Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Welcome Back

In downtown Cleveland, looking toward the Square

What happens after you return from a long absents? Sometimes you can see things in a new way, along with it being spring, the time for renewal, I’ve decided to take a look around me. I live in the little Southern town of Cleveland, GA. When most people hear Cleveland they think of the big city in Ohio. This is a far cry from a big city, it is however kind of typical of what you find in the rural south. We have two traffic lights, a little town square with an old courthouse that is now a historic building housing a collection of local historical artifacts. I have to say that for the probably thousands of times I have drive around this building, which is the only way to get from my house to the grocery store and post office I have never stepped foot in the place, so can’t really tell you about the artifacts. When I was out west someone ask me the population of my town and thinking about all the western suburbs I had lived in I said, oh it is kind of small maybe 100,000 people or so, but I have never checked. So I checked on the internet, much to my amazement the population was 3,410 at the 2010 census (up from 1,907 at the 2000 census). Guess you could say we are having a population boom. Anyway, by any standards this is still a very small town. It has one supermarket and a couple of years ago Walmart came in and built a super Walmart which most people in town were thrilled about. It has really hurt some of the local small business, though. 

Cleveland, GA is in White County and the joke has always been that indeed it is a white town. On the weekends you do see some diversity in the super market thanks to being “the gateway “ to the Appalachian Mountains and other local tourist destinations, which means tourist pass through Cleveland on their way to the mountain vacation homes, resorts and camping parks, so they stop to stock up food supplies. We are very lucky to have this influx of tourist it has given us an upscale grocery store. On the downside it is very hard to get through town on the weekends. It can take up to 4 signal changes to get around the square. The road through town is just one lane, so it can easily get filled with traffic.  Anyway, back to the town being white, much to my delight and surprise I was invited to help tutor at a local ESL program. I joined a couple of my friends along with several others for an after work free tutoring held at the middle school. There was a group of Latino’s working hard in workbooks to learn to read, write and speak English. Most of them were from Guatemala and one was from Mexico, there were a few children and a baby all who went off for child care. This program has been around for 10 years and it is very near my house, but I never knew about it.
After working on lessons for a couple of hours we had an invitation to go to our little local park and join all the local Latino families in annual Cinco de Mayo Festival. So,  we went in a caravan to the park and joined the large crowd of families already there, the adults were seated around long picnic tables in the group picnic area while the children played in the near by play ground. There was so much joy and activity coming from the playground it just put a big smile on my face. Then I was so totally stick by the fact that there was a very large crowd that has always been invisible in Cleveland. I commented on that and the head of the tutor program reply was it is dangerous for them to be visible. I know that is true, but how sad. This is a town where the large American flag waves proudly over the town square, land of the free and home of the brave. Well I have now met some truly brave people and shared a wonderful home made meal, stories, and smiles with them. The evening ended with the children hitting a pinata till it broke open and spilled out candy that was hurriedly gathered up. I have also, learn that maybe this little town has more things for me to uncover and is more interesting than I have ever thought it to be.

The street where I live...this is a typical street in Cleveland

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