Pictures from Senegal

Sunday, November 28

Tabaski

The biggest holiday of the Senegalese year has come again. It’s two lunar months after Korite (or about two calendar months plus ten days) and is known here as Tabaski. I’m sure it has a more Arabic name in other Muslim countries, and is celebrate a day or two earlier than we do, though I don’t know anything about it. This day is a fusion of my two of my favorite American holidays Christmas and Thanksgiving, and I’m certain that last year I was too caught up in the “everything is so different” aspect to see the resemblances. Happily, not much escaped me this year. I’m going to make a bold statement; this Tabaski was the best Senegalese holiday I’ve passed in all my time here.

The seemingly most important aspect of the day is sheep. Two days before the event I found myself in Dakar, which had a viable shot at being renamed Field of Sheep. Every single spare corner of land that wasn’t resident to a building or a trash pile was covered in sheep and their vendors (and even some of the piles, unfortunately). That’s a lot of sheep; which is to be expected given that every household takes it upon themselves to kill a sheep for their family. How many houses is that? A better question is where do all the sheep come from? I can’t answer either. I can tell you that the single most important purchase of the holiday is the ram, which can cost anywhere from $100 to $400 per. Now’s the time I remind you that the poverty line is drawn at making less than $1 a day… you do the math.

Also reminiscent of Thanksgiving is the enormous amounts of cooking to be accomplished. The night before my family and I sat down to peel a large sack of potatoes, (luckily I’d had a peeler shipped in which made me quite effective) and another of onions. The morning of I was put in charge of the French fries. I lucked out again as my mom (lover of all cooking appliances, utensils, and short cuts) had a fry cutting shooter gizmo which made the job a million times easier. After that I pitched in with the onions. For hours we sat cutting onions in our hands with a paring knife. These women don’t use cutting boards or large knifes to do their work, but they can accomplish the same volume with their hands as a I could with a cutting board for any given period of time. I on the other hand, having zero practice with this method, fumbled often. I’m proud to say, however, that I’m cut free!

Our Catholic neighbors were kind enough to lend us their daughters. Any girl in her teens was sent to our house and given a knife. In the later hours of the morning, when the onions were finally done, I started in turning the potatoes into French fries. Once again my mom pulled out the appliances and her deep fryer… which is good because as clumsy as I feel around the kitchen these days, I don’t know if I could’ve handled the open gas flame and the flying oil at the same time. So for hours I sat refilling the basket, closing the lit, double checking the color, emptying the basket, fighting off the hungry kids, and repeating. When the older Catholic women arrived, they helped my mom prepare onion sauce and our meat.

Let’s go back. What have the 7 men of my house been doing all day, you ask? Well by 9 am they are dressed in their brand new fancy boubous (which looks like an elderly gentlemen’s silk pajama suit) and at about 9:30a they have a special prier service at the mosque. After returning, they change back out of their nice cloths and get down to business. In less than 2 hours my team of brothers and uncles had killed, gutted, and cleaned not 1, but 2 sheep for our family’s festivities. Impressive speed, no? A neighbor had joined us for five minutes with his very sharp knife for the actual killing, and later another random man came by to collect the skins. I didn’t join them for the actual killing, but I did chuckle a bit when my 2 year old brother came running in the house saying “Mommy, the sheep is bleeding.”

Lunch (aka the most important meal of any Senegalese day- let alone this one) consisted of huge piles of meat, such as liver, ribs, or tenderloin, in a bed of onion sauce surrounded by fries, ate with our fingers and hunks of baguette. I have developed quite the affection for the mustard here, which looks deceptively like boring kind found at home but tastes like wasabi mayo that’s been died the same yellow color. Its heaven and I’m considering buying my family mass quantities of it so as to ensure we never run out. About the third or fourth time I asked my mom for another dollop she warned me not to over eat the mustard and make myself sick. Something I did last year, although it’s been contributed to the vinegar used in onion sauce recipes in other households.

After lunch I showered and put on my best Senegalese outfit. Unfortunately my nice shoes are holed up in Dakar and my flip flops nearly killed my mom with embarrassment. None the less, I grabbed my Catholic neighbor, a female friend of my generation (something I have very few of here), and headed to the booze boutique for a beer. After she wasn’t able to finish the whole bottle, and we donated it to the next client to walk in the door, we walked around our neighborhood greeting her friends. I struck up a conversation about how there are in fact only 50 states in the US (as opposed to the 52 that are taught) and 7 continents (5 of which are recognized here).

By dark I was beginning to feel the ache in my body from hours of peeling and frying, so I headed back home. My mom asked me to help here make a fruit salad for dessert... so there I sat cutting melon, banana, pineapple, and more. Meanwhile, I watched my dad and mom continue to clean the piles of sheep meat littering the house in buckets. They reduced the hunk sizes and packaged them into serving size bags to be stored in the large freeze we borrow across the street. By the time the salad was done, it was after 10pm and I was exhausted. My mom, now having such a great working knowledge of my oddities, handed me my usual serving size of salad and allowed me to skip dinner all together (which I’m told wasn’t served until 1:30am). I fell into bed completely exhausted.

For those of you mildly concerned about recent incidents with my uncle, turns out that the second purpose of Tabaski is forgiveness. There are a series of fun Wolof phrases designed for asking all of your acquaintances for pardon for past disagreements and offenses, as well as anything you might have done unknowingly and or unintentionally. I forced myself to take a deep breath and pull off a typical Wolof scenario which ended in the forgiveness of my uncle and the restoration of our (tolerable) relationship.

Wednesday, November 17

It Happened One Day...

My friends and I were scheduled to go on yet another long road trip to explore the Senegalese country side. And so we gathered in the garage in Thies, a mutual meeting point, to find a driver worthy of our adventure. As it turns out we had more than one car’s worth of people… and me and a good friend, lets call him Sebastian (for the sake that using his real name would be awkward), found ourselves as the two guinea pigs biting the bullet and agreeing to jump in a car with a few of the locals.

And so the trip began, the two of us crammed in the very back seat with a thin Pulaar man, made more uncomfortable by the mountains of luggage stuffed into the trunk space and overflowing onto the roof. The wind barely made it through the cracks in the windows to our stuffy corner of the car but at least the sun was blocked by the silky black curtains. The radio played the sounds of Islamic priers chanted to sound like music.

Hours into the trip I found myself lulled into my usual haze of sleepiness developed by years of combating car sickness. My bobbing head would float into the invading rays of sun or rest on Sebastian's or the Pulaar man's shoulder. The road was winding and became hilly, but I’ve grown accustomed to the driver’s ways. He’ll speed down one hill then slam on the breaks half way down to miss the truck in front. He’ll skip passing the truck outright in favor of chugging behind him up the next hill, so slowly the car almost stalls out. And then suddenly I’m jolted awake by the more sudden than normal slamming of the brakes, the screeching of tires, and annoyed cries from other passengers.

We skid, without a glimpse as to why we’d veered into this pickle, sideways down the road into a slightly elevated speed bump. This slightness was just enough to tip the car, in a panic-inducing type of slow motion, into a roll resembling that of a tumble weed. Down the hill the car tumbled until engaging in a final roof to the pavement kiss at the bottom. The most awful screams were melded with the crunching of metal into one terrifying explosion of noise. I’d vice gripped my eyes shut, to avert them from the horrors, only to peel them open again to the upside down puddle of glass and blood I lay contorted in.

The desperation to break free from the wreckage struck me. The air felt dead, dense, unbreathable… and I was gasping towards the space, air, and rays of sunshine outside the car. I crawled under the overturned seat to follow the others through the window. I ran dizzily away from the car as fast as possible, going confusedly in at least three different directions; I didn’t actually know what I was looking for. Air. A place to collapse. Sebastian.

It hit me like another crashing panic attack: I’m looking for Sebastian. My throat hurt but I was screaming anyway. I spin in circles so fast that it takes multiple turns to realize he isn’t there. Where? Where is Sebastian? And then my stomach drops. And in dread I turn back to the car. I drop to my knees and cry out. He’s still in the car. He must be. And I rush back to it, to the shattered back window, and fumble for what feels like hours to pull the bags out of my way. He’s there, upside down in his seat next to my vacant one. His eyes are closed. He isn’t moving.

He’s dusted with blood, but they’re just superficial cuts caused by the glass. I reach out but can’t touch him. Sebastian. He stirs and moans. I move another bag out of the way and crawl deeper back into the wreckage. Sebastian. He moans again. In the tiniest heart breaking voice he squeaks out “can’t.” An eternity later he manages a second word: “breath.” I start to flail in zero free space to rid the back end of the vehicle of all remaining bags. It seems like there’s an endless supply. I wriggle further into the car and I finally reach him. He’s wedged between the seat and god only knows what else. I can see that his chest is unable to rise with his weak breaths. He’s barely awake.

Do something, anything, my mind is screaming. First aid! I grab for his pulse, which is weak but there. I roll onto my side and tilt my head. I breathe air into him. Again. I’m wedged in so close I can see that his chest is still barely moving. Again. Again, I breathe in. Again. I don’t know if it’s helping, but I won’t stop. Between breaths I start screaming for help. Where is everyone else? Why aren’t they helping? Breathe. “Help!” Breathe.

And then I feel something hot close around my ankle. Someone is there. They’ve come to help me get my friend out. They pull. They are pulling on my leg. No. No. I can’t leave. I grab the seat and kick the hand off my leg. I’m yelling so many incomprehensible things. The hand grabs hold again, and another on the opposite leg. They pull harder this time. I lose my grip on the seat. I flail desperately at something to hold on to, but I fail to grasp anything. They are dragging me back out through the trunk. Though my hands are still reaching toward Sebastian, I’m pulled in agonizingly slow motion away from him. I catch his eyes and they’re filled with tears and panic. He can’t say it, but he’s begging me not to leave him. And then he’s gone.

I’m out of the car, lying on the pavement. I jump up and back towards the car but my fellow passengers grab me around my waist. I kick and scream. Two men are dragging me ever further way from the car. I’m yelling things in every language I’ve ever learned… but none of it is the Pulaar that they speak. No one seems to understand me. Sebastian. I need to help Sebastian. Let me go. I fight as hard as it seems I’m possible to break free, but it’s a losing battle. All the adrenaline in my body has been exhausted. I can’t fight them off. My whole body is trembling and I can no longer see. I realize that I’m crying. Hot tears are pouring down my face. Sebastian. Sebastian. Sebastian.

And then I wake up. I’m in my bed in Mboro, under the mosquito net. The tears spilled out of my dreams, in to reality, and across my face. I shake uncontrollably and am covered in an icy cold sweat. My throat is raw and dry like I might have been screaming out loud. It’s just after dawn and there’s barely any light in my room, but I can’t help myself and I contact the real Sebastian. I need to know he’s ok.

This dream happened 6 months ago before the infamous trip to Kedougou… but I can still remember every detail like it just happened yesterday. The next time I speak of Mefloquine please remember this story; wildly vivid and horrible dreams top the list of side effects.

Sunday, November 14

Soup For Thought

The buffet of incidents leading me to swear to always be an amazingly grateful house guest is never ending. Most recently, while my whole family is recovering from a cold given to us by a certain family member, my mom and the maid started a pot of soup for dinner. We rarely eat it because of the heat, but with the changing weather, cooler nights, and never ending cold and flu season, we had good reason to whip up a batch.

Generally, food is prepared in the house by the maid, my mom, or collaboration between the two. This last one goes mostly for the night time meal. My mom will ask the maid to pre-clean and cut veggies leaving them in the fridge for her to later use for dinner long after she’s gone home for the day. On soup night, this was the case. The maid prepped the veggies and meat, and left them in two separate bowls in the fridge. The boys were told to start the broth with bullion and the bowl in the fridge. Hours later a bowl of soup is brought in to my room by a brother, followed by another with a hunk of bread, and my mom.

“We forgot the meat,” she says. The maid had cut it, but somehow that bowl never made it into the soup. Internally I’m jumping for joy. The meat here isn’t frequently appetizing to me, and the fatty soups worthy bits are no exception. Shamefully, I act like a little kid and hide the bits I don’t eat by flushing them down the toilet or putting my bowl at the bottom of the stack in the kitchen so it can’t be traced back to me. So, yeah, I’m ecstatic there was a mistake in communication on this one. There’s a bowl full of broth and veggies with my name on it, and I dig in.

Insert my famed uncle. It’s a miracle he’s able to get up off our couch and walk his bowl to the kitchen as he usually just hands if off to one of the kids. But the reasoning is soon clear. He uses the opportunity to walk through the house making jokes with everyone about the meatless soup. “Soda, how is your water?” What are you talking about? “Anna is stupid and forgot the meat. We are just eating water for dinner. It’s horrible.” It’s not horrible. It tastes great. “You are stupid, too.”

At this point I am boiling over in rage. It’s enough to make me reconsider watching so many vampire related TV shows because there is just no stopping the fury from exploding from my mouth in a combination of 3 languages. The only person who is stupid is you. Anna is an amazing cook and you never appreciate it. You never say thank you. You take and take but you never once give back.

He laughs. My fire starts to flame blue. “It’s unbelievable that I have to remind you to say thank you. You don’t live here. This isn’t your house and therefore everything given to you is a gift. How could you be so unbelievably rude as to insult a free meal? You need to apologize to Anna right away for what you’ve said.” And about now you need to visualize me physically bullying my uncle into the living where my mom is sitting- as the last person to eat left all alone by the people she’s served who have already finished. My uncle covers the small bits of shame poking through his thick skull with a sheepish laughter and says he’s sorry. For what? Because there’s no meat in the soup. “The soup still tastes good,” my mom says. Yes, I believe that to be true, but he doesn’t. I’m sorry.

I go back to my room in order to lower my blood pressure. My uncle goes to the fridge and pulls out a bottle of water to drink. He’s been embarrassed by my shaming him so he’s still making jokes and laughing. I would normally leave it be, but he just happened to grab my water bottle to drink from. Oh hell no. Put that back, I say, it’s not yours. He’s thinking I’m referencing that all things in the house aren’t his, and his ego has taken enough bruising for the night, so he ignores me. I follow him into the kitchen, blood pumping a million miles an hour again, and take the bottle from his hands. See? It’s got my name on it. It’s my bottle. “You’ve never put your bottle in the fridge.” It’s been there for over a year, so don’t bother with that lie.

He can’t take it anymore. Calling someone a liar, or out directly on a lie, is a major insult around here. He deals with his anger by laughing. This is the Wolof way; making mean spirited jokes. I put my water bottle back and he makes a move to grab another one. I’m way beyond flying off the handle (is it bad to admit that?) and I start screaming that he can no longer just take what he wants to while he’s disrespecting the house that I live it. Get out. Now. You’re done here. Go. Now. I pick up his shoes and throw them out the door. I’m actually hitting him. My family is an uncomfortable state of awe watching my utter unraveling in its process. My dad who is the most non-Wolof (read non-gossipy and non-confrontational) people I’ve ever met, has come out of his room to see what the fuss is about. He is so uncomfortable he giggles. Everyone else has stopped laughing uncomfortably and is staring at the floor. My brother comes up and tries to hug me. I shake him off. He pulls me back. Another brother hands my uncle a water bottle and a cup. “It’s done,” he says.

Yes. It is done. They might let you get away with it, but we’re done. Do not speak to me again until you find the meaning of respect. It takes me almost an hour to calm down and stop shaking. This is partly because I can hear my family recapping the incident in whispers and jokes. And as I reflect on my own actions or reactions, a few thoughts come to mind. I read an article about a new book by Tim Gunn, a man of the fashion industry, in which he talks about taking the high road. The value of shutting up and letting people be responsible for figuring out their own mistakes. Boy, am I the anti-thesis of that right now. Must do better in future.

But also I think about where all this sudden anger has come from. Friends have commented that people back home have noticed a change in their aggressiveness, and though I haven’t gotten the same comments I can’t help but believe it’s only because no one has noticed yet. I’m going through the same experiences as my fellow volunteers, so it’s incredibly likely that I’m also becoming more assertive with my anger. I’m more Wolof actually, because the culture here is to make a big deal out of something as quickly as possible. The quickest tongue and loudest mouth wins an argument, because peace, the always desired outcome is sought out quickly. Make a big enough scene and everyone else backs down. Not making a scene at all, trying to use respectful indoor voices and rational will get you nowhere. No one will do what you ask or take you seriously in any way shape or form. That’s what I’ve been learning for the last year anyway. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t I learn it well. Or if I’ll be speaking to my uncle again any time soon.

Wednesday, November 10

Sick of Sickness

On the night of the incident in question, my uncle came over a few hours before dinner to do his usual job of annoying everyone whilst waiting for dinner. I usually sit in my room for this, working or watching a movie. At some point I got up to stretch my legs only to find him lying on the couch watching TV alone. No one else seemed to be around the house, which is common for the cool evening hours, but did make his presence a bit weird. As soon as he saw me, he pulled a look on his face like he was in pain. He started moaning. I ignored him. He moaned some more. I left. A little while later I went into the room for something. He moans again; really attention hungry “look at me” kind of stuff. I do nothing. “I’m sick, Soda.” Yeah. “I’m really sick.” I ignore him. “You should help me.” You should go home and go to bed. You shouldn’t be walking across town to visit people who aren’t here. Go to bed. “But I’m sick. I can’t walk home like this.” I left again.

I’ve found I’ve become the type of person who no longer has the patience for indirect pleas for attention. Indirect is a huge part of Wolof culture, so I’m looking at a long battle of tolerance down the road. But that in itself shouldn’t be too hard. It’s the desperate attention seeking measures that get under my skin. Maybe more so because I know this culture to be one where if you’re sick people leave you alone. Initially, being a new comer, when I got sick I wasn’t left alone; I was forced to eat. But as time went on, and my family got used to my unchanging aura of weird, I started to learn that sickness makes them uncomfortable to confront. I’m talking about mild sickness. It’s the type of thing were simple medications are generally too expensive so they’re forgone. No pain meds for a headache and no Sudafed for a cold sort of stuff. People are expected to suck it up. When I’m sick my family knows that I need to make my own tea and skip a few meals in favor of soup. If my door is closed I’m sleeping and they should knock lightly for meals and I’ll get up if I'm awake or have energy. They leave me alone to recover like they would anyone else in the family. Everyone except my uncle that is?

Something I discovered by trial and error is that when I'm sick everything needs to come to a halt in order to get better. My first few months here I was continuously sick. Whether a stomach issue, or a cold, or a skin problem I’d take the appropriate meds and continue on with my life. But I just wasn’t ever 100%. We come from a culture of having only a handful of sick days for the whole year so they surely shouldn’t be wasted lest some emergency happen where taking those days is unavoidable. But that's not life in Senegal. Somehow there are too many factors and recovery takes that much longer. And if you don't get better, you could actually get so much worse. The only way to deal with illness- and most Senegalese agree with me- is to stop everything in favor of doing absolutely nothing until healed. No matter how many days it takes, I have to remember that I’m no good to these people if I can’t keep myself healthy. And no matter how much I ponder over finishing just a thing or two on the to-do list to keep myself from slipping behind in work… everything must be put on hold. Unless you're my uncle??

So given these bits of knowledge and culture, could you see why I’m so frustrated with a person that walks across town even though he shouldn’t to demand attention from people who don’t actually give it out? Why? Why would someone do that?

The answer is chicken. My uncle is under the impression that because he is a member of the family anything he desires in our house should be his. Awesome. Though this is not the first time I find myself frustrated with this arrogant cultural norm, I am overly agitated with the aforementioned “death bed” of an illness (remember all that moaning?) that accompanies him. This man is known to show up at our house demanding to know what’s for dinner. He’ll stay if it’s good, or complain and leave if he deems it unworthy. Now, I know my mom is one of the best cooks I’ve found in the country, but he’s just a little too ridiculous about it. A 30 something single bachelor that still lives with his mom (admittedly all normal for the area) who wanders the neighborhoods each night in search of the best dish… come on! At least bring a table gift from time to time. Act like a grateful house guest, right?

Well on this particular day, I find out, upon the return of the rest of my family members, that my Dad’s sister from a few towns over is coming to pay a visit. This will be my first time to meet her in the year I’ve been here as family only visits every few years- if they don’t actually live in Mboro that is. In honor of long distance visits my family busts out the bird; they made an excellent meal of chicken, fries, and salad. And although it shouldn’t surprise me that my uncle is selfish enough to potentially spread illness to every last member of my family, it does still anger me greatly.

But as I’m used to this, I brushed it off and took an extra vitamin C tablet. And then we sat down to eat. We are a family of not having to obsessively wash our hands before meals because when we do eat, we use a fork or spoon. On the occasion that there are too many people to pass out spoons for all, then we break out a fancy portable hand washing station but we mostly don’t need that. One of my brothers is in charge of passing out spoons. Only on this day, my uncle took on the role, or stack if you will, and just as he went to hand me the first one he sneezed all over them all. And this right here is what drove me to rage.

How can a sneeze be such a horrid offense, you say? Until you’ve been sick as many times as I have, and in a place where it’s hard to tell if you have a fever because you’re always that hot, I think you just won’t get it. Some days it doesn’t seem to matter how many vitamins I take, how many times I wash my hands, or how many small snot nosed kids I avoid… there is just no escaping the next cold or flu.

So here I am with an attention seeking uncle, who just happens to be sick and spreading it to everyone without remorse, who is also pulling his usual “I’m here for the best meal in town” sans worthy contribution. And I suppose this incident wouldn’t have been different from any other time that I meet my breaking point with a surrendering sigh, except for all the non-redeeming qualities coming together at one moment in time. Suffice it to say, I let him have it in an overly Wolof way. What can I say; I’m sick of being sick. I’m also a little sick of self centered people.

Thursday, November 4

Mall Rats

There’s a brand new mall in Dakar. Where organized shopping did not exist once upon a time, it does now. I can’t help but smile when I walk in, and thinking about the old days of window shopping. It’s a marvel not to be harassed in the market; to just relax and take my time. And when I get a bit down about my current surroundings, and start longing for things found only at home, I plan my next trip to Sea Plaza Shopping Center.

The center is located on the coast; most literally it was carved into the side of it, just a few hundred meters down from the beautiful Radisson Blue hotel that boasts one of the best nights stays available in town. To access the center, your car must first pass through the guard post. I’ve personally never taken a car into the center as a taxi will drive you only to the curb near the guard post, so I really couldn’t tell you what kind of credentials need to be presented or if you’re just paying for parking. Parking is a part of the carved structure and doesn’t appear to accommodate the vast potential the interior amenities do. Perhaps the designers assume that most people will take a taxi like I do.

Once inside you’ll find two floors of boutiques lining the walls and an escalator connecting the two in the center. On the bottom floor you’ll find an information booth. It seems a bit odd considering my personal awareness of the Wolof culture… in which information is regarded with enormous value and thus deemed inappropriate for sharing under most circumstances. Hopefully all you really need is a map to find the store of your choice. At present, and about 40% capacity filled, there are a buffet of what appear to be designer European stores (though I wouldn’t know, I’m just assuming based on the price tags), a few electronics stores that remind you of the home theater section of Best Buy with their couches and “come and test” signs, a beauty salon providing the usual hair, nail, and massage amenities, a scented candle store (some things really don’t change, huh?), and even a beauty products boutique with Clinique items in the window.

I’ve spend time at the bowling alley that has all the lights, vinyl, bowling shoes and sounds to trick your mind into thinking you’re back in the States. There’s a restaurant with typical food and seriously over priced drinks, pool tables in the only smoking section in the place, and an arcade where all the games are in English. I almost didn’t even realize that last one until someone pointed it out to me after being there more than a half hour.

Like any normal mall there’s a food court at one end with a variety of dining options. If you choose Mexican, expect the food to appear more organic than Taco Bell, except for that melted single of Craft American across the top of your burrito. If it’s a fruit smoothie you crave, it’s hard to believe (or pay for) but this too can be found in the food court. Its seating area isn't entirely too expansive that the staff at eat food booth can’t deliver your tray to you. Indoor or outdoor seating will give you amazing views of the coast, but the formal restaurant in the far corner will give you all the sports you can handle with their numerous plasma screen TVs.

In case I’ve never told you about the most upscale grocery store chain in all of Senegal, now would be the perfect time since their newest branch resides in this mall. It is curiously named Casino although absolutely no gambling is to be had, whether your mind jumps to negotiating prices or worries about future food contracted illness of the bowels. The store boasts large aisles full of merchandise organized like you’d find at any grocer back home, amazing amounts of florescent lighting found in no other shopping venue in town, and air conditioning as cold as you can stand it. There’s a deli/ butcher counter, a bakery, an occasionally open sushi stand (I know, I almost don’t believe it myself) and a wine and liquor section. Imported products like corn flakes, chocolates, and beauty products can be found here, for a price slightly higher than you’d be charged back home.

It’s no secret that I’ve lost weight whilst I’ve been on this continent, but with it goes my ability to fit comfortably in every article of clothing I’ve brought here. It’s pretty easy to find pants or shirts in the chaos that is the market, or to have something new made up by a trusted tailor. What is difficult is underwear shopping because of the lack of privacy afforded while doing it. I had a family members send me a few items based on a mildly educated guess of my current size, but there’s no way of knowing for sure without walking into a store and its dressing room to perform some simple trial and error experiments. In this new mall, I got lucky. Not only are there multiple lingerie stores, but they have non-lacy everyday sections, a fitting room, and attendants that speak English. Admittedly, that last fun fact isn’t a necessary one to the operation, but certainly made the whole thing a bit more relaxing.

The pride and glory of the structure, in my singular opinion I’m sure, will be the movie theater to come. As someone who would count movie-going among her top favorite activities, I can say that going without the experience of the stadium seating, reclining folding chairs, annoying crying children, and overly priced and buttered popcorn… I cannot wait for this place to open. Unfortunately, information sharing what it is, I can’t tell when that will be. We’re on African time, so it might not even be in the next year. I also can’t tell you what kind of movies will be shown; American, European, or other, or which language they’ll be in or have subtitles in. I can tell you about my certainty that the cost of going will be similar to that found in the US (as evidenced in the bowling/ pool/ arcade experience). And of course that I’ll be one of the first people in line to see whatever show when the time comes.

And now I'm already mentally planning my next trip to Dakar. Oh the simple things.