Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What can You(you) do(do)?

A few days ago, through a friend-of-a-friend, I met an older, retired French guy who used to live in Senegal thirty-some years ago. Inevitably during our conversation, the topic of my Senegal-parrot came up...and it turns out that le monsieur used to have one as well. (In fact, the bird is still alive, being taken care of by a friend back in France while he is on an extended trip...) Monsieur got the parrot when he was living in West Africa, and when he returned to France, the tame bird simply flew along in the plane in his carry-on bag!

From Monsieur, I learned that in Wolof (one of the native Senegalese languages), the word for the local parrots is "youyou." That term has been officially etymologically embraced by les français. So, in good French I can say...J'ai un youyou qui s'appelle Tango.

And he has been toilette-trained; who knew you could 'potty-train' a parrot?!
Here's how his previous owner had trained the bird to poop before coming out of the cage:
She would sit in front of the cage before taking him out, then ask him 'want out?' while lifting the door hinge...and then before she would take Tango out, she would repeatedly and animatedly say 'poop!' until the tell-tail (ahem) plop would occur, at which time she would immediately (and animatedly) say 'good-bird!' while taking him out of the cage. Pavlovian conditioning, eh?

So, we 'inherited' this little ritual. But...I didn't want the bird to begin saying 'poop' after hearing me repeat it all the time every day when I wanted to take him out...
So, I thought maybe I could try 'shifting' the verbal cue to something less, well, fecal...
I thought I might try saying "Poop-hurry up!" with the eventual idea of dropping the 'poop' and just having 'hurry-up' be his order...
It seems to be working.
I can't believe I'm writing a blog about bird crap...

The other little bird in our life--Paquito the Peruvian parrotlet--said his first words this past Sunday while on my wife's lap: "Salut Paquito!" Yes, kind of silly that he says hello to himself, (in French, no less) but logical since we always say hello to him including his name...tiny tiny voice, but it's a trip to hear a bird that's less than five inches in length talking to you!

And Tango, in addition to saying "ouiiiiiiii!" and "hello" is learning to imitate the little bird's diminutive tweets...

When my wife and I eat together at the table in the morning, we hear bird beaks busily breakfasting around us--seed-cracking in surround-sound.

Back to Senegal, now...
a while ago I read an awesome travelogue about West Africa, "Angry Wind; through Muslim Black Africa by truck, bus, boat and camel" by Jeffrey Tayler.
I just got to thinking about how Africa is just not talked about enough in American media...so much ignorance...
And as my wife and I become more aware of our south-of-Seattle-surroundings, we are noting a strong African presence: the bright billowing burka-like robes of the Somali women walking along the traffic in Tukwila...the West-African women who work in the hair-braiding salons in Renton and Federal Way...the Senegalese who often sells sunglasses on downtown corners...the Ethiopian restaurants frequented by the taxi-drivers...

Interesting to look at numbers as well...For example--French-speaking countries. If you total up the population of the 19 sub-Saharan nations where French is an official language (including the island of Madagascar), you get the staggering figure of 214 million. Compare that to the population of France: 60 million; way more people speak French OUTside of France than within...

In case you're wondering which African countries are francophone, here they are in no particular order: Senegal, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo (Rep.), Congo (Dem. Rep.; formerly known as Zaïre), Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, Madagascar, and (the 'funnest' to say for English-speakers:) Djibouti.

And while on the topic of foreign countries and immigrants, I have to mention my newest neighborhood culinary find: at the Filipino produce stand down the hill, on Tuesdays and Fridays the local Ukranian bakery delivers fresh loaves composed of layers of brioche-like pastry rolled around honeyed and crushed poppy-seeds...(The muy auténtico taco-truck in front is also worthy of a stop.)

To go back to the list of African countries...it's interesting to read through a list of just some of the languages spoken in those places: Mandinka, Jula, Pulaar, Wolof, Maninkakan, Arabic, Fulani, Saninka, Bambara, Bamanankan, Móoré, Hausa, Djerma, Zarma, Sara, Dioula, Baoulé, Ewe, Mina, Kaloye, Dagomba, Fon, Yoruba, Beti, Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou, Bandjabi, Lingala, Monokutuba, Kikongo, Kingswana, Tshiluba, Luba-kasai, Kituba, Sango, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, Kirundi, Rundi, Malagasi, Somali, Berber, Afar...makes sense that even decades after the end of colonization, le français continues to be the lingua franca, eh?


  1. I myself quite enjoy saying Djibouti whenever possible. :-)

    Daniel and I need to come visit and sample some of your local EthiopUkraniaMexican-esque food!


  2. A lesson in bird potty training, French speaking Africans, and the culinary offerings of S. Seattle/ Renton.
    It's always fun to see what you've come up with in your blog. :)