Street Entrepreneur vs Ugly American

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s column on Barack Obama’s Kenyan connection caught my eye and reminded me of some things that happened during a research trip to Africa for Heart of Diamonds.

Read my comment here. It was posted at 5:54 AM on 2/24/08.

One day, I watched an American Wall Street type haggle over the price of a carved mask with a vendor in a market in Lusaka. He finally persuaded the Zambian to cut his price to the ridiculous level he wanted–50,000 Zwacha (about $13.50 US)–and agreed to buy the mask. Then, clever fellow that he was, the American titan of finance offered a flat $13 US in payment, which the Zambian vendor graciously accepted.

As the Master of the Universe walked away, I heard him chortle to his wife, “I beat the bastard on the exchange rate, too.” I must admit, it didn’t make me very proud to be an American right at that moment.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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