Monday, December 04, 2006

Ti a yebi, mbada warga.

If you're lonely, make tea.

I saw the truth of this Fula proverb first hand yesterday morning.

A lazy Sunday morning found me sitting in the shade, across the street from Naw's shop.

"Dafa weert," Naw complained. "It's so quiet."

Our street is full of foreigners, and even the Senegalese who live there act like foreigners--which means they don't hang out on the street. Being home, means being inside, and on our dusty road, on a Sunday, tumbleweeds would not be out of place. A ghost town.

On a weekday, there's decent foot traffic. Maids, drivers, taxis, construction workers, random people with things to sell.

"Madame? Madame, vous vous maquillez?" (Madame, do you wear make-up?)

An extremely polite cosmetics dealer wandered by about a week ago, and displayed his wares with all the aplomb of central casting's door-to-door salesman. He pulled out from his duffel bag all manner of fancy perfumes, lip balms (à la base de fraise--strawberry-based), and an Aveda make-up kit with eye-shadow, blush, and assorted brushes.

It cracked the boys up, and they snickered equally at my polite dismissals ("thanks," "merci") and my response to his earnest "Do you wear make-up?"

"No, not often."

It's become Naw's favorite joke. Every time he sees me, he turns to me with a disingenuous expression and asks, "Madame? Madame vous vous maquillez?" with his terrible French accent.

Friday is prayer day in this Muslim country, but Colonial habits are hard to break, and so Sunday is the day of rest. People stay home from work and that happens in neighborhoods far from where I live.

So Naw and I sat, just the two of us, chatting about our lives, loves, and relationships, for nearly an hour. Just before 12, he said, "let's make tea."

And in the time it took to gather the ingredients from his shop, and pull over the charcoal grill to our other shady sitting spot on the stoop at the corner, the world appeared.

Before the water boiled, there were no fewer than five people sitting on the mat with us on the stoop, and more people wandered back and forth.

Tea is a ritual that takes at least two hours, from start to finish. The tea, a matchbox-sized carton of green tea, is boiled strong and dark, with a lot of sugar. It's served in three rounds, each one less strong and more sweet.

But the most important part is the frothy foam. The pictures from my last post show the intricate process, which involves pouring the tea from one glass to another, back and forth, from as great a height as possible. It incorporates air into the tea, and eventually as much as half the tiny glasses fill with the foam.

After the foam is ready, the tea goes back in the pot for reheating, depending on the preferences of the tea maker. Then he—very carefully, to keep the loose tea leaves from pouring out—pours the hot tea into the frothy glasses. He passes around the glasses, and each person slurpily sucks down the tea, leaving the foam in the bottom of the glass for the next person's serving.

I stuck around for an hour and a half, through the first two rounds of tea. But the third round is too weak for my tastes, and it was time for lunch and to get ready for my afternoon activity.

But I left Naw in good company—surrounded by cousins and friends teasing each other in Fula.


Blogger Scooter said...

Thanks for the explanation of how they have their tea.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Susan Oseen said...

great blog!

1:31 AM  
Blogger jeanne said...

I made tea tonight! I plugged in my electric water heater, and pulled a tea bag outta the's not the same!

and what pics? Where??? Must investigate!

11:54 PM  

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