Excerpt of The International Bank of Bob by Bob Harris
(Page 3 of 4)
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Bouchra concludes her translation. There is a pause.
Mohammad turns to me, a proud smile forming. Shukran, he says, looking me straight in the eye. This is Arabic for "thank you." I touch my heart respectfully with my right hand. We stand in silence, holding eye contact for a second. The need for a translator momentarily disappears.
The crowd behind me has grown, although I don't know that yet.
So is Mohammed's business doing well? Of course, he tells me through Bouchra, his tone gently chiding me for the silly question.
After twelve years in business, and after successfully borrowing and repaying seven cycles of small loans over the last five years, Mohammed now does more than shepherd his three kids through school: his shop has grown to employ two permanent staff members, plus several part-time helpers. He has also upgraded and diversified his equipment, enabling his staff to handle virtually any job that comes in. His eighth loan is five times larger than his first, and Mohammed hopes soon to expand his business even further, benefiting not just his own family, but his entire neighborhood.
When I was a boy, this was called the American Dream. Apparently they have something similar here, too.
We talk more about our families, and Mohammed offers to let me work with his tools, maybe spend a few minutes working with him on one of his projects. He seems to assume that since my dad was mechanically inclined, I must be, too. Oh, dear. Thank you, I'm honored. But I might break something. Possibly my own fingers.
And then Mohammed and I reach to shake hands.
The palms of Mohammed's hands are covered in grease, so instead of a regular handshake, he presses the back of his hand against mine. It's a polite and playful gesture. I nod and smile appreciatively.
Finally, Mohammad gestures behind me, and I turn, seeing for the first time the large and growing audience I've attracted. Maybe a half-dozen teenage-and-younger males, plus a few passers-by of all ages, are assessing my presence.
One of the young men steps forward. Bouchra explains that I'm meeting Hamid, Mohammed's son.
Hamid's hands are also dirty, so when I extend my right hand in greeting, Hamid shyly offers the back of his hand, too, just like his father. I'm still awkward about where to put my own hand in response, so I make a joke out of it, and Hamid and I share a fun moment of goofing around, twisting our hands to mime a half dozen possible handshakes.
The other boys start to smile.
High five! I suggest, looking back at Bouchra, wondering if this will need a translation. Thanks to the Internet and the global reach of Western media, it does not. Hamid high-fives me instantly.
His friends and I exchange a few high fives, too. Those who are unfamiliar with the technique catch on instantly and join in.
Low five! I continue, and we carry on, enjoying the unexpected novelty of knowing how to greet each other in multiple ways.
Fist bump? I ask, making a fist.
The young men's faces turn curious. Howie Mandel's preferred Deal or No Deal greeting has not yet reached this part of the Arab world.
I bump my own fists together as a demonstration, saying the American slang word dap as I do. The boys smile with a bit of bafflementThey really do this odd gesture in America? Hokay and join in.
Dap, dap, dap, dap, dap. A few of us even start to giggle.
This is the developing world as experienced not through sensational news reports or pop culture stereotypes, but while I've been actually standing in it.
This is why a half-dozen young men came toward me, fists raised, in Morocco.
Reprinted from The International Bank of Bob by Bob Harris. Copyright © 2013 by Bob Harris. Used by permission of Walker & Company, a division of Bloomsbury USA