The land of Teranga

baobab tree

I’m busy in my kitchen putting the grocery shopping away when my mobile pings.

“Fiona, are you there?” It’s a message from Dorothy.

Sigh, why doesn’t she just call me? So I answer: “Yes, hello!”

“Are you home?” She’s testing the field.

“Yes, with boyfriend and baby.” I answer to truth. “Why, what’s up?”

“I’m cooking bolognaise sauce but I need a mixer.” Dorothy sends me a picture of a big pot full of bolognaise sauce. “Can I borrow your mixer?”

For a moment, I’m wondering why she needs a mixer for her bolognaise sauce, but I decide to just stick to the subject at hand: “Yes, sure. But it’s called ‘return’.”

“I will bring it start back but I need to mix the days.” I suspect there’s something wrong with Dorothy’s auto-correct. She needs to mix something. What exactly, I’ll just leave that in the middle for now.

“Yup yup, come pick it up.” Always a good excuse to see Dorothy. She’s such fun.

Five minutes later the doorbell goes and we open up to a very happy Dorothy wearing a pink frilly apron, her hair pulled back in a messy bun.

“Hello darling!” She kisses me hello.

“Care for a drink?” I ask her in good humour.

“OK, why not. Do you have anything non-alcoholic?” She asks looking around the kitchen.

“For a matter of fact I do. A friend of mine bought me this bottle of non-alcoholic cocktail drink. You should try it, it’s delicious.” And I show Dorothy the bottle filled with a pink fizzy looking liquid.

“Looks like that’s full of sugar.” Dorothy says, but she accepts a glass of the bubbly nontheless. “When are you off on vacation again?”

“End of August. Taking the littles to the Dutch coast.” I remind her.

“Oh I love the coast line in Holland too.” Dorothy dreams off. “My ex-boyfriend took me there and it had these high sand dunes and a little café where we could stop for lattés.”

“Mmm, delicious isn’t it.” I nod at her. “And then end of October, I’m off to Senegal.”

“You’re going where?” Dorothy’s eyes are almost popping.

“I’m off to Senegal. That’s in Africa, you know.” I tell her again.

“What, with the kids?” She asks me looking incredulous.

“Yes, with the kids.” I answer, and I emphasize: “Just me and the kids.”

“Your boyfriend isn’t going?” Dorothy looks at me like I’m from some alien planet. “Why isn’t he going?”

“Wim doesn’t like to travel.” Is all I can say about that. “And it’s going to be just great. It’s a guided tour. A vacation organized by a tour operator uniquely for families with children. We’ll be going all around Senegal, on a safari, and visiting a crèche, and the kids will learn to sing songs with the local kids.”

“What do you know about Senegal?” Dorothy is still giving me that look as if I’m crazy. “Have you even started to research this?”

“Well I know we need vaccinations against yellow fever and pills for malaria.” I start to sum up. “I know that the people there speak French, and that we should drink only tap water.”

“That’s all you know?” Dorothy’s turn is turning a little condescending now.

“Well no, I know much more than that.” I’m defensive now, because I’ll admit I haven’t done much research to date. But still plenty of time. “I know that Senegal is known for it’s hospitality. That’s why they call it the Land of Teranga. People will just come up to you and talk. They will want to touch too, because they haven’t seen many white people. They’ll probably want to touch our blonde hair. And they’ll be intrigued by our body hair, like on our arms, because they don’t have that.”

“Yes, and be careful. They’ll always want to sell something to you.” Dorothy the expert adds on. “And black men will want to do gigolo stuff with you, because you’re a rich European cougar woman.”

“Yes, yes, I know all about the gigolos.” I have been warned. “I also know that certain people are scared of white people, because we look like walking zombies. When black people die, they lose their colouring slightly. Which makes us look like the walking dead.”

“And then be careful of thieves.” Dorothy warns. “They’ll pull off your jewelry in plain daylight, you know.”

“I don’t wear much jewelry.” I point out. “And yes, I’ll be careful not to flaunt the abundance we live in in our Western society. I was hoping the contrast would get my children thinking how lucky they are and which differences there exist around the world.”

“Just try to blend in with the locals.” Dorothy advises.

“Oh yes, like that’s going to work.” I burst out laughing. “I’ll blend in really well, being all blonde haired and blue eyed. People won’t even notice me with my three blonde babes.”

Dorothy giggles in reply.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the Baobab trees, and the women who are using these products to drive business and change.” I tell her. “Those are the things I’m interested in. Empowering women. Giving them the chance to take advantage of the digital landscape.”

“The baobab tree, that’s like the Tree of Life in those Disney films.” Dorothy remarks. “I think I’ve seen it in the Lion King, the tree that monkey lives in.”

“Rafiki, the monkey.” I confirm. “Yes, and it’s also the Tree of Souls in Avatar. And there are baobab trees in Madagascar, the cartoon film. And it’s mentioned too in the Little Prince. You know that classic, don’t you.”

“Of course I do.” Dorothy sounds offended. “So trees. Anything else?”

“I’m hoping we’ll go to the Saloum-delta and see birds nesting there.” I’m starting to dream about the wonders of nature and a whole new world I’m about to discover.

“Darling, you know I’m going to have to go.” Dorothy finishes her drink and looks at her watch. “My bolognaise sauce needs seeing to. Are you home tomorrow?”

“Yes, tomorrow after work is fine.” I beam at her.

“You’re fantastic.” Dorothy kisses me goodbye. “But you’re still crazy to be going on such a vacation with three kids. Especially the baby.”


What do you think? Would you be concerned about traveling the world with a toddler? Let me know in the comments below.



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