Friday, February 29, 2008

Sports Man

I was having a conversation with Sebastian, our night guard who sings to Bodie every night (although its funny, as until we came to Tanzania, a night guard was what I had to jam in my mouth when I was grinding my teeth from work stress). (Actually, to call it a conversation might be a bit of a stretch. Sebastian’s English is pretty rudimentary, so a conversation is comprised of a small game of charades, assorted animal sounds, him pounding his head to make the English word appear, and pausing to look up every other word in our Swahili/English phrase book). Suddenly his eyes narrowed and he looked at me with intense purpose, “are you a sports man?” he asked. I did a quick assessment of my obviously limited physical prowess and wondered if I could be considered a sports man in any realm whatsoever, then realized he was asking a more metaphysical question. I knew I had to answer in the positive. He followed with his next question, “what team?” I figured we must be talking soccer, but started thinking there must be thousands of soccer teams in the world. I had no idea if I should answer “Tanzania” or if there were local regional teams. I sensed that a misstep would define our relationship from here on in.

Somehow, dredged from the recesses of my brain, out popped “Arsenal”, which is funny, as I don’t know anything about them or who plays for them. I’ll never know if Sebastien is exceedingly clever and was looking for a way to bond and would have responded the way he did no matter what I said, or if I happened to happen upon the one needle in the haystack. Sebastian’s face lit up, he started pounding his chest, saying, “me too, Arsenal. I am Arsenal too! You are my brother.” Hillary is called “mama”, which is the respectful term for the woman of the house, and he now always calls me “my brother.”

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