20 October 2013

You are Very Handsome

When I first interview with SIM in 2008 they were asking me to consider a placement at the Leprosy Center located four hours east of Galmi.  While I had an unique desire to work with lepers, I had absolutely no interest in coming to the desert or learning French . . . so I told SIM I'd pray about it and planned to send an email when I got home informing that the answer was no.

As I flew back to Philly, sitting in the plane processing my interview and why on earth these strangers would want to send me to a country I had never even heard of, the man next to struck up a conversation.

He wanted to know if I was coming or going . . . going.  What I was doing in NorthCarolina . . . job interview.  Did I get it . . . yeah.  When will I be moving south . . . I'm not.  He didn't understand, so he asked where the job was.  

I didn't know what to say . . . so, I told him the truth.

'Niger.' I said, 'It's a country in West Africa.'

His jaw dropped.  'Look,' he said.  'I work in the diamond business.  I travel to West Africa all the time.  Why would you want to live there???'

I shrugged, 'I love God and I love people.'

That didn't satisfy him.  He prodded some more, so I began to tell him about the work I'd do if I went to Danja.  He could accept the humanitarian side of things, but there was clearly something else still bothering him.

'BUT WHO WOULD YOU DATE!?!?' he blurted.

Friday morning I thought about this stranger on the airplane so many years ago.  Our conversation comes to mind every so often . . . usually when I'm hit on by a patient, and it always makes me chuckle.

You see, I went in to do an evaluation on a man who had been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury.  According to what was written in his chart, I made the assumption he spoke French, which was good because my Hausa still leaves much to be desired, especially when conversing with a patient with potentially impaired cognition and a translator wouldn't be available to help me for several hours.

I introduced myself and he confirmed that he spoke French.  As I explained what I do and why I had come to see him, it was clear that his injury was in fact interfering with his expressed level of fran├žais, so I switched to back to Hausa . . . which only confused him more.

After a little while of us both babbling back and forth, I realized I sounded as aphasic and dysarthric as he did.  So I told him I'd come back later.

'Taaay traaaay booooow!' he said to me as I headed toward the door.

'I'm sorry, what was that?' I asked in French.

'Taaay traaaay booooow!' he repeated.

I couldn't tell what language he was speaking.  So I asked in Hausa, 'What did you say?'

Again, 'Taaay traaaay booooow!  Taaay traaaay booooow!  Taaaaaaay traaaaaaaaay boooooooooow!'

'Are you saying You are very handsome?' I asked.

A large smile spread across his swollen and scratched up face.  'Ouuuui!' he said trying to sound debonaire.

In that moment I wondered whether I should 1) correct his misuse of the masculine and remind him that as a woman, I would be very 'belle' not 'beau', 2) inform him that I am his therapist and he is my patient and that sort of talk is inappropriate, or 3) revel in the compliment, smile and confirm 'Mais oui, je sais!' ('Oh, I know!)

Now if only I knew the Hausa expression for 'Sorry, you're not my type!'

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Very sweet story, Deb!