A HILARIOUS MISUNDERSTANDING: “Tabekos, Tabekos”. What a warm greeting my parents, my brother and I, and our dog “La Nuit” received upon our entrance into the village of Aouderas. My father politely responded “tabakos, tabakos”, as he stepped up to shake the hand of the village chief. The chief looked questioningly at Ahoudan, while Ahoudan looked down to his feet, embarrassed. “Why are you calling the chief a dog?” Ahoudan whispered to my dad. “Dog!” my dad blurted out, “and all this time I thought that people were saying hello!” In fact, in all the villages people had been yelling at us “Tabakos, Tabekos”, fascinated by our black Labrador. They had never seen travelers with a domesticated dog, much less white travelers. In the Ayr of Niger, as is the case in much of Niger, dogs are generally feared. They are used as guardians and protectors, but are rarely cared for and loved in the same way as they are in Western culture. In fact, in many Muslim countries dogs are associated with demons and devils. Our friendly and carefree “La Nuit” was therefore as much an anomaly as a white couple traveling with their blond and light eyed children.
Photo: Child and mother in a hut at the entrance of Aouderas, a village in the Ayr of Niger.