Although Winnipeg has excellent symphony, ballet and theatre companies, fine restaurants and beautiful parks and gardens, it is not a sophisticated city. Historically, right up to the present, it is a place where people from less fortunate countries come to improve their lot in life. One would think with this influx of varied cultures there would be greater savoir-fare, instead it remains a parochial place.
If you are, like me, living in Winnipeg without family and it’s the holiday season it is a lonely place. On occasion, but not often, I was invited in to a family’s festivities.
This Christmas was quiet, but not lonely. I’m simply a renter, living in the upper portion of a bungalow at the back of a garden, and yet anyone who lives here becomes part of the family. So it was, on Christmas Day Kelly, John and myself, renters from distant lands, were not only invited, but expected, to have a Christmas meal with the family. This meant my original plan to attend a Christmas potluck got pushed aside.
Everyone who is a member of the Oaxaca Lending Library received an invitation to buy a ticket to a New Year’s Day international buffet. I bought my ticket early, which was a good thing because it sold out.
The event was held at the home of a couple who are members of the library. A beautiful home too big for two people, as far as I’m concerned. Full of art, gardens and rooms where tables were laid out for guest to sit. Attendees was a sophisticated group. One of the guests mentioned John Updike had been a good friend, and quoted a humorous story told to him by Mr. Updike. Another guest mentioned he had been a wine taster for forty years. A couple recently moved from Guatemala where they had owned a coastal hotel. Although I enjoyed the company I couldn’t help but feel a little angry, not at the people I met, but at a world situation which is so unfair. The children at the center will have so very little throughout their lives, and yet others have so much.
The very definition of sophistication includes an understanding of one’s privileged position, being humbled by it, and doing something to help those less fortunate. The Oaxaca Lending Library, which has been in existence for over forty years, is a nonprofit organization setup to create libraries throughout the state because Mexican public libraries do not allow books to leave the facility. The lending library also offers children the opportunity to learn English, and adult Spanish and English speakers a place to improve their second language through language exchange discussion groups.
Oh yes, the food: Christmas - Ponche (a warm fruit drink), roast pork, sweet potatoes, both potato and pasta salads and cake for dessert. New Year’s Day - Italian pasta, Greek potato salad, green beans, beets, Indian curry and many varied desserts - plus a cash bar.