Dissed for Melinda Gates
So that night, I wanted to chill with Nadia, maybe get some dinner and catch up, when she tells me she can’t have dinner with me, because she’s gonna have dinner with Melinda Gates. Melinda… Gates? Yes, wife of Tech Emperor Bill Gates. And I was like, “GREAT! What time should I be ready?” And then she said the words that still echo sharp pains from my ears to my throat: “Uh… you weren’t invited. Who said you were invited?”
It’s probably revenge for the time I met Elijah Wood, took a picture with him with my best friend John, and we forgot to tell Nadia about it (see figure 1-a, below). So to get even, I took on the jerk kid brother role (even though I’m older), and I asked her, “You’re gonna wear that to dinner with Melinda Gates?”
It’s amazing how easy a question can make someone feel self conscious.
After three or four outfit changes I let her know the first one was just fine. Hey we’re siblings – that’s what we do!
Paul, John, Elijah, and not Nadia
Last tuesday, a week before yesterday, only two of the boys showed up, Nelson “JAMAICA” and Kamau. Kamau showed up high as a kite, and was loud, and pretty damn obnoxious. A few days before he said he was robbed and needed clothes, and so we gave him 3 outfits, and turns out that it was a lie. And Father Moses knew he was lying but gave him the clothes anyway. This time he showed up high, and was making noise about him needing this and that, and all this self pity crap, when Elly threw him out and said “come back when you’re sober” and Kamau got it. He understood.
They think they’re clever, and I’m learning how to outwit them. Although, at this point they can easily have one up on me, but still, I’m learning the game. And I’m learning, when you don’t give them what they ask for, they may cry, and accuse you of hating them, but ultimately, they respect you more.
The way I look at it, if you treat them like a begger, i.e. respond to their begging by rewarding them with money, you become the provider and you create a parasitic system, and you rob these guys from their manhood and self-respect. These guys give me as much as they believe I give them, and they have to know that. We eat together every week, if they need to see a doctor, we make it happen. Most of the guys are okay, but guys like Kamau, will try to guilt you into giving him your watch, and when you refuse, the response is something like this: “It’s your fault i’m on the street” and the next day it’s all hugs and smiles, and simple questions like “HOW ARE YOU BROTHER“. Wait, I thought I hated them! ;)
So after we watched the movie, Nelson says to me “You will give me your phone? You are American, you can buy another one.”
Was he serious?
I know in this culture, people are blunt, but, come on now. “Brother, you will give me your phone. It is a nice one.” and I was like thinking “there’s no way I’m giving this guy my phone. Firstly, it was a gift from a friend to let me use while i was here, and secondly, money doesn’t grow on trees!”
For a moment, I felt kinda wronged, you know? Nelson was the one I was growing to trust, he never asked for anything, he always held his own. He had his own business going but here he is pulling the same stuff. Then he’s like “May I make a phonecall to my sister.” To which i was like “Sure” He pulled out his phone, which was a nicer phone than the one I had. It just had no credit on it. So after he was done with the phonecall, he gave me the phone back and I said “No, keep the phone.” I wanted to see if he was serious.
And he was like “Brother, no! I can’t keep your phone. I was only joking. You think I could really take your phone? Brother, no. I could not. Here take it.” And gave me the phone back.
It’s hard work getting used to another culture. I’ve mastered American sarcasm, but Kenyan sarcasm is way different, it’s undetectable by someone like me. I realized that I maybe I can be as judgmental as the next guy. It was like my cover was blown, and maybe I don’t see the guy completely as my equal. It was a cold shower, as they say. My friend Ashok reassured me that it’s just about getting used to the culture here, and to not beat myself up about it. I learned something very important, and my dealings with the guys have been very different since then.
I’m trusting them more. I’m learning their ways and they’re learning mine. We’re developing some great relationships now. Especially between Nelson and I, somehow after that interaction, we came to an understanding of each other. For me it was an understanding that he wasn’t so different from me: sarcastic, likes to push buttons, just a person.And for him, I felt like he was seeing that I wasn’t so different from him. That I wasn’t just a guy with lighter skin with, a walking American stereotype, no! I wasn’t that much different from him. Just a person.
He didn’t expect me to give him the phone, and I didn’t expect him to refuse it. Turns out that we all have our judgements of each other.
Ever see the movie, Crash?