Accents: The voices of our immigrant neighbors in the Berkshires
ABOUT THIS SERIES
“Accents” seeks to, one by one, tell the unique stories of our 10,000 immigrant neighbors living and working here in the Berkshires.
Reinout van Wagtendonk, a Dutch-born journalist and longtime resident of Lee, is the host and producer of Accents, which consists of a podcast interview you can listen to online at BerkshireEagle.com, along with this story and even a special recipe provided by the guest that’s representative of his or her native country.
For more podcasts, check out our Berkshire Eagle Podcasts Collection.
Born in Ethiopia, raised in Botswana and steeped in the very different cultures and languages of those disparate African countries, Arsema Abegaz speaks American English without even a trace of an accent.
Alan Franco, from Mexico City, and Melissa Schermerhorn, from the Berkshires hilltown of Peru, met in 1994 in the Cozumel tourist resort where he worked. Franco was an entertainment director and dance instructor at the beach hotel.
Ahmed Ismail’s bride, Michela, had tears in her eyes, but not necessarily because of wedding emotions. Tear gas and worse filled the streets of Cairo when they got married.
Her colleagues at Housatonic Curtains stopped sewing when the news broke about the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Gloria Escobar-Huertas could sense her co-workers' fear. But she didn’t understand.
Saldana has worked hard to become a part of the community. He is an associate member of Pittsfield’s Community Development Board.
WEST STOCKBRIDGE — As a child in Indonesia, I’in Purwanti was the ringleader of a band of pint-sized private investigators. “My childhood was very adventurous,” Purwanti says. “I wanted to be a detective. "
“I came here for a reason,” Tontoh says, “and when that is accomplished I will go back home. Home sweet home.”
Meet Flavio Lichtenthal: Coffee hits all the right notes in his journey from Argentina to the Berkshires
Talk to Flavio Lichtenthal about his Argentinian childhood and soccer comes up a lot. On the streets of Buenos Aires that’s what boys play.
Vivian had left Ghana to join her husband Alfred, who had already made the move to the Berkshires. Designing clothes was both her trade and her passion in her home country. So, setting up shop and marketing her clothes in her new country made sense.
In their home in Otis, Seavey's American husband Adam sometimes jokes about restoring the Hungarian Easter tradition of dousing young women.
“All my life in Colombia I spent in the city,” he says. “Here, I looked around the County and I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can be around here because this is totally different. Too quiet…’”
“In India, I was practicing as a rural physician and I would feel the pain of families who saw their sons and daughters going through this severe drug problem and the families were getting destroyed,” he said.
I love the United States,” he says. “I know you have to work very hard for it, but it’s a country for your dreams.”
“Having come from Caracas, a bustling city, I never thought I would leave the city for anything,” he says. “I knew next to nothing about the Berkshires.”
Shari Yamini’s first name is short for Shahrzad. Shahrzad is Scheherazade, the beguiling story teller of “One Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights.” “My father was very fond of that story and he decided that he should name me after he
This is the story of one of our Berkshires neighbors brave enough to admit that James Taylor is “really not my bag at all”.
That thing about Chinese students being pushed by their parents to study really, really hard? “Yeah, it’s true,” says Fei Wen Gang.
They had this huge map of the United States with Post-It notes with the names of the schools people were going to. And I’m looking at Florida and California and Kentucky and then the highest up, farthest north Post-It was mine. And I kept thinking,
'Life in Thailand was difficult, not the same quality of life as here.’
Violence was everywhere in Albania: “Everybody, children, they had every kind of weapon and they kill each other in accidents and, I don’t know, everything …”
"I like it here,” Aguilar says about Pittsfield. “The peace I have in my hometown is the peace I have in this town.”
Her children are grown up now, but Estervina Davis is still not sure about the American custom of sleepovers. “In my country, you don’t do that,” she says. “Everybody sleeps in their own house. "
My life here is pretty peaceful and quiet like it was in my town back home. I like to go to the gym as my hobby. I love to dance. I take hikes, but not in the wintertime. I like to read. I don’t even have a TV.”
“I don’t do it for money,” Thiago Oliveira says about his pastoring. “It’s a very emotional thing, just to try to help anybody that I can help. I am very honored that God gave me this opportunity to do what I love.”
A Christmas visit to Syria was obviously out of the question for Dr. Tony Makdisi. He and his wife and daughters last went back in 2009, before civil war tore his country apart.
“I am a happy man who always likes to mingle with everyone, regardless of their beliefs and points of view. And certainly, the more musical they are the more my friends they are as well."
Today her American English is fluent, but recalling the stress of that first day brings out her Czech accent: “Somehow I took right subway, got to Port Authority and found bus to Great Barrington.”
Unspecified death threats became routine, but when the guerrilla fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, actually came looking for his father, Camilo Manrique and his family sought refuge in the Berkshires.
Offering up the rough, calloused palm of his hand, Goundo Behanzin says, “Here, feel. I never worked with my hands in Ivory Coast. It was easier there. I learned that here in America if you really want to move up, you have to fight.”
Some immigrants to the United States “are fleeing things that are more horrifying than the risks they take to get here.””
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