Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Visiting Sokone

Sokone is the home of one of our directors, Ousmane Sene. He is the current director of WARC, the West African Research Center. A dynamic personality, he is the patriarch of a large family, which we got to visit with on our way to Toubacouta. His beautiful house was the site of one of the best meals we ate while in Senegal. Below, Megan sits in the room which will soon be the site of meaningful camaraderie, serious eating, and listless chilling out after the meals have been consumed.
Notice the colorful cloth laid out for each small group that will gather around a common bowl. Strategically placed pitchers and bowls for hand-washing can be seen in this photo as well.
Diane uses a spoon at this meal. Not everyone did. Megan and I took the opportunity to use our hands. It feels like we're breaking all the rules we've grown up following. Jan prepares to take a photo in the background.
If you find yourself eating from a common bowl in Senegal, do not use your left hand. In an earlier post I told you why. Think of the meal as if it were a pizza. You may eat the wedge nearest you. If the portion of meat becomes unevenly distributed, it should be moved around in order to offer all people plenty to eat. Once you have finished, push the remaining rice and meat to the center. It's possible that a second group of people will sit around that same bowl once it has been removed from your group. Eating with your hands is expected, but utensils may be provided as well. Burping after the meal is considered a compliment. I couldn't bring myself to do that.
Ousmane's family has a beautiful, hexagonal kitchen which is separate from the house. Mosaic floors and hard surfaces are easy to clean. The kitchen staff was amused that we would want to take a picture of the kitchen prior to the meal.
After an initial greeting, and a special welcome from the children of the family and neighbors in the village, the women brought out giant gourds which would become drums. A celebration of music and dancing preceded our meal. This celebration started as a listening exercise, but soon, and one-at-a-time, the women would come to the middle of the circle and dance. By now, we'd come to understand that there would not be a dance celebration that we would be allowed to simply sit and watch. Eventually, every single one of us would be singled out to come to the middle of circle and try to put the moves on. Some of us managed passable dance moves, others of us managed to bring giggles to the locals more often than not. All of us gave it an honorable try.
The celebratory momentum picks up.
As I said, not one toubab tourist can escape the notice of the dancers. Kristine dances here.

No comments:

Post a Comment