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Extraordinary Museum Encounters

By Bernard Siehling
For a number of years, I have volunteered my time at the 125yr. old Drugstore at the
Grand Rapids Museum and experienced encounters with folks of all kinds of nationalities and
societies of the world.
When a group of dark-haired visitors walks in, I like to inquire: Are you, by chance, Italian?
The answer: No, we are Koreans! And I seize the opportunity to greet them in their home
language: Ahn jung ha sim nik gah? (How are you doing today?) And they are totally delighted
with that reception!
Another group always perks my curiosity: Amish/ Mennonite folk from the various
communities around Grand Rapids; the men with their wide-rimmed black hats, the ladies in
their white caps tied under their chin. I give them my usual "spiel" dealing with the history of
the Rudell Drugstore and Apothecary Shop, as it was known in its day, when they among
themselves start discussing what they heard me say in their own unique German dialect. Of
course, I cannot contain myself and have to reply to what I hear them ask each other, bringing
about a total expression of surprise: You mean to say, that you can understand us? I challenge
them to give me a generic English sentence that I convert to their dialect. They are satisfied
temporarily, but feel they have to test me one more time: -- Can you say the "Our Father" in our
dialect, and I accommodate them with the entire Prayer! They nod their heads in agreement,
demonstrating their satisfaction, but I cannot help coming back with a new challenge: Do you
know the 'Our Father' in Latin? Producing a complete vacuum of expression, so I feel obligated
and proceed to teach them the entire medieval prayer -- the "Pater Noster "!
About that time a Chinese delegation walks in to be familiarized with the fine details of the
Rudell Drugstore and how it came about to be donated, with all contents in place, by the owner
Bill Rudell, all for the designated purpose of future generations to get a picture of what life was
like in 1890.