March 14, 2008

Ethnic Boundaries and Free Immunizations in Miami
Miami Beach, United States

Riding the public bus in Miami can be an entertaining experience, almost as consistently so as the meat lockeresque temperature found inside the vehicles. Tatiana, Aidric and I have already accrued nearly a dozen hours of travel time on Miami's mass transit in just a handful of days, with today's journey taking us deep into a predominantly black community.

Sitting on the bus for an hour and a half in each direction, it's really interesting to watch the ethnic groups and spoken languages change as you pass through different parts of the city. There's this specific auditory shift away from Russian, German, Italian, Yiddish/Hebrew, Spanish, and twangy English that's found near the beaches, to Haitian Creole (French Creole) and urbanized African-American speech that really wouldn't sound out of place in Detroit.

Official languages of Miami

Miami has the largest Spanish-speaking population in the Western Hemisphere outside Latin America. As of the year 2000, speakers of Spanish as their first language accounted for 66.75% of residents, while English was spoken by 25.45%, and French Creole by 5.20%—all three of these are the official languages of Miami. Many signs in the city are in Spanish first, English second, and possibly Creole third (often state or government texts include a Creole translation).

Today's excursion found us seeking out a branch of the Miami-Dale County Health Department (short or "Miami-Fort Lauderdale," I suppose) off of NW 27th Avenue. As we slowly crept towards our destination, I watched as the figures on the bus turn from retirees and construction workers to teenage and twenty-something black youths. Tatiana loves to do her shopping out here in this part of town because it's cheap, and they have the ethnic products that work well with her body/hair type.

At the county health department, we were able to get Aidric his remaining month-two round of immunization shots that the hospital in Lima was out of stock of when we visited (on the 10th, a few hours before our flight out of the country). I'm particularly pleased that this city offers up free vaccinations as a part of their Special Immunization Program (SIP). A medical center next door to the location that we went into my mistake said that they required a $40 doctor visit and $15 for each immunization—whereas in the building 20 feet away they're doing it for free.

As Tatiana nodded off in the bus on our way back home, I found myself staring at the massive asses of the black women. Not in an attracted sort of way, but with the same curious gaze I typically reserve for some odd cultural quirk uncovered in a foreign country. I mean, some of these women have butts so big it's obscene—or maybe obese.

I nudged Tatiana and whispered my observations in her ear, and how I couldn't believe someone even manufactures jeans in such dimensions. She tells me there's a line called Apple Bottom that can be found in his part of town.

I quickly remark back, "…Yeah, but that's no apple… that's an orchard!"

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Aidric and his stroller

Tatiana is on good terms with the staff that runs this hotel, and on our first day here she asked (out of curiosity) if they had a baby stroller in storage—perhaps one that a guest had abandoned/left behind—and as chance would have it, they did.

A stroller was at the top of Tatiana's wish list for items to buy for our time in Miami. And lo and behold, presented to us in perfect condition was a stroller that probably goes for $150-200 in the stores. I'm impressed, and we're both pleased with its usefulness.

And let me tell you, the one thing that attracts more women more than a puppy is a baby. This is the gift and the curse of the stroller—every woman in eyesight gravitates towards Aidric. It's quite entertaining.

Single men take note: Borrow a cute baby and take him on walk somewhere—like moths to a flame.

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