The Peanut Queen

Eleanor Ross - Senegal


November 2, 2019

Sometimes, you need a day to mope. And, being all about self-care, I treat myself to a day like this every once and awhile. I mean, Senegal is fantastic, but some days I just miss home. Because now and then all I need is some good, wholesome, childish fun– and often it seems I can’t get that here. Now don’t get me wrong, I love it here, but the language barrier creates a different kind of fun. A fun not better, not worse, but very different. It’s no longer the effortless fun you have with your best friends, driving around blasting “Side to Side” or honking the horn to signal it’s slushie time. That life does not exist here. Like if I’m craving a blue raspberry slushie at 11:59pm and would absolutely die without it, I’m out of luck.  

And here I have to acknowledge there is no Halloween! I know; you’re shocked, confused, and sad, but I promise not as much as I am. Halloween is my second favorite holiday so I scheduled a full-on “moping day” to allow myself to grief from my loss. And I wasn’t grieving from the lack of candy, but because I was missing traditions. I was missing that good-natured childish fun. 

It was a Tuesday morning when I woke up knowing that my day of moping had arrived. Having to work from 8-12:30 and then 3-5:30, I was going to be brain-dead with all the Wolof and French I would be attempting to speak. To top it off, lunch was my least favorite dish– white rice covered with fish ball stew. Then, since Senegalese lunch is usually at 2:40, I was anxiously glancing every 10 seconds at my watch to make sure I left home by 2:45pm. In essence, I was exhausted. Finally finishing work for the day, I came home hoping and praying for a good meal. But lo and behold, it was heated-up lunch for dinner. AKA more fish ball stew. So, after shoving a few bites down, I went upstairs and played with my siblings while subconsciously counting down the seconds until 9:30 arrived so I could go to bed. Eventually, 9:30 came, and I forced a yawn, feigned tiredness, and completed my nightly “Ba suba in challah” rounds to my family members. I went into my room, locked my door, and prayed to all the gods above that I would be able to get some good sleep for once. But sleep wasn’t going to come so easily, and, as soon as I got in bed, I smelled something burning. But I didn’t really care. I mean, this was my moping day! All I could think was, “Why can’t I be left in peace just for today?” So I decided to stay in bed, and I swore that nothing, and I mean nothing, was going to ruin my sleep. But sleep wouldn’t come no matter how hard I tried.  

So, deciding to investigate the smoke, I dangerously ventured into the location of its source: my backyard. Trying to tiptoe in silence without any light (the power was out), was not easy, and when I peaked around the house to see my host siblings gathered around a burning tree, I was immediately noticed. Which, I mean if you actually think about it, is crazy because there was a tree burning in front of them, making all sorts of insane sounds while I tiptoed on my tippy-toes! But, just my luck, somehow they heard me. At this point, my undercover act was up, so I asked, “Loy def?” or “What are you doing?̈” And, in essence, their response signaled it was time to feast. 

I thought they were insane– that the Senegalese fish stew had been poisoned and now they wanted me to eat burnt tree bark. But, like most things, I was wrong. Because under the blackened tree branches and ash-covered sand was hundreds of peanuts– burnt to a crisp on the outside but perfectly cooked once the shell was cracked. And eating peanuts under the stars, I was content. I wasn’t having crazy fun, or incredibly happy, but I was content. That was, until the first peanut was thrown. 

And so my new title was bestowed onto me: Peanut Queen. And truthfully, I deserve the title as I seemed to be the bulls-eye of all of the soot and ash-covered peanut shells. Like a PB&J, I was the jelly and the peanuts were, well, the peanut butter, and everyone knew we couldn’t be separated. So, as the newly coronated Peanut Queen, I decided to use my powers to get revenge. Not because I wanted to, but because if I was covered with soot, you bet your peanuts that the others would be too. So I ran as fast as I could, chasing my siblings, ducking around trees, and tripping over sand, getting dirtier and dirtier. But they were getting dirtier too, so mission accomplished! Yet, somehow another bigger mission was accomplished too. Because I was no longer moping in my room getting ready to listen to my “Sad” playlist, but instead I was chasing my siblings around with ash-covered fingers and dirty clothes, having the good, childish fun I had missed. And all it had taken was a few incredibly dirty peanuts and a 10-foot fire to pull it out of me. That’s when I realized that good, wholesome fun is universal. You just have to let yourself feel it.

Eleanor Ross