I watched Ali stir two heaping teaspoons of sugar into the tiny demitasse cup of coffee. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in over ten years. I drink only decaffeinated tea without sugar.
Kids and adults filled the two front rooms in Ali’s house. We sat on sofa’s, chairs and the floor. Three or four different languages were being spoken. The table at the end of the room wasn’t big enough to hold all the food.
Ali, who coaches the soccer team of refugee kids that Jon and the Army of Good support, invited us to dinner at his house. His mother cooked trays of Sudanese food for us, the rest of Ali’s family and the families of a few of the kids on the soccer team.
I felt like I was back in India, at Soma’s house. It had the same welcoming feeling. There, we were surrounded by the women who worked at House of Hearts and their children. Everyone finding a spot on the floor or couch, talking and eating all the delicious home made Indian food.
As when I was in India, I was determined to try every kind of food Ali’s mother offered and I did.
There was grilled lamb chops, Chicken Briyani, rice, eggplant with some kind of meat, stuffed grape leaves, dough balls stuffed with more meat, fried chicken, chicken soup, two whole trout, salad and all with it’s own unique flavor.
I never imagined the coffee would actually taste good. But it was like the most delicious dessert. I sipped it slowly, holding the tiny cup delicately with two fingers.
Ali’s sister learned English mostly at her job working at a Albany Medical Center. We talked about Belly dancing and she showed me a video of her friend who was recently married. In Sudan, a woman learns to bellydance before her wedding. She dances for her husband at the wedding, but only other women and her husband are allowed to see her.
Ali’s mother, who speaks little English, invited me and Jon to come to the party that they’ll have before Ali is married next year. Using more gestures than words, she asked me if I liked to paint my hands with henna. I smiled and nodded my head vigorously at the idea of going to the party to celebrate Ali’s wedding, where women dance together and paint their hands with henna.
We were only an hour away from home, but for a little while it felt like we were in another country. In those two room were people of four different religions, that often have not gotten along, from four different countries.
But then, that’s really what America is about, isn’t it?
I was warmed by the experience, how different the people in Ail’s house were from me and how much the same.
Once we got home I put the tray of food Ali and his mother gave us in the fridge and Jon and I watched a an hour and a half long British Murder Mystery. Usually I’d fall asleep in the first ten minutes, but at 12:30 I was wide awake and couldn’t stop talking.
Jon, whose eyes were closing, while I spoke suggested I go to my studio. It was a brilliant idea. I designed ten potholders and at 3:30am I looked at the fabric on my desk and the caffeine high was gone. I woke up Fate, who was sleeping in my studio and we went back to the house and back to bed.