Immersion Through the Lens of a Looney Toon

Becky McClements - Senegal


January 9, 2013

Written November 3, 2012:

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m escaping the unfathomably hot sun with my host dad in the shade of the mango tree in our compound. One of our neighbors, an incredibly goofy woman with a great sense of humor and dance moves to boot comes strolling up to us, swinging a big yellow bucket, which she wordlessly hands to my father and continues on her way home. I lean over to peak in the bucket and see that it contains a rather large, dead rabbit. I don’t know whether it was the heat or fatigue or some sort of crazy brain block, but I couldn’t figure out why in the world my dad would be so happy to be handed a bucket full of what looked suspiciously like road kill. I put my confusion out of mind until we sat down to dinner and I noticed the chucks of meat scattered though out the rice. Pondering how this was possible because meat was only available to us on market days, I finally put two and two together.

As I took my first ever bite of rabbit (it tastes sort of like a really gamey steak if you were wondering,) I couldn’t help but remember a Saturday morning Looney Toon sketch I used to watch religiously with my brother and sister. Every episode features Elmer Fudd, a particularly plump hunter with an unforgettable lisp, trying in vain to catch Bugs Bunny. Inevitably he has all his snares and traps back fire on him, creating thirty minutes of what most toddlers and I consider comedic genius. When Fudd’s classic catch phrase, “Shhh! We’re hunting wabbits!” crossed my mind, I couldn’t contain my amusement any longer and let out a series of muffled chuckles. My family was immediately concerned, mainly because they thought I was choking at first, but then they became curious as to what the source of my amusement was. I did my best to explain to them in my broken Pulaar that I’d never eaten rabbit before and it was funny for me to be eating an animal that is considered a household pet in the states. I think they eventually understood what I was trying to say or at least pretended to. The whole experience got me thinking though, about poor Elmer Fudd and the futility of his situation.

Fudd is doomed to forever pursue his “wascally wabbit.” If he ever reaches his goal and catches Bugs Bunny, the cartoon would be done and no longer interesting or funny watch. As the audience, you are in on the secret and know Elmer will never catch Bugs Bunny, but he keeps trying with renewed enthusiasm each time. As I chewed on a rather over cooked piece of rabbit, I was struck by the how much I sympathized with Mr. Fudd. As a Global Citizen, my main goal for this year is to become immersed. I am supposed to know a new culture like the back of my hand and live it fully. I have to speak and act like a Senegalese person.  I have to do what they do the way that they do it. In extremely simplified terms, my goal is to be Senegalese. But even if I lived here for ten years, spoke perfect Pulaar, and acted like the ideal Senegalese women, I would still be inherently different. But that’s okay, because if I did somehow become Senegalese within the next five months, the rest of the experience would just be life, instead of this crazy adventure that’s both comical for me to
experience and for others to watch. This is the lens through which I am looking at the rest of my adventure. I am Elmer Fudd and the Senegalese identity is Bugs Bunny. It is elusive and crafty and just when I think I’ve caught it; it slips away into another complexity of culture. I know I will never entirely grasp the Senegalese identity, but that won’t stop me from trying, and hopefully making some hilarious and incredible memories along the way. So everybody… Shhh! I’m hunting wabbits!

Becky McClements