Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Learning how to say no.

My family may laugh when I say this, but I really don't like being mean.  Maybe to pacify said family members, I should clarify my statement by saying, I really don't like being mean to people who don't share my immediate bloodline.

As I'd walk down the streets of Stone Town with offers to go out for drinks or dinner, instead of saying 'no' like I should have, I softened the blow by saying 'maybe'.  The only problem was, to them maybe meant yes, whereas for me maybe definitely meant no.

On one of those dinner offers from a local loiterer, I provided my one worded reply.  He wanted to meet by a tree near the evening market right at sun down, as he was Muslim and was fasting due to Ramadan.  Again, I threw out another 'maybe'.

He kept true to his word, and was waiting for me when I walked to the main square with Michael and Gina. When he asked if I was ready to go, I stammered out an apology explaining why I couldn't, but asked him if he wanted to join us at the street market for food.  He declined stating that he already booked a table for us at a restaurant.  I held my ground, sort of, ... since I agreed to 'maybe' have dinner with him a few nights later.  But I added the stipulation that it must be at the street market. 

As the days pressed on, he'd wave from his local hangout whenever I passed by on my way towards the square. On my final night in Stone Town, I planned on having dinner at the street market with two people I met at Chumbe Island.  I informed them of our potential guest, and explained I was happy to have them as chaperons.

Before the sunset on the horizon that night, and the call to prayer was heard, I again crossed his path.  He smiled and asked if I was ready to go. "To the street market, right?," I inquired.  He looked at me with exasperation, "no, the restaurant.  I booked a table Claire. You're not going to do this to me again are you?"  After discovering that the supposed restaurant was in the center of the city (about 5 minutes away, down dark winding alleyways) I explained I wasn't comfortable in going, and again suggested the street market.  "What, don't you trust me?" he questioned.  The response in my head was no, but verbally was "well, I just don't know you."   "What do you mean," he demanded, "we've known eachother for 3 days!"

I held back my shocked laughter as best I could and mumbled that I was sorry, and again explained I just didn't feel comfortable.  "We're good people, ClairePlus, I paid money to reserve the table."  "You didn't pay money," I responded disbelievingly.  I wanted to end the conversation and walk away, I was tired of reasoning with him.

Instead he went on to explain he didn't want to eat at the street market because it was too expensive.  I informed him that I had eaten more food than I could handle the night before for less than 5 dollars. He just looked at me and said "do you know how much money I paid to reserve the table, Claire?  30 dollars - that's what I paid for the table."  "Why would you pay 30 dollars for a table when you say the street market is too expensive?"  He hesitated for a moment and replied "you don't trust me."   And that's when I finally responded, "you're right, I don't."

He stared at me for a few moments, flashed me a fake smile, then turned to walk back over to his loitering spot while saying "Welcome to Zanzibar... welcome to Zanzibar."

1 comment:

ReL said...

Aw man! You ARE too nice Claire! That's crazy...Glad you stuck to your guns though!