When I entered the United States for the first time, there were so many things that really astonished me. Since it was my first time, I was anxious to become accustomed to things and situations here.
The first thing that surprised me happened when I took a walk around the place where I live. When a white man greeted me saying, “Hi!” with a warm smile, I replied “Hi!” but immediately looked back and tried to recall where and when I had met him before.
Maybe in the plane, at the airport, or at the United States embassy in Addis Ababa. These were the only places I remember that I had conversations with white men before this incident. I really exerted a lot of effort, but I couldn't recall the exact particular time and place where I had met him before. I was thinking about him when another white woman greeted me saying, 'Hi there!' She was riding a bicycle. I didn't remember her, either. How could people whom I do not know greet me? I really became a bit confused. Maybe there is someone who looks like me and is well-known by dwellers here. I already started to believe that there is someone who looks like me around here. The third incident that confirmed my thought happened when an African-American man greeted me saying, 'What's up, man?'
When I arrived home after the walk, I told my dad about all the incidents of greetings. He laughed at me and explained that here it is quite normal to greet people you meet regardless of your knowledge about each other.
After realizing everything about greeting, I also started to greet people in the same way. I really loved this culture and wanted to internalize and make it my own. Then I would greet people on a daily basis. It doesn't cost me anything but makes me feel happy and comfortable.
Mohamed Abafogi was born in Ethiopia and speaks Oromo, Amharic and English. Just one year after immigrating to the United States, he graduated from Volunteers of America Adult High School. In 2015 he began classes at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Greetings is a piece Mohamed wrote as a featured author in our annual publication of adult student writing called Journeys.