THE FAMILY PORTRAIT: In this photo, you can see Alhassan with his wife, Sadouan, and their children. Mouheini, who you might remember from another photo, is their eldest child. She was not present when this photo was taken, given that she was in her husband’s camp tending to her own children.
I have told you the story of Sadouan in another post, now here is the story of my introduction to Alhassan. Some of you may already know it. Nonetheless… I arrived at Alhassan’s and Sadouan’s camp fairly late into the evening. Without a moment’s hesitation, they invited me to stay with them. Sadouan gave over her family bed and tent to me. To this day, I do not know where their family slept. The next morning, I woke up with the sun.
The women were already busy pounding millet, and Alhassan with a few other men were sitting around a boiling cookpot. After greeting Sadouan, the other women, and the kids, I joined the men. They were cooking up meat. Alhassan looked up to me, “breakfast” he said, pointing to the stew. Ugh… he didn’t know that I do not eat meat.
I gave a big smile and feigned excitement, “tannemert wooley!!” (thank you very much!) I proclaimed. Moustapha, my research assistant looked up at me, knowing that I’m a vegetarian, “you have to eat this meat”, he said, “Alhassan walked over 30 km in the night to find you this goat, to honor your visit. He could not bear not having meat for his guest of honor.” I ate that meat! In fact, I never enjoyed eating meat as much as I did that day, as it represented the tremendous generosity of one that had so little, and yet offered all.