Yesterday, a soldier invited me over to his house for lunch. He made his way over to where I stay and together we went to his place where we shared a meal of fufu and pepper soup and Cokes.
Fufu is hard to describe, but I will give it a try. It is made from cassava leaves, how, I don't know. It is not translucent, but it is not white. It is grayish, but not because that is it's color, it is greyish white because you can't see through it. It has little air bubbles in it and it has the consistency that is a bit more heavier then leavened dough that hasn't rested. It sits in a mound in a bowl and you use your spoon to cut a piece out of it. It sticks to your spoon and maintains its shape all the way to your mouth.
Before this, however, you pour a soup over it. The soup that was served was spicy and red. It had fish, dried fish--I'm sure it was the kind I see sold on the side of the street that I have been admonished not to eat--a lobster tail, cow meat, peppers and a whole single orange prawn perched on top. My friend, his beautiful wife and African Queen daughter shared the same bowl. You dig your spoon into the fufu and get a piece of that, gather some of the red liquid, one of the myriad pieces of meat or fish and eat, making sure not to chew the fufu. I was instructed to not chew the fufu after my first few bites where I had in fact chewed the fufu. I noticed no difference in tast and am unsure of what the reasoning is behind not chewing the fufu.
Afterwards we sat and talked. His wife is going to school at the University and is fortunate enough to work there as well. Their daughter recently was recognized as the African Queen of her school and awarded with a scholarship for a half-year tuition at her school. They showed me pictures of their daughter as she had to dress up as a queen for the contest; it was easy to see how this little girl was able to win the award, she truly looked like what I, as a westerner, would describe as an African Queen.
I am honored to have met this man and honored to have been invited into his house. He is an outstanding man and has impressed me with his professionalism, his knowledge of his trade, his devoutness to his religion, his care for his family and his hospitality to his friends. Unbeknownst to him, he has taught me a few things; he has taught me about loyalty and duty, respect and honour, selfless service and personal courage. I love seeing these traits in these soldiers and in this man. When I see these traits embodied all the way over here it demonstrates that some things transcend culture, space and time. What it means to be a good human being; what it means to be a decent human being; what it means to be human is constant and absolute. These traits may manifest themselves slightly differently from place to place but human beings must strive to allow these traits to guide their actions. I would assert that people who embody these traits especially well may find themselves at peace with those around themselves and satisfied with themselves as a person, much like my new friend.