“Shysters”

No doubt you heard of the shysters during the Alaska gold-rush days – those who purchased the gold. Before them, on the counter, was a felt or flannel cloth which caught and retained any gold dust spilt. And, of course, the buyer either washed the cloth or burned it to get a little more profit from what the hardworking prospectors brought in. Also, many had heavily pomaded hair, slicked down with that greasy kid’s stiff. While handling “your” gold dust, he would run his fingers through his hair. The grease there would catch and retain some extra profit for him – and be assured that his hair was washed regularly!

I was taking a trip on a train in Africa which would be an overnight experience. Not knowing what meal arrangements were, I bought a paper bag of fruit from one of the vendors hawking his wares on the station platform. The bag was full, the fruit was ripe and looked delicious. I used my skill to bargain downwards on his asking price. What a bargain I made!

The train moved on. Evening came. Still no word about dinner so I went to my bag of fruit. Anticipation. Removing the top layer, I found the rest of the bag was filled with grass – not to protect the fruit but to make the buyer (ME!) think they were getting a full bag. And no, there was no recourse! Settle down and enjoy the few you got.

The WaSukuma have an old proverb/saying about one person who deceives another. They call them “Kwangu na Kwangulilwa”. The story behind it is of two people, carrying their wares to market to sell. “Kwangu” (the one doing the deceiving) put a bunch of trash in the bottom of their container, covering it with whatever he was ‘selling’. Another person met him on the path, carrying his full container of what they were selling. To save time (the market was still a good distance away), they decided to swap containers since the contents appealed to at least the one.

When the second person got home they called the family to show them what a good bargain he got. Instead, when what was on top was removed, nothing but trash was found hidden below. Their name was now “Kwangulilwa” – the one who was deceived.

I guess I was “Kwangulilwa” over that bag of fruit. Good fruit but hiding a bunch of trash in the bottom!

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