I really had so many ideas for this blog post. But as this past week was Semana Santa, I’m sure you are all wondering, Where were you? and What did you do? Thank you for asking!
I departed early Friday for Halifax, England, the motherland of my mother. I had never met my mother’s side of the family, the Heavisides. Yes, that is their last name. I was very nervous.
My uncle David had hired a taxi to pick me up from the airport. I felt important as I walked out of the gate and saw my name “Poplawski” written in bold letters and held by a patient old British man. I soon arrived at my uncle’s house and all my nervous energy disappeared. 50 years old, rosie in the face and, slightly balding, David Heavyside is a cheery, high energy and the best uncle one could wish for. After giving me a strong hug, he immediately tried to feed me. But before I could accept, he whisked me away to meet my three young cousins who were just getting out of the Easter church service. As the children filed out of the church my Uncle would point at me and then yell to my cousins, each more cute than the next.
That night I we all ate curry together and did some much needed catching up.
The next morning we woke early. David was singing, as he always does. We ate breakfast and my other uncle, William, along with his two children Ben and Abigail picked us up. We drove to a nearby town and walked around, dipping in and out of the quaint stone-walled shops. We passed over an old canal where in a month’s time, there will be a rubber duck race. Some 10,000 rubber ducks will race down the river, with the proceeds donated to charity.
Ben and Abby are 21 and 23 respectively, so naturally we had lots in common. However, despite speaking the same language, we use many different words. For example, in England, “cool” is “ace” or “wicked” and friend is “mate”. To say “hello” to a mate, you say “eyup” and the phrase “would you like anything else?” is something like “would you like out?” Another very interesting is how they refer to people from the Middle East.
Halifax is home to large Pakistani and Indian populations. With the exception of one house, every family on my uncle David’s street is from Pakistan or India and each are practicing Muslims. One day as we were driving, I asked my uncle what he thought of his neighbors. He replied, “The Asians are wonderful people”. I said “The Asians? I haven’t seen a single Asian person here.” What I realized was that he was referring to the Middle Eastern people as Asians. The people who I identified as Muslim or Middle Eastern, to him were just Asian. The Middle East forms part of Asia, but I was struck that my uncle did not make the distinction between the two. He told me that for the past 3 Christmases, two separate families have come to his home and offered him baked goods. And when we arrived back at his home one evening, the family across the street yelled over “Hey David, you ok?” (Ok is the way of saying “how are you”). It certainly seemed that there were fewer assumptions about Middle Easterners in the North of England.
The rest of the weekend I spent visiting various family members. For hours I played with my little cousins and I drank many coffees with the older members of my family. I have never met so many genuinely kind and welcoming people in my life. And they’re my family.