It all started at a Thieb. shack.
This restaurant is a team favorite. We eat here at least twice a week and we’ve dubbed it “Princess Michelle’s from the region Point E.” That’s not really the name of the restaurant, but nonetheless all of the Toubabs in Dakar now know it as Michelle’s. Thieb (also known as Thiebou Diene) is Senegal’s national dish and it is SUPERB! Michelle is owner and chef maîtresse. She’s one of my favorites.
Anyways, Shannon and I were meeting with a student named Beegaye one day at Michelle’s. She only speaks French, so we had some language difficulties. She was giving Shannon a hard time for not knowing French or Wolof, so I decided to one up her (cause let’s just be honest, that’s what Jesus would do). I started throwing out all the Mandarin phrases I knew. “Nihau!… Boo yow ni ga danchi.” Whitney told me that means, “Hello, your stuff is too expensive.” Who knows what that really means… and that’s also where my Mandarin ends.
“Ah, bon! Tu parle le chinois!” Yes Beegaye, I know Chinese. Now quit giving my friend a hard time about French! We then continue our conversation about how I learned Mandarin. “Where did you learn Chinese?!” I responded with, “My friend Jackie taught me. He’s really talented at karate. His name is Jackie Chan.”
At this point, I really couldn’t keep a straight face. She didn’t really understand my French, but luckily the man next to her translated into Wolof for us. After we get done with our conversation, our handy-dandy translator looks at me and says in English, “You’re hilarious. I lived in America for 17 years and have seen Jackie Chan movies.” HAHA! He caught me! I ended up telling her the truth that I didn’t really know Chinese I was just trying to make a point about hassling people about language. She thought it was funny, but not nearly as funny as I thought it was.
Later that day, I went somewhere in a taxi and had not satisfied my desire to talk about Jackie Chan with Senegalese people. My taxi driver began talking to me in Wolof [the nation’s first language]. He was amazed that a Toubab [foreigner, mostly applied to white people] spoke Wolof. Here’s how our conversation went:
Naanga def?-him [How are you?]
Maangi fi.-me [I am here. [I know it doesn’t make sense to me either]]
Yow, degg na Olof?-him [You, you know Wolof?]
Man? Degg na tutti rekk.- me. [Me? I only know a little.]
Ah, bahkna! Hammga jekker?-him [do you have a husband?]
Waaw waaw. Hamga jekker.-me [Of course I have a husband]
Sama jekker, Jackie Chan laa tudd.-me [My husband, his name is Jackie Chan]. At this point I start cracking up.
Deguma dara.- him [I don’t understand]
Jackie Chan, tu connais l’acteur Chinois.– [Jackie Chan, you know, the Chinese actor.]
Deguma Jackie.-him [I don’t know who Jackie Chan is].
I then had to explain in my broken Wolof that’s seriously on life-support that I didn’t really have a husband. I was just joking with him. And then I accidentally told him that I was a “say-say,” which in this context has two meanings. It could mean “a jokester” or, well let’s put this kindly, someone who plays the field for their own personal gain. ugh… #facepalm. That’s what I get. “No, I don’t really have one husband. I play the field.”
And that’s the story of one: how I found out that no one in Senegal knows who Jackie Chan is and two: I should probably quit trying to pull people’s legs because jokes like that don’t translate here.