Monday, July 4, 2011

America, my corner



The leaves of a certain mimosa plant shrink away from the touch of a human hand. Here, we call it the sensitive plant; in Viet Nam, it’s known as the shy bush. I have yet to meet a man, woman, or child who didn't find this fauna-like flora behavior absolutely irresistible. You can't not touch it.

The tours I lead at Huntington Gardens never get old. They all kind of start the same way – like it’s my duty, as touree, to say something, and their duty, as tourist, to listen.

But I let them know, pretty much off the bat, that’s not the sort of tour they’re going to get.

It’s going to be a conversation.

And there’s always a person or ten or twenty visiting from another country. When we reach a garden that is more their area of expertise than mine, not only do they have more information about the plants and culture than I, they start to share it.

Stories about India, Mexico, Brazil, Korea, Japan, Russia, England, Kenya, Germany, Australia … “When I was a child, we always picked this flower because…” or “We believe this tree brings…” and “Oh, I remember this from…”

At the end, we always shake hands, sometimes we hug, occasionally, they take my picture. I've decided to start taking theirs.

Half of the folks on most of my tours traveled from the four corners of the earth to get to my backyard. What an honor.

Happy 4th.

29 comments:

  1. I like that as a concept. A collection of tourist.

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  2. A good friend who moved from Glendale to Texas called and asked for a favor. Sam was a former customer of Walter, an immigrant from Iran who owned a small auto repair shop in Glendale. After more than 30 years in the U.S., Walter had just become a naturalized citizen and Sam wanted me to get an American flag and give it to Walter as a gift from his old friend. I was able to get a flag that had flown over the US Capitol and a Certificate from Congressman Adam Schiff. I met Walter at his shop and presented both to him and had the privelige of spending about an hour with him. And it was truly a privelige because a tearful Walter told me his story. It was nothing out of the ordinary. His family left before the fall of the Shah looking for a better life in America. What made it so special was Walter telling me what it meant to be an American. Becoming a citizen was the greatest day in his life and I was humbled to hear his story and witness what it meant to this proud man. It made me realize how much we take for granted and how little we appreciate what we have. Giving Walter that flag and Congressional certificate was a gift for me that I won't forget.

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  3. Again, nice read.

    Happy Fourth.

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  4. I like this idea of you taking photos of them!

    Hope you're having a wonderful day to celebrate :D

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  5. From doing it for Free in Altadena yesterday, to showing us some of your Fans today, you cover it all around this world. I guess that's just a sample of what Freedom is all about. Another nice one, KB.

    Btw, in the background I see a guy in red. He's obviously waiting in a long line to have his picture taken by the famous Hiker from Altadena.

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  6. How nice to see you all this morning. DB, you tell the best stories, you really do. And CP, you guessed it. I absolutely couldn't leave the prior post up for the 4th.

    There was a Korean family on the tour yesterday, and the father told the most amazing story -- a fairy tale from his country involving reincarnation and the Lotus blossom.

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  7. Snap a picture. That's a cool idea.

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  8. This is wonderful, Karin. I'd love to hear all their stories--makes me want to follow you around on your tours and listen. I hope you'll share more of your collection of tourist photos.

    dbdubya, great story. I wonder if we'll read more on this post today.

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  9. A fitting post for the 4th of July. Those visitors look mighty happy and I suspect you had a great deal to do with putting the smiles on their faces.

    Happy Fourth of July!

    PS We have a mockingbird nest in the neighborhood and you should see how momma protects here territory. It's frightening!

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  10. Nice post, the only expertise I have in plants is that the green bit goes on top.

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  11. Lovely story for today. I wonder what would happen if we all took the test for US citizenship - I'm guessing most of us wouldn't do all that well. Makes you stop and think.

    Happy 4th of July!

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  12. Hi, thanks for checking in. I have to chain myself to a chair and write a patch piece within the next couple of hours. Don't feel like it, because today's a holiday, right?

    Paula, someone should post the questions and we should all take it. (Those living outside the US excused.) I think my results would be pretty awful.

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  13. This is very lovely. Well done, Ms. Hiker.

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  14. Nice hats on July the 4th!

    Have a nice DAY!

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  15. Yesterday I watched a special that featured the citizenship ceremonies in each state. It was really moving to hear people's stories of what it meant to become a citizen, stories similar to dbdubya's Walter. You captured the same spirit, Hiker. Nice job.

    As for the citizenship test, I'd probably fail miserably.

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  16. Happy Fourth of July!

    Love the photo!

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  17. Thank you to my grandparents, Jacob and Dina Melsky. Jacob was in the Bolsehvic Army after the Russian Revolution and couldn't stand his job: taking people's land away from them. Luckily, Dina had some money and they were able to bribe some border guards and get out of Russia hidden in a wagon under some hay. They then spent a few years in a Polish concentration camp before they were allowed to come to the United States in 1922. Luckily, because of the country they came to, whether we have this kind of courage has not had to be tested.

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  18. A quiz:

    What's the best country of today?

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  19. Earl, you come from good stock. Wonderful story.

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  20. This is the best 4th of July blog post I've ever read.

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  21. Mister Earl, that's a hell of a story. Thank you.

    Margaret would do well on the test. She knows her history. I learned it once but I can't even remember nouns anymore.

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  22. You're a great ambassador: those tourists will go home remembering the wonderful American woman that guided them round the Huntington. I come from a country that's had democracy, freedom from bribery and corruption, liberty, and free health care for a long time, so I tend to forget how bad it can be in some other parts of the world. But there are still many people who want to get away from their oppressive regimes and lead a better life, and the USA has always welcomed them.

    Can't wait to read your new Patch article.

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  23. You are my kind of tour guide. It's nice that you want to remember the tourists, too.

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  24. I missed the tour guide ... only got a served tour ... and I had to put on my shirt.

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  25. The tour as conversation is a great idea.

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  26. Oh Karin, this is wonderful.

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  27. Delightful!!! Hope your 4th was fun!!!

    Yes...I think we should all take the test, and I know the answer to that question Anonymous!!!

    While I was working at an Adolescent Psychiatric residential placement, we celebrated the naturalization of two brand new citizens (fellow employees)!!! One was from Argentina and the other from Mexico. It was a joy to celebrate with them and to know that they did it all the right way!!! They came here legally, and went through the process of becoming a legal citizen. Working with adolescents who had very poor reading and writing skills, I went to the Federal Building in LA and looked at the study material for the citizenry test. I was interested in it because the civics lessons were well laid out and the language very easy for an limited reader...it was fascinating being there!!!

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