Successful Selam-ing, Sort of

11 10 2011

Sunday morning I was in the suburbs of Kansas City at a Michael’s (of course – why weren’t you there?).  We were picking up a few last minute items for the fundraising shower that afternoon (to see a real post on the event including plenty of less-than-flattering pics of me, click here.)

I think we had been in the store for about a week-and-a-half when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a man who I was sure was Ethiopian.  I immediately gave him a big smile, he smiled back and from an aisle-and-a-half away I said “Selam.”  I meant to say it sort of soft and quietly like a real Ethiopian would.  However, my normal speaking voice is fairly loud and completely unmodulated when I am excited, so I was probably yelling and nasel-y.   Still, he didn’t run away.  He came closer.

After the quick, “You are from Ethiopia, right?”  I shouted for my friend Tamara and her kids, Bethany and Judah, who were quickly walking away from me.  I mean the whole reason I was in Kansas City to begin with was to raise money for drought victims in Ethiopia.  And I was specifically doing it in the name of a friend who adopted from Ethiopia and was waiting for her second child to come home (Captain Murdock).  And I was in the store with a different child born in Ethiopia and his mother who is about to go back to Ethiopia (Tamara).  And, yeah, I am sure I was shouting and squeaking.

But Tarik, the man I Selamed, was kind.  And, because Judah is obedient and likes me, he was quickly in my arms and I could prove to my new friend, that I wasn’t just a crazy farenji in Michae1’s.   (I probably proved I was a crazy farenji holding a young Ethiopian, but still that seems a little less threatening, right?)

Turns out that Tarik is new to the area, although he has lived in the United States for quite some time and his English is awesome.  He just completed a six-month visit to Addis, before moving from Ohio to KC and is quite homesick.  Tarik is having a hard-time meeting people because he works so much and is actually thinking of moving back to Ethiopia.  He’s well traveled within Ethiopia and could be an amazing cultural mentor.  Moreover, he would probably appreciate some company.  Alas, I actually LIVE more than two hours away.

Still, I couldn’t let this Selam go to waste.  So I gathered his contact information to give to my friend, Captain Murdock, who lives in the area.  It may come in very handy when her new six-year-old son finally comes “home.”  I really hope she will contact him.

Even if they never make contact, the whole experience was completely worth it, if for no other reason than to watch Tamara squirm when Tarik asked her about her favorite food to eat in Ethiopia.  She had to be honest so she told him that she “stuck to the Italian dishes.”

Judah and Little Dude together in Ethiopia, May 2010.

Judah, Little Dude and their sisters in Missouri, October 2011

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5 responses

11 10 2011
Jamey

These posts that you guys write about meeting up make me ugly-jealous!

12 10 2011
Shiloh

I LOVE that these boys will be forever friends!!! And I love that you are so crazy you’ll meet total strangers for the sake of keeping these boys’ culture alive to them! And I love that Tamara eats the Italian food, makes me feel better!

12 10 2011
Tesi

jealous times two.

13 10 2011
Captain Murdock

So, I accidentally washed the slip of paper that had his name and phone number. Most of it I could salvage, except his area code is missing the middle number. It’s not a local area code, so I guess I need to google Ohio area codes 😉 You are totally forcing me outside of my shy protective bubble comfort zone, but I guess that’s what friends are for 😉 (extroverted, stranger-accosting, selaming friends, that is)

18 10 2011
Sam's Mom

okay — so we (APs) aren’t the only ones who go salam-ing. I have a physician friend who is Indian by way of Ethiopia (he grew up in Ethiopia, think Cutting for Stone only my friend left when he was 10.) When he is ANYWHERE in the US and sees someone who looks remotely Ethiopian (and he’s a better Salam spotter than you or I because he pretty much recognizes every single ethnic group) he Salams and starts a conversation. His fondest childhood memories aren’t India or Britian but are of Ethiopia. He misses the smell of spicy wot made with REAL ethiopian gee and REAL injera from teff (not the buckwheat version we have in Chicago.)
Anyway … its not just us farenjis.

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