Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's the little things . . .

Some things are just universal. I'm in a big African city and yet these sights are all too familiar:

- Men gathering every morning to drink coffee at a restaurant and argue over sports and politics. I've seen it happen every day that I've been here. I thought of Gene back in my hometown and figured with a few words of Swahili under his belt he'd fit right in!
- Ice cream and cold sodas on a hot day are just good things. People smile when you gift them with either. The women at the copy shop yesterday certainly did. They were grateful and asked our names and backgrounds while gushing and laughing. But I still couldn't take the bottle with me!
- Sometimes ... even if you love exotic food and drink ... eggs and toast in the morning is most satisfying.
- I stayed longer in the city than I planned and all my clothes were wrong given that it's HOT here. So I bought a konga, the material women use to wrap themselves in for informal and formal wear. However, while the sales clerk told me several times the cost was due to it being two pieces, the two pieces had to be cut apart. Note, I'm in a hotel with no scissors. So I marched down the four flights of this simple, inexpensive (read that hot water and a window unit air conditioner) EconoLodge and in my broken Swahili asked for a pair. The clerk was studying my question and his response when the man on my side of the counter directed him to get the scissors and then proceeded to hold the konga while I cut. Good people are everywhere if you just take time to learn how to ask the right questions.
- And speaking of questions, I love how gracious folks can be. I thanked the bank officer who helped exchange my dollars into tshillings with a polite thank you in Swahili. He responded in kind and then smiled and said, "Do you know Swahili?" As I stumbled over just saying the one word for a little, he smiled again and asked no more questions. Sometimes, hello, thank you, and good bye are enough.

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