Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

They Swipe Because They Care

Students who eat at O’Donovan Hall with any regularity know them like old friends. Ripai Suru (left) and Altagracia Sanchez have turned their high rapport within the student body into veritable cults of celebrity extending to fan clubs established in their honor on Facebook.com. Admidst working to keep the dining hall operating smoothly, serving hundreds of students each day and fending off the occasional felonious Hoya, Suru and Sanchez have helped keep Leo’s a place where everybody knows your name.

Where are you originally from?

I was born in Sudan. I came to this country in 1995.

Why did you decide to come here?

Well, [I was] part of the resettlement program. A lot of us from my country were living in Monrovia, Liberia and in other countries. I came to D.C. then; not from my country, but from Monrovia. I left my country long before.

Did you know English when you came here? Was America a culture shock for you?

Oh, I knew English. I learned it at the university. I studied English before I came here. Oh, yeah sure, it was an adjustment. We were many, though, and you come here to start a new life. Sometimes, I think of back home. I miss it sometimes; I’ve never been back since I came here.

Tell me about your family. Do you have a wife? Children? Did they all come with you to the United States?

Yeah, when I was coming here I only came here with my first son. y wife and the rest of my children came here in 2003. I was so happy when they came here. And I have a new baby, two months old. I have five children . too many!

How do you like working at Leo’s?

I like my job. I like to work with the students. Back home, I was a middle school teacher [of] mathematics, but when I came here, I didn’t want to work as a teacher. The way school is here, there’s no discipline. It’s very different here.

What’s your favorite part of working at Leo’s?

Well, you know, everyone who comes here will say `Ripai, Ripai, Ripai’ all the time. My favorite part is interacting with the students.

What’s your least favorite part of working at Leo’s? What’s been your worst day here?

There are some kids who are always stealing. One day, one of the students and some of his friends came by. I was working here and they came together, about four, five of them, and one of them took a whole thing of ice cream, the whole thing! They ran away to the door, and I went out, but they were gone. I don’t like when people steal stuff, it’s a very mean thing.

Do you have a favorite meal at Leo’s?

All of [the meals] are good, but I don’t eat many. It’s not because I don’t like the food; I like the food, it’s just that where I came from, it’s different. I’m not used to [American food], all this pasta, marinara, all those things. I don’t not like it, I just don’t eat a lot of it.

Do you know about the Facebook group that’s dedicated to you? Do you know what Facebook is?

No, what is Facebook?

What do you do in your free time?

I watch some TV. I like action movies – fighting, war – I like those. And I walk. I like to walk. If I want to go somewhere, I just walk.

– Interview by Sarah Mellott

Pasha Chandra/The Hoya Altagracia Sanchez

Altagracia Sanchez How long have you been working at Georgetown?

Now, 14 years. I have 16 years in this country, but I’ve been working here 14.

What did you do before?

Before, I was [in Nicaragua] with my mother; she sent me to work. I cleaned houses before part-time, cleaned offices. But my mother told me I had to learn some English. One day she told me, maybe you can find something. . The manager [at Georgetown], he had everyone in their place. I came in and they said, we don’t have any more applications. But that day, one lady didn’t come in; she didn’t show up. He said, “Altagracia, do you want to come work here?” It was my lucky day.

Do you like your job?

Yes, I love it. I like that I can talk with the people, and maybe my English is a little better. They understand me anyway.

How did you get roped into offering a dinner with your family for the Hilltop Auction?

It was a surprise to me when they told me. They said to me, everybody’s talking about it. I saw the [advertising poster]; I said, “Oh my God.” I was embarrassed. Later a student came in and told me, “We want you to come to our auction for Hurricane Katrina.” To me, my family must come with me, so I brought them. . I was a little sad because we had to wait [for late-arriving students].

Who is in your family?

I have a husband and two sons.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen happen at Leo’s?

One day I was at Grab-n-Go last year. I had the sodas on one table, and a student took a case – a case – of soda. I was very mean. He ran with the sodas and I tried to follow him. I went to the manager; I think I cried that day. I said, “Why did they do that? Why me?”

Do you know about the Facebook.com group created in your honor?

Yes. They showed me a paper; they printed a paper with my picture. There were 500 [members], now 600!

What’s your favorite meal at Leo’s?

Tacos.

Who is your best friend among other employees?

[Kitchen worker] Milagro Vasques. She’s my best friend because of how good she is to me. She talks to me when I’m angry, when I’m happy, when I’m sad. She’s always there.

Any dirt on some coworkers? Maybe Ripai?

No. Keep it away! [Laughs.]

– Interview by Alex Fumelli

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