Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 21, back in Dakar

I can hardly believe 21 days have passed. Wow, I can feel America calling me. I hadn’t thought about the job or what I am teaching when I return, but I guess now is a good time, while I have a brief layover. I am killing baobab fruit—dried fruit from the tree, the fresh is better and I am happy I was able to eat it this past weekend (while in Gambia). It’s a great fruit to eat when one is not hungry, yet wants to chew. This writer has that problem when sleep is calling her. I chew to stay away: celery, chips, and now baobab fruit, which is mostly seed.

I must say today was a culinary treat. I finally got a papaya and a slice of a sweet watermelon in Dakar. I wanted some coconut juice, but I was counting pennies. I did have another new fruit seed I’ll have to try again. I think it was called something with a “p” "papaw?" You crack the outer coating and scrape the gooey sticky surface of the seed. It’s pretty good. Suzanne was eating it. I saw it on the counter this morning and wondered what it was. I can’t find cashews now that I’m back in town, just peanuts which I am allergic to. Yesterday when riding back into town from Rufisque, we passed by a Fulani mosque and school. There was a big bull on the front of the property. I think they are herders. I was taking a break from taking photos --some times its nice to just look, so I didn't get the shots.

Considering the amount of bananas sold in Senegal, I was surprised to find out that they are imported (from South Africa, I think). The apples come from South Africa, but if California wasn’t so far away, Ahmadou’s friend would like to import apples from there. They are bigger.

Today folks were yelling at me for taking photos of them as I walked though the busy area near Ahmadou's neighborhood. I feigned ignorance with a smile and kept moving. Kids like to see themselves, so do adults. I often show the person the photo or just smile wave and say, merci! I have to learn thank you in Wolof, as well as please and excuse me and thank you. I just remembered, I need to email a photo to someone I photographed today.

I am going back to Gambia next week and to Mali after I visit Touba. I think I will go to Touba after Gambia. I found a tour connected to the Gambia Heritage tour I went on this weekend. The West African Tour Comapany's Senegal Mali tour looks good too. I like the evening under the stars tour in Dakar. I might do that one too. They are African and very nice and speak lots of languages.

I can do the tours alone which saves me money, otherwise I have to pay double, me and the person I am with.

I still haven't been out to hear any music, but maybe in Gambia. I took my second solo taxi ride (smile). I called the house when the driver went as far as he could and then he called himself dropping me off a block away, I was like nope, and called the house so he could drop me at the door. For 2000 F CFAs I want curb service (smile).

Ahmadou and I took the bus today--200 CFAs each, to a client he has been helping get a VISA to Brazil for a wedding and then we had a time getting a taxi to the Mali Embassy. So it was 1500 CFAs, plus $400 CFAs on the bus, and then another 2000 CFAs in the taxi.

He said the next time I want to connect with him I could just hop on the bus and get off at a shopping center. I was like...I don't remember how we got to the bus stop, what we caught or the name of the grocery store where I am to get off. If a person is supposed to pay attention to the route, it would be nice to be told this in advance, not after the fact. I wonder if Rehema from the Bay is here yet. I have to send her an email. If she is, we can hang out this weekend. That would be fun.

Ahmadou mentioned that there were parties happening this weekend, tonight etc., but the cost of concerts here is the same at home, $25 or 10,000 CFAs. I am not going unless I can get a press pass and since I don't speak French or Wolof, that isn't happening.

I think I'll see if I can visit the newspaper in Gambia while I am there next week. It was nice being able to read the paper again while there for five days.

Considering Senegal is a Muslim country, folks are really into Santa. I saw a lot of inflatable Santas and glittery confetti, ornaments and for New Years, fire crackers. The Islamic New Year is Dec. 28. There are special dishes and prayers and lots of cows or bulls lose their lives. Arenas are being erected throughout the town in different neighborhoods for the festivities.

Suzanne said meat is expensive, so they eat a lot of fish. Fish is better for you anyway and with the ocean so close, it is a natural that the national dish is fish and rice.

I eat little, I am trying to stay well and don't want to eat something that doesn't agree with me. I hate stomach aches and only had one so far and that was from eating too late at night. I am going to go to the grocery store over by Ahmadou and window shop. I want some more yogurt and it might be cheaper there.

While on the bus, I saw a prison. It was located shouting distance from two masajid (mosques). The view is also terrific…the Atlantic ocean so close one can feel its breeze. My daughter has a mixed media piece where she juxtaposes: school, prison and the plantation. There is of course this parallel between the prison system and the slave plantation and how black youth are running from the public school system into the prison industrial complex—on the one side of the street that is like San Francisco’s The Great Highway, is 100 Meters Square Prison…minarets replaced by gun towers. The other end of the promenade is Dakar University. Two ends of an extreme. Badara Jobe, Ashoka fellow, whom I met in Gambia, his organization: Njawara Agricultural Training Centre (NATC), was started to steer youth in the village to entreprenuerial opportunities rather than contrasting criminal ones. 10 years later, the youth and adults have prosperous agribusinesses.

If proximity is anything, then salvation might rub off—the prison set between two masajid and a university. Education is a deterent to incarceration beginning with literacy. Yet many youth do not complete school, especially girls. There are many Senegalese women who cannot read.

As we walked along the beach, Ahmadou told me that the president of France while visiting Dakar, said France was only interested in educated immigrants. That statement turned off a lot of people, including the president of Dakar.

Historically, France participated on the slave trade and then those African left in
africa became indentured servants for life. The Europeans had it great, work the black folks to death and then after centuries of free labor, deny them their citizenship. Africans are entiled to the samee benfits as other French nationals.

I am certainly not advocating Senegalese nationals or any person of African descent denying their heritage to get their long overdue, due, but they should remember that power is 95 percent illusion.

Ahmadou's sister's husband died just two years ago because he didn't have access to medical care. His mother is in her fifties and is vision impaired. From Guinea, she and her husband worked as vendors in the marketplace. Now their retirement is dependent on their son, Ahmadou who is the epitomy of a hustler--in a good sense. He fell asleep the other day in the taxi, because his days begin early and end after midnight. We'd stopped by his parent's home where his brother was asleep on a mat on the floor. He had a meal and then after a short photo shoot we left.

He walks purposefully and I often have to call him back when he is too far ahead of me, especially when I am trying to take in the scenery and see pictures I want to shoot. I am learning to frame the shot in my mind, shoot and keep walking, or to point the camera and shoot and look later.

In Senegal, those persons who want money go into politics and/or religion. In contrast, most politicians are already wealthy. It's easier when one's family is already in leadership whether that is govenment or monarchy. The inheritence is similar to the Bush years in America--generational. I met the son of a woman chief in Njawara Village in Gambia. There are about four women chiefs in Gambia.

I hear one of the richest persons is the president's marabout or spiritual guide. Somethings never change--remember the late Rev. Ike? We walk and walk and there are no buses along the beach highway. Also, a new hotel/casino has taken a huge section of the beach formally visited by school children and others. There is an amusement park not far up the road from the hotel.

I could see the ferris wheel touring.

In another place going toward downtown, a freeway where furniture businesses flourished, displaced yet another population. They are now located near Dakar University. There are murals along the sound walls near the beach highway. Graffiti is little to none...I saw a bit of tagging. In the taxis and on the radio I hear a lot of Tupac. Many kids wear Tupac teeshirts and Che--

I saw my first black doll today. I had to stop and take a photo. I saw a fire station yesterday in Dakar, street sweepers, one of them a woman, a mental hospital, SOS in Dakar, like the American Red Cross. It is also an organization that works with orphans and abandoned children.

I don’t know if the religious institutions are in the prisons like they are in the US. I hear the prisons are overcrowded in Senegal, and though there are male and female only prisons, quite a few are coed. I still haven’t figured out how to get a visitors pass for a tour. I want to see prisons in Dakar, Rufisque and The Gambia is possible.

I also learned today that HLM or Ashalam Griyal is the name of a development company that has connections to the government which does housing and many people have morgages with this company. These developments HLMs are known for their larger buildings. Where I am, the architecture is really lovely; however, the area is a high crime area. (I haven't had the opportunity to fact check any of the development statements. It's all hearsay.)


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