“1 tea with lemon, 2 sugars please” I ask. Quietly, the lady passes my order while I pay her for the service, “Mahadsanid” (Thank you) I said. With a bleary response I receive a “where are you from?” “Somalia” I state sarcastically. “No, I mean where did you reside before coming here?” I replied back with “Ohio” just for the heck of it. Smiling, she leans over and whispers in Somali “People think you Diaspora’s are arrogant but I think your manners will change our country”. Why she said, I will never know but cannot forget that day.
From there, with me being me, carious, I started to focus more on people’s conduct in my ancient city of birth, noting the response, the greetings and so on. A survey kind of habit, from the caasi (Bus) drivers, (I highly recommend you read 20 minutes in a Caasi) relatives, work colleagues, the average individual and whoever I can find that would quite possibly contribute into this fact finding mission. And boy was I in for an adventure.
Driving towards a narrow road space for one vehicle, a car comes approaching from my front who seemed as if he was in rush, I paved way for him and gave him a flash light signal to make it aware for him to come forward. Without any hesitation, he revved passed me. as I watched him move alongside me expecting a hand signal, wave, whatever that could let me know of his appreciation, but no, nothing, heck I don’t even believe he noticed me so I thought otherwise and let him pass on that without any hesitation. Maybe he was late for work? Maybe he was picking someone up? Or just maybe that he was a joy rider, pretty much everywhere nowadays, who hadn’t even noticed me. I chose the most reasonable answer and let it pass by me.
Heading on and driving along Maka Al Mukarama Road, I looked at my petrol meter and it needed filling ASAP. So I pulled over to a make-shift petrol station, a middle aged lady with plastic full of petrol on the side walk (there are at least 100s of private petrol stops along Maka Al Mukarama). I called her over, told her I needed some gas filling with again, a friendly tone, as a way to respect her dignity. She smiled as she was filling up my car, but I don’t think she noticed me looking at her as I had my dark sunglasses on to protect my visual sight from Mogadishu’s bright sun.
I paid her the cash in dollars and generously, told her to keep the change as a tip. She smiled and said “thank you dear”. I looked at her and said “no problem”. Before driving off, she pulled me back and said “why has a young man like you come back into this nightmare of a country”. I replied back smiling with a clutched fist, one word and knowing that any more response would make us go back and forth; “Wadani” (Patriotic). Never have I seen a smile so colorful that followed after my response.
Although good conducts take you very far elsewhere across the world, I must add that sometime, manners are taken as a sign of weakness in Mogadishu. You can only be so polite for so long. Everybody has their rude side, me included and trust me, you wouldn’t want to see that. Coming from abroad, people generally view you as rather soft or weak but little do people know one can have smart moves hidden that you can never visualize. You see and hear everything but keep so quiet and ware, and hit them your actions like a toxic lethal injection. I was always told that the loudest mouth in the room tends to be the one who knows nothing and trust me, not that I am labeling anything or anyone; there are a lot of loud people here. The smart guy keeps quite and real low, grabbing everything along the way.
Sometimes in life, to get what you want, you must play by the rules and if you can make them to your advantage, even better.
With that being said, you can’t rule out the fact that I love my people and love my city.
Long Live Soomaaliya!
Mohamed Hassan (Dj)