Not-so-funny American questions

Doctor becomes a spectacle as folks think Kenyans wear animal skins

In Summary

• Ignorance gets to Dr Tom's nerves as he ventures out into the public

African in Chicago stands out like a sore thumb
African in Chicago stands out like a sore thumb


The medical conference in Chicago is progressing well, as well as my newly found friendship with the daughter of my host. To spend a few minutes together, she asked me to take her to the store.

Apparently, that’s the supermarket.

“We call it the shop,” I say.

“The shop?” She laughs. “That’s where you take your car to be repaired.”

“No, Harper, your car gets repaired in a garage.”

“Not unless you’re doing it yourself at home. A garage is where you store your car for the night.”

The language nuances I can take — billfold for wallet, trunk for boot, hood for bonnet — that’s all kosher. What has begun to bug me is the questions.

At the “store”, an old lady comes to me and says, “Forgive me, young man, but you have a beautiful accent. Where are you from?”

“Why, thank you,” I say. “I’m from Kenya.”

“Kenya?” She pronounces it “Kenia”. “That’s a very beautiful country. All that nature. And the animals. I hear lions and tigers and hyenas roam the streets willy-nilly. Is that so?”

“Ma’am, there are no tigers in Kenya.”

“Kangaroos then?”

“Those are from Australia.”

Now a small crowd is gathering.

“You gotta be so lucky,” says a young black man. “Here we’re struggling with black-on-black violence. At least in your country, it’s animal-on-human violence. That’s natural.”

I turn to Harper. “Are they serious?”

“Trust me, they are. Some of them think Africa is on another planet.”

As we escape the store with our purchase, the old woman corners me at the entrance. “Is it true they had to give you a change of clothes at the airport since you wear animal skins in Africa?”

Never before have I ever felt like kicking an old lady in the ass.

Blacked Out

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