Sunday, June 17, 2007

"A Lot of Blocks in Miami"

We spoke with Mary this morning. She described a shopping trip that took her to a little stand where a Kenyan was selling the sort of scarves she was looking for. She said that when you discuss a possible sale with a Kenyan shopkeeper, they fall into conversation with you (probably to disarm the shopper - a great technique!). She said that the Kenyan asked where she was from, and Mary said "Miami", of course.

"Oh, there are a lot of blocks there."

Mary didn't know what to say to that. Yes, she could say, there are blocks, and streets, traffic circles, parks and such in Miami.


"Yes, blocks."

Then she realized he meant Blacks, as in Black people. How politically incorrect, she thought. He should really say African-Americans, she found herself thinking.

"Oh, you mean "Blacks"! Right, there are many Blacks there. And a lot of Latin people too, who speak Spanish."

"Do you speak Spanish", he asked?

"Yes, I do, but I want to learn Swahili".

"Yes, you should learn Swahili."

Mary said it would probably have been foolish to describe to the Kenyan the "blocks" in Miami as "African-Americans". I would agree. I think its a little foolish to describe them that way over here too. I think of them as, well, Americans. Haven't we all been trying to think of each other as Americans for quite some time?

1 comment:

mary said...

Regarding the scarves sale, it was a fight, but I did manage to bring down his price from 400 shillings a pop to 250. I wanted really 200, but he wouldn't go there. For less that $1 difference, that's probably just fine. He did teach me a bit of swahili--that I am, for instance, a mwalimu, which means teacher. I already knew kidogo, meaning a very little bit or too little, which is what he said when I said I wanted to pay only 150 per scarf (for many), hoping that we could then settle on 200. He still maintained that 250 was kidogo, too. OK.

p.s. I now have many scarves. Let me know if you think you want one.

p.p.s. This business transaction went down at the Zebra Dukas, in the westlands area of Nairobi. I'll take you there if you come visit.