June and I went to Atlanta this afternoon for the inaugural meeting of what could eventually be incorporated as a Georgia chapter of the Society for Intercultural Education, Teaching And Research. Of the twenty people who assembled, I recognized four from the national DC conference last fall, including a friendly professor from Kennesaw State, with whom I'd really enjoyed chatting. June is more shy than I am, and the friend of hers who met us just before the gathering proved more introverted still (she looked positively terrified during the ice-breaking "identities" game, and her voice sank to virtually inaudible when we went around the group circle introducing ourselves), but June at least assured me that she had liked the group, even if her friend had been too overwhelmed to consider returning for our next monthly get-together. I felt sorry--I had not anticipated that anyone might feel "put on the spot" by what to me is a convivial group of similarly-interested people! I have been forced by time and circumstance to get used to talking to strangers--and I wrongly presumed that this lovely young lady whom June had told me was her long-time best friend would be likewise acclimated. I need to learn to ask about this ahead of time, so I am better able to "run interference" as necessary.
After the meeting, June and I met up with my brother Nate and his girlfriend for ice cream. She taught English for a year in Korea and loved it! After shorter stints in Spain and Turkey, she returned to teach in one of the worst public school districts in the US: Jackson, MS.
Just before we left for the dark drive back home, I got an unexpected, and sad email from the owners of A Show Of Hands, an award-winning handmade art & crafts store in the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, VA, where I have been successfully consigning my jewelry for years (I just got a check from them a couple of days ago). Between the messy weather and last year's month-long government shutdown, their long-successful business has dwindled, and they are closing the shop on Tax Day, April 15. I don't know if they chose that date for its symbolism or for its memorability, but be that as it may, I am disappointed, and saddened for them--they are both such nice ladies, and they ran the business well--they were models of "best practices" which small firms so often lack. These are truly circumstances beyond their control which are forcing them out of business.
In the retail space next door to the ice cream shop where we had our late dessert tonight, there was a large vacant spot--during my visit two summers ago, there was an apparently thriving clothing consignment store there, part of a local upscale resale chain. I wonder if it and its fellows have all gone belly-up too? Not happy economic signs, these...