Sunday, 21 October 2012

The doctoral student

who lives opposite came to see us yesterday. She comes from Mongolia. She brought us dessert because she had been cooking - ready for the return of her Australian "grandparents", the people she lives with. They are like family to her and she refers to them as "Grandmother" and "Grandfather" in Mongolian.
Her mother died earlier this year, at seventy-five.
        "That is old in Mongolia," she told us. Her mother was a doctor but even she did not have the benefit of palliative care. Our little student went home for several months and nursed her to the end.
Now she is back she looks at my father in disbelief.
        "He is so old but young too. He still works."
My father was in the garden when she arrived. She was delighted. The garden is a source of amazement to her. Until she arrived in Australia she had never seen many things growing.
        "We can buy but very expensive," she says of many things, "It is all imported. When I was home I so wanted an apple. I went and bought just one."
Her continuing appreciation of fruit and vegetables has been mentioned more than once by her Australian "grandmother". It is going to be very hard for her when she goes back to Mongolia for good.
Last summer she photographed the peach tree in our front garden - just so that she could show people how peaches grow.
Yesterday she investigated the parsley patch - no thankyou she did not need any then - and the rosemary bush. She broke off a tiny sprig and rolled it between her fingers and broke into a smile at the perfume. She looked carefully at the way my father is nurturing carrot seedlings.
        "What are these?" she asked of the broccoli plants. My father showed her the tiny buds on those. Spinach? Yes. Shallots? Yes. Lettuce? Yes, they grow that. Tomatoes? Yes, but not such big ones.
Then she comes to the boxes in which my father has planted strawberries. What are these?
And then, before my father can answer her, she says in absolute awe,
        "Strawberries! This is how they grow?! I must have a picture. I must show people."
There is, early though it is, one just ripe strawberry. My father tells her to pick it and wash it. She does so and stands there eating it slowly, savouring one small strawberry in four even smaller bites.
The dessert she has given us has come in a small pot. We will keep the pot for a few days because there are several more almost ripe strawberries there. When they are ripe my father will pick them, put them in the pot and give them to her.
I know, without a doubt, who is going to enjoy their dessert the most.

No comments: