Sometimes on a flight, the person you are sitting next to doesn´t want to visit at all. They may just sleep, or read, or watch movies. Other times the neighbor is in a visiting mood. Yesterday on a flight from Chicago to Houston, I got to sit next to that other kind of seat neighbor.
James is an immigrant from Taiwan who did his electrical engineering degree at Syracuse about 20 years ago. He now works for a company out of California, and he gets to travel the world meeting with and talking to his company´s clients.
We visited for maybe the last half hour of the 2 hr. 45 min. flight. He told me about his grandfather in Taiwan who lived to the age of 99. He had been a farmer, but later in life somehow he had the money to buy a Mercedes. Grandfather never forgot his farm roots, and always kept a pet cow. He built a 2 car garage where he kept both his car and his cow. He loved the cow more than he loved the car. The cow had copper bells on it, and James was the proud owner of two of his grandfather´s cow bells.
He also shared about his nephew who has been accepted to John´s Hopkins and his niece who also wanted to go there. It costs only $70,000 a year! Oh, my!
I shared with him how our daughter had just finished her first year of grad school at Texas A&M; and that I was going to help her move out of her apartment, put things in storage for the summer, and then we were going to drive back up to Washington together. He was especially interested when I told him how different Texas is from Washington, and that her major is Spanish. He told me to tell her that if he could arrive in a completely foreign country after having had only a rudimentary knowledge of English, and made it, then she would be able to do well.
James was an inspirational seat neighbor, which is not all that common on an airplane. He also reminded me that we are a nation of immigrants, and that is a good thing. My grandparents grew up on farms in Finland. They never owned a Mercedes, but I am glad that I could learn English instead of the very complicated Finnish language!