Tuesday, August 5, 2008

At home and abroad

"Dekk naa ci Dakar pendant 6 mois," I said to Ahmed, a tall lanky Senegalese man dressed in a bold orange boubou. The dark figure had floated across the the street in the amber light, forcing me to slam my brakes shortly after passing him. For the past six months, while I was in Senegal I would not have thought twice about the scene. But now, I was just off of Campbelton Rd. in the heart of an "insular" black community.

Surprise encapsulated his face and curiosity enlivened his words. "Where are you from" he said, breaking the language relationship that we had established between French and Wolof. "I'm from Cascade!" I said all too enthusiastically. I asked him about all the cars that had lined the corner of Willis Mill and Cambleton. They were having a magal, a commemorative feast for serigne Fallou. "Go park, and come inside," he said.

There was no way for me to know that he was Senegalese. But something about his manner, something about his boubou, something about his spirit sang Senegal. So, I sang the song of greeting, played my part on the stage of salutation.

"As salaam alakum," I called out.
"Malakum a salaam," he followed as a response.
"Nga def?" I asked.
"Maangi fi rekk," he replied.

I walked in to the room and was instantly transported across the Atlantic and somewhen else. To my immediate right, lay a mound of sandals and slippers. My pair eased off with ease as they had for the past six months at various formal events. To my far right sat a mouride marabout, a senegambian religious leader. Coincidentally, these were couture sandals that I bought from the senegalese singer's Youssou Ndour's son. Ndour is perhaps the most famous mouride who glorifies Chiekh Amidou Bamba.

I caught up with Ahmed inside. We played the usually dance around the food. Eat. No thank you. No, you must. Ok, Thank you. An older gentleman piped orders to a women behind the food table. "Donne-lui un plat. Il est americain." I stuck out in the room. Bad. I dug into the chicken yassa and washed it down with tamarind juice. Afterwards, I sat back, well satiated and let the singers who chanted the khassaides to take me back... way back.

1 comment:

Anthony Dean-Harris said...

And you thought you would have to discontinue the blog because you're no longer wandering.

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