A chance meeting at a Seattle bus stop

Her name is Lois. She is petite and small — calm and secretly worldly. She is wearing a silken pink long-sleeved blouse, despite the abnormal heat of a Seattle May. Her nails are painted a pinkish hue. In one hand she clutches her cane because she broke her hip recently, and in her other hand a small Chico’s shopping bag — in it, a pale pink fleece sweater. I think she likes pink. Her easy banter led to her sharing with me her life story. She has an easy smile and ends most sentences with one.

She was 14 when she moved to Seattle, in the 1930s. She and her family lived in the University Village area. Her father lost his small bank-ownership in Nebraska during The Great Depression. Her parents packed up the children for something better, with no idea of where they would end up. They left the Nebraska plains and farm land she lived on with her family and never went back. Her mother was adamant they “get educated”, somewhere with more educational oppurtunities and vibrant living.

They went west, and stopped in Yellowstone. Her father was at the wheel. Her mother, turned to the children and asked, “Where do you want us to live?” The family unanimously voted: “Seattle!” At 17, as World War II made a halting entrance, Lois enrolled in university. She went to the University of Washington where she decided to major in Japanese to become a war-time translator “to help the war effort.” She taught Japanese classes at UW. Her classes were “understandably small”, she recalls. “People found it really hard to learn,” she adds.

In the 1960s, she visited Istanbul by way of a Greek cruise ship. The Greek captain was “not fond of Turks” and did “not allow the passengers” much time for wandering about the city, nor were they able to exchange then Greek drachma for Turkish Lira, to buy a treasure(s) from the bazaars. The Turkish seamen who anchored the boat for them were thrown over a couple of packs of cigarettes for their work, she said.

In her free time, she wanders about the neighborhood she lived in when she arrived in Seattle, strolls the Quad at the University of Washington beneath the Cherry Blossoms and practises Japanese. She reads The Economist (she is “glad they came around” to “accepting Obama” and likes their “well-rounded review of world affairs”), The New York Times (which I think she likes the best) The Seattle Times among others and “Bloomberg News” but she does not “know how they got my address or why they are sending it to me.” Sometimes, come Sunday, she says, she still has not “read everything”.

fotoğraf: Aslı Omur

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