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Chapter 20 – The Chicken Safari (partial chapter)

Posted By on June 17, 2009

In Africa, bartering is an art form. I learned early on that if you want a good deal, it’s important not to be mistaken for a tourist. The best way to do that is to speak their language, so it was time to show off my vocabulary skills acquired through long hours spent in language study. Those lessons had cost me a fortune, since my language helper obviously knew I wasn’t a local.

Clearing my throat, I rattled off the phrase I’d been practicing for weeks. “Asaki amuji akimuj k’ekaal nakang.” I said it confidently, and followed it up with a broad smile to show how friendly I was.

The proprietor rolled his eyes to show how ignorant I was. “Excuse me, bwana Slim,” he replied in perfect English, “but why do you wish to have dinner with your camel?”

I made a mental note to fire my language helper.

“Uh, actually I want to plan a dinner party for my wife and some friends. Can you cook us a chicken for tomorrow night?”

Sensing an opportunity for financial gain, the proprietor’s face lit up with a wide toothy grin. Nodding vigorously, he exclaimed, “Ndiyo, bwana, yes! Welcome! My name is Assad, and I can cook for you a nice chicken stew and chapatis. I’ll even make some mandazis and give you a special discount.”

It turns out the special discount I received pushed Assad’s monthly earnings to record numbers, but it was the old rule of supply and demand: for what I was demanding, he was the only source of supply for 150 miles in any direction. I resigned myself to my fate and turned to go. “Sounds great,” I said over my shoulder. “We’ll arrive tomorrow at sundown.” But Assad called me back.

“Bring me the chicken early in the morning,” he instructed. “I will need time to get it ready.”

I stared at him. “What? I have to bring my own chicken?”

The big smile reappeared. “I only have goat meat, bwana. If you want chicken, you must bring a chicken. Then I will cook it and charge you money.” He shrugged his shoulders. “It is the African way.”

So now I had to go chicken hunting in the middle of Africa…

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