“You speak Swedish?” the officer asked.
“Yeah, I’m Swedish.”
The officer looked at her light brown skin and high cheekbones, and her look asked the question that she didn’t need to voice.
“Well, half Swedish and half African-American. Lots of people think I’m Hispanic, though.”
The officer, who looked to be Hispanic herself, with perhaps a healthy dose of Native American mixed in, nodded. She brushed her long, dark hair out of her face, said, “Were you born over there?”
“No, I was born here, and then we went to Sweden when I was two months old. Two years later we went to Brazil for four years, then back to Sweden for two years, and then to Ethiopia for four years.” She grinned. “I have dual citizenship, and yes, I have two passports. And diplomatic immunity.”
They talked a bit more, about places she’d been, about how the police officer hoped someday to travel herself.
“Of all the countries you’ve been to,” the officer asked (mirroring, albeit imperfectly, a question that was asked of me yesterday), “which one did you like the best?”
The young woman didn’t hesitate. “Ethiopia. Those people know how to live. I mean, they’re crazy poor, they have nothing, but they’re always smiling. They know what’s important. Here people freak out because of their cell phones.”
“Ethiopia,” the officer echoed. “Is that, like, the capital?”
“You know, of Africa?”
I watched as my parents pushed plastic tubs full of shoes, keys, watches and spare change onto a conveyer belt, then stepped through the metal detector. They disappeared into the depths of Terminal B, and I turned away, leaving behind an explanation of African geo-politics from someone whose father had been a senior diplomat to Ethiopia, to someone who didn’t realize that Africa wasn’t one big country.