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My Scholarship entry - A local encounter that changed my life

WORLDWIDE | Tuesday, 24 April 2012 | Views [849] | Scholarship Entry

Shortly after arriving in Thies I wandered off alone for the first time. The city never seemed too fierce and Senegal was constantly being toted as the country of hospitality. Yet, as a woman I was often warned to be cautious. Against all this, I found myself laughing, smiling, and engaging every person I walked by with broken French. It wasn’t long before I encountered a group of faces and attempted to give them proper Wolof greetings. They were sitting under a small tree outside the house of blazing white plaster protected by an intricate wire gate. The old lady looked at me and replied in hostile Wolof tones. Without thinking I stopped to inquire further. Her family relayed messages that she wanted to know if I drank tea. Culturally this is an invitation, but to me at this fresh moment abroad it was merely inquiring of habit. I replied with a yes, which incited the old woman to stand up and yell some more my direction while pointing at a dusty, plastic lawn chair. Not knowing what to do, I just sat down. A young man immediately ran inside and brought forth the necessary items to make tea. He started boiling the water in a small, rusty tin kettle and almost before it reached a full roll dumped in a handful of dark green leaves. An earthy aroma lifted while the rest of them overwhelmed me with questions, “Was I married? –No. Were did I come from? -U.S. Did I love Senegal? –Yes” …until my eyes caught sight of the tea being poured into small glasses. The young man had added quite a few teaspoons of sugar into the large thimble-esque cups followed by the hot tea. Back and forth he poured one cup of tea into the other until it was frothed and slightly cooled. Being the guest I received the first offering, handed it back and he repeated for another. Four hours passed wherein I learned everyone’s story, promising to return for lunch that Saturday. An invitation I kept, returning with tea and sugar for my newfound friends; perfect gifts for their lessons in terranga.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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