We all piled into a bus a little after 6pm....Sundown and the Ramadan fasting would end around 7:45pm. So the trusty bus and our awesome driver, Matar, start to navigate Friday rush hour in St. Louis. we get dropped off in twos, all of visiting with our roommates. Suffice to say that personally I have been very fortunate in this department---Brandon and I seem to get along famously and do quite a bit of laughing at the daily machinations of existing in Senegal. There is a considerable bit of trepidation in the bus as each group gets dropped off. A local affiliate of WARC has provided us with a nice young woman who, along with the ever present Ablei and Marie, exits the bus, introduces us all to an enthusiastic woman of the house, and then leaves. When it is our turn, we offload, and are introduced to a bundle of energy named Issa. She is a primary school teacher who hasn't spoken English in 25 years and her demeanor is infectious. Turn out her whole family is in the teaching profession. Her husband, Mahmoud, a wonderful, kind, loving, and quiet man is a former history teacher. Her son teaches Spanish in high school which makes for great conversation. His wife, Ida, cooks the whole meal basically, and she is a master. They have two kids, a 2 year old consumption expert, sound explosion, and future ambassador named Ousmane, and a beautiful 4 year old girl, (Adnima?)She also has a sister, Clarice, who'd basically the star. She speaks wonderful English, lives in an upstairs apartment in the compound, and is a comedienne beyond compare. there is also a mother of the folks mentioned above who makes a brief appearance. the family apparently also has a creative gene because they all discuss a famous uncle, pictured with a clarinet on the wall---as well as a musical/artist brother. We are laughing from the moment of arrival. Everyone in the family needles each other good naturedly. Brandon and I feel at home pretty darn quick.
The first course is coffee, dates, and some really good local bread. The a delectable salad of cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, olives, eggs, onions, peppers, squash. We then spend a while looking through some photographs of Issa's---working with a woman's cooperative in the area---growing vegetables through a micro-loan program. Clarice interjects from time to time----she is hungry---and says to her sister that no-one is interested in that stuff. Finally, a huge platter of chicken, rice and vegetables arrives.
More to come here--sorry----we have a full day of lectures at the University here. I' now have received at least 3 emails from colleagues back home exhorting me to "enjoy my vacation". Hmmm.