Total days in Senegal: 8
Villages visited: 2
Times our Alham to Cory & Josh’s village had to be push-started at the Tamba gare: 4
Subsequent push starts, along the way: 2
People in said Alham: 24
Times we all got out and sat on the side of the road because the Alham wouldn’t shift into gear, were told another car was coming to get us, but then got back into the original one and continued on our way: 1
Village children set on fire by other kids: 1
Buckets of water team-pulled from the well by Leslie and Clare: 3
Ratio of village meals that Leslie deemed inedible to those deemed passable: 1:5
Total volume of beer consumed by Leslie and Clare at the Tamba house, in liters: 5.16
Maximum number of sheep seen tied to the top of one sept-place: 4
People the sheep on top of our sept-place to Dakar peed on, from the roof: 2
Dead animals seen along road to Dakar: 12
Additional dead animals smelled, but not seen: 3
Lowest observed temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit: 61
Highest observed temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit: 95
Cost of my portion of my and Leslie’s last dinner in Dakar, in CFA: 11,600
Equivalent price, in dollars: 23.20
The same, expressed as a percentage of my monthly living stipend: 10.7
My favorite sights this past week were the hordes of sheep for sale along the sides of all the major roads. Today is Tabaski, the Feast of the Sacrifice, which commemorates that time God instructed Abraham to slaughter his son Isaac but then at the last moment yelled “Psych!” and had him kill a ram instead.
What it means here in Senegal is massive sheep carnage—everyone who can afford it buys a ram (the bigger the better) to eat for Tabaski dinner. So for the past few weeks, all the Pular herders have come out of the brush to sell their largest sheep. Huuuge sheep. We’re talking Hound of the Baskervilles size sheep. And not only are they giant, they’re clean, probably for the first (and last) time in their lives. Some even had colorful ribbons and flags tied around their fat necks. Quite festive.
People stop to inspect (Squeeze the haunches? Check the teeth? I’m not sure.) the sheep, haggle over a price (I’m told 50 to 100 mille, or more), and then attempt to load their spectacularly uncooperative purchase onto the top of a car or into the back of a taxi.
Today there were prayers in the morning, fresh mutton in the afternoon, and very fancy outfits at night: the main event at Tabaski, other than sheep, is dressing up in brand new clothes. In the village this means new complets and boubous for the adults and maybe new soccer jerseys for the kids. In Dakar the men also have bright new boubous, but the women are something spectacular—sequins and satin and artificial flowers, all flowing and sparkling under the streetlights.
For a narrative of the Alham ride to Cory and Josh’s, I defer to Leslie, who also describes the joys of life as a Bah and reviews Senegalese culinary delights.
The dead animals along the roadside were notable both for their quantity and variety: cows, donkeys, a horse with a crowd of kids gathered around, sheep (the driver reached up to check that the ram was still on the roof when we passed that one), a cat, one of those beautiful blue Abyssinian rollers, and what I’m guessing were the remains of a monkey. Most were collapsed and dried, but some were in full bloat, with one back leg sticking straight up in the air. Hey, it’s a long trip. I have to keep myself entertained somehow.
Leslie and I had a great week, managing to pack in all sorts of fun. We laughed at how normal it felt to be together again, even in such a different place—it was a reassuring reminder of who I was in my former life, long long ago and far far away, before I got on that plane in New York. Plus it makes an eventual homecoming seem closer and more real. No less complicated, but very palpable.
While rereading the list, I realized that putting our water pulling feats directly after the flaming child entry (he was fine, by the way) makes it sound like we were procuring water as a heroic gesture. This is entirely misleading, since what we actually did was sit and stare as everyone else ran screaming to help:
Clare: “Wow, there’s a kid on fire over there.”
[ Clare and Leslie watch as child attempts to escape from his flaming shirt. ]
Leslie: “Dude. Stop, drop, and roll.”