Thursday, July 06, 2006

Caribou -- a Somali hangout 

One interesting aspect of St. Cloud is the presence of a relatively large Somali community. One common scene here in town is a Caribou coffee shop on one of our busiest corners with three tables outside for use during the summer. On any summer night, all three tables are full of Somali men in animated conversation. So I look this afternoon on the web and I find a story on how difficult they have found it to get taxi licenses from two years ago. Take a careful look at the table the two Somali men are sitting around "at a popular Somali hangout in St. Cloud". Yup, Caribou.

You know, the words "popular Somali hangout in St. Cloud" would never have dawned on me to be a description of Caribou. Whenever I'm there I find high school (and junior high) co-eds giggling and ordering long-named cold drinks. Yet every evening if I drive by, there are those tables.

Come to think of it, if you'd told me 20 years ago that there would be a "popular Somali hangout in St. Cloud" I'd have laughed at you. When I moved here I thought I was a diverse element of this town. But if you look at the 2000 Census of the city versus where we are now -- with 109 Somali families reunited in St. Cloud in one month last year -- you have to conclude that this place is very different from where I moved.

I noticed this again today as I pulled into Panera that I almost never go to places that have American food. A Lao-Thai restaurant for curry; the Somali cafe (now on the east side, having left a place downtown that they sold off to a Pakistani family, though I can't tell who owns the place now); a pho shop (really! Pho!) and at least two places where you find a decent burrito (for someone who lived years in Los Angeles.) In yet another way, St. Cloud is ceasing to be a stopping point between the Cities and Fargo, and more becoming either part of the Cities or a unique place. Right now, I can't tell which.