Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Remembering: Lunch

This past weekend I got together with two girls who studied in Senegal with me and one of the Senegal program directors, Waly, who came from Dakar for a week-long conference outside of Boston.  We ate at Boston's gourmet Senegalese restaurant Teranga and reminisced. Odors have a special way of bringing back memories and a waft of the mixture of onions, lemon, and spices from my plate of Yassa Ginaar transported me back two years to the many lunches I ate with my study abroad mates on our Dakar campus.  It was almost as if we were sitting under the ubiquitous canvas tent at a plastic picnic table with our plates of steaming Senegalese dishes, mangoes, and Café Touba. 

Or maybe we decided to venture further than the campus canteen to bring back an omelet sandwich from the shack down the road.  If we were lucky there was an available seat on a wooden bench upon which we could sit while we waited for our turn to order.  If not, we would wait outside of the cardboard shack until a space opened up.  When the businessmen seated on benches next to us yielded their turn in line to one of us outsiders (because we were white and female) we would ask for a tomato and onion omelet.  The omelet man would skillfully chop up the fixings into his hands and add them to the scrambled eggs that were deep frying in oil on a skillet balanced over a small kerosene flame.  While he waited for it to cook, he would serve somebody else a concoction of instant coffee, tea, and sweetened condensed milk that could put Starbucks out of business.  Then he would slice open a fresh baguette, delivered each day to his shack by a man driving a horse drawn cart of baked goods, and added the oily omelet of goodness.  He would wrap the sandwich in a newspaper declaring last year's headlines in German, or Greek, or Chinese and would hand it over to me in exchange for 500 CFA ($0.50).  Jeurejef waay (thanks friend).

Or maybe we weren't feeling too hungry and the dust of the city was making it difficult to breathe.  On those kind of days a cold thiakry (millet and yogurt) made the perfect lunch.  No matter what kind of meal it was, however, there was always good conversation.  Lunch was the time for us to process with each other the cultural clashes we experienced.  Oftentimes the discussion turned to religion.  The Senegalese people, whether they were Muslim or Catholic, all lived lives of faith and devotion.  This was something that challenged all of us.  For my atheist friends it was hard for them to understand how people could have such a strong and unyielding faith.  For me the visibility of religion in Senegal was a challenge to live my Christian faith more openly and without shame.

Back in Boston, I devoured my delicious Senegalese meal.  I can't believe it has been two years; those memories of my semester in Senegal are still so vivid--some of them difficult, many of them fond.               

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully remembered.