Friday, January 18, 2013

Shopping


Have anyone of you ever been to a fairly large shopping mall with hundreds of shoppers, observers, hang arounds, workers: clerks, baggers, sales personnel, shopping cart gatherers, sweepers, cleaners, window washers, wipers, cooks, bakers, servers, waiters, waitresses, delivery persons, cashiers, shelf stockers, service personnel, supervisors, managers, sidewalk vendors, security guards and untold gatherers, wanderers, conversationally-engaged-stand-arounders and sit-arounders - all speaking a foreign language, all skin colored Black, and you are the one and only white person among six hundred to a thousand of them?  I have, today, here in Africa.  My purpose for going there?  To find and purchase 2 reams of computer printer paper which I did at Shoprite.

How does a white person from the U.S.feel about such an environment?  Having been here going on 11 months, it's no big deal, I am used to it and really don't think about it at all.  I don't feel threatened, don't feel insecure, I am among people doing the same thing I am doing and that is shopping, even if it is the Black concentrated area of town. Shopping is a common purpose, a common bond.  If some one wants to conk me on the head and take my groceries while I am walking to my car so what?  I can always buy some more whereas that poor soul is obviously in dire need and can't afford anything. Being ripped off in broad daylight can happen any where in the world. I find the Blacks in the malls, and on the streets willing to help, to give directions, even go out of their way to be helpful.  They are polite and respectful.  Even when I give beggars something (not money because it is against mission rules) they say thank you, or thank you very much.  Some even bow and say, "Thank you, sir," or "Thank you boss," or "Thank you father," even "Thank you master."

I don't like hearing them say master as it conjures up memories of the slave trade and plantation owners in American history.  However, I have been addressed as "master" on occasion. Perhaps it is a carry over from the past servitude and apartheid days in this country.  Anyway, the one hour safety lecture we received in the MTC is well founded and as long as mission rules are obeyed, one can feel safe with confidence.  Anyway, just a little food for thought today from someone living in Africa.

Elder S.          

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