Sharing cultures is a wonderful experience, n’est-ce pas? Yeah, we’re Americans. We found various ways to not assimilate. And most of the time, it was fun. And sometimes it felt like home. And doesn’t everything American make the world a better place? Couldn’t Americans also find ways to be better through other cultures? I may add to these lists later, but here’s a start.
-Napoleon, donne-moi tes tots!
-Cherche les tiens!
-Non. Je meurs de faim!
So, we were on our way to class one morning, and very randomly, after Sarah and I stepped off the school bus, we started quoting Napoleon Dynamite in French. It got me through that two-or-so-hour lecture in a dark classroom. By golly, if I couldn’t talk about geopolitics in French, I can certainly quote a dorky American movie. A+ for me.
“And I was like baby, baby, baby, oh
Like baby, baby, baby, no…”
NON. NO. NO. No. Please stop singing that song. Stop sounding so cheery when you sing it. Stop sounding exactly like Justin Bieber when he sings it. Why are so many of the women who are returned missionaries singing this? Why does Justin Bieber sound like a woman? And how do they know so many of his songs? I sealed my lips and clenched my jaw. And I brushed my hair on behalf of Justin Bieber.
They taught. The village kids. The Macarena. There has got to be a better way to westernize and/or modernize old cultures. Or maybe in some aspects we should leave them alone. Maybe they’re better off knowing one of the worst line dances ever (the absolute worst being the Cha-Cha Slide). But to be fair, both parties benefited from dancing and laughing together. I was glad they schooled us (4-1?) in a soccer match.
Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Pringles
We personally didn’t bring these over, but they found their way ahead of us in order to comfort us. BECAUSE WE NEEDED COMFORT. These were familiar tastes, and they kept us calm. And less nauseous. But I don’t think I’ve ever drunk so much soda in all my life.
We probably helped Senegal set a record for how many times the people used the word Toubab. Sort of like Gringo. With me, they had different guesses: Japonaise (4), Chinoise (2), Corée (1). So, that was fun.
So, what temporal influences did Senegal have on us?
1. Brushing our teeth with bottled water
2. Baguettes. I will be just fine if I don’t see another baguette for a long time. (Though I do miss taking the sacrament with baguette bread. Which is probably wrong to say, but it’s true.)
3. Akon. Yes, kids. He’s from Senegal.
4. Yassa poulet. A chicken dish with rice. I probably ate it at least four times and may never eat it again.
5. Vendors. They were seriously traumatizing. The harpies on Gorée were the worst. Then maybe the guys who led us into a sweatshop warehouse. All true stories.