Monday, August 23, 2010

On religious pretzels and lovely western Africans

Sometimes, I feel wholly justified in sleeping for eleven hours.

At the moment I’m writing this, I just crawled out of my own bed for the first time in weeks, and I’m currently yawning, confused, and desperately trying to remember how the coffee routine in my house works.

At least I’m well-rested.

I just got back from a study tour of major American cities with an international program I’ve been working for. It was two other recent college grads and I, along with twenty lovely, if not easily distracted, western Africans. Add to that a crowded Times Square and luggage issues and vans with flat tires, and you’ll start to get an idea of my logistical day-to-day.

But there was also so so much fun. And lots of Senegalese dancing from a fantastic lady named Marguerite, who could move her hips in more directions than I think even exist. And patient French lessons from beautiful Ivorian boys, particularly on the pronunciation of vegetables, particularly concumbre. And some of the best soft pretzels I have ever tasted. (That’s where you come in.)

We were in what they cleverly call the Valley of No Wires – otherwise known as Amish country in Lancaster, PA. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel blasphemous for listening to an Ipod while driving through. And for owning a phone which is, safely hidden in the confines of a bag, deviously and sacrilegiously searching for 3G. Or at the very least, it makes you feel like some kind of technological tease, much like it would feel to eat a giant slab of chocolate cake in front of someone on a diet.

But, these pretzels. They almost make you forget about religion and blasphemy and all the man-upstairs rest for a moment. That is, until the woman at the pretzel stand tells you that the three open spaces in the dough actually represent the trinity, the twist in the center, arms crossed in prayer. But they also make unbelievable ice cream, which, in addition to being either vanilla or raspberry, happens to be completely secular.

The program is over now. I’m currently down twenty friends and trying to figure out the going rate for calls into Mali, but this is one of my favorite food memories from the trip: us sitting at picnic tables smack in the middle of Amish country, alternating bites of homemade pretzel with raspberry soft serve, racing the blaring sun as it melted cones and sundaes with reckless abandon. I don’t think I could go back without them, but you should.

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