Meeting Friends at Cinco De Mayo
On the weekend of May 29-31, we spent most of our time tabling in the "Mercado Market" at the Cinco De Mayo Festival held at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. As its website advertised, the festival was "a three day celebration of Mexican and Latin American cultures...it specifically highlights Cleveland's connections to the beautiful colors and dances of arts, music, and culture of Latin America."There must have been fifty vendors in the "Mercado Market" offering products from beautifully designed t-shirts, to tub fitters, to products for pets, and jewelry. We tabled next to a vendor named Lora whose specialty was scent kits for one's home and there was even a psychic on the opposite side of the room from us.
On Friday night we divided our time between sitting at our table and walking around collecting all sorts of stories. Here are a few of them:
- Across from us was a vendor named Erminia who immigrated to the United States about 45 years ago from Peru. She is a retired teacher and years ago she and her husband adopted a child from Peru. She likes living in the United States but she also likes visiting her native country each year. Before we met her, we talked to her husband who nodded his head slowly after we told him that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates and said that immigrants do encounter problems so it was good that there was someone to help them.
- Pastor Matthew F. Thornhill from Columbus who was in Cleveland helping a friend of his table at the festival. Pastor Thornhill was glad to take our information because he has international connections. We talked about the aftermath of the Brelo verdict for a moment and Pastor Thornhill said that the people of Cleveland should be proud that they got through the situation with as little trouble as we had. He also praised the interfaith ministers for showing leadership during those troubled times.
- A vendor named Stan who once was a manufacturer. He recalled helping eight people immigrate here from China to work for him. Almost all of them decided to remain in the United States where they had families and prospered.
- A woman who said that she could have used our services a few years ago when her husband brought a worker to the United States from Mexico. Recently, she had known of a woman who was a Muslim and was encountering problems because of her faith. Both situations were eventually worked out although it took some time.
- A person named Trudy who said that "we are all immigrants" and then told us about how her grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine in the early part of the 20th century. As she remembers, they had to do it by traveling first to Austria and then to New York. All told, here grandparents had nine children, most of whom were born here.
It was time for dinner so we set out to walk to the main gate where we noticed that the "El Burrito" food truck was there and we were in the mood for a veggie burrito. Thus we started out and on the way we encountered:
- The noted break dancer Mr. Daisun Lee Santana who once was part of the Cleveland Cavaliers Scream Team. He has since founded Citybreaks Studio and was glad to take our contact information because he has connects in Russian and Mexico. He seemed like a very nice guy indeed.
- The animal rescue agency, Voices in the Dark which had a beautiful rescue dog there named "Silver" who we hope finds a new home shortly.
- A table for a Citizens Bank where we talked to a person named Elisha who helps the foreign born college students of Baldwin Wallace set up bank accounts and provides them with instructions on currency issues.
And, finally, we reached "El Burrito" where a delicious veggie burrito was made for us by Heather and Cody. What we liked was that it was just big enough to make a good dinner but now so big that it fell apart and made a mess.
Before we left on Friday, we talked to a person who works at the immigration court in Cleveland and sees "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" on all kinds of court papers. According, she wanted to check out our literature to see who we actually were.
Before we went back to the Cinco De Mayo Festival on Saturday, we stopped off at the site of the planned Turkish Cultural Garden because we read that the members of the committee would be having a clean-up and get together there. We helped a little with the clean-up and spoke to Ms. Nada Martinovic and Mr. Mehmet Gencer for a few minutes. They plan to take part in One World Day in August on the site and to actually start construction on their garden by the time that that Cleveland Cultural Gardens turns 100 years old in 2016.
We looked up their proposed plan for the garden that appears on ClevelandPeople.com and has been approved by the City of Cleveland. It is quite stunning and we wish them well with it because it celebrates the Turkish heritage while preserving the natural beauty of the surroundings.
We then went back to the Cinco De Mayo Festival and we all ready for another day by noon when the festival started. Once again, we divided our time between our table and walking around and talking to people. On this day, our visits included:
- A person who remembered that Ms. Margaret W. Wong represented several softball ballers who had come to the United States from Taiwan back in the 1980's.
- A young woman who is sponsoring her parents who want to immigrate to the United States from Guyana. She said that it is a very difficult process and she has been working on it for two years but it seems like everything is finally starting to come together for them.
- We stopped by a cigar smoking tent that was put together by JoVann's Tobacco Shop in Mayfield Heights. There we met Mr. John Ruby who used to be a paralegal for Ms. Margaret W. Wong when she worked in the standard building in 1987. Now he is retired and has time to help out his friends at JoVann's.
- A vendor from Columbus named Mike who told us about one of his workers, years ago, who had to flee Guatemala and seek asylum here in the United States. Once he was here, it took him years and lots of money to his legal representative before he was able to become a citizen. He finally succeeded, however.
- A young vendor who is here from Turkey via an E2 visa. He wants to remain here in the United States and eventually become a citizen.
Finally, we bought some Earl Grey tea from a vendor named Stacie. We had never made tea where we had to put a teaspoon of tea into a separate tea bag and make it that way. We did though and loved it.
After we left the Cinco De Mayo Festival we went to the Red Space at 24th and Superior Avenue for the 11th Annual "Art Fur Animals Benefit" for Friends of the Cleveland Kennel.
We were reminded of what a small world his is when we met two people there named Jerry and Elaine (just like in "Seinfeld" they said) who were there because their friend Patty couldn't make it so she gave them her tickets. As it turned out the reason Patty couldn't make it was she was one of the vendors at the Cinco De Mayo Festival that we had just left.
Ms. Carrie Young from Fox 8 News, who was acting as emcee explained to us that Friends of the Cleveland Kennel is an all-volunteer organization that takes in animals which would otherwise be euthanized and gives them a second chance. Due to the large number of animals that they help, medical expenses alone can run up to $40,000 a year. Fortunately, this annual fundraiser raises a large portion of the needed funds. The evening consisted of wine, appetizers (including a separate table for vegetarians), socializing, and live and silent auctions of art created just for this occasion.
Prospective artists were given a white molding of a dog which they could decorate any way that they wanted and the result were often lovely. We stayed for the first part of the live auction and most of what we saw was going for just under $500 each which was very good. When we left there were quite a few pieces left to be sold but the auctioneer was our friend, Ms. Karolyn Isenhart, President of the Lakewood Democratic Club who doing a fine job keeping the proceedings moving at an energetic pace.
We talked to Ms. Becca Britton, Director of the Friends of the Cleveland Kennel who told us that she used to be in charge of the art projects at St. Clair Superior Development and always appreciated the generosity of Ms. Margaret W. Wong who always contributed.
We had a chance conversation with a man while we were standing in the food line and he turned out to be Mr. Patrick Burns who used to service our mail machine at Margaret W. Wong and Associates for years before he retired. He said to give everyone at our office his best.
We then talked to Mr. Dick Goddard, a wonderful longtime supporter of the well being of animals. We told Mr. Goddard that that we had a feeling that our next winter will be a mild one and he said, in no uncertain terms, that he hoped we were right because he does not like winter. After the last two winters, we believe most people in Northeast Ohio would be sympathetic to Mr. Goddard's point of view. We were impressed by the number of people that we talked to who have been coming to this benefit repeatedly for years. One person, a retiree named Bill, contributes the baskets from which the gift baskets are created for the silent auction. Another man named Gary got his dog through a rescue agency and told us that this was his way of giving back. Mr. Bill Peters who has his own radio show at John Carroll University and is quite active in the music scene in Cleveland grinned at said that, "I'm a heavy metal guy who loves animals!"
Ms. Britton said that "it takes a village to pull this together" and thanked the tireless volunteers and everyone else involved for making this such a special evening.
On Sunday we returned to the Cinco De Mayo Festival and bought a lovely t-shirt for Ms. Wong from Mr. Rick Novario from 925 Creative Studios. On the t-shirt is a picture of the Terminal Tower re-shaped as a guitar. On Saturday we sent Ms. Wong a photo of the t-shirt and she said to be sure to pick her up one so we did. We had fun chatting with Mr. Novario throughout the weekend.
And on this day we visited with:
- A man who promotes wrestling and often brings wrestlers here from Canada to compete. They sometimes run into snags with immigration so he feels that it is time he consulted with an attorney about what type of visa he should obtain for the wrestlers.
- A young woman who has a friend who is a student here from Egypt. After she graduates, she would like to remain in the United States but may need guidance as to how to do it.
- A man named Arnold who stood at our table for a while reading Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" which he ultimately decided to buy.
- And, of course, a local psychic from Berea named Ms. Paulina who told us that her grandparents immigrated to the United States from Romania and members of her family have been spiritualists for six generations.
We talked for a little while and she told us that Baldwin Wallace students often come to her with questions about what to do regarding their career paths. We were surprised because we thought the primary topic would be romance but Ms. Paulina told us that it used to be love interests but the young people seem more career oriented now.
Ms. Paulina also said that some of the students are foreign born and come to her asking about whether they will be allowed to remain in the United States. She said that it the toughest question to answer because so many factors are involved. She took several of our cards though and told us that she might consider advising them to check out Margaret W. Wong and Associates.
Unfortunately, due to the rain not many people came to the Cinco De Mayo Festival on Sunday so we were allowed to leave a little early.
By leaving early we were able to go to St. Elias Church in Brooklyn to attend a fundraiser to help Mr. Massoud "Mike" Mansour pay his expenses because he is now battling stage IV lung cancer. Mr. Mansour used to be the caretaker at St. Elias and is loved by all. We met his sister Ms. Jomana and extended to her Ms. Wong's best wishes.
Everyone was stunned by the turnout-we have never seen St. Elias so crowded; in fact more tables had to be set up but fortunately there was plenty of food.
The former pastor at St. Elias was Father Ibrahim Ibrahim who has since become the Melkite Greek Catholic Bishop of Canada and he came back to St. Elias on this occasion out of love for Mr. Mansour.
One of the organizers of this event was our friend Mr. Abby Mina from CAMEO. Mr. Mina said that it was a "blessing" to see so many people there who had some to celebrate the life of our beloved friend. He went on to say that Mr. Mansour devoted himself to serving the people of this church and that there had "never been a more genuine person."