Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Senegal Day 6

Wow, time sure creeps when you're having fun. No really, today I stayed in bed most of the morning, I had a stomach ache and then this evening I was eaten by mosquitoes--literally. I had to take a benedryl to stop itching long enough to go to sleep. Okay, I am exaggerating a little bit, but not much, and instead of sleeping I am pretending that it is 4:35 PM in Dakar, when it is actually about 1 AM in the morning and before I know it, the muezzin will be sounding the alarm for prayer and it will be time to get up.

I have a busy day set for myself. I am going to take the taxi all by myself to Suffolk University and I am nervous to say the least. The only thing that is saving me is my cell phone--Orange. I was hoping to get picked up by Suzanne's brother, but his car is out and so I am on my own, Moussa told me to give the phone to the driver once I get the taxi so he can talk to him.

A little protection. I'll let you know how I fare.

So today I went to the market with Suzanne's sister, Khady. Carrying a bucket for the vegetables, we went to the large market --a distance of 700 CVAs 1-way, where there was everything from fresh fish to shoes and gris gris leather belts or charms. Nothing surprises me anymore, so when Mame Khady called the charms by the same name New Orleans spirit workers do, I was like okay...nonplussed.

We are certainly more alike than different.

As I walked down the street I saw people I knew, literally. I knew they weren't Laila and Abdul or whomever, but they could have been, and if one of them had turned and said, "What's up, Wanda?" I would not have batted an eye.

I mean as we are sitting in Suzanne's room, Inez goes to the store to get Grandmother some tobacco. I mean how southern is that?! Which she chews like my babysitter did when I was a child. And then Mame Khady pulls out her perfumes and incense and Aziz explains that she is a traveling sales person, and I was like, Oh like Avon? and the answer was yes.

Avon ladies in Dakar. Well, I never would have thought. Africa is so like home. There are a few differences, but mostly its the same, at least it is here. People living above their means with five cars in the driveway, all dusty because the registration might be expired. The traffic police and a violator going at it, and the uniformed person listening but not rescinding the ticket.

I hear in Dakar, you loose your license when you break the law, but not many people seem to own cars and I didn't see many bikes. The holes in the street today were a bit more plunging than one3s I've experienced so far.

Just like in Oakland where there is a church on every corner, there is a mosque on every corner here--I mean really nice structures, and poverty on every block as well. I don't know what programs the mosques have to address the poverty in its midst, nor did I see anyone collecting any of the trash or garbage piled up, but I did see a garbage truck the other day.

Yet, despite the poverty, folks look fine: hair together and clothes just so. Barber shops have someone in the chair everytime I looked and these shops were more plentiful than masajid, but then so were the corner markets.

But in Senegal there are no orthopedic beds, Suzanne tells me was she sleeps on the floor.

As Aziz was on line looking at Nikes. I had to give him my sweat shop speech. He had never heard the term before. The boy has it good. Grandmother gives him money for the store where he goes to buy a baguette with chocolate syrup, which he eats with coffee.

Oh my goodness and the flies...they are everywhere, especially at lunch time; they seem to know where there is food being served and instead of flying, they crawl and sit on the table. Um hmm as if they got an invitation to dinner. Don't let the cloth have a dark spot, perfect hiding spot for a fly which is bigger than the California fruit flies or gnats.

Oh, did I mention the cockroaches? I wasn't surprised to see the brown ugly flying creature the other day at Mame Oulimata's, I am just glad it wasn't close and I was able to keep my calm and not act the fool (smile).

I was having nightmares this morning when I laid back down hoping my stomach would feel better, and it did.

I cooked my first meal in Senegal. I don't know what all the vegetables were; they were leftovers from a shopping trip last week we took around the corner. We went into homes which from the outside one wouldn't know this was a place to buy vegetables.

Did I mention it cost 1400 CVAs for the round trip, but I got a great price on water and I should have gotten 4 bottles instead of two (700 CVAs, instead of the usual 1000), but I didn't get two bottles that is.

At the market I bought lentils and a small red bean--bell peppers, onions, garlic, some roots: carrots and some other vegetables I didn't know, plus some bananas. I want to taste the mango and papaya and mangrove fruit. I tasted something today, it was green and bitter. It's shell was thin and hard like toast. I didn't like it.

I had this really yummy melon yesterday at Pape's house. I don't know what it was called, but it was good. Kids and adults sell cashews and peanuts in bags along the road. When one walks down the street you find someone with a pot roasting peanuts and they don't seem to mind when Khady reaches in and grabs a few to taste before she makes her purchase.

I think peanuts and goats and fish are major staples of this economy. I have seen quite a few banana trees with fruit on them and on the way to the Pink Lake yesterday, I saw fields of mango trees. I'd never seen a mango tree before. The market in Kingston was more fun to visit than the one in Dakar just outside of Grand Yoff, perhaps because I went earlier in the day, when products and people were fresh. People were sleeping on the sacks where they had the extra product stacked. I presume they'd gotten there early, like a dawn and by the time we arrived at 3 or 4 PM it had been a long day.

I took photos where I shopped. I figured that since I was spending my money nobody had better say anything, and you know some boys did, but I didn't take a picture of them and since they didn't understand me any better than I understood them, when Khady said "leave it." I did.

I have been on the look out for hidden populations and noticed a young woman in a wheel chair, pushed by a brother or male friend. She is the second person I've seen since I have been here and the community didn't seem to find her presence out of the ordinary. I didn't take a photo of her, but I did of a wheelchair we passed on the way to the street. It was a Cadillac of wheelchairs, the person riding would have a wide selection of possible amenities: horn, souped up wheels, extra cushions and a flag pole in the back so cars could see the person riding.

I wonder how much it cost?

I saw a lot of what one might call projects...apartments today, no windows and kind of run down. As we lumbered down the narrow streets, sometimes so close to a pedestrian or a ditch or manhole cover I'd think to myself, these drivers, really know how much space they occupy to the n-th degree. I still haven't figured out how anyone can tell where a house is by its address.

I have seen mail delivered yet, when I do it will be a Kodak moment for sure.

Senegal must have invented the term "mixed use" or industrial and residential because the shops line the streets on the main thoroughfares and between each building or what one thinks is between the buildings are courtyards where typically one sees a clothesline and doors leading into multiple room dwellings. In the courtyard there is an outside toilet, a place to wash clothes, cook the family meal, bathe, and inside the house one eats and sleeps and yes, watches TV.

We don't watch TV at Suzanne's house. She and her family talk...which is a nice change from families that seldom have time for each other anymore. In Africa, I've noticed whether that is Suzanne's taking in young women and hiring them for various chores or Pape's close knit family and community--doors opening onto one another, people here do stop and take time for one another, even the stranger--me.


At 2:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see your enjoying yourself. From your pics I see that real AFRICANS treat themselves better than oakland afro-americans

At 2:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the bugs. your in a different country. The bugs probably scene your unease and note your great western taste.


Post a Comment

<< Home