It was 2006.
The most popular pone was the “Razor,” a flip phone that was so thin and cool that all my friends had it.
Mine was more practical, good for accident-prone hands, especially for life in the badlands. My new home for the summer. I was excited about the spectacular views, the nightly outdoor musical that I’d get to see for free and even for the job. I would get to serve delightful food to the traveling North Dakota public and yes, earn some money. But there was one thing I was excited most of all for.
Meeting people from all over the world who worked in this little tourist town near a national park.
I wasn’t the only one to think it was neat to have foreigners from over 20 countries legally working for the foundation. My friend did, even hoping that I would find a summer romance with an exotic man. I laughed thinking that could never happen.
But I did. (And he’s my husband now!)
The customers I served ribeye and bison tenderloins to would ask me what country I was from and, many times, they were disappointed about my homegrown American roots.
I wasn’t as fun as someone from Ukraine for example.
My manager was from India, other co-workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Egypt, Russia, Bulgaria and so many more, equally to around over 20 different countries working in a town that only had about 100 residents out of season.
This group of people reminded me of how the America we know began, a melting pot of cultures in a cowboy country.
I’ve made this little city my home. We still have foreigners from many different countries. The musical is as good as ever, maybe better. It’s beautiful here, much the same as it was.
Except for a few things.
My town wouldn’t be what it is today without the amazing people who came from other countries to work for us. They exceed their expectations and ours every year. But this year was especially hard to get back many of our foreign employees. Many of which, who had been here for a couple years or more, couldn’t return this summer.
You know, I’m not sure. Was it because of our political atmosphere towards other countries and letting them into our borders? I know and I don’t want to blame anyone, though it wasn’t as comparably difficult back when the Razor flip-phone was available.
It was devastating to have so many friends not return.
My town is seasonal. This means we open and closes all the shops, restaurants, musical and more each and every summer. We need a large number of workers but only for a short amount of time. Many Americans don’t seem to want these kinds of jobs.
And we didn’t have enough workers this summer. At least not right away and had to make sacrifices like open certain things late or making changes, some unpopular.
Sure it’s part of the business, but it wasn’t always this way.
Another thing has changed, and it’s a bit more personal.
Though we advertise to foreigners to come and work, want and need their hard hard working hands, not everyone sees this. The change is how the traveling public, from all over the United States, now feel towards the foreigners working around me.
People are still kind and interested in where everyone is from and what its like in their home country; no one seems to be rude, but now customers like it when they learn that I am a native North Dakotan, an American. They no longer accidentally groan in disappointment over the ‘boring’ American girl but tell me how good it is to see an American worker.
But they don’t know.
They can’t imagine the struggle our company had for workers and how amazing so many of our foreign workers are. My city wouldn’t be what it is without the fantastic people who come from all over the world. They exceed our expectations and their own.
Sure internationals come to make money.
But they work hard for it, make friends, visit other states and spend their hard-earned money on tourist things — which is good for our economy — and then go back home, help out their family or simply use more of this money at home — good for that country’s economy as well.
It’s a beautiful circle.
So why is this happening? The change of perspective towards foreigners? Could it be our president and the way he feels about?
But I don’t want to blame this change of heart on one person. As my husband says, the president is a reflection of the people, their views. We chose this, or at least most of us and President Trump voiced our thoughts and put them into action, and now we are less afraid to admit and speak it aloud.
I do hope we’ll remember is our roots. Unless you’re a native American you too are foreign. How neat? Like the history books say, We’re a melting pot. And I hope we see the joy in learning about other cultures, our past cultures and working with others from around the world.
And just maybe this is how we can make America great again, though I think I’ll keep my smartphone.