I am on the patio on a beautiful June 3rd, enjoying the warmth of an early June day, drunk on the sounds of wind, rustling leaves, bird chirps, and hummingbirds flying to and fro. I am sipping fresh cardamom coffee, the green cardamom seed having been squeezed into my coffee…the cardamom having been given to me today, from a purchase in Teheran.

I am rich. 

I know I am Rich and I knew I was never going to be rich, yet I am rich.

MK and I just returned home from the most delightful time a person can possibly have and one that proves the richness of our lives.

The Pandemic has been horrific as have the after effects and by products: from national polarization to the war in Ukraine to the deaths at the hands of an extremely poorly handled Pandemic (at least in the United States). 

In my backyard, rich is the word. I started at Oakton to teach online French. That pretty much settled into the wayside as the courses I originally had as an adjunct were swallowed up by a tenured colleague. Adjuncts are unsung heroes and luckily, I did not need to depend on my salary as so many adjuncts do and was not going to suffer from my situation.

Early on, I did my office hours in the language lab, thereby not only having a great location for them, but also being able to bask in the international and welcoming flavor of the surroundings. When I was teaching in the high school, I had a good number of years directing the language lab and the new Technology there and found that the language lab was more often than not a magnet for kids looking for a place to be. The students from other countries, in particular, would show up and it became a haven. The same thing is apparently true for college as well. I was soon asked, by Beth Wrobel, the language lab director at Oakton, if I would work with ESL and French Conversation groups.

Today, our amazing sessions, gave us a lunch unlike anything most people have ever experienced and for us, it is a common experience. Romesa (originally from Pakistan), was in the area. Although she moved from Skokie to Florida, she is still taking classes at Oakton and still in the ESL Conversation Hours via Zoom. Beth Wrobel, just having departed Oakton because of a career and job transformation, organized it. Here are the participants: Mari, originally from Syria, and her daughter-in-law of Turkish parentage via Greece, although born here, and her two beautiful children; Elnaz, the doctor from Iran; Mary Kay and me; and of course, Romesa. We had a wonderful time. 

The love and caring of this motley, international crew who realize that in the end, we have differences, but are all the same, shared ‘bread’ at the Pita Inn in Skokie, Illinois. Oakton, its language labs, and the tremendous outreach and international understanding, even had the Technological drop in of one of our Conversation hour participants via Instant Messenger from Mexico City. I cannot help but believe that Oakton is doing an amazing thing, and doing it unwittingly, and with astounding success. I am just one happy camper because it has not only enriched my life, but that of my wife and family, and we shall never, ever, be the same.

About Richard Koerner

Seventy something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
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