Of Cucumbers and My Elevated Stress Levels.

Buying vegetables today from a favorite.

Let’s talk cucumbers.

 I vaguely remember what it was like to buy vegetables in the now unfamiliar life that reportedly was once mine. I remember wheeling a silver cart through air-conditioned, spotless Harris Teeter, and pausing at the long aisle piled high with pristinely clean vegetables. I remember pre-chopped portabella mushrooms in little cerulean cartons-and no less than seventeen different variations of pre-bagged spinach. [Superfluous? Clearly. Convenient? Blissfully.] I remember gargantuan sacks of baby carrots in a rather optimistic shade of orange serendipitously positioned next to fastidiously sealed tubs of French onion dip. I remember the precisely spaced sprinklers that religiously spritzed a delicate mist over said vegetables every thirteen and a half minutes.

 Oh, those were the days.

 Vegetable buying is a bit of a different experience in Senegal. On one of the winding dirt roads close to my apartment, there are approximately seven wrinkled old ladies with tired faces and cheerfully patterned head wraps that sell a haphazard, multicolored montage of rather defeated looking vegetables under sprawling umbrellas. They’re always there-sitting on the side of the road in the baking sun, swatting away the fruit flies and waiting patiently for the foreign girl to walk by.

 And I can’t just walk by. At the first glimmer of my dazzling white skin in the distance, I am instantaneously met with an elated chorus of “Bonjour Jolie!’ [For you southerners out there, that’s something equivalent to “Hey there, cutie!”]

 Sigh. You had me at “Jolie”.

 I know they’re simply trying to make a sale, but they’re just the sweetest, happiest things! I smile and wave, and before you can say “zucchini” seven inspiringly determined Senegalese women are all attempting to persuade me to buy their potatoes.

What’s a girl to do? They’re all so cute! I’ve found that the only thing I can do is to try and buy something from each of them. A kilogram of rather suspect carrots here, a demi-kilo of wilted lettuce there, and suddenly I wind up with literal piles of corn, onions, potatoes, beans, and limes that I never actually intended to buy.  The surplus tomatoes mocking me on my kitchen counter right now have forced me to contemplate bottling my own catsup.  Beaming, those jubilant masterminds toss extra limes and onions in my bag as “les cadeaux” [gifts], thereby forever securing my affections and ensuring that I will, indeed, be back.  

 Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to throw a salad together.

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