I’ve picked up many passengers of different nationalities in the course of my work. But to pick up an African passenger is rather rare. So far, I only managed to pick up 3 African ladies including a South African white woman. I’ll blog about other nationalities especially Korean and Japanese other time. For now, I’ll blog about the nice African lady from Tanzania whom I picked up today just before I reported off duty.
Time was about 4.30pm. Location at taxi stand along Race Course Road opposite Little India MRT station. Time to head back home. But first, I would try to get a fish on the way back home. As usual, there was a long queue at the taxi stand waiting for taxi. Most of them wanted to go west but I already displayed my changing shift sign to Pasir Ris. An Indian gentleman then asked me if I could go to Hougang. When I said “OK!”, an African lady appeared out of the queue. He was asking on behalf of the African lady. She was carrying so much groceries in her shopping cart. I got down and assisted her to carry it to my booth. She was pleased with my initiative.
On first sight, I thought that my passenger was an Indian lady. But when she started talking to me, straightaway, I knew that she’s an African. Told her that I would take the CTE via Hampshire Road, Keng Lee Road then exit AMK Ave 3 heading to her destination at Hougang Ave 9. She agreed to the proposed route.
If I observe that my passengers are cheerful and chatty, I’ll talk to them. But if they are not in a mood to talk, I’ll just shut up. But sometimes an innocent comment to a Korean like, “Are you a Japanese?” could get you into trouble! I’ll blog about it other time. As for this lady, I’m very sure that she’s an African.
“Hi Ma’am! Good afternoon to you. We’ll make an U-turn here to get to our agreed route OK?”
“Yes, please.” she replied cheerfully cuz she managed to beat the long taxi queue to get into my taxi. She was in a hurry to get home.
“You must be from Africa?”
“Oh yes, I came from Tanzania. I’ve been living in Singapore for quite some time.”
I never asked my foreign passengers whether they are PRs or working in which line unless they volunteer to tell me. I always feel that talking to complete strangers should not be too abrasive or intrusive. We need to maintain a safe distance. Always strike a conversation on “safe” ground. That’s basic etiquette!
“I am a loyal die-hard fan to a famous African international writer Wilbur Smith. He’s written 35 novels and I’ve read all his novels. He’s still alive and living in London, UK. He’s in his 80s now” link
“Oh I’ve heard about him but I’ve not read his books.”
From there, I told her what I know about the African continent gleamed from reading Wilbur Smith novels. I told her that Smith writes only about Africa from ancient times to the modern times. He writes about the African wildlife, warring tribes, olden days slavery and even modern times such as the guerrilla warfare in South Africa, Rhodesia and Apartheid of course. The early years in Africa when diamonds were discovered. The mad gold rush where greed overtook everything with much bloodshed and deaths.
When I talked to her about the “Masai warriors” where they used to be nomads roaming in the vast African Savannah grasslands searching for pastures for their herds of cattle. Those Masai tribesmen didn’t take meat or anything at all. Their only nourishment is to drink cow milk and suck fresh blood from their live cattle.
Next, we argued about the great river Nile. She said the source of Nile is from Lake Victoria. I told her from what I read in Smith’s novels, it’s from Ethiopia – the coptic Christians’ territory. Later, I went back to check. In fact, we are both right. The so called white Nile comes from Lake Victoria whilst the Blue Nile originates near to Khartoum in Ethiopia. It’s the longest river on earth running through many countries in Africa. link
I then told her that “The Elephant Song” is one of my favorite novels written by Wilbur Smith. You see when I started talking about Africa, she became so excited and agitated. She was virtually screeching in her high pitch tone whenever I told her something I know about Africa. (Click here) She really missed her homeland lah! She said that sadly locals don’t really know much about Africa except me – the taxi driver! She was much impressed.
I countered her by telling that in the novel “The Elephant Song”, Smith describes vividly the behavioral patterns of the elephants. How they moved across the great African land mass looking for water holes and fresh pastures. How they cooled themselves in the hot blazing African sun. They seemed to know their parents and immediate family members. Elephants don’t mate within their own family unlike other animals in the animal kingdom. When they realize that the end is near, the aged elephant would leave the tribe and take a solitary long walk to a remote cave to die. They seemed to be programmed from birth going through their life cycle! Sadly, those poachers were always looking for their ivory tusks which could fetch high prices in the international black market.
I also mentioned my other favorite writer Chinua Achebe – author of “Things Fall Apart.” She virtually went berserk after I commented that the main character Okonkwo’s life ended tragically when he committed suicide by hanging at the end of the novel. He lost his will to live when the white men came to colonize and drastically change his traditional village turning everything upside down! Hence “Things Fall Apart!”
Yup, she read that book. We agreed that Chinua Achebe passed away few years ago in an American university where he taught. link
“If you didn’t visit Africa, how on earth you know so much?”
“No lah! Only a little based from what I read. By reading it broadens your horizon. It makes you see the world differently. You will understand their cultures, characteristics and nuances in a society etc…”
The African lady added that she’s been living here for quite some time, it’s not easy to find someone like me knowing much about Africa. She said that she felt “ashamed” that her children didn’t know much about Africa. She told me that she would ask her children to read Wilbur Smith novels. I told her she could always borrow Wilbur Smith novels in the many libraries around Singapore. There is a public library in almost every HDB estate here. It’s free. Just do a search for all the library locations. She thanked me profusely for giving her that information.
When we arrived at Hougang St 91, the fare was $12 plus. Helped her to unload her tons of groceries. She kept waving at me when I left for Pasir Ris to report off duty. Another day of driving ended on a cheerful note.
PS: I’ve told that African lady to read my blog. Hopefully she’ll read this post dedicated to her.