Yesterday we went to the Somali mall. As soon as we got out of the car, my husband met someone he hadn’t seen in a few years. After introductions, she walked with us and held our son’s hand as the Somali speakers caught up on the news.
Stepping into the building divided into tiny stalls crammed with a dizzying array of goods feels like stepping into a different country. Indeed, I was the alien in this place just off Lake Street. I don’t know the language and don’t know the unwritten rules.
As we were strolling through the clothes rack-lined halls, we bumped into a guy that my husband had gone to high school with (in northern Somalia.)
These malls fill at least two needs for the immigrant community. They’re a place to get items they can’t find in big box stores, and also a meeting place. I think every time my husband goes there, he encounters someone he knows. I was struck again by how people come and linger, how their lives are centered around being with people.
It was the first time to the mall with our son. “There were many aunties there,” he said of the place. This is what he has learned to call woman with head coverings since they all introduce themselves to him as “auntie.”