On the street: salaam aleikum!

Aleikum salaam.

I was thinking about greetings. It’s an integral part of social customs here, and I was thinking about how absurd they would be at home.

Only in small towns do you find people who greet each other while they’re out and about. Normally, everyone is completely isolated, in their own little world, and doing their own thing. You do not wave hello, say good morning, and ask about the health of the grocer, his family, his dog, and ask to know if he slept well. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But it’s such an integral, essential, and engrained part of life in basically everywhere in Africa that I’ve visited. To a westerner, it can sometimes be extremely annoying, because you get called out more often than any other stranger does, but at times it can be really nice. When I walk past someone I know, or even just a shop I’ve been to once before (or even if I haven’t!), I know I can expect a greeting, with a warm smile and some thumbs-ups to let each other know we’re both okay. And that’s kind of awesome.

But just totally not normal at home. How great that would be if we started taking more time to engage and interact with each other.

Then I also thought about how we consider the bustling centres of African cities to be hectic and insane and completely congested, full of people. And well, they are, but not in the same way that western cities are.

The truth is that there isn’t so much a ton of people, as just a lot of stuff. Like, really, a lot of stuff. And it’s everywhere. And the paths, paved or not, are a disaster, so you’ve got to keep your eyes both on the ground so you don’t fall, but also ahead of you, so you don’t get sideswiped by an oncoming load of god-knows-what that could be coming at you from any direction, usually carried on someone’s head.

So there just isn’t any way to be efficient while you make your way along. And you can’t help but feel like there’s just got to be about a million people in that market. But while you actually can’t count hundreds of people rushing past you every minute, like you can at home, there’s definitely more of a busyness to it all.

Same-same but different.

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