Posted by: scribe9 | February 5, 2010

Zebras in the crowd

There’s an old saying in American medicine that when you hear hoofbeats, you should look for horses, not zebras. So, when faced with a set of symptoms, you should first consider the most likely, not the rarest, diagnosis. My husband used that term at the hospital the other day, and one of his colleagues—from Kenya, I think—asked what it meant and laughed; in east Africa, one would look first for zebras.

My husband has at least a couple of Nigerian colleagues as well. But black Africans are few and far between; outside the hospital, I’ve met only white South Africans and Zambians. And the only Hispanic people are from the Philippines.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of variety. New Zealand’s home to many South Asians (around here, they seem to run most of the smaller grocery stores), a smattering of Southeast and East Asians, and many Maori and Pacific Islanders. Up north where we live, there is a much higher percentage of Maori than elsewhere.

Even among the European population, there’s a different mix. Although many look like Americans, there are plenty who look very English or Scottish.

While I’m enjoying the differences, I also miss familiar-looking faces. The other night at the Irish pub I saw a young man I thought looked Native American. My husband assured me I was chasing zebras, but we get people from all over the world here, so he could have been.

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