Salt. Such a seemingly easy thing to shop for – at least if you know how to ask for it. Here I was, though, lacking the word for “salt” and my teammate and I were at a loss as to how to obtain it.
This was our first shopping experience and we wandered around the “souk”, or open-air market, taking in the sights and sounds. Fresh fruit and vegetable stands next to people selling bread, sides of fresh beef hanging in the market while being surrounded by the sound of chickens waiting to be butchered. This was not Wal-Mart; that was for sure.
We saw a stand that looked promising: dried fruit and various spices. We approached it, greeting the older gentleman that was working. Not seeing anything that looked like salt we looked at each other, unsure of how to proceed.
We spoke little more then the basic greetings so we had no way to verbally describe what we wanted. He invited us back further into the stand to look at the various spices. With a lot of hand signals and a little bit of tasting and some patience, we finally were able to find it. It had been in the front of the stand all along. We laughed and thanked him for his help, glad to have obtained our shopping needs as well as a new word for our vocabulary.
That was week one. I was nervous and excited, but I had accomplished something I never thought I would be able to do. I had bought my own food in a foreign country. A week later, I would be celebrating leading my team across town in one of the countries largest cities, and not but a few weeks later I would be celebrating the fact we did all our shopping for the week without using English.
Before Cafe 1040, I would never have believed I could live and get by in a country where my language was not the predominate language spoken. Now, on the other side of it, I’m excited to think about learning and mastering a language so I can speak to the hearts of the people I live among.