A small dose of America

Gaya Morris - Senegal


December 6, 2009

Off in search of a pot of jam (to add some fruit to my diet), some face wash (to remedy the annoying spots due to an excess of oil in Senegalese cooking that tend to provoke the question: did a mosquito bite your face?) and some interesting candy (to bring home to every person who upon learning that I would be going to Dakar, requested that I bring home a present), Victoria and I stumbled upon a sort of mini-America in Dakar: a modern supermarket. We had been to smaller versions of this westernized grocery store called Casino, but never one like this. Already driving into the parking lot and seeing the enormous facade, I sensed that something wasn’t quite right.

I guess I don’t really need to describe it, because we all know what it looks like. No need to delve into the details of a scene that stands for home, familiarity and common. Arriving back at Rachel’s house (we GCY fellows were Dakar for the day), Victoria and I attempted to explain, all shaken up as if we had seen some incredible, alien cultural event.  Big ceilings, brights lights, so much ice-cream, lots and lots of tubabs wearing scandalously short shorts, little kids singing jingle bells, cat food. There were even chestnuts. But the rest of the group kind of looked at us amusedly like, yeah so…. been there, seen that.

And its not like we had forgotten places like that existed. It was just such sudden shock to find one like that here in Senegal. Take any typical ’boutique’ to be found probably within view of the shopping complex, a boutique like any the average Senegalese person visits daily. Just a counter with a jumble of goods stuffed in compartments on the wall behind. Some jars of candy of cubes of maggi in jars on the counter….strings of spice sachets and bundles of pepper and salt hanging from the ceiling.  The next day I would be going to the market in Sebikotane with with one of the women of my house, watching slimy, sandy, fly spotted fish be hacked apart with machetes on sheets of plastic. We’ll plop the whole fish into the plastic basket with all the vegetables and a pile of bisap leaves and walk home.

The juxtoposition so completely existent, so close, was an incredible thing to experience. I can’t even imagine what it’ll feel like the first time I go to Stop and Shop back in Himgham, after five more months. But I don’t think it’ll be quite the same because I will be expecting it.

Gaya Morris