By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Friday, January 26, 2007


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a front-page story Monday that proved to be an antidote to all of the other apocalyptic headlines in that issue which I’d resolutely refused to read: "5 shot at Kent restaurant," "L.A. vows crackdown on its entrenched gangs;" "Kaczynski, victims clash over Unabomber papers;" "Iran flouts sanctions as new missile tests are conducted;" "Sudan government bombing Darfur villages, rebels say;" and "Any way the war ends, country’s forecast bleak." Well, actually I skimmed them, but the story I chose to read in full was "Composer collecting and dishing out lullabies" by P-I reporter Carol Smith, photo by Joshua Trujillo.

The composer is Masguda Shamsutdinova, a formally trained musician and professor of ethnomusicology from eastern Russia, who moved to the U.S. with her family four years ago to allow two sons to attend the University of Washington. Neither Shamsutdinova nor her husband could speak English then, so she ended up working in Harborview Medical Center’s main kitchen as a dishwasher. Now she is spearheading a project to collect international lullabies which will eventually be used by the Sleep Disorders Center in a study to see if they can be used to calm patients. The clanging of the steel kettles and sinks inspired her.

I am awed by stories of starting over. I cannot see myself moving to Russia, learning the language and succeeding in finding work to support myself and my family. Yet immigrants to the U.S. do it all the time, true heroes in my eyes.

I have a neighbor who moved here from Vietnam with her family not many years ago. I met her at one of our community block parties. Shortly after the potluck, she called and asked if she could come to my house two days a week for an hour of English practice. She was searching for a job and thought her language skills were holding her back. Having just completed a stint of Boy Scout leadership, I’d decided to just say no to any new requests for volunteering for awhile, but I admired her determination to improve, so I said yes. It turned out that I benefited far more from our English lessons than she did. I now treasure her friendship and the insights I’ve gained into a culture different than my own. I even plan to base a character on my friend’s struggles with a new language in the next book I write. You can read excerpts from my two previously published novels on my Web site

So, did she find her dream job? Yes, she’s delighted to now be employed by Boeing as an administrative assistant. It took persistence, though. First, she signed on as an accounting assistant at a health services firm. She then applied for and was interviewed for something like a half a dozen positions at Boeing before she was hired. I’m so proud of her. I love success stories.

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At 6:17 AM, Blogger EilisFlynn said...

What your neighbor did was inspiring, both in the job-getting and the you-approaching (yes, my own verbal skills are on the way down, sadly). And it's good for your writing too!


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