Food and Shots

The entire continent of Africa, as the new book King Leopold’s Ghost describes so clearly, was chopped up by the “civilized” nations of Europe:  England, Belgium, France, and Portugal.  Under the color of kindness, these nations robbed, enslaved, and killed thousands of Africans while stealing the rich produce, i.e. gold, etc., that was found there.

That vast continent today still draws world attention for other unsavory reasons:  mini-wars involving child-kidnappings, villages destroyed, and brutal destruction reflecting the problems of the Middle East.  Under another guise, religious groups in the U.S. and England especially sent preachers and priests to “redeem the souls” of the Africans, who had their own religion, thank you very much.

When my son was sent by the Peace Corps to Mauritania, a small West African country, it piqued my interest, so after he’d been there a couple of years, I decided to visit him.  A French teacher in my school decided that since I was going, he’d also take a trip, stopping in Senegal.  I warned him to be certain to get all the required (big time required) shots.  He laughed it off.

After our plane landed in Dakar, the last time I saw him on this trip was as he was being  dragged down the stairs—probable destination: a medic with a needle.  They mean business about health, so if you ever go, please get your shots.

This was all before Al-Qaida, or Isil or Isis—all the same serious warlords. But one day I received a call at the house where I was a guest.  It was the American Embassy, warning all householders to remain inside. I decided to obey, although I wasn’t certain what was about to happen.  Well, soon trucks loaded with white-clad men, yelling and brandishing weapons, began to stream past the house, demonstrating against something or someone.

Later, while walking with my son around town, I noticed a sign with the famous logo of a radical group.  I started to take a picture; my son had a fit—worried that we’d create a “scene.”  Or worse.  So, as one should when in a foreign country, I listened to the expert and hid the camera and kept walking.

There’s table behavior also that one learns. (Remember which hand to use for eating if it’s finger food … see earlier post for that.)  Being food-phobic, a disease I just made up, I always question the ingredients in the food in the bowls before me.  One day, on another trip to Africa, a large pizza-like platter was placed before us.  Ah, something that looked familiar!  So I took a large slice, and began to eat:  it tasted fine.  I mentioned that after about my third satisfactory bite.  One of the men at the table said, “Yes, it’s pigeon.  Delicious.”

I’ve always tried to ignore the source of food, especially meat, that I enjoy. I try not to picture cute little calves or their mooing mommies or daddies as I eat a hamburger or meat loaf or steak.  But pigeon! Those pretty white and gray birds who strut around my yard. It was like eating family. I quickly became “satisfied” to explain my loss of appetite.