Thursday, May 20, 2010

impossible cookies

I've now been home for about 24 hours.  The air smells really good here.  I'm working hard to not accept everything here as normal, working hard to keep the familiar strange, the strange familiar.

Things I Have Done in the Last 48 Hours that Would Have Been Impossible/Unimaginable in Daily Dakar Life
  • had Dunkin' Donuts coffee, in a big cup
  • used American money
  • used a pay phone
  • got in a car and rode on roads that had lines, speed limits, stop signs, and traffic signals
  • ate a peanut-butter (crunchy) and jelly (apricot) sandwich on whole wheat bread...and ate pork (a meat not eaten by Muslims) roast for dinner, with rhubarb pie for dessert; french toast with maple syrup for breakfast; pasta with asparagus pesto for lunch; crackers with cheddar cheese; fig newton cookies; pasta with scallops and goat cheese for dinner.  More food-related things: drank tap water, had a glass of wine (also not done by devout Muslims), used a microwave, ate on a separate plate
  • wore denim shorts above the knee, in public
  • threw my clothes in the laundry machine, and then in the dryer
  • slept on a mattress
  • turned on the faucet and expected there to be water
  • listened to NPR
I am also amazed by how many shades of green there are in this part of the world.  And how everyone here has a car.  And how early we eat our meals--lunch at 12 noon instead of 2:30, dinner at 6:30 instead of 9:30.  Eating on separate plates feels downright hostile.  I haven't yet showered--I'll do that tonight--in order to keep a bit of Dakar dirt on my body.

As I unpacked, I thought: "Is this all I brought back?"  Even with so many heavy bags, I just didn't feel it was enough.  I could not, did not, bring all of Senegal back; I cannot, will not live a Senegalese life here.  But I am not yet ready to resume my old one, in the old way.  I want to keep sharing--my food, my time.  I want time and money to be spent, not saved.  I want my days to be full as they were in Dakar...nothing really to do but find someone to do nothing with.  And I wasn't exaggerating when I told my family in Dakar that I was used to having 200 people to greet every day, and that I would soon only have 2, my mom and dad.  It is hard to go suddenly from talking with every member of my family every day to being restricted to Facebook and Skype.  My cell phone has no international plan.

And it is lonely, even as I already have friends who have reached out to talk with me, meet up and catch up.  I do want to see them, and in the way Senegalese people meet and welcome friends and visitors into their easily.  You don't "go out of your way" to do something for someone in Senegal; it's as if you exist in order to do that for that other person, and therefore, doing it doesn't disturb your life's course.  If you're eating, you invite everyone within hearing to eat with you (and no one ever says "no," but "merci, bon appetit" as a way to refuse).  If you're making tea, it's your responsibility to know how many people are near in order to prepare enough.  You live your life in constant accommodation of others.

More thoughts on all this later.  Now it's time for pictures, food-related.

Incredible diversity of cookies and biscuits.  Some candy thrown in.

Biting into a Biskrem cookie.  Yum.

Chocopain and Nescafe on the breakfast table at home

The egg rolls (called "nems") served at our going-away party at WARC.
Eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf, then dipped in sweet or spicy sauce.

Fataya, also from the WARC party.  Also yummy.

I do feel, being here amongst all that made up my life before, as if I'm waking up from a Dakar dream.  Because four months is both long enough to live naturally, and short enough to not compare to all the years I spent not in Dakar, I have to reconcile the two.  As do all of us study abroad students.


  1. The Biskrem cookie looks divine. Is that just creamy chocolate in a plain fluffy cookie?

  2. The Biskrem cookie has a crunchy, coconut-flavored outside with a chocolate-y/nutella-y cream in the middle. It IS divine. Hence the title of this post: "impossible cookies"

  3. Oooh. Coconut.

    Okay, I'm going to have to try replicating them in my kitchen. I'll bring you test batches when I'm up your way, and you can tell me if I'm anywhere near closeish. :D