An unexpected thing happened at tonight's state dinner in Senegal: President Sall reunited President Obama with a character who appears in his book, Dreams from My Father. Via the pool report:
Mr. Sall opened the dinner with remarks. He welcomed POTUS and FLOTUS, saying that the American president had "honored" Senegal by choosing to open the visit here after his "brilliant" reelection last year.
"We are happy and honored to welcome you," he said in English.
Mr. Sall told a story from POTUS's book, Dreams from My Father in which POTUS had written about meeting a Senagalese man in Spain. Mr. Sall then brought the man up to the table to shake hands with POTUS in what apparently was a surprise to POTUS. Pool is trying to get the name of the man and will forward if successful.
It's not clear how the Senegal president was able to verify that this is the guy Obama interacted with so long ago, but here's the passage from the president's book to which the Senegal president was referring to:
“I switched off the overhead light and closed my eyes, letting my mind drift back to an African I’d met while traveling through Spain, another man on the run. I had been waiting for a night bus in a road-side tavern about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. A few old men sat at tables and drank wine from short, cloudy glasses. There was a pool table off to one side, and for some reason I had racked up the ball and started to play, remembering those late evenings with Gramps in the bars on Hotel Street, with their streetwalkers and pimps and Gramps the only white man in the joint.
"As I was finishing up the table, a man in a thin wool sweater had appeared out of nowhere and asked if he could buy me some coffee. He spoke no English and his Spanish wasn’t much better than mine., but he had a winning smile and the urgency of someone in need of company. Standing at the bar, he told me he was from Senegal, and was crisscrossing Spain for seasonal work. He showed me a battered photograph he kept in his wallet of a young girl with round, smooth cheeks. His wife, he said; he had had to leave her behind. They would be reunited as soon as he saved the money. He would write and send for her.
"We ended up riding to Barcelona together, neither of us talking much, him turning to me every so often to try to explain the jokes on the Spanish program being shown on a TV-video contraption hooked up above the driver’s seat. Shortly before dawn, we were deposited in front of an old bus depot, and my friend gestured me over to a short, thick palm that grew beside the road. From his knapsack he pulled out a toothbrush, a comb, and a bottle of water that he handed to me with great ceremony. And together we washed ourselves under the morning mist, before hoisting our bags over our shoulders and heading toward town.
"What was his name? I couldn’t remember now; just another hungry man far away from home, one of the many children of former colonies – Algerians, West Indians, Pakistanis – now breaching the barricades of their former masters, mounting their own ragged, haphazard invasion. And yet, as we walked toward the Ramblas, I had felt as if I knew him as well as any man; that, coming from opposite ends of the earth, we were somehow making the same journey. When we finally parted company, I had remained in the street for a long, long time, watching his slender, bandy-legged image shrink into the distance, one part of me wishing then that I could go with him into a life of open roads and other blue mornings; another part realizing that such a wish was also a romance, an idea, as partial as my image of the Old Man or my image of Africa. Until I settled on the fact that the man from Senegal had brought me coffee and offered me water, and that was real, and maybe that was all any of us had a right to expect: the chance encounter, a shared story, the act of small kindness…”