Adorable: (adj) inspiring great affection.
Yep, that sums up my unexpected exchange with a little 3 or 4 year-old Senegalese boy yesterday. I was walking down a long, sandy road and just before I turned onto the sidewalk of the main street, I saw two barefoot little boys ages 3 (or 4) and 5 years-old, respectively. The oldest was pushing a tire ahead of him and running after it, and the youngest was jogging along just in front of him and the tire, looking back periodically to see how fast it was going. They were laughing, and their eyes were big and bright. Naturally I smiled, too. It was wonderful to hear them giggle and find joy in something so simple in the middle of their abject poverty.
The oldest boy saw me and called out, “Salut!” The 3 year old turned his gaze to me and his smile got even bigger as he said, “Bonjour, toubab!” Toubab is the term everyone calls white people around here. He raised his hand and waved at me. I waved back and turned onto the street, walking just a little bit ahead of them. All of a sudden I felt a tiny hand clasp mine. I looked down to my left and there he was, trotting along side of me and grinning from ear to ear. I squeezed his hand just slightly and asked, “Na nga def?” (How are you?) His eyes smiled back at me and he started skipping along, still holding my hand. Then we came to where they were going and he dropped my hand and scampered off.
He was one of the most adorable little boys I’ve seen here – big, beautiful, bright eyes and a big, happy smile. I could have picked him up, hugged him and taken him home. But alas, that wasn’t possible.