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A Stranger in a Strange Land

Relationships are the best part of Africa
Relationships are the best part of Africa

A word from Curt

The word is astonished.

It’s a good word about being amazed, touched, inspired, even disturbed.

As a stranger in a strange land, I’m daily awestruck  by the people and land of Central Africa.

Join us on this astonishing journey.

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The language/cultural barrier

I’ve become friends with Anthony, a computer technician with Burt Systems in our hometown of Entebbe. I asked him what I owed him for my latest visit.

“20,000 shillings.”

That’s about $4 USD.  “Anthony, are you sure that’s enough?”

“It’s O.K.”

I was once again caught in the culture trap.  “Anthony, in our culture, O.K. isn’t always Okay.”

He has a wonderful laugh. “Well, what does it mean?”

“Let’s see. You took a pretty Ugandan girl out on a date and the first thing she does on getting home is to call her best friend. The friend asks,  ‘How was it?’ ”

Your date answers, “It was O.K.”

“In my American culture, that’s not a good thing. It probably means she’ll say ‘no’ next time you call.”

He was puzzled.  “But here O.K. means it was good.”

“I know. I’m still learning Ugandan culture.  Here’s one more example: you go to the new Thai restaurant in town and I ask you how the food was. If you answer, ‘It was O.K.’ I’m not going.”*

“But Mzee (Elder) here that would mean it was good.”

“I know. I’m still learning.”

He grinned.  “How would someone in America say 20,000 shillings was enough?”

“That’s plenty or that’s good but never just ‘O.K.’ Now, is 20,000 really enough?”

“It’s O.K.” He winked. “It’s plenty.”

As I walked out the door, I asked Anthony about a worker at  another shop and he said,  “He’s the brown one.”

“The brown one?  Anthony, everyone in there is black.  I didn’t see anyone brown.”

“Oh yes, he is the brown one.”

“The Indians own the store.  They are the brown ones.”

“No.  This worker is African but he’s not black, he’s brown.”

I shake my head as I head down the street.

More sure than ever, that I’m a stranger in a strange land.

* We do have a new Thai restaurant. Our team leader, Bob Calvert, commented on it. “I’m not going to eat there yet. I’ll let all of you go and see if y’all  get sick.”  Bob deserves an entire blog of his own with his steady stream of Arkansas one-liners.

Warning: we’ve been with grandkids for the last two weeks. Get ready for stories, shots, and faces from Game Parks, Refugee Camps, Rafting, and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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