Just five days after Camille and Alex left, we received two more volunteers. Maggie, a fun and brazen girl from Germany, and Danny, a meek and quiet girl from China. The girls drove themselves to the property and arrived late one Saturday evening around the time Pierre, Matthew and I were settling in for some good relaxing in front of the fireplace.
When the girls walked in we welcomed them and right away. Instantly, I felt a good presence in them.
We showed them to their room they were sharing with Pierre and left them to it. I was looking forward to training Danny and Maggie. It was a fresh start; new volunteers for Matthew and I to train up correctly. Yollana was leaving in a few days and Matthew and I would be the acting managers. Training Danny and Maggie would be our first step towards managing independently. I was ready for it.
The next morning I walked them over to the cafe and showed them the kitchen, the light switches and the cafe. We cleaned the toilets together and then I explained the placement of the cleaning towels. They seemed to understand everything with great ease and for that I was grateful.
Everything was smoothly sailing along and then we got a customer. They wanted two double shots of espresso. I had just explained the coffee so this was perfect timing. I made the espressos, careful to explain each process as the girls watched.
Just as I finished the espressos, I heard the door jingle and knew there were more customers. This couple wanted two flat whites. I explained what a flat white was and then asked Danny if she wanted to try. She had been watching attentively and looked eager to get her hands involved.
I was very pleased to see Danny pick everything right up. She moved slowly but with no mistakes. Her first two flat whites were beautiful and I congratulated her on her quick learning abilities. While she ran the coffees out to the table, the first couple came back inside and asked for two more double shots of espresso. I couldn't imagine drinking that much coffee in such a short amount of time but I gratefully took their order and asked Danny to try this one too.
Danny had just started the coffee machine when Yollana came in and asked how it was going. I told her it was going really well and she asked if she could take Maggie to do a different job. I hesitated but then decided it wasn't worth the fight. Yollana was already halfway out the door with Maggie quick behind. The rest of the morning was like that. I didn't get to spend much time training either Danny or Maggie. Everyone ran in different directions and I was tired of striving for excellence when nobody else seemed to care.
Fortunately, dinner that night was amazing. Maggie cooked pumpkin and potatoes and it was sweet and succulent and delicious! The kids and their parents had made a trip to town and ate there so we had the table to ourselves. Over dinner Matthew and I split a bottle of Shiraz and Maggie and Danny split a bottle Riesling. Everyone relaxed and enjoyed getting to know each other.
First we discussed age. Matthew was 25 and Pierre, Danny and myself were 24, me being the next closest birthday. What surprised me was that Maggie was 31. Although after she said it I wasn't surprised at all. She carried herself with the comfort and confidence that is gained in one's thirties. I recognized the same air in all my friends back home who were around that age. Something settles in after your twenties and it just makes you radiate stability to everyone else around you. It was a good thing.
Maggie had actually driven through the outback and stayed safe. I found this interesting. Up until this point I had thought that was impossible, but Maggie made it sound like cake. She said her and her friend camped out in her car at caravan parks and paid an average of $15 per person per night. That was affordable!
While we did dishes I learned that Maggie had been with her boyfriend for 8 years. We debated on wether or not marriage was less of a life goal in Europe than it was in america. We all decided divorce had become way too common and Valentine's Day didn't need to exist if we just told the one's we loved that we loved them throughout the year, not just on one day.
We also discussed religious holidays. I explained Santa Claus and how he had nothing to do with the Christian holiday of Christmas; that America had made him a mythical gift-giving character so that the holiday revolved around presents and kids and cookies for a fat guy (which they laughed hysterically at because I said it was typical American) rather than Jesus which is the true reason for the season. Pierre and I both explained that the reason Santa Claus was combined with Christmas was because a pagan holiday was combined with the Christian holiday. That is irony in itself.
I learned that Germany is mostly Christian too and that they celebrate Christmas more on the 24th of December than they do on the 25th. On the 24th kids put out their shoes and boots and hopefully get candy and money in them.
We talked about Easter and once again I explained how America had made it a commercialized holiday rather than a Christian holiday. I explained the Easter bunny's role of bringing presents and how the Easter egg hunts were about money and candy. Maggie said the problems were similar in Germany. Lots of people celebrated the holiday but didn't know the real reason for the season.
We asked Danny about Chinese holidays and she said their biggest one was called Spring Festival. I asked her what that was and she was as surprised as I was to hear than they didn't have Santa Claus. She said Spring Festival was a huge holiday for the Chinese and it was quite popular as well. We talked about the Chinese New Year and I learned that the Chinese actually use two different calendars. I never quite understood what the other one was for but apparently it involves animals.
They all asked me what the heck Thanksgiving was and I explained it was a big meal with family and its origin was when the white people made peace with the Indians. Pierre laughed and said, “Oh so you eat dinner with them and THEN you steal their land!” I laughed because it was true. But I also pointed out that we were still paying them for that mishap. We talked about the wishbone and Maggie said that was British tradition and we figured that was probably where America got it from.
After the dishes we moved to the living room, thankful that we had it to ourselves. Here we started the heavy discussion of guns, once again. They could not believe I believed so strongly in owning one for self-defense. We then came to the conclusion that it was more common to own one for self-defense in America because the bad guys were more likely to own one for dangerous reasons. I was shocked to learn that policemen in London DIDN'T carry guns. I didn't understand how that was reasonable but Pierre said London was one of the most highly monitored video camera cities in the world and if they needed back up with guns they could call them in. They explained that guns were less common so people didn't feel as obligated to protect themselves with guns.
Matthew explained that guns were really a way of life for us. We were raised around them. We used them for recreation and agricultural use as well as for safety. Then again guns carried for safety were mostly carried by those with fear. I made the point that if someone were to attack me I couldn't very well hurt them; even with a knife, so a gun made more sense for me. On the other hand, Matthew could protect himself pretty well without a gun so he didn't feel as obligated to carry one.
As the discussion got heated apparently so did a lighter that was sitting on top of the fireplace. We all five jumped and screamed as something popped and pieces flew all over the room, hitting us in different places. The lighter had exploded. We laughed at how the explosion had perfect timing with the discussion.
At some point we discussed the facd that “how are you” sounds the same in most languages.
Spanish: Como Estas
Italian: Como Estai
French: Comment allez-vous
We then looked at Danny and asked how to say it in Chinese. She paused and then said they don't use that phrase. We asked how she would start a conversation with a stranger and she said they usually don't, it is very uncommon. We were caught off guard but then she said they would start a conversation by asking, “When did you last eat?” We laughed and laughed but she eventually explained that it was no so much about eating as it was a conversation filler like we would ask about the weather. It made sense really because the “how are you” question wasn't taken seriously anyways.