On my return from Houston to Portland, I had the privilege of sitting next to a nice Jewish lady from Senegal whose native language is Pulaar. Well… actually she’s from the Midwest, but she’s been to Senegal a few times – and actually her native language is English, but she speaks Pulaar. She’s a linguist who specializes in endangered languages. Her main specialty is Pulaar. We had some interesting conversations and she’s a very intelligent woman.
She told me how the natives of Senegal were amazed at how quickly she picked up on the values of the various denominations of paper money there. Being illiterate, they didn’t realize that all she had to do was read the numbers on the notes! She told me how, wherever she went in Senegal, she was subject to being referred to (sometimes in a derogatory way) as “white person”. Imagine the uproar if blacks had the same experience in the Western world. At a marketplace there, a vendor accused her of being “racist” for not wanting to buy his wares. I told her it was she who was the victim of racism.
A typical Jewish leftist? Not exactly; she’s, to some extent, an observant Jew. She keeps kosher and she wouldn’t even eat my Mexican cookies. I got the (possibly mistaken) impression that somewhere in the back of her mind, she understands that racial differences are more than skin deep. She did get small doses of HBD from me of course.
I asked her about the number of words in Pulaar, and other tribal languages of that region. She explained that there are different levels of Pulaar speech, just as there are in English and other major languages. There is sophisticated Pulaar and street Pulaar. Unlike central Africa, and some parts of Eastern Africa, Senegal was not a historically isolated region. It neighbors Mali and is not terribly far from Timbuktu. The vast majority of the population, at least in the North, is Muslim. So the Senegalese are not strangers to civilization. Also, despite some recent incidents with Islamic extremists, it’s one of the safest places in black Africa. Nevertheless, I told her I worry about a fellow Jew, especially a woman, visiting such a place. I hope she keeps her own ethnic background discreet over there.
Meeting interesting people is one of the benefits of travel. Next I’ll tell you about a man I met in Merida: Cesar.