I've heard some amazing stories lately, thanks to working in this area. One woman recently told me that she was slammed by shrapnel by a car bomb in Mosul. (She's a translator for the U.S. Army, and returning to that "very, very dangerous city.") The shrapnel landed in her uterus and she was flown to Germany for surgery. Another woman told us about the gold necklaces she was wearing. They were the most amazing gold pieces I'd ever seen on a person. I've seen pieces like that in museums, but never on a person. In any event, as she's telling a co-worker and me about her necklaces, where she got them (Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc.), she pointed out one particular ring. She said, "my Iraqi friend gave this ring to me. He was blown up in Baghdad by a car bomb." She quickly apologized, but I said, "there's no need to do that. It's your life. It's your story." I have to be honest, I've had to excuse myself after hearing these stories and cry a bit in the back.
Working on a sales floor and hearing those sorts of stories makes me realize that selling cashmere has opened me further to a complex world that's filled with both pain and joy (these tales and cultural interconnections are no longer tightly included in texts and discussed in cozy rooms in Providence or Cambridge). I'm also grateful to be working with lovely, hard-working women. They too are from all over the world. (One of them, a deeply religious Muslim woman, had to flee Afghanistan years ago - I have yet to hear her whole story, but she is kind and motherly. She likes to share her Kabob and rice with me in the back room. Her sense of humor is the best, and we hit it off immediately).
I am in debt and frustrated, but I am glad I work in retail - it reminds me of both the good and bad of humanity. But that's what makes live worth living. So . . . perhaps my education does matter.