Back to


In this Yak there are two Yaks. The first is “Tangana,” which is the Wolof word for ‘hot’. The second is “Mofana”, which is the Malagasy word for ‘hot’. Senegal is the western-most country on this continent, Madagascar the eastern-most. Both countries are considered to be the “toaster of Africa” (source: Natalie Cotter, also acceptable, Nathaly Cotter). I will preface the first yak with a quote that I found while reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance;

“No one ever travels so as he who knows not where he is going”(Cromwell {Pirsig}, 211).

I. Tangana

I mean, I sort of knew where I was going. Not really though. The previous day we had visited the roof of our program house, where we were treated to an overview of the city of Yof, Senegal. I made sure to note the approximate location of the ocean in relation to our hotel, as I secretly wished to venture there in solitude later on in the day – the proposition of getting lost was way more exciting than it was daunting. [If you find yourself in a coastal city, and you wish to locate the ocean but you don’t have access to an overview of the surrounding area, perhaps you could heed the advice given to me by Micah, which is that the onward direction of the wind is almost always away from the ocean. In the instance that it blows towards the ocean, “surf’s up brotha, get ready to get so totally pitted.” Verbatim Micah LeMasters, his words not mine].

So I made my way towards where I thought the ocean was located, knowing that if I kept going in the same direction, I’d eventually make my way there. And, after stumbling my way through clotheslines strewn across someone’s backyard, I began to hear the faint roar of the sea, an onwards wind lapping at my newly bearded, and I’m sure very disheveled, countenance. I salamu-alaykum’ed my way through dozens of curious onlookers, tacitly questioning why I had decided to walk on the unshaded side of the road. [“A-Salamu Alaykum” is the appropriated Arabic greeting used by most northern, Wolof-speaking Senegalese people. It can be translated as “peace onto you”. The usual response is “Alaykum Salaam,” or, “peace be to you as well”]. For the first time in what seems like a long time, I take note of my surroundings. On either side of me are dozens of monolithic concrete structures, each adorned with rustily-hued orange rebarb bones protruding from its crumbling gray exoskeleton. A bearded man with dreadlocks approaches me. I am afraid that I won’t be able to hear him, because my ears haven’t popped since being on the Kenyan Air flight. I opt to give him a “bonjour” and pat him on the back as I further my journey towards to pale blue of the ocean. It occurs to me that the man, concerned at my very apparently fatigued appearance, was trying to help me to sit down in a shady area. Either that, or he was a hallucination. The temperature, if I had to approximate it, couldn’t be less than forty four degrees Celsius, which, using Grace’s rudimentary logarithm in which you multiply the temperature’s reading in Celcius by a factor of two and then add thirty two, would be one hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit. Just as I am considering passing out on the sand and hoping the instructors find me, my eyes, of their own volition, focus on a most wonderful sight; two wooden goalposts, joined together by a wooden crossbar.

There are two goals actually, four goalposts and two crossbars in total. The area that lies between them is comprised of exceptionally smooth sand, recently cemented by a since-passed high tide. It is a pitch to rival that of Old Trafford or the San Siro. Involuntarily, I auto-eject out of my shoes and socks (an extraordinarily poor choice of footwear for this expedition) and scamper over to where I imagine the sideline to be. After exchanging a few gestures and glances, I insert myself into the game. The ball finds its way to my feet and I promptly move in around to my teammates; thanking them for allowing me to play. Once this obligatory procedure is completed, I decide to show these jokers who the white Sadio Mané is. [1. Sadio Mané is, of course, the best and most famous Senegalese footballer at the moment. 2. This is, of course, an arrogant over-exaggeration. 3. If the “white Sadio Mané” were an actual person, he would most likely be a mash-up of an Evertonian Wayne Rooney, and an oldish Juan Mata, based off of style of play and position. 4. If I had to approximate my own professional mash-up, based off of style of play and position, I would most likely be a cross between Marvell Wynne and Jacob Peterson. 5. There is probably only one person who would read no. 4 and understand the analogy]. I win the ball from an opponent just outside the eighteen yard box. Three defenders close in on me but I promptly snake through all of them, evaded the last one’s slide tackle. I push the ball out in front of me into an open area on the pitch, shimmying around a fifth defender. Coming into my vision now is the last defender, hastily approaching me with a surprised yet dutiful look on his face; there’s no way a twobab [which is the phonetic spelling of the Wolof word for ‘gringo’ or ‘foreigner’] is going box to box on his team. I reach the ball before he does, continuing my dribble-quest by shrugging him off with a deft [there’s no other way to describe it] movement of my outstretched arm. I zero in on the goalkeeper now, positioning my body in order to finish the ball to the right of the keeper [a simple R2+❏ or a double tap of ❏ in FIFA 17 would do the trick]. The goalie, anticipating my shot, prematurely falls to the ground, leaving me to transition the ball to my left foot, and dribble it into the goal, stopping it’s trajectory just past the goal line with the bottom of my foot. 1-0, good guys.

As I jogged back towards my teammates, I became cognizant of the reason for my jubilation. I was jubilant not because I had scored, but because of something else. Once the game was over, on the walk back to the hotel, I formulated an answer; an answer as to why I had felt so satisfied,  so relieved, so happy, in that moment. Allow me to explain. As cliché or as trite as it sounds or may be, sport is its own language. It is a language that one doesn’t even have to be good at to be fluent in. All you have to do is try to speak it, and you’re speaking it. The reason why I felt such joy was because this was the first time I had successfully expressed myself to someone from this foreign country. I had had so much to say, but no outlet to voice my attitudes. Where before I had been a confused, misunderstood, unassuming twobab, now I was a reckoned, respected, even feared contemporary. The following passage is a rough translation of the dialogue which occurred between me and the other highschool-aged kids whose game I had intruded upon;

One-touch pass to me. Hi.

One-touch pass back. Hi.

Another pass to me. Are you good? You better be…

Me, dribbling the ball into the goal. I think I’m alright.

An intentionally late slide tackle from behind, causing me to fall down. Yeah you’re alright, but this is our pitch, don’t get too cocky.

II. Mofana

The luminous green light of my watch tells me that it is three o’clock in the morning. The fluorescent yellow light of the bathroom/refrigeration room [peculiar set up, I know; caused me to bump into Tooki, the fish guy, while sleepily sauntering towards to bathroom in my underwear many a times], is still on, signifying to me that the kitchen staff has yet to fully close the restaurant for the night. Judging by the shrieks of laughter coming from the three women who work as cooks, the light’s not turning off anytime soon. [These three women, eerily similar in appearance, age, and general witch-iness, remind me of The Three Wayward Sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth…”toil, toil, boil and bubble” is the line I think. Another apt analogy for these women could be the three Fates from Disney’s reimagination of the Greek myth “Hercules”]. I, tucked away in the farthest corner of the restaurant which I am to live and work in for the next week, adjacent to the bath/refrigeration room, have just woke up. One of the three “brujas,” to appropriate a term from Spanish, Femmentina to be precise, has taken a liking to me, which causes all three to gang up on me whenever I make an appearance, so I opt to keep my light off while journaling this story, so as not to alert them of my whereabouts. The residual heat from a Friday night kitchen has, as if driven by magnetic inclination, manifested itself into my far corner. I watch as the heat quite palpably enters my mosquitonet-clad bed. I am hyper aware of every single sweat droplet trickling from every single pore in my body. My two sisters, who sleep under a thick assortment of blankets, continue to baffle me. After a long and industrious night of bussing tables, I am exhausted. Femmentina, Nina, and Willona, the three brujas who also live in the restaurant, worked longer and harder than I, yet are still nowhere near sequestering themselves for a well earned sleep. Three geckos, which are, in all likelihood, very rare and endemic to Madagascar, seem to be having a conversation from across my room. The noise that they make sounds similar to if a computer were to recreate the sound of acorns being thrown against a chalkboard. My mind is still fixated on a letter that my sister gave me, along with the carefully delineated instructions, which I deciphered, crudely, from her laboriuosly annunciated French. Her instructions, which were that I may only open her letter once I am on the bus traveling away from Morondava, give me reason for pause, and I deliberate whether or not to follow them. I had written her mother a letter, a short note rather, on the back of a postcard from my hometown of Boulder, Co. It reads as, “Dear Razafasandrina Chorine, it has been an honor to live, and sometimes work, alongside you and your family. You have three wonderful, beautiful children. I have a great respect for you and your restaurant, and I will forever be indebted to you for your graciousness and hospitality. With much admiration, Sam Frankovsky.”

The picture attached to this Yak does not relate, at all, to any of the content written below it. I am aware of this, I just enjoy the picture.

P.S. In my first, introductory Yak, I included a “shoutout” to my mans Chris P Nugs and Q Money. It was subsequently edited out, by Dragons Office, I suspect. I wonder if they will edit this out.

Full stop.