Discovering Diversity in MC’s Backyard

Manhattan College might be a small campus, but the community that surrounds it is enormous. There are stories worth telling amongst us, even around the corner, the people you see in a daily basis are the ones who could be leaving the most important words, unspoken. Local shops and places to eat surround our campus, the food might be tasty but the stories behind their workers are more interesting.

When entering An Beal Bocht Café, you can feel the good vibes in the place. With a smile on her face, Anna Mars, the English waitress, talks about why she came to America, “I just wanted to,” she said.

Back in 1989, she decided to come alone after graduating college. Amongst other places to go, she has always been fascinated with the United States because of her degree in American Studies. Back then she was a nanny, but she was not fully satisfied with the life she was living.

“Life then was not nice, living in someone else’s place was not nice. I lived with only 90 dollars a week” she said.

Now she enjoys her job, as one can clearly recognize because of her friendliness while doing it. Although she likes living upstate NY, around 70 miles away, she really misses soccer and the endless summer back in England.

But she does not complain, “I can say I am living the American dream” she said. But times were not always picture perfect, her most difficult time was when her daughter was born here.

“I was all by myself, I had to go back to England, I had no friends, no social life” she said.

But she had a true passion, “I am a teacher back in England, I taught everything.” She taught men in prison and remembers it as the best time of her life, “I loved them. I still have their gifts, I have them here with me,” she said.

When missing England, Mars goes to the bars and enjoys watching soccer games to remind herself of England, even though she said she would not go back unless it was to take care of her parents.

All the way from India, Satnam S.Deol, owner of Short Stop Restaurant, has a story of progression since the early 70’s when he first arrived to the U.S.

He used to work in Midtown, he owned a pizzeria in Harlem, and another one in Brooklyn.

But before coming to the U.S., S.Deol said his life was great, but Jodi Kaur, his daughter who was raised in the Bronx, objected: “The reason why it was great was because it is his country, his culture and his language but he had to leave in order to get job opportunities elsewhere.”

S.Deol was motivated to find these new opportunities when he left India but he did not come directly to the U.S. since he was a sailor, he lived in different places around the world, his daughter said.

Although he came from a wealthy household, they didn’t see any job opportunities apart from their family businesses, which was a farm. His family were landowners so there was “nothing else to do apart from working the land,” S.Deol said.

S.Deol, has had a tough time speaking English but gladly, with the help of his daughter, who translates his Hindi, he managed to express that when he first came to the U.S. he had to work very long hours doing groundwork, doing dishes, deliveries and then he started his own businesses, bought a house, and raised his kids.

S.Deol came to this country not knowing a single word of English but “he was able to build his whole life here through hard work” Kaur said.

S.Deol didn’t go to college but his daughter, who graduated from Northeastern University two years ago, now teaches in the South Bronx. Kaur is the first in the family to attend college.

When asked what were his favorites memories, Kaur said, “he used to be a singer and a wrestler; he played for his village. My dad is awesome” she said.

“My life is not too rich, not too poor, [It is] medium,” S.Deol said.

Coming from a whole different part of the world, Harold Severino from the Dominican Republic, works at MC’s favorite Mexican place, Burrito Box. His tanned skin color and his bright smile, are characteristics of a Caribbean man. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Severino came to the U.S. when his father married an American woman.

The first difference he encountered was the education system. Back in his home, “the school doesn’t have the same resources they have here, and what I mean by resources is computers, providing you good food. Over there they just give you like a cupcake and a cup of meal sometimes. Sometimes you got to buy your own food during the ‘recreo’ (lunchtime)” he said.

At first, he didn’t speak English. It was when he started searching for jobs and getting rejected that he then started to take English classes. “They told me you got to be bilingual.”

In his first arrival to the U.S., people did not welcome him.“ I said to myself I am going to prove everybody that I can do it and I took advantages of all the opportunities we have here.”

Severino said he does miss his family, especially his mother. “That’s who you will always miss the most, your family, because you need to have the same support that you had…somebody telling you: ‘Listen you got to do this you got to get better.’ She was always giving me that support, telling me how to do things, teaching me “

Severino who loves baseball and is currently attending Bronx community college, confess he struggled when first arriving to the U.S. “I was having family problems with my stepmother I was only 15 years old I had to find a job and get my own money. It was not easy.”

But he takes a positive look at the situation. “Those are things we struggle in life after all,” he said. “You just get an experience from it and learn from them.”