Are we going hunting?" --Rachel Starnes upon entering a game reserve where a lion park was located.


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Eating Smiley

Laura Sessions Stepp


I used to think of the happy Wal-Mart logo when I heard that word, but my innocence has been stripped.


"Smiley." (Alice Keeney for the Washington Post)

When we first arrived here in Port Elizabeth we were told by South African girls that we had to try smiley, a delicious cookie, which we all agreed to do whole-heartedly. Then, while touring the townships with Ubuntu Education Fund, one of our sponsors, we saw our first smiley. It is not a delicious cookie. It's roasted sheep head, eyeballs and all. It's called smiley because when you kill a sheep supposedly the tongue flops out and the sheep smiles at you. Ewww.

We sat down on a wood block and watched a large woman unwrap a smoking newspaper sitting on a fire. Molly and I prepared ourselves to deliver on our promise. Out came smiley. She threw it on a dirty plate and laughed with all the spectators as Molly and I cut off pieces of the cheek while holding the jaw with the teeth intact. We popped the cheek into our mouths as our teammates made faces waiting for our reaction.

"Tastes like ribs."

Other teammates tentatively reached for the knife to try some and were pleasantly surprised. Molly and I, still curious, kept going and moved on to the tongue.

"It's more rubbery, but tastes good."

Again, our teammates followed us and found that the tongue was the best part. Alice, our photographer "triple dog dared" anyone to try the eyeball for five dollars.

Molly and I watched Banks Gwaxula, the cofounder of Ubuntu, pull the eye out of the socket and split it apart. I hesitated, then plunged the slimy light blob in my mouth.


By now completely caught up in our boldness, Molly and I ate the ear. I couldn't help but make a little face. Our little crowd chuckled as we left the stand and walked out into the rest of the market.

I have serious bragging rights for the rest of my life. I ate Smiley.

By Laura Sessions Stepp
Previous: A Day for Two Flags | Next: Last Day of Camp


Please email us to report offensive comments.

The adventure continues. I'm thrilled that you are being open to all the experiences this trip to South Africa has offered. I can't wait to hear about what you will do next. You are connecting with the people and creating wonderful memories for both you and the campers. Thanks for the descriptive blog. I think I'll skip lunch.
love, Mom.

Posted by: Meg Taylor | July 5, 2007 11:31 AM

Sounds like a smiley isn't that "baa"d :)

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 10:19 PM

Anna! Of course you would be the one to eat roasted sheep head. Its great that your taking full advantage of this new experience! Have a safe return home. I can't wait to hear more of your stories


Posted by: Vanessa | July 8, 2007 11:26 AM

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