Yesterday, I walked from the dispensaire to the poste colis to pick up a package. While waiting for the post office to open, I spoke with a South Korean photographer in French about the North Koreans (!) she’d met while in Senegal. Though it was only my second time picking up a package, I felt like an expert and was even able to help the confused photographer. After paying, I flagged down the first car rapide I found, but then spent the next hour lost when we went down a road I didn’t recognize. After I finally made my roundabout way back to school, I spent the afternoon stuffing my face with American biscotti, bathed in air conditioning and the mono no aware of Memoirs of a Geisha.
I don’t know what it was, then, that made me miss home so badly last night. The night’s breezy darkness was achingly beautiful, and on my way back from school I stopped to chat extensively with the five guards on my street I know by name. As their lamplights illuminated the secrets on my face, I could feel my wistfulness insistently beginning to leak out of the corners of my eyes. When I finally nuyyoo my host mother with Salaam Aleekum, a display of embarrassing weakness sprung forth at this most inopportune time.
But it wasn’t that bad. She actually drew me close as we talked about homesickness, the kindness of mothers, and the irreplaceability of familial love. I was very touched by her gestures: Senegalese hug and cry far less often than do Americans, and I explained that what I was feeling was pas grâve.
The next morning, I woke up starving and used only my Wolof to communicate with Fatou that I wanted to go with her to buy our daily mburu. While my host mother gave Fatou some money, she asked if I’d like some fromaas, or Laughing Cow Spreadable Cheese, with my bread. A special treat!
I wish I could have taken a picture of the scene that unfolded at the buutik: how Fatou pressed each baguette to check its freshness and to make her selection of two kilos (each stick of bread/baguette is called a kilo though it does not weigh that much); how she asked for Laughing Cow cheese and one can buy just one wedge; the five packs of matches she added to her purchase so that we could get back exact change. While we were there, I inquired about tapalapa, a denser bread I’d loved while I’d gone to the southeast, of which she bought a stick (100CFA, $.20) for me!
Back at the house, I sat in the middle of our bright, breezy courtyard to enjoy my ndekki. The tapalapa’s chewiness blended with the cheese’s tang reminded me of sourdough. Oh, the irony. I’d found sourdough disgusting as a child but now bread is tasteless without it. I remembered my first stumbling breakfast here and felt content.