Day Twenty-Six: Vive La Différence

It was so simple … my great friend Lydia wanted me to taste my favourite flavour. So Marie-paule and Fatou whipped up some penne for lunch, to be adorned with pesto. Ahh … the only thing better than pesto pasta is love.

The family sat down to share the blessed feast with me. Lydia remarked that it’s so unusual for Senegalese folks to eat pasta in the middle of the day. The tradition is rice. And so my friends with their forks were being jolted, while for me it was a natural event.

The previous day, at dinner, pasta also made an appearance, along with a sauce full of unknown goodies. I put a spoonful on my plate. Fatou drew in her breath as she saw my move. I mixed the sauce in with the noodles and got my fork in action. Yum – lots of flavour. Twenty seconds later the burn went deep. I reached for the glass in front of me. “Water won’t help,” offered Lydia. She was right. Grin and bear it for a few minutes … Woh. No more of that. However, lots more of that for Moustapha and Fatou. They yummed their way through plates of fire.

Hmm. A bit different, you and me. And isn’t that what makes the world go ’round?

Sometimes on the patio, I hum opera or Beatles songs. Eyes travel my way. I also love flourishes aloft with my hands, and a pirouette or two. The audience pauses to wonder.

Coming towards me from most every person approaching is “Ça va?” (How’s it going?). It’s expected that my response will be “Ça va” (I’m well), perhaps augmented by “Très bien” (Very well). It’s considered impolite to not give a verbal response. A smile and a wave is not enough.

If it’s in the morning, most Senegalese humans will also ask “Bien dormi?” (Did you sleep well?) I’m not sure how much of that is a true concern for me and how much a ritual. After so many a.m. conversations that went this way, I got really bored with it and replied “Non, je n’avais pas dormi depuis huit nuits.” (No, I haven’t slept for eight nights) Now that was impolite, but I couldn’t resist.

I love periods of silence. I love meditating. As I mentioned yesterday (or was it two days ago? No matter), here in Africa what mostly happens is large gatherings of virtually non-stop conversation, in languages I don’t understand. Maybe I’m exaggerating this contrast, but there’s definitely a difference.

There’s no “better and worse” in all this. Our life experiences and perspectives are sometimes foreign to the other. I figure that’s as it should be.

The world doesn’t need a whole bunch of Bruce’s around every corner. We need large portions of Zidane, Youssoupha, Mariama, Bakerie, Gnima, Nano, Ousmane, Abdul, Luc, Arlette, Anja, Revi, Camille, Pascal, Liesbet, Jo, Lydia, Lore, Baziel, Pil, Jo Jo, Iddy, Kebas, Astou …

… as well