Today an Ethiopian-American friend came to visit. Since he wanted to experience something uniquely Minnesotan, we went to Karmel Mall, the premium Somali Mall in the Twin Cities and the whole Midwest US. If I want to have my Somali tea while immersed in Somali culture, this is where I go.
We managed to confuse the restaurant workers a bit. I greeted them and placed my order—all in Somali. They looked at me a little funny—not unusual.
But then they turned to my friend. With Ethiopian blood, he could easily pass for a Somali. They got no response from him, though.
“Wuxuu yahay etiopi” “He’s Ethiopian,” I explained.
Then another young man came up to order, and he tried: still no response.
At this point, the workers attempted to continue the conversation with me in Somali, but I had already come to my limit of comprehension.
We bear so many assumptions about languages and nationalities, but it only takes an encounter with an odd couple like me and my Ethiopian friend to challenge these expectations.