When they first came into Longwood’s Peirce–du Pont House, I noticed a slight accent and asked where they were from. They said they were Russian, but as we talked further, they explained they only say Russian as a short, easily understood answer to a casual question. They were actually from Tajikistan, once part of the Soviet Union, and spoke Farsi, although they learned Russian and English in school and were fluent in all three. Shyly, as if I may disapprove, they added they were Muslim, although they did not wear the hijab. Of course I did not disapprove in the slightest, and I thoroughly enjoyed their bubbly, vivacious personalities.
This led to a terrific discussion that went on for a half-hour. By chance, I had once worked with a man from India who spoke Farsi. Farsi is old Persian, and centuries ago a group of Persians that included his ancestors settled in India. That, he told me, also explained his Caucasian look, but his background is very unusual in India.
All I knew about Farsi was that tiny bit, but the girls were delighted. They took photos of me with each of them, and I took this photo of them together. One of the older girls, left-center in the photo, was going back to Tajikistan the next day.
When I got home, I Googled “Tajikistan,” and now I have many more questions. So, girls, if you see this, please email back. You are all charming. Welcome to America! We are a better country with you here.