A four-day trip the week of Thanksgiving took me to Columbus, Ohio. Seeing as I was to spend the holiday alone in the hotel, Susan decided to drive up from visiting her Grandparents in Pittsburg. She had our cousin Troy with her so we figured we'd play in Ohio for the night and let him see what a glamorous life in a hotel is like. A friend in Columbus was going to take out for dinner until the 'what do you plan to do for dinner' conversation started up in the cockpit with my first officer. He also had some friends in Columbus and said he planned on meeting up with them for dinner. My co-pilot was from Uganda and the friends he mentioned were also from Eastern Africa and they planned on eating at a Somalian restaurant he knew about that served goat. I could think of no better way to celebrate the holiday than with my vegetarian wife, some goat and a bunch of Africans. I asked if we could join them and did we need to wear anything special. Our other friend in Columbus was up for the plan would meet us at the hotel.
The restaurant was advertised as a ‘coffee shop’ on the outside and looked like more of an old butcher shop. The parking lot was quiet and there wasn’t much in the way of foot traffic in or out of the place. In we went.
Aside from a few people scattered about there wasn’t much going on inside – nor was there much in the way of decorations. Just a relatively empty room with some standard diner-like tables and chairs. It did look like it could have been an old butcher shop. Pointing to Susan, the owner asked if I wanted the lady to sit with us or ‘over there’ looking to the section of restaurant on the other side of the dividing wall?
Apparently this was a women sit away from the men type establishment. I did think for a second that I wanted to sit with the ladies but figured just asking if Susan could sit with us would be a stretch. He said here in the United States he let the decision be made by the man of the family but back things weren't this way. So the only white girl in the restaurant ate in the men’s section with us. She did drive most the day to have Thanksgiving with us and making her sit with women would go over about as well as if I asked to sit over there. Looking at the dividing wall did make me wonder what was going on back there. It took me back to grade school and all the stories about what went on behind the wall near the convent. "I hear the nuns have a pool back there and they all were black bikini's."
The menu was delivered in his terms, “high talk and low tech”. He gave us the options personally. “Chicken steak with rice.” “Chicken steak with spaghetti.” “Salmon steak with rice.” “Salmon steak with spaghetti.”
Susan asked if there were any vegetarian dishes? “We have lettuce.” “No goat?” I asked. "We sold all the goat today already. The chicken steak is very good though.”
We all ordered the lemonade, which he said several times was made fresh. “It is Somalian lemonade.” He said, again.
I’ll tell you what that means. Anytime a drink is served “Somalian” it is served warm. We learned there isn’t much ice in Africa. My first officer told us when he went home to Uganda they all accused him of being an American after he kept insisting on having ice in his drinks. This is one of the many reasons why we are spoiled. That and Tivo.
And then came the banana’s. Again, my first officer explained.
“They are crazy about banana’s there. You get them with everything. And they are better there. They are fresher. You don’t eat them until they are ready and you don’t pick them too soon. You know you are a Somalian when you eat too many banana’s.”
Although there weren't any yams or turkey sandwich’s, it was what Thanksgiving should be, dinner with friends old and new. We learned about life in Africa from actual Africans and heard their stories of immigrating to the United States. After dinner, one of the men invited us back to his house for some Sudanese tea with his family. We met his children and played with their babies. They took us in to their house for our holiday. Again, it was a great thanksgiving.