My wise friend Katie commented the other day that "people are hungry for community but aren't sure how to go about it." She said this in response to my comment that I didn't know most of my neighbors after 9 months in the building. I make a big deal about the importance of knowing your neighbors and being connected to your community, but if you don't run into someone doing laundry or getting the mail, then you have to (eek!) walk up to their door and ring the bell. Then what do you say?
In my defense, most of that time we've lived here we were heading into winter, in winter, or emerging from winter. The best time to meet people in the upper midwest is when the weather finally starts to warm up (April or May, depending on how far north you are). Suddenly, the people you've said hello to stop and chat. People hang around more after church for conversation. Everyone emerges from their cocoons, blinks, realizes the sun is starting to set at 8 PM instead of 4, and comes to life.
And so, after the weather fully warmed up and finals ended, I went with the best meeting-people tool I know how: food. Specifically, homemade cookies.
The student couple who just moved in upstairs to their very first apartment were surprised and touched. We didn't talk long, but now we have each others' names and can talk in the future.
The Nepali couple invited us in, and this is what brings me joy. Over tea (which we'd call chai), we probably spent an hour chatting, getting to know the couple who lives there (who's our age) and their parents visiting all summer from Nepal. When we discovered, toward the end of the visit, that the parents were both educators, they went from being the-parents-who-don't-speak-much-English to neat people with whom we have a connection. We see them out and about almost every day now.
Our apartment of 8 units has Hmong, Russian, Nepali, and Taiwanese residents, as well as a number of people from small town Wisconsin. We are so incredibly fortunate to have such an international home. Now, if only I could get that all-apartment potluck underway...