Heather in Senegal

Saturday, June 03, 2006

June 1
Yesterday I got myself a beans sandwich and a glass of tea for breakfast. The tea is pink, with foam on top, and it tastes like a hot milkshake. Delicious. It was my first time going to a beanlady alone. I was so pleased to have eaten out on my own.
Beanladies are wonderful women. They are all over the place, and a delicious and cheap source of food. This is sort of like describing how going to a gas station works, but my mom found it interesting, so here is a description.
A bean sandwich costs 100 cfa. For some perspective, sending a letter to the US costs 550 or 650 cfa. Beanladies are in cities across Senegal. Each sits in a small square tent with a table in the center and wooden benches around it. On the table are her beans, bread, knife, pepper, cups, and maybe a bowel of meat. She usually has tappalappa (the local bread) and a white bread. Both are shaped like long thing baguettes. She cuts a piece about the length of my forearm and smears a generous amount of a bean and onion mix inside. She has black pepper, hot red pepper, and sometimes mayonaise that can be added. I have been advised to stay away from the mayo, at least until I think I already have ameoabas. She gives you the sandwich wrapped in newspaper. You sit on your bench and chat or don't chat with the other customers until you are finished. Then you pay, crumple your newspaper, and drop it on the ground. It is hard to get used to the fact that the land here is viewed as one endless garbage can. While morally it feels lousy to toss things by the side of the road, it is awfully convenient to be able to fling away banana peels and other trash. If I ever decide to stop having both lunch and dinner with my family, I think I will become close friends with a beanlady.
Family meals - These are usually pretty tasty. Some sauce, a few vegetables, and a bed of rice or millet. If the family is having chunks of meat they make me a seperate plate. Today I helped with the green sauce and discovered that ground up dried fish goes into even the most vegan-looking dishes. I shall try to focus on the taste. If I am sitting with them we all crowd around one bowl. Most of us use spoons. There is usually little to no discussion. Some of us sit just above the ground on low wooden stools, and the rest squat. Meals are late. Lunch is around two, which is long after my eight o'clock breakfast. Dinner is around ten. Once Peace Corps sends me a refrigerator I might opt out of the family dinners in favor of having time to digest before going to sleep.
The man who is making my furniture made his first bamboo hula-hoop last week. He thought it an odd concept, but he made it very well and gave it to me for free. I think the spectacle of me giving it a test run outside his shop paid for the circle.


At 4:56 AM, Blogger Justin Land said...

You want to have some hula hoop races. Hope all is well down your way. Dakar, well its Dakar and it smells. Talk to you soon...jland

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Mom said...

Dearest Heather,

Had the neighborhood children seen a hula-hoop before, or did you introduce it to them? Does one made of bamboo work as well as a plastic one?

Keep yourself SHH!

All my love,

Mom (:-)

At 12:11 PM, Blogger alau said...

yum! those bean sandwiches sound lovely! I could use one right now...

wishing i was not in a cubicle farm right now...

At 4:46 AM, Blogger Heather said...

Hula-hoop: The kids had not seen one before. I tried to get them interested, and although I was able to convince many of them to try it, none seemed especially taken with it. It does work well, but because it is not perfectly flat it is difficult to spin it around my neck and shoot my arms up more than about four times before it falls back to my waist.


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