Friday, November 26, 2010

Top Chef Senegal

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving everyone! Here's the Thanksgiving update from Senegal...

After finishing up my three day French lesson on Tuesday afternoon myself and one of the new volunteers headed to the garage to grab a car for Dakar. When we arrived at the garage it was empty, which was really weird so I started asking about cars to Dakar. People kept telling me that there weren't any and that there hadn't been any all day which I couldn't believe because the route between Thies to Dakar is always busy and you can usually get a car any time of the day. I was starting to get a little worried that we weren't going to make it to Dakar, which was NOT ok because I really needed some delicious food in my belly, when a taxi driver came up to me and said he was going to Dakar and would take us for practically the same price as a sept-place. I threw my bag into the bag, pushed the new volunteer into the car and we were off! Seven stalls/ breakdowns later and a nice little stop with the police because our driver had a suspended lisence we arrived at our beloved Ganale's for happy hour to get the night started. Bliss. Less than two hours later I had Thai Beef salad for dinner. Bliss times 2. That was Tuesday.

Wednesday morning after a delightful night actually spent in a bed, and not on the floor, at the regional house we all went to the Peace Corps office where I feverishly worked on editing the French copy of the Artisan Expo pamphlet and flyer. Katherine and I got the go ahead that everything was correct and after messing around with formatting because French countries don't use the same size paper as the US we printed everything and hit the road. Actually, we hit the road after having delicious sandwiches at one of our favorite places and doing a mass amount of grocery shopping for the regional party and for Thanksgiving. In case you aren't picking up on the theme of this post it's food not only because it's Thanksgiving, but with my America countdown progressing toward actually stepping on American soil I'm having serious issues with all food Senegalese. Especially rice which I now have to gag down. Moving on...

Tamar, Erin, and Jackie took all of the foodstuffs back to the regional house to start prepping the delicious chili and cornbread (which Katherine and I made from scratch) dinner we had planned for the regional meeting/ welcome party for the new volunteers while Katherine and I went downtown to flyer for the Artisan Expo. I'm hoping that flyering was a great success it definitely was a lo to fun. After successfully giving three businesses flyers we rewarded ourselves with ice cream, but after that it was non-spot. We went to about 20 hotels, restaurants, hair salons, and other hangouts that we knew of and one that we stumbled on by chance. Our greatest find was the European Union's offices which I spotted after walking out of a grocery store. We walked over and I sweet talked (in Wolof) our way into the building. We even got to wear sweet visitor's badges as we walked around. Hopefully the pamphlets and flyers we left there will read a lot of Westerns who might be interested in the Expo.

Once all of the flyers were gone we jumped back in a cab headed for the regional house where we helped finish the chili and made some fairly delicious cornbread. The Dakar region has really started to get into costume parties and Wednesday's night theme was the first Thanksgiving which turned into anything from early American that's hilarious. I was a pilgrim and there were several people with amazing costumes. One of the new volunteers wore all black and then had red stickers all over her body: she was small pox. Points for creativity. The party was a huge success and the giant vat of chili and all of the cornbread was polished off well before the night ended.

Thursday morning, although everyone was moving a little slowly, it was off to the races to start making food for Thanksgiving dinner at the ambassador's house. Since the kitchen at the regional house was jam packed my friends and I went to our boss's house to use her real kitchen that feature counters, knives that actually cut things, an oven that allows one to set temperatures, and air conditioning! Before tackling stuffing and squash casserole for Thanksgiving we made ourselves a lavish breakfast. We spent the next four hours sauteing, chopping, spicing, running to the boutiques and down the road in search of more ingredients, baking, gossiping, and talking about how freaking good our food was. I must say that every time volunteers cook I'm impressed with the product. With the amount of ingredient substitutes, terrible/ lack of cooking equipment, and intense desire to anything and everything that's in front of us it's amazing what delicious food made it to the Ambassador's table.

The Ambassador's house is fantastic/ another world. We tried to pretty ourselves up as best we could, but we still looked like Peace Corps volunteers. Meanwhile the house is decorated, the tables are covered with fine white linens, there's china and real silverware, and most importantly wine that's not produced in Senegal. It was a wonderful evening. An hour and a half of drinks outside was the perfect precursor to a giant meal of turkey, stuffing (ours was obviously the best), macaroni and cheese (which just made me crave my grandma's that much more), green beans, homemade bread, mashed potatoes, delicious salads, and everything else that makes Thanksgiving great. After filling ourselves to the near vomit point we weren't ready for the night to end so we walked across the street to one of Dakar's luxury hotels to sit by the pool, enjoy the night, and sip some post dinner cocktails. It was great and really felt like Thanksgiving even though we were so far from home and I was wearing a silk dress, without a jacket, outside in late November.

Today it was another delicious brunch and then a sept-place ride back to Thies and my reality for the next month. Fortunately I did have two packages from my mom and one from my grandma! Thank you so much. All of the magazines are suppressing my odd and intense desire for Pizza Hut pizza (weird I know) and Ahmed is quite occupied with his new coloring book! Thanks again!

And check out all of new Thanksgiving pictures I posted in the "Softball Season" album.


  1. Alyssa,

    Nice pictures, how many people are invited to Thanksgiving with the Ambassador? Non PCV's.


  2. I made a paper chain in anticipation you coming back to the mitten. Just saying. Paper chains are so hot right now. Side note, it was amazing to talk on the phone. Thanks again for calling.

  3. Alyssa, Glad to hear you had a great Thanksgiving. Pictures were great. Love Ma