on teranga

gateau.JPGAll week, I have been almost-crying with frustration as I attempt to upload videos for my client in New York. My average network speed ranges from 1MB per minute to 1MB per seven minutes. Not joking. Really, really not joking. My host brother has a different service provider that goes at about 2MB per minute, which is much better, except that the uploads frequently crash. Even when uneventful, it still takes hours upon hours to get a file of less than 1GB into the digital ether. (Faster connections exist, but I can’t access them because of the neighborhood I live in. And I can’t borrow them either, because all my people with better connections are away on vacation this week.)

The ongoing upload debacle has slowed everything else down during a week when I’m frantically trying to get things done before I leave on vacation tomorrow morning. One of my errands was to print all my itineraries and reservations. There’s a shop near Cor Coumba cafe where you can hop on their computer and do printouts. I rushed in there a few hours ago ready to get to business and cross one of eight million things off my to-do list.

When I stepped behind the counter (because you’re borrowing the store’s computer as opposed to using one reserved for the public), I saw that the three employees were sitting around a shared bowl of thieboudienne. They immediately told me, “Viens manger.” I thought I might have misheard, because why would strangers invite a random person to join them in their meal – especially a meal made more intimate by everyone eating with their hand from one bowl.

I demurred. They said it again. My mood shifted from frazzled to touched. (But I still demurred, because I had just eaten and because even though it may or may not have been polite to turn them down, I just really was not in the mood for fish.)

I did my printing. On my way out they offered me attayah. Again, I was really touched, but again I declined as politely as possible. I actually don’t know why I said no this time, because I really like attayah. I think I was just in must-get-shit-done mode.

But on the walk home, I thought about how Senegalese teranga – hospitality – makes up for all the times I’ve wanted to punch a wall because the Internet is simply not moving an inch.

Back at the house, I smelled something delicious wafting from the kitchen, and Tantie told me, “I made you a cake.” She loves baking but I’ve never been able to eat any of her confections because there’s always wheat flour in them. This time she used my gluten-free saracen (buckwheat), which after lots of searching I had recently found at a supermarket geared towards ex-pats.

I am not sure if the cake was because I am about to leave town for a month or just a well-timed coincidence, but either way I thought it was a really sweet gesture.

I cannot wait to be done with my uploads and on vacation in a new-to-me part of the world tomorrow, but I’m really going to miss my adopted family and my adopted neighborhood and Senegal in general. Somehow the planet-sized ball of molten Internet hate eating away at me this week has been sublimated, by their heart and by the otherwise-amazingness of living here.

P.S. There’s no way I’m going to get around to writing anything else here before I leave (and probably not while I’m away, either), so have a lovely August and see you in a month!

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5 thoughts on “on teranga

  1. Please try not to refuse when you’re offered something if you possibly can! It’s taken me half a lifetime to learn this cultural difference (in this case between my husband’s asian family and my own English one) but now I understand how it all works and it’s really how the world is supposed to be, I think. And accepting hospitality can be life changing (though I know you already know that). Good luck on the next leg of your trip!

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