Monday, January 14, 2008


Meega means, "How much?" in Somali.

I took Silvi out on another one of our cross-cultural outings while Annie and Ian were shopping. Silvi seems to enjoy them as much as I do. I mentioned before that Minneapolis is home to one of the largest concentrations of Somali people anywhere, other than Somalia. I'd taken Silvi to the Al-Karama shopping center before, but she was too young to remember.

The first thing you notice in the shopping center is that you are often the only person of European descent. Even though I lived overseas for so long, it's easy to forget how it feels to stick out in a crowd. Especially in the Wonderbread neighborhood we live in. I've always been interested in how other cultures talk without talking. For instance, in France it is not polite to smile when you first meet someone; if you do, the other person is likely to think of you as a buffoon.
The men in the Somali center are always polite, but don't offer up smiles as readily as the waiters do in Perkins or Denny's resaurants. The women, on the other hand, are quite taken with Silvi. When I lived overseas as a kid, I had golden blond hair, like Silvi does. I remember people always wanting to touch my hair when I was out in public.

No one tried to touch Silvi's hair, but we did buy her a nice scarf. Mahadsanid. (Thank-you)


Kim Ayres said...

I love the fingers on the chin - a girl not to be messed with. I wouldn't like to have to haggle with her...

eclexia said...

That's cool!
What a great dad to take your daughter to places like that! I was just reading the National Geographic blog, and they were talking about geographic new year's resolutions. I don't do resolutions, so that's a moot point for me, BUT I do like the idea of being intentionally geographically aware.

Not for the sake of being a map genius or anything, but for the sake of caring, because people live in all those places, and it's great to know some of what life and culture is like--how it's similar, how it's different.

And being able to greet and say, "Thank you" in a variety of languages is a very good first start to connecting to people in their space and showing you care enough to acknowledge them in their language, however little you know of it.

You might get discouraged about all the things you can't and don't get done, and the things you think you do wrong "under the influence" of depression, but I hope it helps to notice the things about the way you are that make a difference in your world--your family and the larger community around you. Because depressed for 20 years or no, and whether you do this kind of thing regularly or occasionally, it matters. (In my opinion, FWIW :) )

Terri said...

is it my imagination or does that girl have confidence? too cute!!!

beans said...

How fun did that look! You guys sound like you have some pretty cool adventures together!

bella said...

You're such a cool dad.
One of Leo and mine's favorite spots is the Korean restaurant. And the store sells nothing but saris.
What a big and beautiful world she sees herself to be apart of.

Tom said...

Kim: I always end up on the losing end when I try to haggle with her :)

eclexia: These little explorations really help me to get out of myself and just "be" for a bit with my daughter. I can say hello in Albanian, too, if you ever need to know how. :)

Terri: A little shy around strangers but otherwise, watch out!

Beans: She picked out the scarf herself. Getting too big. :)

Bella: Lots of places to explore in Chicago, for sure. I spent a lot of time in Cabrini Green before it became whatever it is today. Very interesting.

amber said...

Tom, please tell Annie I love her cute short haircut! She's got the "I'm a busy mommy look" ....beautiful:) Miss you guys.

Tom said...

Amber: I did... she said, "You got that right." (About the busy mommy thing) :) Miss you too.