One letter in one word changed this story completely…

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When I go for longer runs, all I take with me are a few coins for buying a bottle of water and taxi fare to get back from wherever I end up. This morning’s run ended right at a taxi stand where about 15 cars were parked. Some of the drivers were asleep in their backseats with their legs stetching out of open passenger doors. The others were sitting around a small table on wobbly wooden benches eating egg sandwiches on baguette. This little tangana café shared a wall with a buutik, a tiny shop carrying a crazy number of items in such a small space.

I greeted the drivers eating breakfast, answered a few questions including my name (I’ve learned to rely ‘Madame Diop’ rather than ‘Khady’ as it shuts down any further questions about my marital status or interest in something on the side) and walked to the open window of the buutik. More greetings. And then I asked to buy water.

Well, kind of.

I accidentally switched one letter. So instead of ‘Jaay ma ndox‘ I said ‘Maay ma ndox.‘ The results was that instead of handing me a cold bottle of sealed, filtered water from the cooler, the buutik vendor reached under the counter and scooped up water from the communal bucket into the communal cup. He handed it to me and said, “Bisimilahi” to chase away any evil spirits before I drank.

Every eye in that buutik and tangana were on me, so after whispering my own blessing over the cup you’d better believe I drank and drank and drank. (I heard one guy laugh and say that he didn’t know toubabs could drink anything but ice water.)

So here’s your Wolof lessons of the day: jaay = to sell / maay = to give. You’re welcome.

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