The Peruvian Matchmaker
January 21, 2009
I have at times tried to play matchmaker. Sometimes it has worked. Sometimes it has not.
The word “matchmaker” implies a romantic connection, but matchmaking just means putting two people in touch with each other.
Years ago, I was teaching a computer class in Portland. The class ran for two days. On the first day, I had the students introduce themselves. One person said, “I am an office manager.”
Another person said, “I am taking this class to help me get a job.”
“What kind of work do you do?” I asked.
“Secretarial work,” she said. I asked the office manager, “Are you hiring at the moment?”
She said, “Why, yes, we are seeking a secretary at the moment.”
With my usual subtlety, I said, “I suggest you talk to each other during the class break, which will take place in about an hour and a half.”
After the second day of the class, the student approached me and thanked me. “I got the job!” she said. As far as I know, lightening never struck like this again, but once in a while I have put two people together and something good happened.
I have talked a few times about one of the volunteers I work with, Mary, a very determined woman from Peru, who came to the United States to go to graduate school in engineering. She offered to volunteer and teach computer classes in Spanish. The library system often fumbles the ball (as do I from time to time), but eventually they were able to get her started teaching classes in Spanish.
I asked her once, “Why are you called “Mary” instead of “Maria.”
“My father loves American movies. One of my sisters is named ‘Vivian’ after Vivian Leigh because he loves ‘Gone with the Wind.’” One of her sisters is a child psychiatrist and the other has a doctorate in linguistics. She told me that getting a lot of education is a tradition for the women in her family. In Peru, her counselor told her, “You are good in math. I recommend that you become an accountant.”
I don’t think Mary is named after a particular movie star; her father just likes the American name “Mary.” When Mary meets another Hispanic person and converses with them in Spanish and introduces herself as Mary, they are puzzled. Mary is very patient and very firm and keeps reminding them her name is “Mary” until they get used to it.
Mary was very polite and very determined when her high school counselor in Peru told her, “You are very good with math. You should be an accountant.”
Mary is very polite, but also very determined. She said, “I don’t want to be an accountant. I want to be an engineer.”
Mary went to college in Peru and got an engineering degree. Then she came to the United States, went to graduate school, and got a Master’s Degree in engineering and then got a job with a utility company.
Mary is very short, and she looks just like I would imagine an Inca woman would look like, so I guess her ancestors were Indians, but she is an Inca woman with a Masters Degree in Industrial Engineering. I love people who don’t fit into neat boxes
I retire at the end of this month. I suggested that Mary and I go out for coffee as I may not see her again, and I like her a lot. She is working for a utility company.
“How are things going for you?” I asked her.
“Very well,” she said. “I was rather bored, but then they gave me a promotion. I now have more responsibility and now I earn more money. By the way, I just received my American citizenship,” she told me. I congratulated her.
I told her about my granddaughter and how she has been “diagnosed” as having a very high IQ and what a character she is.
Mary said, “I would like to meet your granddaughter.” I said, “I will check with my daughter and her partner and see if I can invite you over for dinner with them and my wife and I so you can meet RG.” Mary also told me that she doesn’t think she is particulary intelligent; she just makes up her mind what she wants to do and perseveres until she accomplishes it.
It is a tradition in my family to adopt relatives. My daughter had several excellent “aunts” we adopted for her. RG has an “aunt” who drives a bus in Portland. The people I call the “Friendly Neighbors” have “adopted” RG as a grandchild. There’s no reason why she can‘t have a Peruvian “aunt.” Actually, Mommy speaks some Spanish and spent some time in Puerto Rico.
The day after I had coffee with Mary I was teaching a class and met some interesting people. Two work in sales. I helped them both with Excel. Julie is “American” and sells Swatch watches. Inni is Russian but sells real estate in Seattle. Julie has a lot of trouble with Excel, but said she needs it for her work and that my class was very helpful to her. Inni is very sharp at math and frequently corrected me on little errors I made during class because of my dyslexia. However, she said the class was very helpful to her because I introduced some information new to her.
After the end of the class, I talked a bit with Julie and Inni. I said to both of them, “I plan to start a part time business after I retire. It will involve a lot of sales work. I had a business once that failed. One of my weakest points at that time was in sales work. I realize I should pay attention to this part of what I plan to do.”
Can I call on you to give me some advice on selling?” They both said, “Yes.”
A quiet young man in the class came up to talk to me after I finished talking with Julie and Inni. He told me he needed to learn much more about computers. He looked and sounded Hispanic. He told me that he had been doing factory work but he wanted to go to graduate school and break out of his fairly menial work.
“Where are you from?” I asked. “
“I am from Peru,” he said.
“I am retiring soon and I won’t be teaching any more computer classes,” I told him. “I would like to encourage you and help you pick up more computer skills, so you can go on with your education, but I won’t be available to do so,” I continued. I also said,
“I know somebody from Peru who works as a volunteer and teaches computer classes in Spanish. She can probably help you learn more about computers. I will check with her first to make sure it is OK, but if it is I will take you both out for coffee and introduce you to each other.”
Mary seems to be doing fine, but as far as I know she is unattached, and I get the feeling she is a little lonely. Who knows? I have seen stranger things happen than two Peruvians in the United States being introduced by an Anglo.
As David said about how I met my wife, “You met your wife because of a prank call?”
Also, the young Peruvian man is named “John.” He said, “My father named me John instead of ‘Juan’ because he likes American movies…”
I am not making this up.