By Noah Wali
Every day I come and get lunch from him and whenever I ask him how his day is he responds “Perfect! He takes the time to ask me how I’m doing. He can make a tough day better just by being himself in the brief snippets of lunchline conversation.” – OES Student
The moment I stepped into the Oregon Episcopal School (OES) cafeteria as a timid 9th grader was the first time I remember meeting Sergio Arango. I was greeted by the likes of what seemed to be an eternal line of unfamiliar faces in front of me and I thought to myself, “This is going be a long few years.” Once I reached the front, the aroma of goulash almost brought me to tears when suddenly, an amiable voiced turned me back around, “Would you like some food? We also have broccoli and a vegetarian option!” Even though nothing pains me more than tasteless tofu, I turned back around and was embraced by a heart-warming smile. Ever since that day, OES lunches have been my muse. Whether a good or bad day, I was always greeted with that same smile and kindness I hadn’t seen anywhere else. As time went on, I was leaving the cafeteria after having some of the most eye-opening conversations or hearing the most interesting stories, all because of Sergio. At school, I find it difficult to connect with those who are always judging your actions and your work. Sergio was an easy connection to make because I wasn’t expected to hold some image of myself around him, and for that reason, he felt like family. As many within our community already know, Sergio Arango has decided to leave OES after his 4th year working for Bon-Appetit Management Company.
Sergio Arango was born in Medellín, Columbia on May 27, 1969, into a family of five. He grew up during a time when lethal armed Marxist guerillas, right-wing paramilitary groups, and drug cartels that rivaled the government in power and influence ran Columbia, making it a dangerous company, yet Sergio says he “always felt safe.”He went through lots of schooling to attend a prestigious university in Medellin, studying architecture. Sergio was living large in Medellín, designing important buildings for his city. However, he decided to move to America with his brother at the age of 30 for a change of scenery and when he arrived in Miami for the first time, he fit right in. While Sergio couldn’t pursue his dream job of architecture due to complications with licensing, he quickly assimilated to the American lifestyle. He first earned his masseuse license while spending his nights partying with his brother in Miami. Sergio had quite a smooth transition into the US, owed to his resourceful and empathetic nature. After getting into the food management and distribution business, Sergio spent a few months in Atlanta before landing in Portland, where he wants to call home for a long time. He often times gets calls from home asking why he won’t move back to Medellín or even Miami and he always responds by saying“Portland is the most beautiful city!”
Although leaving family, friends, and his entire life behind was difficult for Sergio, he tells me he is extremely happy with where he is right now. Sergio finds that living in Columbia versus the United States are at two opposite ends of the spectrum, yet he appreciates the difference and is content with experiencing both. Sergio is staying in the Portland area for years to come, but to celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday, he will be leaving soon after May 9 to spend a month in Denmark, Greece, and Turkey with his family. What’s on the top of his list for when he gets back? Getting his Masseuse license to pursue massage therapy as a full-time job.
After May 9th, an important piece of OES’ community will be lost for a while, and the absence of Sergio will hit a lot of people in our community during the most unexpected moments. Although difficult, Sergio leaving should allow for our community and others to slow down and appreciate food service workers even more, as it is well known that Sergio is not the only amazing cafeteria worker at OES nor at Vista Springs Cafe. Often times, Sergio’s kindness was overlooked as people came and went through the OES lunchroom, focused more on the stresses of life. While it can be difficult to break from life’s fast-paced curveballs, take a moment to ask the people around you how they are doing. Smile, talk with people you wouldn’t usually talk to, especially the lunchroom staff. People will appreciate it more than you think. You’ll soon realize how the people you least expect can be your greatest allies. And to Sergio, you will be missed for your perpetual positive attitude, your great stories, and most of all: The relationships you formed with all of us. We hope you continue your great work at Vista Springs Cafe.
“It’s very hard for me to resign from working at OES. The best part of working here was working for the people. It’s hard for me to leave. I talked to my family about it, my brother, my mom, and I was saying I will miss OES a lot. I love OES. All students, teachers, staff everybody. All the people. You know, this is my fourth year, and I feel like I have a second family. I always felt like this job was more about working with family and friends. It’s perfect for me. I love OES. I told my family, this is the perfect place for me. The people are very nice, very kind. I will miss OES. I will miss the community.”
While Sergio asked that I keep his reasons for leaving private, he wanted me to let everyone know he will visit OES in the future and you can always catch him interacting with people at his job at Vista Springs Cafe, nestled in the SW hills of Portland. He would love for everyone to go and visit him over the summer. I recommend all of you take part in the gift of singing (Stand by Me) on Thursday, May 9th in the cafeteria to celebrate Sergio.
“Sergio is the easiest person to talk to and a positive force in our community.” – OES Student