I met them: On the first day of the month I met a woman named Beth at church, who was waiting for her daughter to finish up a marathon. A few days later I chatted up a guy at a bar named Gideon, who was in town from Denver and who works as a high school principal. I also met people at a new boot camp that I’ve been trying out, at a local gathering of my artist-friends, a Valentines’ party, and a meeting about City for Champions. Towards the end of the month I spoke at a docent-appreciation lunch at work and met some of our new tour guides. This project makes me mindful of the new people filtering in and out of my life under normal daily circumstances such as these.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the last two years of flooding have exacerbated some issues with my poor tiny house. I’ve had several people out to give me bids on what to do. The first company that looked at things in January told me that I would need to pier my house into the bedrock to the tune of $15,000. After I picked myself up off of the floor, I decided to get a second opinion and met a guy named Craig who specializes in historic preservation. He came over and gave me some very reassuring and sensible advice: take care of the water issues and patch up the cracks. We’re going to grade the front of the lot to move water away from the foundation and epoxy the cracks. Through this experience I also met a structural engineer named Steve who came over with his laser level and confirmed that course of action. A structural engineer and a contractor: two people I didn’t know to hope not to meet. All in all, though, I think they are good guys and even though I’m frustrated with the circumstances I met them under I’m thankful for them.

On the weekend of our Snowpocolypse (which didn’t materialize as powerfully as predicted), I attended an orientation session for my cross-cultural trip to Southeast Asia. While I was annoyed to be working on a weekend, it was a very fruitful occasion for meeting new people: at least 19 new faces.

Most Interesting Person: On the last day of February, two friends and I walked to a new Chinese teahouse in our neighborhood. It was a surprising experience! Jars filled with teas and herbs lined the walls, and the young female owner told us about all of them. We thought that she would give us a cup of tea and leave us to enjoy it on our own, but instead she sat down with us and served us the entire time. We watched in amazement as she warmed our tiny cups, gracefully pouring water onto her wooden tea box. To our surprise, she made herself the focus of the conversation and she told us quite a lot about herself. Her name is Tanya and she’s a young immigrant from China. She opened her tea house a year ago. She had such a sad, wistful expression on her face when she asked how my friends and I know each other. She told us that she misses her girlfriends in China, and that on a Saturday there they would spend all day shopping. After she expressed how homesick she was, she moved on to some very strong thoughts on all kinds of matters. She hates Milan, Italy. She hates Denver too, but does like Colorado Springs. (This is my opinion on the essence of both cities too). She thinks we’re all too busy in America. She also told us about how she learned about strippers through a neighboring store that sells “stripper shoes,” and innocently asked us, “It’s normal in America for people to not wear clothes, right?” We quickly corrected her. Anyway, homesick Tanya needs some friends.

I think a lot about building intentional relationships: deeply investing in people’s lives, minds, and souls. As a good INFJ I think it’s pretty natural for me to see straight through to a person’s inner being and care about them. For the last several years I have tried hard to build these kinds of friendships with the people close to me, but this project makes me realize that I need to be intentional with the new people coming into my life as well. In church yesterday we heard one of our local young business owners talking about strategically building friendships with the people that we meet around town. He and his business partner have built a wonderful gathering space for the community and they are deeply investing in the lives of their staff members and in the lives of their customers. I started my 100 People in 100 Days project last year because I had just endured a bitter season of loss and simply needed to add some extra people into my social circle, and to have a challenge to pull me out of a dark place. Four hundred and twenty three days later, I am thinking about what it would mean intentionally invest in Tanya’s life in order to care for her inner self.

Day 365

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Hey, remember my 100 People in 100 Days project? Last year on January 9th I challenged myself to meet at least one new person every day for the first 100 days of the year. Well, today is Day 365 – the one-year anniversary of my project.

Technically my 100 days were over on Good Friday of 2014, but I liked it so well that I decided to continue it with only a few modifications. In the last 265 days of the year I tried to average one new person a day, which worked well. I had promised that I would count everyone that I had met at the end of Day 100. Unfortunately, I only got up to March in my journal and notes before I got too depressed about the beginning of the year to continue. I never did complete that official count. After a much, much better fall I’m feeling less anxious about completing that count up to Day 365. I hope to spend some time in my journal, notes, day planner, and scraps of paper in order to come up with an official number soon.

I wasn’t really expecting this to turn out to be anything much, but my 100 People in 100 Days has been one of the sweetest surprises that I’ve had in a long time. This has been profound experience, and now, on the one-year anniversary of the project, I want to tell you why. I found that most people love making a human connection, even on a very small scale. Every person has fully developed life, and sometimes they’re willing to let you see a tiny peek into their stories.

History People

It was a big year for professional development, which was a great help to the project. I attended three big conferences in California and Minnesota. Lots of people to meet at big history conferences, as well as the local hoteliers, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, museum folk, vendors, etc. I also gave talks to several large groups. A university class came to visit my historic site so I met those thirty students. This fall I spoke to the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec, and met another forty of so of their members. I met the preservation specialist who is helping us update our National Register nomination.

Celebrities

At AASLH 2014 I “met” Garrison Keillor (if listening to him talk in the plenary session and then standing next to him in the crowded hallway as he signed books counts). In October I attended the Museum of the Bible Gala, where I met Steve and Jackie Green of Hobby Lobby ownership, along with the president of The Pocket Testament League, and Adrian Rodger’s son. On a smaller scale,  I met Eric Singer, a former news anchor here in town. This summer I met a camera woman from CSPAN who was here to do a report on Colorado Springs history. She and I hit it off right away and had a nice chat about how lovely the Pikes Peak Region is in the summertime. I also met Lisa Anderson, an editor from Focus on the Family that one of my friends wanted me to meet. I met a state senator and county commissioner at the Navy Ball.

County Commission Sally Clark with my friend Jim Downing

County Commission Sally Clark with my friend Jim Downingc

People I met Through Circumstances I Don’t Want to Be In Again

You already know about my ACL tear caused me to meet several doctors, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, MRI technicians, and insurance agents. So not what I had expected when I wanted to meet 100 new people. These are all lovely people who I enjoyed very much, but this year when I re-up my commitment to the project I’m adding “medical people” to my list of people that I don’t want to meet. On a positive note, though, I met the rock-star trauma therapist who has been a big, big, part of my healing journey in the last six months.

I also met two plumbers who unclogged my bathtub drain and told me I need to replace all the pipes in my 1950s house. Boo. When my refrigerator broke I met a few salespeople who ranged from awesome (thanks, Home Depot!) to scuzzy (*ahem, Appliance Factory Outlet), and the two nice but overworked delivery guys who delivered my shiny new one. 2015: no more appliance salespeople or delivery people, ok? Also, enough with the home repair stuff.

New Friends, Swell People

Mostly, though, the people that I met, though, came to me through the ordinary circumstances of my daily life. I met my Presbyterian pastor a few months before he left to move back home. At a mutual friend’s birthday party this spring I met a nice girl named Rebecca who is now my friend too. I made friends with an opera singer from Boston, and an illustrator from Japan. At an art show in December a stranger asked me about buying one of my linocut prints. I met our new general manager and our new CFO. I met the security guard who gives me a visitor badge every time I visit City Hall for meetings. I met the guy and gal who run the Mountain Pie Meat Company and bought a meat pie from them almost every Sunday during the Acacia Park Market.

In Oklahoma I found out that the front desk guy at Enterprise Car Rental had just graduated from my alma matter, and in the middle of the OKC airport he shouted “Bison, go with ka-rip!!” and we both launched into our school chant, in a fit of delighted laughter.

 

Lastly, at the end of 2014 I met one of our staff members who is going to take me to (drumroll please) Southeast Asia this summer. It looks like I’ll be traveling to Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore in late June.

Conclusions

I’m so thankful for a project that pushed me to say “hello” to people, especially those I see in ordinary circumstances that don’t really require introductions. From photographers on hiking trails to the security guard at City Hall, I’m amazed at how the simple act of paying kind attention to a total stranger makes them blossom. I’m also thankful to have had a reason to remember all of these random folks. When you think about it, most of us have people coming and going from our lives all the time and we don’t really make much note of them. This project made me actually pay attention to and remember those random people I shake hands with in church. And those friends-of-friends who I’ll maybe never see again. And the thirty students on a field trip. And appliance delivery men.

This really surprised me. Shocked me, even. As an introvert, I had never pushed myself to talk to so many strangers and the amount of openness and friendless that most people responded to me with was so lovely and sweet. I think it helps a lot that I’m a kindly-looking, WASP, small, blonde, young woman. I’m not so sure that the social dynamics would be the same if I were, say, a male (as a young woman I am generally way more guarded towards men that I don’t know) a little older, a different class, or another race (most unfortunately.)

I’d like to challenge a few others to take on the project with me again this year. It would be great fun to have a friend do it with me, to see how many people we can meet between the two of us. Or to challenge one of the total strangers that I meet to take on the project. Or to have a cultural anthropologist who remembers more about analytics than I do who could do it and then write about it.

Yesterday, in a fun twist of fate, I re-met someone I had encountered for the first time almost exactly a year ago when I first began this project. At lunchtime I walked by photographer Larry Marr, who was taking pictures of a hawk in Garden of the Gods. He stopped me, and said, “We met before up on the Dakota Trail! Do you remember me? How has your year been?” Oh, Larry, of course I remember you! It was this project, started 365 days ago, that made me ask you, a total stranger on a hiking trail, what kind of lens he was using on his DSLR. On that brilliant January day you were kind to me, showed me the photos you were taking of the bighorn sheep, and we had a nice conversation. Thank you, Larry, for sharing a small bit of your day with a strange girl in hiking boots and a work dress. Your kindness and openness encouraged me to keep going on my brand-new challenge, and my life is so much richer.

Seeing The Princess Bride on the Big Screen. Also, Meeting New People

I just experienced the fulfillment of a childhood dream. You know, an actual recurring dream that I used to have when I was a kid. No joke: every so often I would dream that The Princess Bride (a.k.a. my Favorite Book and Movie of All Time) was set to reappear in the real movie theaters. I used to dream about Newsies reappearing as well [I was a little young to have seen both of them during their first released and heretofore had only ever seen them on video}, in addition to Frank Peretti writing new Copper Kids Adventure books, so that gives you a picture of what a nerdy filmy literary little kid I used to be.

ImageAnyway, tonight one of those dreams actually came true. I saw The Princess Bride at our local movie theater! Cinemark has a series of classic 80s and 90s movies running in January and February on Wednesday nights, and tonight was the Princess Bride night. Two of my girl friends came along and the theater was filled with lots of other girls and guys around our age. Everyone seemed a little giddy. I bet that I’ve seen that movie over 100 times but I had never seen it like THIS. Big Screen on a movie you’ve only ever watched on a tv screen = pure magic. Buttercup, Westley, Inigo…they’re huge! And Fezzik….he honestly does look like an actual giant! The Cliffs of Insanity are More Insane! The Ravine is Extra Steep. The Fire Swamp is Super Scary and the ROUSes are Extra Terrifying. The crowd scenes are Bigger! The Swordfights are more Nerve Wracking! The colors are brighter! And let me tell you, Inigo’s revenge scene…I mean I know what happens because I’ve seen the movie so many times, but there was something about seeing it tonight in the real theater that made me wonder “what’s going to happen THIS time? Is he really going to get the Six Fingered Man this time??”  It was also lots of fun to just gaze around the scenes, soaking in every tiny detail of the set pieces. The vast majority of my Princess Bride viewing happened on my tiny 13-inch dorm room TV, and you don’t pick up a lot of intricacies on a screen that small. But tonight I took long gazes around The Pit of Despair and saw Count Ruegen’s preliminary sketches of The Machine pasted up on the walls. I bet you didn’t notice those in your own viewings, did you? And my word – Princess Buttercup’s costumes are really beautiful.  The best part, though? Seeing Westley’s beautiful bright eyes and sweet handsome face filling up the huge movie screen. Sigh. What a beautiful evening. 

 

I have also been keeping up with my commitment to meet one new person every day for the next 100 days. After I posted about my project on Monday, things have been far less interesting than they were over the weekend. Monday and Tuesday were mundane workdays and on these ordinary days I don’t typically encounter lots of new people. So on Monday I said hello to two girls on my Zumba class who didn’t seem very excited to meet me in return, and Tuesday I was formally introduced to my young friend M’s boyfriend who I had seen around but never really talked to. Today I set up an exhibit in our historic house and was more in the public eye so I was around more people to potentially meet, and that seems to work well. I met a new guy moving into the men’s dorm on our campus and two new tour guides.  I also kept my appointment to meet G, who is compiling a book about the historic houses in my city. G came over to my office to talk about his chapter on our property, and he brought me a beautiful matted 16×20 B&W photograph as a gift. I love meeting new people who bring me presents!