After a long day in Saly and a good sleep, I’m ready to work the next morning. My team picks me up promptly at 10:00 to begin the day. We venture out and I’m quickly reminded that there is no shortage of dust, donkey buggys, yellow taxis, fruit, and color, color, color everywhere, used in every imaginable way … yet water and electricity are scarce on any given day.
We visit Ndeye Mama (above), who I fondly rename La Mama … I watch as my team of three men struggle to open the little pink gate of La Mama’s shop. The gate rises one foot off the ground, as do the walls that extend to either side of it. I step over the wall and enter the shop and they continue to negotiate the gate.
That says it all. It’s a different thinking and I try hard to understand that I am in a foreign land, their land. So many things don’t make sense to me, like how tradition is to use huge amounts of sugar in their coffee and daily tea … we’re talking about ten spoonfuls … especially when bad teeth abound and there is not a dentist around.
I learn from Papa Lo, my team leader, that there are over ten official languages in Senegal. In my newly adopted village, the spoken tongue is Wolof … I finally master the word “nagadeff” after numerous mishaps of greeting folk with “gangadeff” and being looked at strangely.
After making some rounds and visiting the bustling marketplace we take a donkey buggy to the family home of Serigne, my New York Africa associate, for lunch. One of the sisters has prepared a traditional Senegalese lunch for us of rice, vegetables, and fish. We will break for lunch there daily. She sets the huge bowl in front of the four of us along with four soup spoons. We dig in.
My dear friend Antonia has written urging me to be careful and that “when in Rome” is not always best and explains why. She should see me now.
The courtyard of Serigne’s home