Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Conversation with the Egg Sandwichtigi

Madu: Hey there Bakary, could I have a fried egg sandwich with three eggs and onions?

Bakary: No problem! By the way, Madu, I’ve got a question.

M: Shoot.

Bakary: When are you going back to America?

M: If all goes well I’ll be here until September 2010.

B: And then are you going back to America?

M: Eventually. But first, I think I’ll travel around Africa for a few months... I want to go to Ghana, Benin, Senegal, maybe even Tunisia, Libya or Egypt... Then I'll go back to America.

B: Ok, well when you do go to America, we will go together, right?

M: Bakary, you know that I can’t get you a visa – so don’t even bother asking.

B: Eh!!! Madu, don’t be so mean!!! Here in Mali we are poor and there are no jobs, but in America there is money and I can work and find so much money!!!

M: I’m not being mean, Bakary, I’m being honest. If I were to tell you that you can go to America and that you can find work there, I’d be lying.

B: But you live in America! Surely you help me find a job!

M: No I can’t!!! No one in America can find jobs!!! When I go back to America, even I probably won’t be able to find a job!!! Besides, you can’t even speak the language, and if you can’t speak with your boss how is he going to hire you?

B: Oh, but I do speak the language! I can speak Tubabukan! (“Tubabukan”, which in Bambara literally translates into “White People Language”, refers to the language of their former colonial overlords: French)

M: If you think that you can get a job in America speaking “Tubabukan”, then you definitely can’t. Personne ne parle pas le français aux États-Unis, tout le monde ne parle que l’anglais!

B: You speak Tubabukan!

M: I also speak Bambara, Minianka and Arabic, and those won't get you very far in the American job market either.

B: Well... I will work for you!

M: What are you talking about? I just told you that I’m going to be unemployed, I'll probably be living in my parents’ basement. I can’t hire you to sit around and play Uno with me.

B: What about your parents? For room and board, I will work in your fathers’ fields!

M: My father is a psychiatrist specializing in children and adolescents. He’s not a farmer. He doesn’t have any fields.

B: Oh, but there is so much money in America! You are all so rich! Surely there has to be some work there for me to do!

M: How do I explain this without offending you?... There are 30 million Americans who are looking for work and can’t find it. And that’s not counting the people who have some work but not enough so they’re looking for more work, that’s not counting the people who have work but it’s bad work and they can’t find any work that pays a decent wage, and that’s not counting the people who have given up looking for work altogether!!! Even if you somehow did get a visa to come to America and even if there were any jobs, there would be at least 50 million Americans already waiting in line - almost every single one of them has a high school diploma, maybe half of them have a university degree, and every single one of them speaks more English than you do because they know that no one in America speaks French – which until a minute ago, you didn’t. Unless you have some idea to create your own business¸ a completely new idea that no one in America has had before, there’s no way in Hell you’re ever going to find a job in America.

B: I could sell fried egg sandwiches! Everyone loves fried egg sandwiches!

(Long Awkward Pause)

M: Come to think of it, I could probably find you a job writing economic stimulus policy for a Republican think tank…

B: Really? What do I have to do to get this job?

M: Oh… nevermind…

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