doc martens bags What do you like best about America

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“What do you like best about America?” I asked.

Muhammad Ken Ndiaye (ng’ eye) turned his head away from me and scratched it as he looked out towards the buildings that we drove past on a darkened William Street in downtown Buffalo. After a few moments of thought, he turned back to me and grinned. “That is a hard question.”

I immediately thought about my visit to his home in Senegal, West Africa. It was a nice enough place, and in a very exotic country. However, given the lack that existed there, if I were him then I could have thought of a thousand things that I would like more about America, with the key words being, “If I were him.”

Though they had many fine roads in Dakar, Ndiaye’s nation’s capital, even the darkened, inner city streets that we were now traveling were better than almost any street then in his country. I reckoned that his trouble was simply in having a hard time choosing just one thing. To make it easier, I restated the question. “Then, what are the 3 things you like best about my country,” and then I smiled.

Again, Ndiaye grinned, but this time he said, and very matter of factually, “You assume that I like your country?”

I was mildly shocked and insulted. When I was in Senegal the previous year, Ndiaye honored me by inviting me to his home to meet his family for dinner. They were very, very warm people, as well as being very, very interested in both America and me. I felt like an ambassador.

We went out on the patio for dinner, where his aunt had prepared a meal in a huge, colorful, metal bowl. She placed it on a blanket on the center of the patio floor. Soon, joined by other relatives, we all gathered around the plate less blanket, some sitting with folded legs while others just simply squatted. They all then looked at me and smiled, motioning for me to dig in first. I noticed that the people of Senegal were remarkable in their personal hygiene. Their colorful clothes were surprisingly clean, and their homes were all tidy. However, I had not washed my hands, and I was not sure if anyone else had, either! Nonetheless, I was the guest, and I was not about to be rude. I dug in. My satisfaction was geared more toward the strange food, and eaten under those strange conditions,
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than it was for the taste of the food, however satisfactory it was. It was the exoticness of the meal and company. So went the dinner. But there was so much more in America, and that was why Ndiaye was here.

“Your country’s culture is very different from is ours,” Ndiaye said. “And I like Senegal.”

I could understand that. Senegal’s culture is much different than ours. For Ndiaye, understandably, as I saw Africa as once being my native home, America in nowise had never been his. I recognized Africa as a well developed soul, as warm as its climate, but physically immature. Ndiaye thought conversely of America. After I decided to go at it in a different way, he would make that clear to me when I asked, “What is it that you like least about my country?”

“Americans,” he said, “are not very friendly.”

We were in Buffalo, the supposed City of Good Neighbors. But maybe there was something to what Ndiaye was saying. Perhaps Buffalo and Niagara Falls are friendlier than, say, NYC, but was it as friendly as Dakar? Instead of trying to prepare a rebuttal, I decided to listen.

“Ken,” Ndiaye said, “You are my only American friend.”

“You mean that you have no friends in this country?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” he said, “I have many friends in your country. But, they all are from Africa, and are just living here.”

In addition to Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia, I have also been to Haiti as well, the nations that President Trump’s reported words supposedly indicted and that past presidents have done little to change. They are what America once was. But with all of the hoopla over the “words” said about Africa and Haiti and I believe that he did say them, we Niagarans have little about which to complain. With the millions upon millions of visitors that come to Niagara Falls each year, by what “actions” of ours can any of them can say that they really made friends here? Have any of them been in your home for a meal and the likes? Are you in contact with any of them after they go home? I am, even with Norwegian friends, and it is easy to do.

But if you are not, while Trump merely said the “words”, are your “actions” toward our visitors really any different than his words? For more than a decade after I left Dakar, my friends from there that lives here had been asking me when I was going to return to Dakar. They said, “Everyone there has been asking about you. They say, ‘Where is the fat,
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funny one?'”

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