Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The story of the Kankurang and Donald Duck

It’s getting to the end of summer vacation here in Senegal; meaning back to both school and work, for those lucky enough to have summers off. With summer comes many things but it will be interesting to see the regular routine of a Senegalese family when there is something to be done in the morning.
The Kankurang is something that only exists in a couple of cultures here in Senegal, mine being one of them. I am not sure how to describe him other than as a man dressed up in a outfit resembling cloth covered in something that resembles dreadlocks while carrying a machete. Now this sounds dangerous and scary, and it is. Kids find it entertaining, a game of sorts, to test just how brave they are in seeing how close they will get to the Kankurang before running. He parades around with a band of, which I assume are his friends, who chant and play drums. The singing is exactly how you know that there is a Kankurang around and kids start to worry, while showing excitement simultaneously, similar to suspecting Freddy Krueger being near. I was warned of this creature before I actually laid eyes on him which is fortunate for me because without any previous knowledge of him I may have been tempted to go up to him to see why he was dressed all funny, which would have been a been faux-pas and I am sure quite entertaining for onlookers. While walking to the bar for a drink and some dinner last night with Wilma and Whitney we ran into a Kankurang, who must have been post work, walking down the street. I thought he would have been harmless at this point seeing he was without his gang but the girls, being the vet volunteers that they are, told me that they put tree bark in their masks that gives off fumes similar to those of a hallucinogenic. Combing drugs, machetes, and kids can be a dangerous combination so I was quickly warned to stay clear from their paths and sort of law low when they are around. Well noted. (More precise information on the history of the Kankurang can be found by clicking here.
The bar for dinner was another experience in and of itself. Before entering the bar we were greeted by our friend Ablai, or Lai he told me he goes by. He and his wife, who is from Spain so a fellow Toubob (usually westerner but also white person), own a restaurant and boutique in town that sells “American” goods (off brand cereals, cheese, milk). Lai said he would normally offer us to dinner at his restaurant but the head chef, his wife, is in her native land on vacation for a month so services are paused until she returns. This is mildly disappointing because, being the great European that his wife is and understanding nutrition, she serves each of her meals with a salad. Salad does not exist here, at all, and is a great change of pace from rice and sauce. Upon entering the bar and buying us ladies a round of Trent Trois beer he told me that he was leaving in the morning to go to Dakar for the remainder of the week to stock up on more Toubob type food for his boutique. After explaining to him the importance of getting what is known as Cheetos and Mountain Dew, a request of Wilma’s I cant stand the stuff, he said he would not let us down! He then began to explain to me that his shop is not for him, he grew up here his whole life and is used to the eating habits of Western Africans, but it is in fact for us; to make serving his country seem a little more closer to home. To ensure that we profited from his trip to Dakar we told him where all the great Toubob stores were that had tiki-tiki, real, American food. Throughout the remainder of the evening Lai bought us another round of beers and dinner consisting of mystery meat on baguette for Wilma and Whitney and spaghetti on baguette for me. I am already missing the salad at Lai’s restaurant, or anything not consisting of carbohydrates.
At some point between our first beer and dinner a strange, yet familiar, voice begins to walk into the bar. Who could it be? Donald Duck, or a older Senegalese man impersonating what he believes to be as the American character. I am immediately impressed and excited to have something “American” near by, but Whitney is immediately wierded out by this seemingly creepy old man who talks in a high pitched voice. Wilma and I just laugh. Whitney tried reasoning with me that this was no Donald Duck, but by the end second beer her and Donald Duck were best friends. A talented Donald Duck, one who is versed in many languages and whom doesn’t break character. Lai offered us a ride home in his car; we are all really impressed with his car that would me moderate by American standards, and more than happy to take him up on his offer. It was the end of a great night with the girls. Intentions on being just dinner and a beer ended up being free drinks, dinner, entertainment, and a ride home. I am beginning to love the spontaneous way of life here. 


Ashley Weis said...

oh my..this is a good one! Now this Kankurang character..is there more then one of these guys in the pic? I am just in awe of it..how odd! and where is the pic of Donald Duck?! slacking kel.. :)
PS where is Wilma and Whitney from?!

Kelly Blodgett said...

I will be sure to be more on top of the picture taking next time!! And Wilma is from Cali and Whit is from Nebraska.... all over the place here in Senegal


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