Archive for February, 2008

False Alarm

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

My travel plans have changed a bit, but I really am going to leave tomorrow. The new plan is to travel just within the Gambia, then leave through the Trans-Gambian Highway and visit my aunt in Kaolack.

The Gambia should be interesting for a few reasons. For one, it is a small stretch of land smack in the middle of Sénégal. Despite its tiny size, it is its own country. Also, the Gambia is an anglophone country. People keep telling me to “have fun with those accents”, and I like to think of it as “have fun with that dialect”. Who knows? I may pick up some interesting slang…

They also speak Wolof, although there are some interesting differences between the two forms.

I have also heard that (look at a map) Gambia is either the tongue that makes Sénégal speak or the thorn in its side, depending on how you look at it.

And I’m off!!

How many people can you feed with those?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Giant Fish on Cart, brought to you by City on Coast of Presque-île. I wouldn’t want to swim with those.

This should be my last post for about a week; tomorrow morning I plan to leave Dakar in the early hours to go East. I’ll be spending a one or two days in each of Tambacounda, Kédougou (near the Guinean border), Georgetown (in the Gambia), and Kaolack. Go look them up on a map. This is all subject to change depending on cost, roads, availability of transport, etc.

I promise to avoid the Tsetse flies, and have a good weekend!


Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

My program ended Friday. I signed on to stay two extra weeks before going home so that I can travel. Despite having forgotten that travelling is expensive…it’s an excellent idea. There were two people who decided not to stay the extra two weeks, and they left last night.

When people leave it makes it more real that I too have to leave. D:

So…uh…why am I not travelling yet when my two weeks have already started?? That would have to be because today is the Magal. The Magal is a holiday for members of the Mouride brotherhood (it’s a Sénégal thing; Wikipedia it) where they all cram into buses and Ndiaga Ndiaye and go off to the city of Touba.

Once there I’m not really sure what they do, but from what I’ve seen so far it looks like it’s mainly a lot of sitting in circles and singing. Some of my friends went along with their families, so I’ll be sure to ask them.

Anyway. I’m a little off-track. The reason this stops me from travelling is that literally all the public transport is occupied. That’s right, there will be no leaving Dakar until Thursday unless I really wanted to pay out the nose for it. *sigh*. I now wish that I’d left last weekend, but then again I’d probably be stuck somewhere else right now where I couldn’t even work on my ICRP.

And speaking of working on my ICRP, I guess that’s really what I ought to be doing.

By the way, the billboard is for the Islamic Conference that is coming to Dakar on the eighth of March/the day before I leave. It says “Welcome to Sénégal, the land of faith and peace”. These are everywhere.
*Added later*

(Ouch, and) Referring to the last line, could someone please explain the difference between “pasta” and “noodles”? Not sure I’m quite clear on that one. Then again, I don’t see much of either these days. It’s a good thing that I love rice dishes!

One, two, three, LIST!

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

(Okay, with a title like that I either have to provide a list or we all have to tilt slightly to the left.)

1) I have classes. School, I’m laughing at you.

2) I have a lot of fabric. (Uhm…yeah. About that…)

3) I have (in the very near future) a mortar and pestle.

4) I have to make travel plans.

5) I have ONLY 13 DAYS LEFT. Quick, don’t talk about it!

6) I posted this yesterday, but it got eaten. Go figure; it’s lodged somewhere in a Senegalese cybercafe.

7) *tilts slightly to the left*

I have housing!!

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

It doesn’t even matter that my proxy didn’t show up to register me…I have an apartment!! Rather than employing my time in a desperate cycle of worrying about housing followed by berating myself for wasting my time worrying about housing, I am now free to grouch away at the Kalamazoo registrar who are not answering my e-mails. I kind of need them to clear me so that I can, you know, have classes when I come home…

If they never do that, am I free to stay here through the end of the year? *wink wink*


Sunday, February 17th, 2008

I guess I’d sort of stopped thinking about it.  Surprising, really…

February is the coolest month in Dakar.  Temperatures have been downright tolerable, although after you’ve been out walking around for a while you still get sweaty and tired.  Yeah, I’ve been checking the weather regularly on the internet, but today for the first time since my arrival i actually thought to convert all those lovely little celsius figures to fahrenheit.

Accordingly, temperatures this week are ranging from 84.2 all the way to 96.8.  Just when I thought I was understanding my surroundings…I guess my body is more adjusted than I realized.  Wasn’t I just thinking that things were bordering on cold?  Especially at night, when the temperature drops to the 70s and sometimes even the 60s?

And then the shock hit me with the force of an overpacked Ndiaga Ndiaye.  I’m going to FREEZE when I go back to Michigan.

Unrelatedly, I’ve been “wasting” increasing amounts of time reading the news.  I usually glance briefly at the New York Times headlines, then spend a while digging through BBC.  I suppose it’s a good habit, really, and it leaves me with the urge to do this at the end of every post:





Included for the sake of its strangeness



Saturday, February 16th, 2008


It is my mission to see these places before they destroy them.)

As of tomorrow, I have three weeks left to the day. I had my first frightening dream about going home this afternoon, while I was in the process of taking a 3.5 hour nap instead of taking care of any of the numerous required assignments I should be finishing. (Not to suggest for a moment that I didn’t procrastinate before, but Sénégal has put me into some terrible habits. Fortunately I’m still excellent at stressing myself out, so I should re-adjust to college life fairly easily.)

I exhausted myself this morning by going into town to search for gifts, and not finding a single thing. It’s not so much that I didn’t see anything that was appropriate gift material, but moreso that it’s hard to be treated as a tourist. I wish I had bought tourist-y gifts before I got to the point of understanding my surroundings.

Beaded jewelry, wooden statues of elephants (which don’t live in Sénégal, by the way), and all manner of other crazy things for which the Sénégalese generally have no use.

In this particular market, you are guaranteed to pick up a man who wants to lead you to his shop within the first five minutes. If you’re firm enough to shake him off, he is likely to call you racist. And then you find a new one thirty seconds later.

Lately I’ve been conversing with them in Wolof. They’re usually quite nice, and they don’t harrass you like some of the others. I enjoy the conversations, but the unpleasant side-effect is that you usually end up having to follow along all the way to their shop and/or get lost on some wild goose chase. I’m always firm about telling them that I’m not going to buy anything, but they never believe me. Even when I do plan to buy something, I NEVER do so in their presence. I always wait to shake them off.

There is one gratifying effect of the conversation route; I love hearing the words “she’s not a tourist” coming out of a vendor’s mouth. Alxamdulilaay.

Mouse Dreams

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Daddy, these are for you.

My program finishes in a week-and-a-half. After that, I have two weeks during which I get to hang around travelling and doing nothing in particular. And after that…

Let me just say that I hate airplanes. I don’t mind Madrid at all though, and the first thing I’m going to do when I get there is to go find Real Coffee with Real Cream. NOT Nescafé, and NOT powdered milk.

Then I’m going to fail to sleep due to my unfortunate inability to rest in any way while sitting upright. And then? I fully intend to be met with my mouse and a blanket. That is all I want. I don’t care about food or things-in-general, just the mouse.

Parents, I do hope you’re taking note of this.

I don’t really want to think about it yet.

On an unrelated subject, I’ve been having some very strange dreams. In one, my sister wrote a blog entry in which she stated that she planned to vote for McCain because he had “a lot of really good, pro-woman policies”. Right.

In another, I was in a taxi driven by a crazy white woman. Instead of dropping me off in SICAP Baobab, she left me on the road that leads to my old middle school and gave me my change in tiny coins that don’t exist.

Finally, this is the weirdest one of all. I was in a bead shop with Moom and Amanda, when suddenly I turned into Harry Potter. I was on my way to meet Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic, and somehow ended up hiding in a broom closet with Marietta from book five and (quite unrelatedly) my friend’s ex-girlfriend whom I haven’t seen in years.

Knitting update soon!!

Sweater Weather

Monday, February 11th, 2008

I wore a cotton sweater for approximately half the day today. I even joined the Sénégalese is calling it cold. I’m impressed.

There was some ridiculously hot weather the other week, but suddenly things have settled down into their usual pattern. Showering is not really my cup of tea at the moment, but you eventually just do what you have to and try not to grow icicles while you’re at it.

Have I mentioned that the only warm bathing sessions I have were in the village?? It was great! Aissatou heated water for my bucket showers. I could do that in Dakar too, but my sulkiness in response to the cold is not outdone by the work effort involved in the water-heating process. So, freezing showers it is.

Personal Growth

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Ernestine’s Shawl, unblocked

Sometimes it actually happens.

I, for the first time ever, made a shawl for someone else.

Did I mention that it’s not for me?

Did I mention that it’s ORANGE and it’s not for me?

Did I mention that I designed it and it’s not for me?

Er…have I yet mention for whom I actually made it?? Because it’s for a beautiful Sénégalese woman named Ernestine Diatta, who just happens to be my host mother.

Now I just have to block it, but I made sure to tell her that it’s hers so I can’t selfishly change my mind.

p.s. Moom?? I’ll finish it when I come home. I swear!! I loooooveee you!!


The strangest thing just happened.  I know why, but it’s still ridiculous.  I was typing away happily, when suddenly my nice comfortable French keyboard decided that it would much prefer to type in English.  Isn’t that a great idea?  So.  Now I’m being forced to recall the English keyboard muscle memory.  Why did this happen? I’m finishing a project. Of course.

Anyway, I wanted to point out that I am not swayed toward voting for someone who places their trust in winning the election on the statement “I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them.”  I don’t want to wait around for miracles; I want people to make changes.  Not that I’d be voting for Huckabee anyway…