Sunday, April 27, 2008

of hard work and bravery

this afternoon, the clouds cleared and we sat in the circle with a big bowl of homemade hummus topped with pine nuts and spicy fried chorizo. we shared a cold beer leftover from easter with rafy, our polish handyman, who is working hard to help us finish our house.

while we dipped triangles of pita into the garlicky hummus, rafy told us the story of the 18 months he spent in the US, trying to make his fortune. he invented a grandmother in las vegas and a story that she was 87 years old and in need of help and he applied for a visa to the US. he brought a letter from the supposed grandmother, written to him by his own real grandmother in her spidery, old lady handwriting, and walked out of the embassy with a 6-month visa to visit her.

through a friend, he arranged an apartment and an airport pickup when he arrived at JFK. however, the friend wasn't there and when he called the friend, he said he wasn't coming and there was no apartment. so, rafy found himself in NYC with $500 to his name and no job or place to go.

being a brave soul, he knew that the presumed apartment had been in brooklyn, so by asking people, he made his way there. he came up out of a subway stop and saw one polish name after another on the storefronts. he wandered in to one and asked if there was anybody letting a room. it just so happened there was a room available above the store, but it took $400 of his $500 to get it.

the next day, he dressed in work clothes and hit the streets. he ran into some guys who appeared to be painters. he hadn't really tried painting, but thought it seemed like it wouldn't be that hard. he agreed to take $80 a day and was left in a 3-room apartment with brushes and buckets of paint. no time frame as to when the guy would return. so, he painted the whole thing in one day and by 4 p.m., was sitting there on an empty bucket. the foreman returned, was so impressed that he upped his rate to $120 a day and after that, he never looked back.

eventually, he had his own "firm," with a few guys working for him. they ended up in manhattan, painting and doing small fix-it jobs for an entire block.

i thought for a long time after he told us his story in the sunshine this afternoon about his bravery. he just set out and took his chances. i asked about work permit. he said, a work permit wasn't necessary, just a willingness to work. it must have taken a lot of guts to set out for another country, with a strange language, with no sure place to land and not much money.

he has spent a number of weekends here at our house, working sometimes 12+ hour days in a steady drizzle. i have made countless pots of coffee, ordered pizzas and yesterday, fed him and his friend some perhaps too posh goat cheese puffs that i threw together as an afternoon snack because the weather was great. he is always pleasant, his english is great from the 18 months in new york and now, thanks to the EU, he can live here in denmark together with his wife and child (who weren't able to accompany him to the US). and the man works like a demon, and does great work. and, it turns out he has a pretty good story.

life is interesting. and so are people if you ask them.


Pappy said...

Hello, Thanks for dropping by for a visit. I have seen your photo and blogging name adrift in the sea of blog. I think I even dropped in on you in one of my SWF manias. Always nice to meet and greet new friends. I hope you liked your read. Come back anytime.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Thanks for sharing this story about such an intriguing and courageous person. I have no doubt you did his story justice with your very thoughtful words.
Reading your opening paragraph made me hungry both for food and for good company in our home.
The last line is beautiful and very true- everybody has a story, or stories.

Jaime said... just never know what life is going to throw at you! And it usually all works out for the better, even if it doesn't seem so at the time.
Great story