My husband employed our first employee for a new start up. An Chinese emigrant, just graduated with a double degree and a strong IT background. Early twenties, had lived in Melbourne for most of his life after leaving China with his parents when he was around eight years old.
My husband was dribbling honey into lemon and hot water one wintery, nose running day. And the Chinese fellow, lets call him Lee, asked 'Where does that come from?'
My husband looked at him and said, "I just bought it from the shop".
"No, how do they make honey?" he said. My husband tried not to look too nonplussed at this university educated, highly intelligent man and said "from bees." At which Lee just looked confused.
So my husband launched in to the full story. The hives, the pollen, the apiarists. Totally blew Lee's head off with the amazingness (poetic freedom) of it all.
I was spellbound by this story. Had he grown up in the slums without plant life around, his parents in such entrenched poverty that they could only struggle from day to day? By age 8, most children know the bee story, and teachers move on to other topics. So by the time he arrived in Australia he had missed that part of education. Or was it simply not important, in provincial China, to know such things? And on moving to Melbourne, didn't he look at a bee curiously then?
Or as so many emigrants who escape from squalor and the mayhem of poverty and/or war – when they settle, they need neatness, cleanliness and uniformity. A world free from stench and decay. An ordered world. Growing up in Australia, it seemed to me that so many of the refugees from Asia and elsewhere appeared to need to cut down the straggly messy plants that littered their backyards, and present a backyard with neat concrete and an ordered lawn. Just like their neighbour.
Let me also acknowledge that a massive amount of emigrants do embrace the garden and continue nurturing many familiar plants of their childhood, to their greater emotional and physical benefit.
I can only guess at the story behind this lack of awareness of the importance of the bee, and look on at this guy with sympathy and understanding.
I don't know what he and his family have had to deal with to get where they are now.
And it is only a little insect after all. Most kids all over the world know the story of honey. Don't they?