Monday, February 22, 2010


We went to buy Tylenol today and the cashier ringing us up was a black man. (Yes, I think the color of his skin plays a part in this story.) As we were finishing up our purchase, the woman in line behind us, as way of introduction I guess, asked the cashier, "Nigeria?" No, "Hi" or anything else, just the question. He smiled at her and said, "No, but you're close. I'm from Ghana." She responded with, "I haven't been there, but I want to go. I've been to six of your countries."

Our transaction was finished by that point and that's the last I heard. She seemed to be a nice enough person, from what I could guess from that momentary encounter near her. And he didn't seem to mind the questioning.

It struck me as odd, though. I can't imagine going to another continent, telling someone I'm from the United States and having them respond, "I've been to two of your other countries, but not yours." Or something like that. (Not so much to choose from here in North America.)

Also, I still find it odd that "we" seem to think that Africa is some unified, homogenous place. All of Africa. I have no idea what Ghana is like, I don't know if it's anything like the six other African countries the international-traveler had been to. I'm kind of guessing that these countries weren't exactly alike, but I don't know how they seemed to her.

I just found the whole short exchange interesting, obviously.


Obviously, I'm assuming that by "your" as in "your countries," the woman meant "Africans'."

Also, I've never really been anywhere other than a small, small part of my own country. (Okay, I have been to London for about a second, but I'll not dwell on that.) Perhaps, depending on the places you visit within a country, it might be difficult to really get a feel for a country's distinct identity. I'm kind of willing to bet that there are plenty of comparable places within the US, Canada and Mexico. Not exactly alike, but alike enough to someone who hasn't experienced such in her or his own home country.


gunma-gal said...

Maybe in her mind it was like someone saying he/she is from Arizona, and responding, "Oh, I've been to Minnesota, but none of your other states."

v said...

I think you're probably right. Even thinking of that now, though, I'm thinking about the different descriptions I've heard of both of those states (I've only been to parts of Arizona, never at all to Minnesota).