For the long Labor Day weekend, Chris and I headed down to Atlanta for some Southern exploration, including visiting MLK’s National Historic Site and Birth Home, Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Library and Museum, and the National Center for Civil Rights in Atlanta. We’re also doing a day trip tomorrow to Birmingham for their Civil Rights Institute and historic site, particularly since it was one of the key cities of the Civil Rights Movement. As the start to our trip, we met up with two friends we met in Little Rock in October 2016, at an informal gathering that my friend organized. My friend and the female friend were in the same med school program, and at that time, this couple had just started dating after meeting online. Almost three years later, they’ve recently gotten married and are now working and living in Atlanta.
She is Bangladeshi and Muslim, born in Kuwait, and moved to Baton Rouge with her family when she was 10. He is a fifth or sixth generation Mexican American born and raised in San Antonio, having lived in Little Rock and now Atlanta. He’s also atheist, but he “ceremonially” converted to Islam in order to marry her, and they had a Muslim wedding. I remember having a lot of fun with them back in 2016 during our Little Rock visit and feeling very energized during our hours-long conversation. I think the thing that got me the most was that I was spending time around people in the sciences (she was studying to be a doctor at the time; he’s a microbiologist working for the FDA) and learning all kinds of things that I really had no idea about. And it dawned on me then that I rarely get much intellectually stimulating conversation. Work conversations are very occasionally interesting when colleagues are debating certain topics or discussing politics. With long-time friends, we’re usually just catching up on random goings-on in each other’s lives. I read a lot, but I don’t have a book club to discuss the books in. Overall, I don’t feel “sparked” much. But I loved hearing what these two had to say then. And it was also fun to see them nearly three years later and realize that this general sentiment hasn’t changed. They are just as fun and engaging as they were then.
My ears always turn on when people are discussing culture, race, politics, and how their lives relate to all of that from a day to day perspective. In general, I don’t think I spend enough time talking to anyone about these things, and maybe that’s what I am missing.