I've written before about the Nomoska Kid. Actually, I incorrectly pegged him as the Namasko Kid in previous posts on this blog. I simply remembered it incorrectly in my stories about JojoLapa and other joking I do with my neighborhood Nepalese QuikStop clerk. Suffice to say, it actually feels good to have a particular phrase I share with my bartender.... err coovenience store attendendant. Make a note of the new spelling; it is an informal version of the well-known Hindi word "Namaste".
I was shocked the other night when I went in there to find the Nomoska Kid gone from behind the counter, replaced by the general manager (an, I assume, Nepalese woman in her mid 40's) and some new guy. A trainee! As I have said before, I value my interaction with my local merchant. I expect to be greeted, recognized and conversed with considering the large sums of my hard-earned dollars I spend on overpriced convenience items at the corner store. I needed to find out what sort of chap this new purveyor of everyday necessities made himself out to be.
"Nomoska!" I belted.
The manager/owner/boss lady lady blinked at me and maintained her polite smile. I got the vibe I was being too familiar with an elder, likely married, female. Nomoska is probable something drinking buddies greet each other with. The trainee guy just looked at me blankly. I happened to notice he was of different ethnicity that the Nepalese proprietor.
"Where's the regular guy?" I asked.
"Ah," Boss Lady answered, "He's on vacation."
"Went back to Tibet, did he?" hoping, for my acquaintence's sake that he's had a chance to return home. He often expresses how homesick he is.
"Nepal," said the lady, "not Tibet."
I felt dumb. As you might gather from my ramblings, I'm a bit proud of my worldliness. My knowledge of multiculturalism is something I like to show off from time to time. I KNEW my friend the QuikStop guy was from Nepal; he taught me bits of his language! I just misspoke when I said Tibet. I was afraid I was looking like another ignorant White American, so I thought I would share what I could with my replacement merchant.
"Where are you from?" I asked the shy, thin, sandy-complexioned guy behind the counter as he bagged up my beer, chips and sunflower seeds.
"Africa" he replied.
"Ah, Eritrea?" I ventured.
"Yes." He said kind of suprisedly, and finally looked up and almost made eye contact.
"Wassalamu Alaikum," I used the Arabic greeting, which although is not Eritrean, is known and used by Moslems throughout the world. Eritrea is Moslem.
"Amalaikum Salam." The standard reply to my greeting (I have no idea how to spell those words, or even if there is an official spelling). Again, being new, the guy was a bit shy, but he did ask in a very quiet voice, perhaps curious about me, "How did you know I am from Eritrea?"
"You look Eritrean." Well, he did. He could have been Ethiopian as well, but Eritreans tend to be a bit lighter than their highland Christian cousins, and also there are more Eritreans here in the East Bay. I just made an educated guess.
"Ah, yes." the guy replied, nodding his head, and handing me my merchandise. The Indian manager lady smiled broadly through the whole exchange.
As we welcome people here from all over the world, for those we deal with every day, I think it is important to learn a little bit about where they've come from. A word. A bit of their culture. Something. They chose to come here (in most cases) and simply have to learn about our culture to survive. I like to help them out by learning a bit about their homelands.