I legit fell from a chair today!! The leg bent and I slid all the way to the ground in my traditional Senegalese garb. I felt it happening. The stability leaving. The feeling of insecurity and then “DOWN GOES FRAZIER!!”
I tried to act casual and immediately got up and sat back in the chair only to fall out again! This time standing and dusting myself and explaining “I’m cool. I’m cool.” to the men attempting to help me.
I have quickly become the awkward friend at the party.
I got invited to a baby celebration. In America we call them baby showers and have games. In Senegal it’s a kickback. The kickback/baby shower started at 9am but I know enough Africans to know that means 2pm and arrived on time with everyone else.
I put on a cute off the shoulder dress and realized quickly that.. I couldn’t attend an official event as a cute American. I had to be Senegalese respectable which was okay cause the wig had come off in yesterday’s heat and head wraps were already on deck!
For 2000 bucks the cab driver took me to a market where I was able to purchase an appropriate garment. After haggling the man down from 10,000 to 8,000 CFA dollars. I put it on and headed to the party!
By all accounts the party was nice. There were people inside and outside of the home. The men and women did not gather in the same circles and this concerned me. African women are nice… but not when their men are near (I get it. I’m cute but moreso…. American)
I approached the group of colorfully dressed women. I was happy that I had purchased my garment as there wasn’t an ankle in sight but what I did see.. pursed faces and the sucking of teeth. This was apparently not my area so I headed towards the men.
Initially I was leery as there was not one woman in their section and no a man near the women and I’d hate to be flogged and strapped w the letter A and sent home w a shaved head.
The men quickly assured me that there is no rule to the separation. It is just that the wives are “how do you say… boring.”
I sat with them a while amazed by the connection they had. Each one was greeted fully. Some handshakes that showed respect and commitment. They held hands and eagerly wanted to practice their English on the girl who sat with them.
There was a table in the middle that a rotation of men surrounded. They called it boo(something or another) but I could easily see it was spades and I wanted in!! They entertained that a girl could possibly understand the game but never let me. It’s probably for the best as I can get aggressive and I wanted these people to stay friends.
I was then called back into the large foyer of the home. There I was motioned to a wooden bench as others brought small foot stools until we were all positioned as if around a campfire. Spoons were distributed and then a large dish was placed in the small stool in the middle of this.
I WAS BEING WELCOMED INTO A TRADITIONAL DINNER! And what was presented to me was the dish if the country. A word that I still cannot pronounce, look this up – THIEBOUDIENNE- sounds like che-boo-JIn was a dish of rice and fish.
I had a couple spoons and the Fish was very well flavored. I could not however get over the fact that one of my sister’s was using her hands to distribute the pepper throughout the dish and also seperetain the bones and FACE from the fish and mixing it in. Surely she was the chef and her hands were all in the dish but I was too new at this food share concept to be able to get past that.
Teranga is a spirit of hospitality in Senegal. If you meet a stranger you feed and help them as family. The people here value and live as that in every way. I am glad to have been a part.