mercredi, avril 19, 2006

Big Dave went where?

Finally a much awaited update. Many folks have commented over the frustration at seeing that mutton leg so much over the last three months. So here is another much more pleasant picture.

Dad came to visit a couple of weeks ago. It was really a great time. Admittedly, I was anxious to see how it all would go over, but it was great to hear him say in the end that it was the most stimulating trip he had ever taken. Hey, it is Senegal--how couldn't it be?!

It started of by me waiting nervously at the airport what turned out to be 24-hours early (Sarah: learn to read an itinerary!). I though he had gotten stolen by some fast-talking con man. I called home enough times to make Amy think that someone was stalking them in the middle of the night. Once she figured out what was going on, she calmly informed me that Dad wasn't stolen, he was in his bed sleeping. So I ended up having to spend another day by the pool, drinking, eating, and watching movies at the nicest hotel in West Africa. Nice but expensive mistake.

So I finally picked him up at the right time the next day, we had breakfast at the hotel and then played a round of golf at the hotel. The golf was really the only reason I chose the hotel, and from the state of the course would have been in no ways worth it other than the fact that afterwards one could say that they'd played a round of golf in Africa. For good old Midwestern folks like us, that is pretty cool. Dad did say that the view off the ocean rivaled Pebble Beach.

We then headed off from Dakar to the south of the country, the Casamance. We spent the first day and night in a beach resort area which we found to be filled with seemingly more French pensioners than Senegalese. The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was a bit of a shocker for my dad. It was his first real taste of Senegal. Anything at the Meridien (our hotel in Dakar) can be safely known as "fake Senegal."

Urgh, I think I am too tired to walk through this with such detail. I think a list of highlights will have to do:

1. Well one thing that really stands out a major learning experience was the transport. One driver killed a dog, another came close to taking my dad's right arm, and after it was all said and done we still got from one point to another "safely."

2. We had a great time hanging out in a little upstream village called Affiniam. Dad met an American psychologist turned traveler and drank so much beer that I couldn't pay the tab. I found a sweet family to talk to and kissed their kids, who I will hopefully never forget.

3. We took a stroll around Zuiginchor which startled my dad as much as it reminded me of why I wanted to move there.

4. I smoked my first cigar with my dad. P.S. His was a Cuban.

5. Dad ate lots of ceebu jën--the first of my family and friends to do so! He loved it.

6. He met, loved, and graciously entertained my friends in Saint-Louis. We also made stops to meet the missionaries who had taken me in for Christmas as well as those who I'd been hanging out with weekly.

7. We sat at my tailor's in an open-air market and had a big pair of African-print shorts made for Dad. Mamadou was charming and did great work.

8. I caught and kissed my first goat. Sadly, we weren't ready enough to get a picture taken. I've tried again a couple of time, but have been very unsuccessful.

9. We visited a bird sanctuary and saw an ENORMOUS flock of pelicans. Our guide also made fun of a big group of package-tour Frenchies in the boat ahead of us. It was great. (Poor French people.)

10. We ate really well, with the slight exception of me never being able to get a good shrimp cocktail.

11. Much, much, more...

Thank you Dad! I love you! I really appreciate you coming to Senegal!

samedi, janvier 14, 2006


It was a good thing that my back was turned to the center of the courtyard while I was chopping onions for the noontime meal, otherwise I could have seen the rapid slaughter of five muttons. There was nothing terribly ceremonial about what they did. No incense or chanting or presenting things at an altar like I associate ritual sacrifice. They just butchered the animals in the yard and feasted on yapp (wolof for meat) all day. I found the whole situation to be more intimidating than nauseating. They kept urging/commanding me to eat more and more. I just couldn't choke it down. The cuts that we were eating weren't particularly well done, very tough and fatty. Later the little boys of the household had a wild time boiling up the testicles and munching on those bad boys. They asked me if I wanted to taste. I passed politely.

Sarah in a Bubu!

So here I am: typical Senegalese style. Everyone has tailors that make their clothes. It is pretty cool. I wonder if this get-up will fly in Ann Arbor.

Cascade de Dindéfélo and Ségou

These are taken in the Bassari country where I had my bicycling adventure.

The woodworker

This is a woodworker I met in Ziguinchor. I was struck by his shop's exterior and wanted to take a closer look. I ended up sitting with him for a while and he allowed me to photograph is work. He was sweet and quiet and kind of sad. He told me about how he has to rely on his daughers that are living in Dakar for support because he cannot make enough money to live off. He looked at my camera and started saying things about how Africans could never make technology such as that, and that if you ever saw it here it was because the toubab brought it. I don't think he really believed me when I told him how much I liked his country.

vendredi, janvier 13, 2006


Here is an old Catholic Church in Ziguinchor built by the French. There was a funny sign over the to both wings of the sanctuary: it commanded people to dress properly for church and showed a diagram of proper attire--the model parishoners were Frenchies dressed in colonial high fashon, everything buttoned, petty coat and all. Ironic.

Here is the pirogue we rode in down the Casamance river. The boats are painted really beautifully and come in all sizes. Pop a motor on a good sized one and you've got a deep sea fishing vessel. Crews of guys will regularly go out to sea for weeks at a time to catch fish. Most all of it is caught with nets.

Here is the village we stopped at up river. You can see behind the thick Baobab trunks the grass-roofed huts. There seemed to be mostly fishermen and agriculturalists here. Lots of cute kids too, of course.


This is in Abéné, a sleepy tourist village just south of the Gambia on the coast. The Casamance is so lush and green compared to further north. Lots of birds too. It is beautiful.


This is the Canadian girl, Zuzana, that I met in Kaolack. Looks like quite the traveler, huh? We're just outside of Kaolack on the way to the Gambia to do the border crossing.

Christmas in Kebemer

Iris and Eden, two M:MM missionaries. We're in the market in Kebemer. Iris grew up in the Congo, her parents are Dutch and Swiss. Eden grew up in Senegal, her parents are in Chicago now where her dad is pastoring a church. Missionaries seem to birth missionaries.

Here we are in the Wolof village near Kebemer preparing lunch. My job was to clean the rice, meaning you sift through it with your hands and pick out all the debris. It is one of those tediously calming jobs. The young girl to my left is Iris's 17-year-old daughter Jessica.

lundi, janvier 09, 2006

A long vacation

It has been a while.

I spent Christmas and the days just before it with an American family in Kebemer, Senegal. It was so I got to eat Christmas cookies. We spent a day in the village where they work. It was great to be there, see the children, talk with the women.

Then I traveled south stopping in Kaolack for a night where I met a wonderful Canadian girl. We ended up running into each other two other times without planning to: for New Years in Ziguinchor and just yesterday in Dakar. In Kaolack I stayed in a clean little Catholic mission house and got a good night's sleep just before the craze of crossing the Gambia. It included a mob of Gambians scrambling to convince me that I needed to change my money with them, a ferry ride across the river where I thought I would get trampled, and a really pleasant ride in a mini bus where I met a lovely Senegalese woman. She invited me to stay with her family next time I passed by Kaolack. She was really pleased that I was in Senegal and that I was studying her language.

Finally I arrived in Abéné, just south of the Gambia. I met up with the other Americans and we had a really nice time. We spent some time on the beach and saw a cultural festival. It was a bit tiring to be there for too long because there were so many people that wanted to talk to you and sell you something all the time. I figure that the town's only real substantial form of income is tourism. Lots of people made little crafts aimed at the tourist market. It seems like kind of a hard way to make it by. I met a nice Gambian guy while I was there who drempt of going to New York for college, but he was unable to attain the visa. It seems like the same story over and over.

After that we were in Ziguinchor. It was nice to be able to slip away a bit more anonymously in a larger city. I really enjoyed the feel of things down there: slow and relaxed. We took a piroge ride up the river to visit a remote village, see the mazes of mangroves, and do some bird watching. I decided that Zig was someplace I would like to live if I ever got the chance. It is kind of like Africa's version of Ann Arbor.

We then headed east toward the border with Guinea for some time in the back country. It was wonderful: waterfalls, mountains, and barely any trash. I took off on a solo bike trip about 70 km long. It did it in two days, climbing a mountain and hiking to a waterfall inbetween the two legs. I think that the next time I decide to do a bike trip I'll have to get a better seat and a pair of padded bike shorts.

Then I headed straight to Dakar, leaving Kedougou at 4am on a bus that was twice over its intended capacity. It was a bit crazy, but that is the story here with cheap local transport. I took a sept place after the bus, which carried a sheep as part of its cargo. The poor thing was stuffed in a bag, stapped on the roof, and left to contemplate the impending sacrifice. This coming Thurday is Tabaski. The holiday where each family sacrifices a sheep in commemoration of God's faithfulness to Abraham in providing a sacrificial animal instead of his son. The short of it is, in a country of 94 percent Muslims--we'll be eating mutton forever!

Well the time is just about up at the cyber. Love you all!

vendredi, décembre 16, 2005

Awa, my friend who taught me to do laundry

Here is sweet little Awa. She lives in a village near campus. The other day she wandered into my room and she ended helping me with my laundry and sharing a snack of coke and biscuits.

I asked her what she did for fun and she said she didn't really. She had too much work to do. I told her she was too young to be a master at laundry and she laughed at me.

I am constantly amazed at how capable the kids are here--caring for themselves and each other. I see troups of kids that can't be more than 7 roaming the streets or doing tasks for their families. And another crazy thing: when kids fall down here they don't really cry.

Another story to follow the previous

Nichole told me the other day about perhaps the funniest things she has seen since coming to Saint-Louis.

The goats here fart a lot. That in and of itself is funny, but there is more. She saw a mama goat fart in the face of her kid goat. The mama turned her head to look to see where the sound came from, as if she didn't know it was from her own self. The kid proceeded to burst into a fit of tears. Screaming and wailing like they normally do. Ha!

jeudi, décembre 15, 2005

Story from an expat that is worth broadcasting

So my good friend Nichole shared a good one with me this morning.

When Nichole was a kid she was at Pizza Hut with her family for a meal. They were gathered around the table when Nichole's dad ripped a really raunchy fart. So loud was this fart that all the servers in the restaurant dropped their trays of pizza and a clamor of pots and pans was heard from the kitchen along with the exclamation "FUCK!" from the mouth of the cook. Nichole's family left the table in disgust, leaving her dad there calmly finishing his pizza. He was informed by the manager when paying for the meal that he had to also include the cost of the chair he had been sitting on. His fart was so powerful that it ripped a whole in the vinyl.

In other news: I am doing well. Just took my first Wolof exam. Yay!

jeudi, décembre 08, 2005

Grapefruits for Hootis

Université Gaston Berger: classroom, my village, pathway on campus
Baobab reverve on the way to Mbour...I love them!
Lovely Popenguine...
Me and Nichole under mosquito nets in Popenguine.
This was taken on the beach north of Saint-Louis near the Mauritanian border. Those are fishing boats called "perogues."

Photo Update

So here is a picture of me. I am in my room at Gaston Berger. See those curtains? My roommate just got them. She is really excited about them. This is now the second roommate that really likes pink. If my hair looks shorter, that is because it is. I just took a shot at cutting it myself. Let’s say I was about 80% successful and my friend cleaned up the difference. The dress I’m wearing is one of my favorites. I bought it in Dakar just before we left to come to Saint-Louis. It is basically a bag with strings at the top. Very comfortable. You can’t see it, but I am completely covered in mosquito bites. I am trying to practice good self-control and not scratch so they heal without scars. So far so good. I did have my first bout with bed bugs this weekend while travelling. Not so bad. Behind me is my desk by the window. It is a nice little place overlooking some sand, trees, and of course trash. All in all, I’m pretty comfortable here. The space is actually bigger than the Sassy Triple, though that is not hard to do.