We’ve been calling the house across the street “Joe’s house” for at least 10 years, starting when we bought our house and met the man and his young family as we moved in. It was Joe’s house after his divorce, when he prowled the four-bedroom space all by himself, and even through a couple of other tenants who rotated through after Joe walked away in a short sale.
The new family moved in a few months ago: three generations with a couple young kids, two cars, and a well-kept yard. Nama, a man who looks to be in his late twenties, broke the ice this weekend by inviting our whole family over for a cookout with his family, which he told me was extensive.
“We’re from Liberia,” he explained.
My Greensboro neighborhood is the most multicultural one I’ve ever lived in. We’ve got Somalian lost boys who have settled in with their families, Montagnards, a German and a South Korean all in a couple of subdivision cul-de-sacs. There’s a foster group-home a couple doors down, and another house built by a church for a veteran.
And now: Liberians.
I love telling people that students in Guilford County Schools speak 118 different languages. It blows my mind — and usually theirs — that all these people from all over the world are coming to live in this little forgotten corner of North Carolina.
The Liberians, for example, fled a country on Africa’s west coast colonized by former American slaves that eventually incorporated local tribes into the fold and saw great prosperity through the last century before a civil war tore it apart.
My Greensboro neighborhood is the most multicultural one I’ve ever lived in.
Nama told me he lived in Washington DC for a time before rejoining his family in Greensboro.
In the kitchen, which I used to call Joe’s kitchen, Nama’s aunt had set out giant trays of beef ribs, roasted goat, chicken, spinach and corn.
“We don’t eat pork,” she said.
I ate a bowl of Liberian pepper-pot soup, a stew of sorts featuring fish, shrimp and fiery stock with a doughy potato dumpling as a base. My eldest son went at a piece of roasted goat like it was a popsicle.
Out in the yard, another nephew roasted whole fish on the grill while the children played tag on the lawn, which we used to call Joe’s lawn, but not anymore.