This afternoon I found myself in a position where I could help. I stood in the line at the USPO, and one of the post masters behind the counter was trying communicate with what looked like (and smelled like) a cannery worker. It got to the point where he was yelling and speaking in a high monotone to make sure the kid understood him. Sigh. Silly Americans. The post master desperately scans the crowd, "Does anyone speak Turkish or French?" I said "Oui, je parle francais." You might have thought I solved world peace with the look on both of the faces. Sheesh. So, I waltz over, and explain, in French, that I do not practice often and my vocabulary is terrible. Over the course of the next hour, I learned that he was on a student work visa, from Turkey. He had applied for a Social Security Card a few months ago, and just now got the notification that his application was missing info and had not yet been processed. I was trying to determine whether or not he should mail his application to Anchorage SSA office; he would be there next week, and wanted to see if sending it ahead would help expedite his application.
There was no way for me to explain the complexities of our govt departments, much less the SSA, so I just helped him get photocopies, notarization, and helped him assemble the package. Luckily, the owner of Mill Bay Coffee was in line; she is Parisienne, and she was able to clarify a couple of verbs I did not understand. Further, she encourage him to keep copies of everything and to call and set up an appt at SSA. Just showing up would put him bad position if they did not have advanced notification that he needed a French or Turkish translator.
I gave him my card with my mobile and wished him, "Bon Chance." The crazy thing about his departure is that he leaves from Anchorage to Salt Lake to Atlanta to Brussels to Ankara. Wouldn't it be easier to go the opposite direction? Hmmmmmmm. His paperwork showed that he was born in 1985. Younger than my sister and traveling halfway across the world to work in our canneries-- on our tiny island of 6,000 people. Wow.