Sunday, May 27, 2007

Odyssey of an Immigrant American 3, Louis Adamic

Odyssey of an Immigrant American 3, Louis Adamic

Our ship stopped for a few hours each at Lisbon, Gibraltar, Cannes, Naples, and Palermo. Save in Cannes, everywhere, on getting ashore, we were mobbed by ragged youngsters, crying, "Gimme! Gimme!" and making signs that they were famished and wanted to eat. In the streets (especially in Lisbon) women with children in their arms approached us and made signs that their babies were hungry. Most of these, no doubt, were professionals, dressed and trained for begging; but even so it was depressing.
 "In Yugoslavia it may be even worse," I said.
 On the morning of May 13th we began to sail along the coast of Yugoslavia. We passed tiny islands and bright little towns along the shore line, and gradually I began to feel better. I scarcely know why. Perhaps because the hills as ashore looked so much like the hills from San Pedro to San Diego in southern California where I lived for years. Perhaps also because the Adriatic Sea, with the sun on it, was even bluer, lovelier than the Mediterranean.
 But even so, I was hardly prepared for Dubrovnik, or Ragusa. From the ship, as we approached it, it appeared unreal. "Like a stage set for a play," Stella remarked. And another American, learning next to her on the rail, said, "Once expects a bunch of actors to appear out there at any moment and begin to sing, 'We are the merry villagers. ...'"
 The boat stopped for three hours and we went ashore. Here we were not mobbed by beggars. Some of the young boys on the pier were almost as ragged as those in Lisbon and in Palermo, but they looked anything but starved or sick. Their grins reached from ear to ear. Their faces were brown. Locks of straggly dark hair hung over their blue eyes.
 To one of the ragamuffins Stella offered a coin. He looked at her, startled. "Zashto? (What for?)" he asked. I explained to the youngster in Croatian (which, to my surprise, I suddenly began to speak with very little difficulty) that my wife wanted to make him a present of the coin. He scowled: "Havala liepa! (Thank you!) No alms!" Then, as if something just occurred to him his sun-tanned young features lit up. "If you and the lady wish to be friendly and generous," he grinned, "please offer me an American cigarette if you have one and see if I'll take it."
 He got several cigarettes; then his mouth and eyes - his whole face - broke into a smile that I cannot describe. "Hvala liepa!" he shouted, and dashed off. Several other boys, all shouting, followed him.
 I felt grand. "My people!" I said to myself. " 'No alms!' " I could have run after the urchin and hugged him.
 "My people!" I said, aloud.
 Stella laughed. We both laughed.

Odyssey of an Immigrant American 2, Louis Adamic
Copyright(c) Shouzou Tahara

Odyssey of an Immigrant American 2, Louis Adamic
Copyright(c) Shouzou Tahara
Odyssey of an Immigrant American 5, Louis Adamic

About the Author:Shouzou Tahara

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