An ‘aha’ moment inspired by the beñe lady on the railroad tracks in Tivaouane.

Marvellous John - Senegal


April 7, 2017

(In the midst of complementing her on the perfection of her beñes I forgot to ask for her name so bear with me for this anonymity)

We all want to be successful in some way or something, and we all define success in different ways. Someone once said to me that that’s why the word is ‘successFUL(L)’, because it encompasses all the definitions and I guess he has a point.

 But one of the versions of success that people mostly refer to is the ability of standing out and being extraordinary, and it is this definition that I choose to focus on today. In our everyday life we worry about being successful because our interests usually lie in  shared fields and aspects, and it seems like there is nothing special about our abilities, which makes it harder for us ‘to stand out’. This is where the beñe lady at the railroad tracks in Tivaoune comes in, because her actions and definition of success revealed an ‘aha’ moment to me . 

Beñe is a Senegalese snack that is made from fried dough. It’s is sweet and it comes in different shapes and sizes, but since I’ve been in Senegal, I can count the number of times I’ve willingly walked to a beñe stand to buy beñes on my fingers, so you can say that I wasn’t as mesmerized as some other fellows in my cohort about beñes until that faithful Thursday.

As Gloria and I walked purposefully to the cyber cafe to print out our community project we inhaled that enticing smell of fresh beñes being fried, but no matter how hard we tried, we could not ignore it, and so we gave in and walked back to purchase them. The first bite released such a euphoric feeling for both of us, and we looked at each other in amazement because we understood what the other person was thinking even though we couldn’t speak because our mouths were full.

For some (un)lucky reason we couldn’t print our project that day, or for the next two days after that for that matter, but every time we went to Tivaoune, we made sure to buy beñes from the same lady, and this persistence was the reason for my ‘aha’ moment.

You see this lady knows and understands that she is one in about a hundred beñe sellers in the whole of Tivavoune, but still she puts in so much effort into doing what she knows how to do as best as she can and her actions explains my favorite quote from the movie 3 idiots which says, ‘Follow excellence and success will chase you pants down”. 

In her daily life, she strives for excellence, which can be seen in the difference in appearance and taste of her beñes which is why ‘success’ in the form of Gloria and I who walk a fair distance to find her (all the while ignoring the other bene sellers), chases her “pants down”. As a result, I’ve come to realize that in my life i hope to attain a level of success that is born from my pursuit of excellence, not only in things that I am good at, but also in things that I am happy doing.

Here is a picture of me taken by Gloria after I took my first bite ?


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Marvellous John