Doug Ernst

Napa Valley Register columnist Doug Ernst.

I had fun the other day while having lunch at an outdoor table at the Napa Valley College café.

A couple of students in their 20s walked up and asked if they could share the table.

Of course, I said. It’s not my table, it’s yours.

The college motto is “It’s all about the students,” I told them.

The woman, who is from South America, started the conversation by saying her Digital Arts instructor had the class make a flipbook animation on the first day of class.

She asked her friend if he knew what a flipbook is. He responded in Mandarin Chinese and she picked up the conversation from there.

It turns out she lived in Beijing for a time.

Speaking Mandarin, the woman started talking with her new friend about tennis. She had a difficult time finding the Mandarin word for “tennis,” but her gentleman friend from China helped her out.

They spoke in that language for a while, then came back to English.

She suggested they play tennis later in the week. He agreed. She asked who he thought might win. He said he would, “of course.”

I had to laugh out loud.

That’s when the man waved to his friend at the next table. The friend came over and sat down.

He spoke English, then Mandarin, then English again. The friend, who was from Hong Kong, asked the woman her name and age.

I had to laugh out loud again.

I changed the subject and asked about their major areas of study. The woman explained she is a Digital Arts major from Chile.

Her friend from China said he is majoring in English. His friend from Hong Kong said he is preparing for a career in hospitality.

I told the man from Hong Kong that his friend from China already landed a date with the woman from Chile, to play tennis. The man from Hong Kong invited himself to play with the couple.

I laughed again and told them I had to get back to work.

The lunchtime experience reminded me of something a friend of mine said recently – that a community college is one of the very few places in the world where people from diverse backgrounds come together for a common purpose – to prepare for a future in the American workplace.

I felt proud to be a part of the trio’s conversation.

As I left, I thanked them for letting me in on their get-acquainted session.

They thanked me for letting them sit at “your table.”

As I walked away, I thought about the act of breaking bread around a table with new friends, and I felt privileged – and very honored – to be able to bring this simple story of community college life to Napa Valley Register readers.

Thanks for reading.

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Doug Ernst is the Napa Valley College public information officer. Reach him at DErnst@napavalley.edu or (707) 256-7112.