Grocery Shopping in Kafountine


Yaseem has asked us to let her know what we would like to eat for lunch and dinner. Since everything we eat is locally grown and fresh, we decide to visit the open air market to see what vegetables and fruits are available. Since Jessica’s luggage has yet to arrive she will be shopping for a few outfits to wear until her luggage arrives.  I am going along as the photographer.

We concentrate on the village to the left of the clinic; to the right is the section of Kafountine that houses the European hippie, eco-green hotel, restaurants and stores—the tourist section.

On the corner of the clinic is the Mini Marche, which is a very small version of your corner store. It has the things that a small urban corner store has, but with sodas (Cokes made with sugar!) and beers that are not quite cold and no frozen foods. It sells French wines and liquor; the half pints of hard liquor are kept on a low shelf out of the eyes of customers.  There is WI FI access here and the owner never has change; a good way to get you to spend more money.

Downtown Kafountine consists of dusty, pot-holed roads just like the ones upon which we traveled to get here. They are lined with corrugated metal roofed stalls, most without electricity; and each stall has a specialty. There are larger one-room, one-level, brick stores, usually selling hardware or home supplies. Oh, there are numerous coiffeur stalls featuring hair weaves and wigs, barber shops and butcher shops.  Kafountine does not have a bank or ATM; the Western Union is open 5 days a week for a few hours, but it closes at noon on Friday and does not open again until Monday morning.

Most businesses close down for part of Friday, the Muslim Holy day; many businesses are open on Sunday.

We walk down the dusty main street with a stream of onlookers; we are considered “Toubab,” politely translated as “tourist” but also meaning a person of European ancestry; we are not reviewed as the “returning African sistas.” Their knowledge of who we are and how we got to be is practically nonexistent except for those who have seen a part or all of the “Roots” series. Makeda with her waist length locks and African centric clothing, Jessica with her light skin, me with my hair cut short; we are not recognizable as being one of Africa’s children by our folks Back Home.  A question soon asked of us is, how did we get such light skin (did we bleach it?) and are our parents white.

We make our way to the open air vegetable and fruit market. These stands are set up just like the ones all over the world, except the vendors are all women! One vendor has her section and displays her produce; the vendors work together referring you to other vendors if they do not have what you want and making change for each other. Getting change is a big challenge in Kafountine!

What fresh produce do they have?  Eggplant, tomatoes, onions, many types of potatoes, lettuce, sweet potatoes, string beans, papaya, oranges, limes, mandarins, bananas, cassava, and avocado. There is no okra. EVERYTHING INVOLVES BARTERING—only the things in the Mini Marche are a fixed price.

Jessica buys an outfit from a woman who has a street stand. I visit the 3 stalls of fabric and plan my next shopping adventure. Much of the fabric is made in Senegal, Gambia and Nigeria; the lesser quality items are made in China; the prized bissan riche fabric is made in some place I do not remember.  There are very few stalls that sell ready-made clothes. The influx of ready-made clothes has had a substantial adverse impact on Senegal’s economy.  Until recently everyone had their clothes made at the neighborhood tailor.  Now the young folks want to dress like the people on TV and in the movies and like the Europeans who visit here. You see a few older teenage boys walking around in second- hand European and American clothes; a broke-down brimmed hat and long coat, trudging down the back roads of sand.

Since I have the camera I accumulate an army of children who want their photos taken and then to see themselves in the camera.  Every one of them has a snotty nose and many a low cough. Remember, whooping cough is still a problem in Africa.

I treat myself to a luke warm Corona beer and head back to the compound to deposit the groceries and get back to the clinic.

See my photo albums for some images of our shopping trip.