Monsieur Boum is an institution in Toubacouta. His restaurant on a dirt street in the centre of the village draws many locals, a sure sign for tourists like me. Boum is a jolly fellow and remembered me with a big smile when I walked into his place yesterday afternoon. Last December, I believe I surprised the chef when I opted for snake rather than pasta. Delicious … just like chicken!
Jo, Moustapha and I were planning to have dinner at Chez Boum last night since the woman who cooks for them and Lydia was travelling to nearby Gambia for a funeral. Earlier in the day, I was at the house when Fatou heard the news about her beloved great grandmother. Moustapha told his wife in very fast French and I didn’t catch on right away. Seconds later, tears were rolling down Fatou’s cheeks.
At last year’s dinner, I sat on Boum’s patio and watched a young girl in a colourful patterned dress playing across the street. A wall of cement blocks framed her in the twilight. As I took in the same sight yesterday with a bottle of Coca-Cola Zero in my hand, there was only the wall. I missed the young one.
Refreshed, I strolled on in the heat. Hours later I returned to find Moustapha and Jo enjoying their beverages. They shone in the light of the patio. Against the wall there were voices in the dark, ghostly figures reclining in ghostly chairs.
Jo and I launched into some topic in English. Oh, I remember … it was the adventures of Baziel (his son), Olivia (his friends’ daughter) and Bruce in Canada last August. Jo and I flowed. He can flow in Flemish, English, French and German! After a few minutes, I actually noticed that we were speaking English, and remembered that Moustapha knew very few of those words. It made me happy to tell Jo that we should switch to French. Down deep, I knew that I’d soon be in the place where Moustapha currently was, and that was okay. I’m on a journey towards speaking the language well and there’s a long way to go.
Jo and Moustapha kept at it for at least twenty minutes. So fast, so expressive, so incomprehensible. I smiled while imagining me as one of those smooth “gens de français”.
Jo went for the steak, Moustapha for the chicken, and I for the very local fish. Our meals arrived beautifully displayed and the tastes were a perfect match for the sights. To be savoured.
Along came two Belgian fellows to the next table. They lit up. I coughed. They and I kept going with the activities of the moment. I looked at Jo and said “Je vais” (I’m going). And I meant it – delicious flavours or not. There was no place far enough from the smoke. The gentlemen got the hint and moved to the end table. Thank God. I whipped out my puffer and did the deed. Who knows why my lungs are so sensitive but they are. So be it.
Another glowing was Boum’s face as we oohed and ahhed through the meal. We were pleased, he doubly so. At the end we waved goodbye to our chef and walked off into the tropical night. Day was done, and our tummies were happy.