Friday, October 1, 2010

My First Dinner Party in Tchekpo

I had promised to invite Toussaint (I’ve been spelling his name TwoSain since we met, and recently discovered it was spelled Toussaint, so I will start using the correct spelling.) and his family over for a meal.  They live just up the road from me about two city blocks distance.  Toussaint has helped me with so many things since I arrived in Tchekpo.  I wanted to repay his kindness.  Toussaint loves his family; that is evident.  I admire how hard he works, and how much he does in the community.  He teaches primary Catholic school in a neighboring village, thirty miles away, and rides his bike to and from work every day.  His moto broke down, and he can’t afford to fix it right now. When I asked him to bring his family for lunch, he was very happy.  He double and triple checked the time and date with me for the week prior to the lunch.  We had settled on Sunday at 1pm.  Sunday after church seemed like a nice time to have them over.

Toussaint is very involved in the Catholic Church in Tchekpo.  He took me to his church when I first arrived in Tchekpo, introduced me to everyone, and made sure that I had a front row seat.  He works with the church youth groups, sings in the choir, and he reads some of the prayers during the mass.  He also has quite the cute dance moves, when they all get up and have a procession through the church during the offertory.

I fretted over what to cook for them.  Not knowing what they might and might not like, and also not knowing if what I cooked would turn out well.  Aloughba and Toussaint had been to my house for impromptu dinners, but this was different.  I wanted this to be special.  I decided to prepare Spanish rice.  It seemed like something I could do, something they might like, and also maybe slightly different than their daily fare, yet not too different.  Togolese eat a lot of rice and tomato sauce concoctions; this just had a little different twist to it.  On Saturday I walked to the marche, and picked up all the ingredients I didn’t already have.

Toussaint, Celestine, Philomene and Desire
I went to church on Sunday, and got home about 11, which gave me about two hours to prepare the meal.  I made Spanish rice, a tomato and cucumber salad with oil and vinaigrette dressing.  I also made garlic toast, and tapioca pudding for desert.  I put a tablecloth and flowers on the table.   Toussaint is somewhat overly eager about everything, so I wasn’t surprised that he and his family showed up at noon instead of one.  I was pretty much ready for that.  (I really wanted a whiskey sour about now, but settled for grape Crystal Lite.) Toussaint’s wife’s name is Celestine; his daughter is Philomene; and his son, Desiree.  They are a beautiful family, inside and out.  Celestine, is quite beautiful, and  has a radiant smile, which both Philomene and Desiree have inherited.   I had met Celestine a few times in the marche and also very briefly at their house.  Celestine sells ponja (African fabric) and flip-flops at the Tchekpo marche.   Celestine and I had greeted each other at church, but she was always very quiet and reserved.  I had wondered if maybe she didn’t like me.  Maybe I had taken up too much of Toussaint’s time.  But at the dinner she was very friendly.  She seemed very glad to be here for lunch.   During lunch I discovered she only speaks Ewe, which explained why she hadn’t talked much to me previously.  She didn’t say much during lunch but Toussaint would translate everything that was said…..and Tousssaint doesn’t really know much English, so again, communication was a mish mash of words, hand waving, laughing and pointing.  The kids Philomene and Desiree were taking it all in.  Every time I would look at Philomene and Desiree, they would flash this delightful shy smile.

Dinner was nice.  Toussaint said a prayer before we started eating.   To my pleasant surprise, they seemed to really like the Spanish rice and all of the food, as they each had two or three helpings of everything.  There were no leftovers.  Celestine helped me with the dishes, and then they went on their way home.

Philomene and Desiree showed up at my door about an hour later.  I wasn’t sure why, but then I saw that they wanted to get into my basket of art supplies.  They stayed and colored and played with stickers for about an hour.

Toussaint told me that Celestine wants to have me over for dinner.

It was really, a very nice way to spend the Sunday afternoon.

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