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The Longest Now

Goodness and trust in strange lands
Friday August 19th 2005, 6:40 am
Filed under: metrics

Shako Mukulu is one of those people I think of every month, though we have not spoken since my last visit to his hometown of Kibwezi
over 5 years ago.  He taught me many things while I stayed with
him, off and on, for two months.  Most importantly, after “never blow your nose on anything but tissue paper (or you’ll get sick),” was his maxim not to mistrust anyone without very good reason.

I once came home after a day of packed matatu rides
with a neat rip through my pants pocket and missing a 1000 KSh note
that had been there the day before – my luxurious budget for last week
in the country.  I worried that it had been stolen;
Shako reproved me roundly, saying “don’t think such things if you don’t
know.”  I checked through all of my belongings, and found I had
turned my pockets out into a small bag without remembering it. 

Trust is a funny beast, but it is in many communities the right
default.  This is a complex topic, worthy of a few chapters of a
book, but of particular relevance to travellers in strange lands with
professional pickpockets. 
Differentiating between these pros and everyday people, and the milieus
each group prefers, is the difference between prudence and prejudice.

My mother left behind a makeup case – stolen?  perhaps.  I
left behind a stack of newspapers and a baseball cap (the Sox… you
had to ask?), and retrieved both of them once I found the right people
to ask.

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