Yields Glimpse of Missing Past
The Miami Herald
Small things remind
by Sarah J. Glover|
Miami Herald columnist
Leonard Pitts tries a millet drink while visiting
Tera Village. The drink is called donou, comprised
of millet and goat milk. Pitts didn't like the
taste. Pitts grimaced, "It tastes like warm
yogurt." Millet is a staple Songhay crop and the
millet drink mixture is drank daily by Songhi
us who we
Lunch is served. I am wondering how I
can get out of it.
Drink only bottled water, eat
only food prepared hot in restaurants that cater to
tourists. This is the stern warning the doctor gave me
when I told her I was going to Africa. She ran down a
list of nasty diseases to which Africa visitors are
susceptible and cautioned me to be careful about what I
put in my body.
Yet here I am, about to disregard
that sensible advice. Problem is, I can't see any way
around it. We are in the courtyard of Oumaarou
Souleymane's home. Goats are milling about, one of his
children is pounding millet in a gourd. Souleymane is
off praying and without our knowing, one of his wives
has prepared us a meal.
Is there a way to turn
that down? To politely say, "Thank you, no?"
there is, I can't think of it. So we remove our shoes
and file into the hut where the food is waiting. There
are three pots, one with scrambled egg, the other with
chicken legs, the third with a soupy porridge called
donou. Fanning at the flies that are a constant
torment, I eat a piece of chicken. With my fingers, I
scoop out a few bits of egg. But I draw the line at
Three times in the last hour, I
have been served this stuff. The first was when Koulbeye
Ousseini offered me some. The second was after I'd made
a face like Frankenstein's monster taking NyQuil and
Sarah asked me to take another sip so she could get a
picture. The third was when we went to say goodbye to
Ali Mossi and he bade us drink our
Donou is made from millet and
yogurt. It is pasty white with green flecks, tastes
gritty, sour and sickly warm.
are not around to be offended, so Sarah and I pass on
the donou. Having eaten enough to be polite, we
step out of the hut into the sun. Then I realize Kedidia
is not with us.
She is still inside, sitting
cross-legged on the floor, hungrily spooning up
donou. It is an image that stops me. Kedidia, you
have to understand, is a sophisticated woman. Dresses
with a flourish, speaks at least three languages,
travels internationally, holds advanced
She is also a Songhay woman. Somewhere
along the way, I think I forgot this. Maybe once in
awhile, she forgets it, too.
But just when you
think you've moved beyond reach of its tethers, culture
has this way of sneaking up on you, this way of reining
you by small gestures, rooting you by little things.
Suddenly you are reminded who you are. And that who you
are is about more than blood. It is also about where you
come from and the things you saw when you were
Kedidia catches me looking. She smiles.
"Sometimes," she says, lifting the spoon coated white,
"I have such a craving for this."
Sarah and I
wander away. Our guide lingers behind us sipping
donou, sitting cross-legged in the dirt.