|Pre-boarding Maty. Near midnight, Halloween night. Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport|
Just back, last night. Sixty-two hundred miles and change. Between the tearful parting on Rue de Impasse
, Senghor City, Thiés, and our determined stumble up the stairs back
home, 35 hours.
A grueling passage, with layovers in Paris
and Salt Lake City,
and, in our case, an incident with an aggressive Senegali during the
exhausted shuffle from the plane to gate in pre-dawn Charles de Gaulle
. The f-bomb was
involved. But my woman is a strong woman
and our teamwork in the moment
proved itself admirably. Even if I do say so myself. It gets better all the time.
What have I learned?
|Maty and Mor, admiring the monkey-bread fruit, under the baobob tree, the day we went to Gorée.|
Senegalese are a courteous and respectful people. An extended hand is always taken. An as-salamu alaikum
is always returned. Guests are always met
with an offer of food or a glass of minty sweet, strong ataaya
We met some North American college women in the restaurant on Gorée. Mama Nene's is an open-air venue, with a thatched roof, blessed by the breezes that come up off the water. Skinny cats prowl under the tables, alert for morsels.
The women were curious about Maty and me. How had we met
? One of them said she hoped to marry a Senegalese man. I understood. Egalitarian Americans are swept away by Senegalese respect and courtesy.
It comes from their religion
|The Great Mosque in Touba. (Construction continues, evidenced by the scaffolding.)|
We went to Touba, where
they're building the Great Mosque. Italian and Portuguese marble. Five
minarets. Three domes. In the Moroccan style.
|Within the Mosque|
As we drove to Touba, Senegal revealed herself. Heat-soaked countryside. Cattle. Baobob trees. Trash.
|On the road to Touba|
|Thiés street scene |
Thiés is where we spent most time.
Thiés is a cacophony of noise and activity. Cars,
trucks, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and horse-drawn carts clog the
streets. Engines roar, people shout and laugh, livestock bleats, cocks crow,
and at intervals throughout the day, the local mosques broadcast the
haunting call to prayer over public address systems. The ululating voice serves as reminder that order encompasses chaos.
Every third or fourth car that rambled down the street was a taxi: a dilapidated economy sedan
with a cracked windshield, dented fenders and windows that, as often as
not, would not roll up or down. A ride downtown cost 500 CFA or about 80
|Thiés, from the taxi|
For dinner, Khoumba prepared chicken or fish with yams and eggplants and carrots, which she served on beds of rice or couscous. We sat cross-legged on the carpet around the platter and ate with our right hands.
|My welcoming meal on Mama Diop's patio in Sanghor City. Sengalese-spiced chicken, yassa onion sauce, and french fries. |
afternoons, a boy appeared at the entry to Mama's courtyard with an
empty coffee can. Maty or Khoumba would give him food. Whatever we had eaten or were going to eat. A drumstick. Yassa and couscous. Rice and fish curry.
One day I stepped outside Mama's gate and stood watching the people go by. Suddenly, a voice in English boomed out: "You
! Come here!" I looked. Khadim was sat on a plastic chair in the street, in front of his wife's coiffure shop. "You
! Come here!" He jabbed both fingers into the ground in front of him.
I called to Maty, in the courtyard behind me. "Honey, someone is yelling at me." She came to the gate and looked. "Ah, it's Khadim. He wants you to come talk to him."
Which I did. Our talk was very limited due to the language barrier. But he shook my hand and taught me some Wolof words and introduced me to the neighbors. His wife served me tea. We were friends instantly.
|Some of Mama Diop's neighbors|
Senegal. An immense experience. Made all the more momentous because of the love I have developed for my Senegalese family.
I had not seen Mama nor Mor since 2007, when I visited Ouagadougou
in the year after Maty and I were married. Since that time, Papa Diop has passed
. And my brother-in-law Pape.
|Mama, plucking a chicken for dinner|
Mama's limp has become more pronounced over time. Arthritis is not kind. Mor is now married to Khoumba, and they have a daughter, Khoudia, whom I loved in the first moment I saw her. My nephews, Omar and Abo, complete the household.
|Mor and Khoumbah, with Khoudia|
I'm humbled at the graciousness and hospitality I received while a guest
in their home. And, sitting here now, in my living room in southeast
Portland, I'm missing Mama's kindness and wisdom, and
Mor's friendliness, and Khoumba's shy smile, and little Khoudia's
sweetness and her face when she smiled. And I loved to carry her in my
arms, when Maty and I went to the bodega for water or juice.
. But I'm thinking about Senegal. And I'm missing my family.
|My family in Senegal. Omar, Khoumba, Maty, Mama, Khoudia (on my lap), and Tonton Modou|
Some more photos...
|Rolling down the highway.|
|On the Gorée beach|
|Garbage pickup service in Dakar.|
|Fishermen off Gorée.|
|Rue de Impasse in Sanghor City|
|Roadside fruit stand|
|Maty, Khoudia, and Mor on the road to Touba|
|Inside the Grand Mosque|
|Swimming not advised, in Bandia reserve|
Au revoir, Senegal!
|Maty and Khoudia|
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