Wednesday, September 23, 2009

FU REI Salesman

September 20, 2009

The REI salesman in Denver sized me up as the Jewish American Princess that I am pretty quickly and told me that I probably wouldn’t ever use my Leatherman knife.

1. bad salesman because he was telling me not to buy something

I just used my Leatherman to dice up about 25 pounds of onions. Probably not what a Leatherman is usually used for, but that’s besides the point. Yeah, we eat A LOT of onions here, but this was still a ridiculous quantity. At least we had a really good meal of chicken, pasta, and the mountain of onions I cut up. Hilarious side note about pasta: The first time we had pasta I used the French word pate and they told me it was macaron, like macaroni, so the next time we had pasta I called it macaroni, but it was spaghetti so they laughed that I didn’t know what spaghetti was. Yesterday I called it spaghetti, but it was actually vermicelli. They use the actual word for the pasta here. So, my family thinks I’m an idiot for not knowing specific kinds of pasta and they now ask me if I like each specific kind… since all pasta doesn’t taste the same when boiled so long it effectively turns into mush…

Chopping onions was pretty much the most exciting part of my day. I tried to take a nap in the afternoon since I was up watching a hair weave/ goat being slaughtered until 2:30am last night, but it’s super hot again and hasn’t rained since I got back to the home stay so there’s been no relief. I went to Tamar’s house to bitch for a bit and then Byron came over to my house which was both nice and slightly annoying since he refused to speak to me in anything except Wolof.

As for my family, their actions today made no sense to me as usual. Last night my siblings put on semi-nice clothes to sit around with their friends, but tonight they put on their best outfits to sit around and watch TV at home. My sisters literally put make up on for hours as we watched TV and didn’t do anything. Everyone was dressed up for each other I guess. I wanted to go to bed early since I was exhausted so I started to get ready at about midnight until my mom freaked out because we hadn’t had dinner yet. I thought we were just having the one huge meal we ate in the afternoon, but oh no I had to eat the leftovers at 12am. My family just cannot understand that the only thing I want to eat that late is a slice of cheesy bread from Mike at In&Out in Ann Arbor. I don’t want some greasy, cold onion pasta combo. I hate eating as late as we do here and I like eating late! Ah!

Now, for an observation I’ve been thinking about a lot. The past few days my family has dressed up for the end of Ramadan… I forgot/ didn’t even think to pack my nice sandals and make-up that are currently hiding out in the center in Thies. Random people all over will tell me I’m beautiful to illicit money or an impromptu marriage proposal/ offer of a green card from me. My appearance has never been so conspicuous, yet, it’s never mattered less. It’s weird. I look like crap every day. Sweating profusely, no make-up, wet hair in a pony tail, and my clothes are already getting stretched out from hand washing, plus being white here is kind of a big deal. People are always looking at me, studying me, and screaming toubab at me, and I never think about what I look like. Not even at the center, when surrounded by Americans, do I really think about what I look like. Although I definitely think a lot more about how I smell at the center! I don’t really find this new found lack of beauty regimen liberating nor do I think I spent too much time or put too much emphasis on appearance in the States (if I could lay in my closet and just soak in the beauty of my clothes right now I would) it’s just another thing about Africa that’s different.

Well, I hope everyone’s looking sexy back at home. I’m going to sweat it out for the night under my mosquito net.


  1. Alyssa, you are the most beautiful girl on the planet. If I could kiss your cheeks right now I would be the happiest person on the planet and I don't care how badly you smell!

  2. BTW Do you remember that I told you that guy was an idiot when we were shopping at REI for the knife? How is the mosquito net he sold you? Is it as good as he claimed? Maybe you could update us on the usefulness of your original packing list and the pharmaceutical kit the PC gave you. Have you worn the black dress?