Chapter 9: Welcome to My Yankee Candle Store (Senegal Edition)

Xandra Coleman - Senegal


January 10, 2019

We were floating on the Pink Lake, a lake with a higher salt concentration
than the dead sea. Around me, friends were harping on the strong saltine
smell, I, on the other hand, closed my eyes and found myself transported to
the inside of a Philly Pretzal Factory. Back in September the smell of Lac
Rose served as a friendly whiff from home right when I needed it. After
that experience I began to become more aware of the other sents surrounding
me in my new environment.

I believe there are some nearly universal smells that unite people. Take
fresh baking bread. Every morning I get the pleasure of walking past my
neighborhood bakery along with ladies frying bené (similar to a munchkin).
I smile catching the whiffs of the hundreds of baguettes being baked for
the day and the hundred more tasty bené treats. For me, it brings me to
happy memories of sitting on the tall chairs at the island in my
grandparents kitchen reaping the rewards of my grandmother’s hard work,
fresh baked bread straight out of the oven with some butter. Yum. I imagine
that some memory, place, or emotion floats to mind whenever the whaft of
fresh bread passes your nose as well.

I am excited to say that there are now some smells that will forever
transport me back to memories of Senegal. The strong spiced coffee smell of
Café Tuba definitely hits the list. I will forever be reminded of the time
my friend and I were roped into making café tuba and buying biscuits to
give out to the community. We sat outside her house as evening fell serving
coffee heated in a bottomless pot to passersby.

Fragrent perfumes will forever remind me of naming cermonies where the new
mother, dressed in her best and all glammed up, will sprit guests with
newly purchased perfumes before they go off to dance or enjoy the food and
company. It will remind me of sitting in circles of women as they begin
their meeting for the collection of money and distribution of loans. The
smell of five different strong perfumes filling the air as one lady asks
for her merchandise back or her fee.

I can confidently say that I will forever associate the unique smell of a
freshly killed chicken with Senegal. I’ll forever be taken back to the
memory of watching a young man behead three chirping chickens outside the
kitchen as I peeled potatoes. I then sat breathing in the smell as my Yaay
plucked away the feathers and cleaned the meat. After a quick mental thank
you to the chicken and a prayer for its happy afterlife, I ate well that
night. Chicken, lettuce, onion sauce, raw vegtables, and bread. Everyone
went to bed with a full stomach.

When I return home, I also fear my hands will continue to smell
permanently of onions. Each meal peeling a dozen, and for special events
three or four times the amount. If anyone wants to race me in onion
peeling or chopping, be ready for a swift defeat.

I wonder if there are some smells, I may never smell again when I leave
here in just a couple months. The incense my Yaay burns nearly every night,
the smell of the kitchen as three women stand cooking ceeb bu jen, or even
bisop being boiled to make popsicles in plastic bags or water bottles. My
only solution: take more time to close my eyes and soak in the scents.
After all, we all live in a real life Yankee Candle Store.

Xandra Coleman