Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Dakar

I didn't go anywhere today, even though I would have liked to go to an African church to see how they celebrate Christmas. Instead I washed my clothes. The girls took pity on me and helped me. Hand laundering is more than a notion. We had three tubs, the first wash, the second wash and the rinse cycle. After Nane showed me how to use the scrub board, you lay the garment on the board and rub the bar of soap on it to give it friction. I recalled the wooden board, the Senegalese version plastic, from when I was a child and my mother did our laundry and others she worked for.

I took photos of my clothes swaying to the breeze. Most were still wet when the sun went down, so I left them out there until the morning. I hope they are dry by then. It would have been great getting a photo of me doing the laundry; I'll have to do the laundry again before I leave, maybe in Rufisque--they get a kick out of me--their long lost African relative (smile).

I looked at the Lonely Planet Guide on-line to see what I still need to see here to say I was in Dakar. I want to add the women's prison and now Osmane Sembene's grave site which is here somewhere.

I am missing Allasane in Mali. He is going to the village tomorrow for a few days and then back to Chicago Friday, New Year's Day. I'll have to meet him in Chicago.

If I can I also want to visit the village where 10,000 Girls is located. It sounds like a great project: educating girls and teaching families the importance of female education for the community’s development.

This evening I ate a new food. It was like a donut hole (deep fried) only made from beans. It was called Akhra (phonetic spelling). Suzanne and Khady ate it with hot sauce. I had another food again as well. It is a fruit which one peels and then scraps the sticky sweetness with one's teeth. I believe it's called sump, again its phonetic spelling.

As we sat in Suzanne's room, the two women reclining on form mattresses, I sat on the end of the one Khady lies on, I listened to them converse and then Khady and we tred to converse in French and Spanish and English. Every now and then Suzanne would help us. She told me about the varioua Islamnic sects in Senegal. There are a lot. Khady is Mouride (the youngest sect and one that has a lot of youth members. It is the sect of Cheikh Amadou Bamba.)

To Gambia to Gambia

I haven't been dancing yet. Just think, in the San Francisco Bay I have met so many entertainers from Senegal and now that I am here, I haven't been to see one of them on their own turf. I hope this changes before I return.

Luciano is going to be in Gambia this weekend. I hope to catch him on Sunday, but I don't know, travel to Gambia is a long hot journey, but maybe if we leave early enough Sunday, we might arrive before nightfall.

I might be traveling alone, but I think I know how to do it. I just have to get through customs and on the ferry. I am thinking about stopping through Njawara Agricultural Training Centre in the Lower Baddibou District on my way back. I would like to meet the woman chief.

Gambia Maiden Voyage
Mouhammadou came to Dakar to pick me up for the journey to Gambia last week. We worked our way back north toward Rufisque--my escort likes to say that Rufisque is the door or gateway to Dakar. We passed through so many towns, like Bargny where the drummers for the Coumba Lamb Festival live. They have been drumming for the Coumba Lamb since its inception in 1996. I've got these notes written in the margins of my tablet and now that I am typing I haven't a clue as to what they mean, except that "Thianwlene" is the name of the healing place where the shrine is and Mouhammadou's folks are fishermen and farmers and their tradition--Lebu, doesn't include scarification of genital cutting for the girls or females. Others such as the Jola, Jula, Fulani (Khal Pular), Bambara, do.

Westerners have female cutting on the brain, not that we don't have ritual or traditions abhorrent to those in other cultures; they just don't get as much press or media attention, but to say the west is a model for women's rights is ludicrous. Control of women's sexuality is something the west is still trying to accomplish and succeeding if the illnesses like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

In Banjul, the capital, we went to this cool museum on Monday. There is this arch one sees when she comes into Gambia. The arch is actually a building with a gallery at its top which is also where you can see the entire city of Banjul. It was really cool. The gallery was great as well. There was an entire section on charms or fetishes, which is somewhat like scarification with regards to its purpose. The fetish is something you put on and the body markings are something in the skin which never goes away, like a permanent fetish. Ass Bojang got marks to protect him when he was a little boy and his father died, he said. Mouhammadou wears three leather belts, one which goes back to when he was a baby.

I am jumping around.

Just this week, when we arrived Tuesday, back in Rufisque from Gambia returning to Dakar--two days later than expected (more on this to come), two nieces arrived from a factory where they packaged beans for shipment. They fell into bed, first one and then as I was leaving in the morning for Dakar, the other sister slept where her little cousin departed for school.

That previous Friday, Dec. 18 was the anniversary weekend of "Thiarye 44," the massacre of the Senegalese French soldiers by the French government in 1944. As we were rolling through the town we didn't know about the anniversary. We heard about it on our way back a few days later.

The African soldiers who'd fought in a French war were demanding equal pay and benefits for their duties and the government pretended to honor their protest and rolled in canons as the men lay in a drunken stupor (according to Sembene's film, Camp de Thiaroye (1988) and bombed their barracks until there were no men left. Osmane Sembene made a wonderful film about the story. Most of my knowledge of African history is through the cinematography of so many great filmmakers like the father of African cinema, Osmane Sembene. I remember when I saw the film; I couldn't sleep for days afterwards. I found this great interview with Sembene about the first film in his trilogy on African women, Faat Kine:

Another article, an interview just before he passed where he talks about filmmaking in Africa and its necessity and future:

I wonder if I can find his burial site. It would be great to make a pilgrimage and pay respects to him. He is buried in Dakar and is from a fishing village in Casamance, but he got seasick and went into military service and became a novelist and at 40 a filmmaker so his stories would find a wider audience. He was born January 1, 1923 and died June 9, 2007. Faat Kiné (2000) and Moolaadé (2004) were two of a trilogy called Ordinary Heroes.

The name of the town is now, "Jamagen" which means: "Peace is better. When the French first came to Senegal its capital was St. Louis and then it moved to Dakar. I learned about this at the Military History Museum, and then again on the Gambia Heritage Tour last weekend.

Perhaps the trip to Senegal is worth it just to walk in places where this great man walked. I have to try to get to Casamance before I much to see and do and so little time left.

So we are rolling on this bus which stops every few miles through Sicap Mbao and Fass Mboa and Rufisque. On our way to The Gambia the roads look out on open fields with house in varying stages of development. Already a mosque is up--blue accents, white. Another town, Sindia. We'll pass this area on our way to Popingue. We pass another masjid going up. I saw men making bricks yesterday while on the bus. I see these same bricks at Orchard in Berkeley. I wonder how they are made in the U.S. I somehow don't think they are made by hand back at home. Pape says one can get 35 bricks to a bag of cement which one mixes with the sand from the beach.

Last night, speaking of masajid, the mureeds were chanting all night. I kept thinking it was time to get up, between the prayers and the firecrackers, Suzanne had a rough night as she is close to the street, while I am upstairs. Her back keeps her from climbing the stairs to a quieter spot.

We pass La Samone, where Pape's uncle lives and many baobab trees which are the national tree and symbol of the country. In Mul I see a policeman.

12 hours later, my ears used to the early call to prayer, I retire to a purple room--queen size bed, the master bedroom in a house shared by siblings of my good friend Leroy Moore's good friend, now my good friend too, Sirra Ndow- Her brother Moudo welcomes us at the ferry with a taxi and we speed along home --the roads an indicator of a new country, Senegal if nothing else known for its raggedy streets--dust and potholes--but I speak too soon because on our way to Ida's house the African roads return, so perhaps it is true, somethings are indicative of the region--not enough investment in the infrastructure.

Hum? Does Senegal have any debt to the World Bank?

I am like having cultural shock. Is Sirra's family wealthy? I find out later that Ida and her husband built the house over eight years. When they had money they built and when they didn't it sat. He is in insurance and she is in travel. Her dad is an educator with over 50 years in public education and now runs a private school for the Muslim community where he is a partner. The compound is lovely where he lives, not far from his children and with his children--tiled, the apartments all face a courtyard with trees. It's really beautiful. Ida spoke of years during her childhood where they had two rooms: a parlor and the bedroom and the entire family lived in those two rooms. She described it as a happy time.

We went to Ida's house first where we talked about their family, which is from Senegal originally. Two great grand-uncles trekked to the Gambia to avoid induction into a war, slavery or both. I asked about the family tree Sirra had told me about and it was impressive.

The family is starting a foundation to help family members who need financial support. I thought that was a great idea. Ida pointed herself out in the lineage. We had dinner when we got to the family house near the beach--talk about cool spot. It is the greatest place near nightclubs and like I said the beach.

I ate the hotdog with sodium nitrate and some processed cheese--it was great to finally not have to worry about whether or not I could eat it.

The next morning was "clean the community day," moved up from the final Saturday, which is the day after Christmas. It is a day to beautify the neighborhood. My intention was to get up and see how I could help, but well, I got up and took pictures and walked to the dump with Ousman twice. The patriarch is Pa Secka and the younger of the family is Pa Ebou Jeng; he's 11, Ousman is his senior by five years. The household ages range from 40-11.

Ousman was pushing the wheelbarrow filled with cuttings from the pruning. After the yard work we ate and a few of us then walked to the beach. It was lovely. We stopped by artisans working weaving baskets, sculpting and engraving words on seed pods. There was hardly any traffic on our way to the beach as it wasn't 1 p.m. yet and cars were discouraged on these national clean up days. However, on our way back it was watch out cause here they come.

I had to get used to revenue, dalasi: $250 is about $10 USD. 25 equal 500 F CFAs. I don't know what that is in dollars, but as I said somewhere else, 20,000 F CFAs is $25 USD. It all starts to run together after a while especially when things cost 32,000 dalasi.

But I just looked it up: Gambian Dalasi (GMD; symbol D) = 100 bututs. $1.00= D26.55 So 500FCFAs is about $1.

We hopped in a cab after the bus left us at the border town where we caught a ferry into Gambia. On the ferry where people and vehicles as large as diesel trucks, I met as nice kid, also named Ousman who was transporting rocks for roofing from Senegal to Gambia. There are a lot of items one cannot get in either country. Senegal has the rocks; Gambia has the cloth needed by the tailors in Senegal. I believe someone told me on both sides of Senegambia that everything is imported.

I think the border town is called Barra, the underdeveloped twin to the capital Banjul.

Senegal's Women, Strong and Powerful: Ancient and Modern

Nane--these women are modern and ancient. When I speak to Nane, it is with a smile and pantomime. She is so capable, 19 and independent. She helps Suzanne around the house with the cooking and cleaning. humming a song she organizes her tasks effectively. I hear millet being pounded downstairs and fish frying too. The aroma seeps up the stairs as I try to figure out what to wear today. Lunch is almost ready.

I need to wash clothes today. Yesterday, my dress was a hit: lime and lavender it is another affair from Karen Oyekanmi's House of Fashion a la Lagos vis Oakland, Cali. It was slightly wrinkled from its journey and I wanted to iron it, but when I asked Nane where the iron was and she showed me the charcol, I was like...I can wear it like this.

I didn't have time for a lesson, Ahmadou was on his way.

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.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 7

I called Gambia and now I am out of minutes and don't have a phone. Everyone is taking their afternoon naps around here and without a phone I am kind of stuck. I am going to Gambia in the morning and look forward to the journey. I am eating less and feeling great!

Today is Aziz's 15th birthday. He is having a birthday party at a park this weekend. Sounds nice.

The athan announces the afternoon prayer. The streets are empty and quiet, perhaps everyone takes a nap around this time of day, unless they are in school.

We went out for pizaa tonight. The restaurant was owned by an Arab,but employed Africans. While we were there the electricity went out, and then it came back on. The business might have had a generator. There were ornaments --a string of lights, decorating the front windows which lent a festive air to the place. It was very clean. The pizaa looked good too. They also sold burgers and sandwiches.

One thing about Senegal, I think the meat is all halal. Makes life easy for a Muslim. We passed a butcher on the way back home.

It was night time so I left all my valuables in the house. Even in the dark I wasn't sure if my walk would set me apart. The electricity was out along our walk too. This road actually had street lights on it in the block where we were walking; there are normally no lights and so one has to be careful walking.

I don't know if it was pollution or what, but the night sky was flush black, not a star or planet, except one, in sight.

It is Aziz's 15th birthday and even if he isn't doing well in school, failing quite a few subjects, except PE, we still celebrated with a birthday dinner of his choice (smile). You are only 15 once and he is a really nice kid--typical of the boys his age everywhere.

He's taking German and French and English. I think that is pretty amazing. Currently he's reading one of my favorite Senegalese authors, Mariama BA's "Une silongue lettre" (So Long A Letter). It is about polygamy and I think it is a classic on the topic. I have it in English. He is also reading, "Sous l'orage" by former Malian Minister, Seydou Badian. It's a love story (smile).

Inez told me what it was about. As we ate our pizaa and other snacks, I noticed that when she said her blessing she crossed herself, so I asked it she was Christian and she said yes. I thought it was really cool that Suzanne adopted a Christian woman as her child to mentor and educate.

It's hard to believe I have been here seven days. I have done a lot in a week. I hope the connections deepen and that I get to meet and learn more about our people, especially those one doesn't hear or read about in the news--the majority population.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Senegal Day 6

Today was a good day. I got up early after going to bed late, got a taxi and rode to Suffolk University all by myself...if you discount the cell phone instructions from Moussa Diouf, head of the English Language Studies Department at the University. An imposing, yet not unapproachable man, he looked so Senegalese, if you know what I mean (smile): tall dark and handsome, his salt and peppered hair adding a touch of distinguished to the overall western look. He was definitely not sporting native or traditional attire.

I plan to apply to teach their in the summer 2011, there or somewhere else. I don't want to spend all my time teaching, but I could probably get fluent in Wolof if I stayed the summer. At $20 an hour, Moussa said I'd have to teach many hours to afford a place to stay and board.

Students train there in his program for two years, then transfer after passing qualifying exams in their disciplines to the Boston campus where they are to get their bachelors’ degree; however, many students do not complete their degree course in the two years, many for economic reasons and end up staying in the United States illegally.

Moussa shared stories about our mutual friend, Pape Alhassan, who named his son after Mr. Diouf. Ahmadou met me at Suffolk and we took a taxi to Cheikh Anta Diop University where I was to meet members of the English club. The teachers were on strike today, so after meeting the students I taught a class there. We read a poem from a collection of poetry by C. Jenean Gibbs entitled, "We Are the Drum People." The responses varied from poetry to political statements.

I'd brought two dozen pens to give them and passed them out after we went around the room reading the stanzas aloud. They quickly grasped the concept of a freewrite after I explained it and Ahmadou and the president of the club translated what I said into their shared language. We then read "A Message for Black Teenagers," adapted from Magic Johnson's "My Life," by Lycee Ahmadou Ndack Seck. It is a really good essay about what it means to be successful: working hard and working smart, comradery with like minded individuals, plus encouraging mentors and role models, self-determination and the ability to stay focused on the goal despite tempting distractions.

The essay ends with: "The government will not save you. The black leaders will not save you. You're the only one that can make the difference, whatever your dream is, go for it."

Most of the students kidded me about the land of plenty that is America. Once again, people were proud of Obama and wanted to know what I thought of his latest political moves. They were aware of the economic state of the US and knew that the grass was not greener elsewhere.

Senegal certainly has a bright future in these young people--men and women. I taped what they shared aloud and asked if they could make me a copy of their writings for next week. They all signed two balloons with their names and posed for photos. One student thought he'd seen me at the Ghanian embassy last week. I wondered about his accent--he spoke like he stepped out of Jamaica--the patois that hip. He was from Ghana. I am to go back next week and meet their teacher; I hope the strike is over by then or that another hasn't started. A professor peeked his head in to say hi and when he found out there was a strike he left--I guess the solidarity is a good thing. I hear this university is really socially conscious and politically astute, that faculty encourage students to be free thinkers and the police are often called to bring order, at least this is what says, along with a cautionary remark to avoid the university when students are staging an uprising.

The bathrooms were different from ones I'd been in previously. There was a place to stand with groves for your shoes, so one could swat more easily, also the lever to flush was a lot more effective, so one didn't have to pour water down the drain to push your waste into the hole. I am carrying tissue now, so I am ready for all occasions, but at Suffolk, I used Moussa's bathroom with had a toilet seat--you know I was shocked (smile). Happy, but shocked.

Cheikh Anta Diop University is sprawling...huge and right on the Atlantic ocean. There is also a high school on campus which is nice. The close proximity of a high school to a state university is common. There is a high school next to San Francisco State, and at Stanford, I think there is a high school associated with it. The only high schools on college campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area is ASTI on College of Alameda campus, the high school at Contra Costa College and Merritt used to have a college, I don't know if it still does.

I told you about my new cell phone, Orange, well today I got a new number. I forgot, my SIMS card was on loan. Whenever I make a mistake or misdial, the phone messages are in French, how useful is that?! On the new phone I fixed the time so I could figure it out. No more 21:35 for 09:35, so when I am staying up too late I can tell what time it is.

There is a lizard on the wall opposite me now. I am trying to be cool as the fans ocillates. I hope it doesn't move. Everywhere I go, I have been sleeping with the lights on.

Ahamadou and I rushed to the Gambian Embassy after we left the campus. I think we took a taxi. Ahmadou doesn't mind walking and is trying to stay within my budget, which means no meals out and walk whenever possible...I don't care how far.
The beach front is so lovely. I want to go back and stoll and take pictures and sit and think. There were lots of fishing boats, the kind I saw in Rufisque, the kind the men were hollowing out from trees trucked up from Camance. Ahmadou said people drown trying to sail to Spain on such vessels. Reminded me of the treacherous Haiti to Florida.

He told me that its hard to get a visa to European countries, even France, which doesn't make any sense, since, Senegalese men gave their lives for battles fought by France. There is a celebration this weekend in Dakar honoring these African veterans.
There is a film about the mothers of sons lost at sea. Eli Fantauzzi-Jacobs told me about it, but didn't respond when I asked for the director's name. Maybe someone might know her and the film. I definitely want to see her and talk to women who have lost children and find out why people are so desperate to leave that they would try such dangerous transport. Those boats are so shallow, a big wave would capsize them easily.

At Suffolk there were AIDS awareness ribbons from their World AIDS Day commemoration a couple of weeks ago. Senegal is not as hard hit as other areas I was told, but perhaps its the stigma attached to the disease which makes the average citizen think everything is under control when it isn't.

As Ahmadou and I were rushing to his students--he didn't want them to leave, I saw something out of a film, the living commercial. A man was demonstrating a new product, something to add to one's milk and he had a portable stage, coupons product and music to get the kids to get their parents to buy it for them. At first I thought it was a health commercial, like wash your hands before eating or AIDS is preventable, but it was just pure marketing.

Perhaps Senegal is so expensive to live in because they import a lot of European products like Coke and Fanta, their national beverage. I could find anything that said Senegal, not a cell phone manufacturer, not a TV brand, not a window pane factory, not a car or truck or bus or van, not a purified water brand, not even as I said, hair products, not even shoes or bicycles.

The only thing made in Senegal besides its people and that is questionable if the minds belong to the west--is its food: fish, sheep, vegetables, some fruits, not its bananas and grains.

I saw leather shoes being made, but most people wore imported designs except when in traditional wear. In Ahmadou's class most of the kids wore jeans, tee-shirts and other western attire including jellies.

Suzanne says one cannot get an orthopedic bed in Senegal. This thought was going somewhere but when I checked to see if the lizard was still where I last saw him, I forgot where I was going, but I am leaving the sentence.

I hadn't seen as many apartments before today either, many of them, like Ahmadou's parents, just one room studios with a refrigerator and a stove--or gas to cook on and the bathroom is shared with the other families. When we walked into the apartment, Ahmadou's mother was praying.

Senegalese will stop what they are doing and pray anywhere: saw a barber praying while his client sat patiently in his chair. The TV was on in the apartment while Ahmadou's mom made salat. A little girl from next door sat and watched TV. 55 is old in Africa and Ahmadou supports his parents who are retired after working in the market, one which we walked through, all his life. The tour definitely needs to be repeated a bit more slowly--we didn't have time to go upstairs at the market. This market was a lot better than the one Khady took me to yesterday for beans.
I am hungry now but there is no way I am venturing downstairs at 12:21 in the morning, and there is no way I am eating anything this late at night. I will be up early to have some oatmeal. I am famished.

I met a vendor who knew the Senegalese twins who live in the East Bay. Small world, I just spoke to one of their wives at Kamau Seitu's memorial. She is Baba Jahi's sister. They have a new son.

Just think, I was thinking about changing my ticket and going home and then I have a great day and feel hopeful again about the trip and what else might be in store for me tomorrow.

I had this interesting fruit this evening. It tasted like french fries only it was a fruit, eaten with hot pepper and something else in a sauce. I ate it plain, but the texture was just like a french fried potatoe.