When what we know about Senegal comes largely from the news, we don’t often hear about its best qualities. (And the same is true in the US and France.) In the news we find out about the economy-crippling power cuts, the clashes in the Casamance and people setting themselves on fire – which happened in Dakar yesterday.

Soow (soured milk)

“What we don’t read or hear about is the kindness and generosity seen in daily life across Senegal,” she says, licking yogurt off her fingers. This yogurt was a gift from our friend Modou. He’s the guard for the apartment building across the street, so every time we leave the house or come home, we see Modou. And we stop to greet him and shoot the breeze a little.

Or we shoot a lot of breeze, like today. We got caught up on the neighborhood chatter, learned some new Wolof words, talked about food… and then Modou asked if we liked soow.

Soow is basically soured milk. (If you want to dress it up for American ears, you can call it ‘yogurt’.)  It’s made by putting fresh cow’s milk in a sealed container then letting it sit for about two days. When the milk starts to get chunky, add sugar and chill.

We happen to like soow (many visitors to Senegal do, so don’t let the recipe scare you off), which made Modou very happy. He asked me to get him a container with a lid so he could give us some. One of his relatives is here visiting and brought a 2-gallon bucket of soow from the village. And now a container of it is happily chilling in our fridge (because the power is on!).

Taxi ride along the Corniche in Dakar

Earlier today we received a gift from one of our taxi drivers. Headed back across town after a very fun, very long day of exploring, we were sitting in traffic on Boulevard Bourgiba. (That’s just what you do on Boulevard Bourgiba.)

A woman came by selling small plastic bags filled with chilled, filtered water in a plastic bucket on her head. Our driver motioned for her to come to the window and handed her 300 cfa, enough to buy drinks for all three of us. To put that into perspective, the daily average income per person in Senegal is 2,300 cfa.

That water was extra refreshing. As the soow will be extra delicious. Kindness and generosity flavor life in a way that make me want to savor it.