At the Store
Donald Kifunga, the beloved, outstanding driver here at SHUCo, took us for a little shopping tour around the area yesterday afternoon. We needed to go to a pharmacy to get a couple of over-the-counter things, bottled water, then to a corner grocery for some snack food, a stationary store for envelopes and the bank to change dollars into shillings. I am no longer used to not finding all of the things we needed in on place. Here, it is four different places and takes a whole afternoon.
The other thing I am absolutely not used to is the number of people each of these little stores employs. In a place the size of my kitchen, 4 people are trying to take care just of me: one person who helps me figure out what I want (with their English and my non-existent Kiswahili), one to get the item from the back and bring it to the counter (no self-serve here), one to take my money and one to carry the bag to the car. I am not used to this much attention and having that many people dote on me. As a matter of fact, sometimes it makes me feel downright uncomfortable because I come from a culture where I am to do for myself and not act like I am entitled to special care, or being served as if I were some celebrity. If I am honest with myself, I can also acknowledge that I often judge people who want and need their hands held pretty harshly. I don’t like prince or princess behavior. So yesterday, in each store it took some effort on my part to hand over my backpack, my shopping bag and allowing others to help me into the car.
I know why it’s done the way they do it around here. It has to do with survival. Four people share the one job that would be done by a singular person in the US. Four people will eat that day, maybe more. Four people will help each other make it. That is the way it is. Welcome to Africa.