On Friday, I anticipated having a big night out in Gisenyi, so during the day I attempted to take a nap. This was not successful. I was woken up by Jed who told me there was someone at the gate asking for me. Grumpily, I walked over and saw a short guy, about my age waiting with Isadole, our guard.
He greeted me and introduced himself as Gaston with very soft and slow English words. He then continued, “Samuel, I have a favor to ask you…there is someone who needs you, my sister, who really wants your help.”
I immediately became worried. What could be expected of me? I knew it could not be a request for money because this petition for assistance took on a much more grandiose tone. So, Gaston grabbed my hand and walked with me next door and I entered into a little shed that sold supplies like a local convenience store. Inside was a girl who also appeared to be my age working as the cashier.
I sat down on a stool and Gaston did the same next to me and he began to speak, “Samuel, Sam, you have become very well recognized here in Gisenyi, do you know that? Do you know that so many people here love you because you treat everyone with respect? Do you know this?”
I awkwardly smiled.
“Now the reason why I came to you, the reason why I woke you up from your nap, the reason why I brought you to our home and to our store is because I have a favor to ask you and I hope you can keep this favor.”
Gaston liked rephrasing ideas in slightly different ways.
“Now Sam, my sister is very shy. She is not like many people here that can just come up to you and say hi. Her English is not that good. Do you understand?”
By the way her sister was sitting right next to me too.
“She told me that she wants to meet you, so that you can you who she is, but she was unable to meet you by herself.”
I shook her hand and asked her name… Myriam.
“So Sam, now that you know my sister, now that you know Myriam, that favor that we have for you the favor we would like is that you remember our name.”
I looked blank.
“Yes, when you return to America and go back to your life, we would like you to think of us and my sister. Maybe even write to us to let us know how things are going in your life.”
I agreed despite my unfettered confusion, so, I did the next best thing, I changed the subject. I asked about their schooling and then I began talking about America and Philadelphia. Gaston soon asked, “In Philadelphia, we have been wondering this question. If a friend comes up to you and asks for a pineapple, how do you get it?”
“How do you get Pineapples in Philadelphia?”
I began to tell him about Supermarkets in America and how it is different than the market place here in Gisenyi. After this he asked, “When you return to Philadelphia, can you get for us a pineapple?”
A small crowd was forming outside the stand and I looked around puzzled. Was he talking about the actual fruit? Is this pineapple a reference to something else? I was totally confused, so I gave him the best scientific answer that I could provide. “In Philadelphia, I can certainly buy a pineapple for you, but if I put it in the box and mailed it to here in Rwanda, by the time that it arrives, it will no longer be a pineapple.”
So we exchanged contact information and before I left I promised both him and Myriam that I will never forget them, but after the pineapple request, how can I not.