Monday, April 22, 2019


Saliou had never been kayaking, and was perhaps a bit suspicious of the whole thing but I promised that it would be fun.  The guide asked who was stronger;  since Saliou clearly is much bigger than me,  we put him in the back.  Bad move since he had no idea how to steer.  In a shallow section, I suggested that I go to the back so we had at least a chance of getting further than 5' down the stream.  We were in the thick of mangroves, their roots extending out from their trunks.  I had kayaked about 10 times before but never from the back;  Stephen always did that.  Even though I'm not particularly skilled, we at least headed in the right direction, mostly.  Navigating very narrow channels was super hard, though, and when I thought we must be almost done with our tour, the guide told us that we were half way there.  No.......  I completely collapsed after that.

Getting to the locale in the first place took four vehicles.  First from Kabrousse to Cap Skirring by taxi, then a sept-place (no breakdowns!!) to Ousmaye, then a taxi to Casamance VTT, then a company vehicle to close to the mangroves.  Then, a 15 min walk through rice fields (currently dry).  It's quite an excursion just to get there.

Lunch?  Fish and rice, of course.  600 cfa, about $1.00.  Prices can vary quite a bit depending on where you are eating.  This was a hole in the wall place.  A kitten mewed at me, huge eyes, while I ate.

As if it weren't obvious, Senegal is really different in all ways from the U.S.  One topic, the relative roles of women and men, was an interesting example of that.  I'd say that Senegal's culture with regard to women's place in life is about where we were in the 1950's, where women were relegated to household tasks, and Dad was boss.  Glad those days are over (mostly).

On a more tragic note, Saliou shared with me the hardship of being black in this world.  That made me sad, this reality.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Day One in Casamance

Le Fromager is a 30 minute walk outside Cap Skirring, the town that attracts tourists and all kinds of local hawking their wares.  it's peaceful here except for the music that continues until 3 am.  Thank goodness for ear plugs.  Saliou and the proprietor of this place don't even hear it - I asked them the next day.  

The beach is deserted, except for a small clientele hanging out around the bar.  We walked aways down the beach, dipping our feet in warm ocean water.  We found out on return from a local guy that a bit past where we turned around, we would have been in Guinea, the neighboring country.  Maybe we'll go there tomorrow.

There's very few tourists here in Kabrousse and the food is cheap.  The usual fish and rice cost 1600 cfa, or about $3.  In Cap Skirring, where we walk this evening, the food was a bit more sophisticated, and the prices, due to the tourism, reflected that.  It was also very good and I had a beer, too.  Wine is very expensive here.

Pretty lazy day. My iPad does not load pictures with a weak Wi-Fi connection.  (Now I am at a restaurant with nominally better connection  ; )

Jenny's Daily Poetry fix

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Casamance or bust - with lunch and a museum on the way

It took me forever to pack my bags in Dakar, leaving my suitcase behind and reducing to two knapsacks, one full of water.  At 1 p.m., Saliou appeared and we left for downtown Dakar for lunch at Saliou's favorite place, a small dark room with a few tables.  The usual please, fish with rice.  It was yummy.  I have not experienced any stomach problems at all.

I had wanted to visit the new Museum of African Civilization, so we went there after lunch.  The timing was perfect because I am currently reading a book about genetics and heredity, so was especially keen to see artifacts and displays on that topic, the grand migrations from Africa.  Both the book and the museum highlight the very small differences in genes between the races - in fact, the whole concept of "race" is completely a construct of white eugenics people.

The car is King here in Senegal.  Pedestrians, motorcycles, bikes (the few there are) have no space. We walked between cement construction barriers and four lane highway traffic between the museum and the way to the port.

Our boat was there and since we were early, we were able to board, passing through at least five sets of security guards checking passports and tickets.  Our little cabin was quite adequate and the upper bunk even had a window looking out onto the water.  The Moon was full, shining across the water.   We departed at exactly 8 p.m. as planned, leaving Dakar behind, and and heading out to open sea. During the night, when I would wake up, I would see the full Moon and the gentle rocking of the boat as we headed south towards Casamance.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Another day in Dakar: Jenny's on her own

The day's agenda was for me to go back to Mariste to get a dress altered, meet up with Iba's sister during the day, and have dinner with Khady, Ameth's aunt, in the evening.  I was prepared (after I did my laundry in the sink).  Not to spend more than 2000 CFA and hope that the taxi driver spoke French.

Mariste has many more shops and a few more paved streets.  A horse and cart is side by side with a taxi.  Nearby, nice cars are covered to protect them from every present dust and sand.  At the boutique, I asked that my dress be altered so that I could wear it in the U.S. (now, the straps are like most dresses in U.S., not off the shoulder). I bought take-out lunch of, what else, chicken and fries for Iba's sister, Iba and nephew, and got the full story about how she was looking for funds to start her business.  Another example of talent and drive going to waste due to lack of capital.

I have to admit that having a separate space that is more Western is nice.  This place, Residence Ba, is like an extended stay hotel in the U.S. with some people staying 2 weeks.

Although we were invited to have dinner at 19h at Aunt Khady, Saliou was stuck in traffic and only got back to his place (around the corner from the hotel) around 20h, and Iba, who was to join us only showed up at 21h, so we ate at the usual 21h. Khady did all the preparation and cooking while seated on a low stool close to floor level.  The "stove" is a propane tank.  The chicken is first cooked (not sure how as that was done earlier), then marinated and finally fried.  It's very delicious, as was the rest of the meal.  A lengthy discussion in Wolof then proceeded regarding Plan and Ameth.  I knew from experience that this could go on for an hour or more, so I announced that I was very tired (being an old American woman) and we headed back to Yoff.

You can maybe tell that I am getting ready to leave Dakar.  I think everyone is ready to get back to their routines and responsibilities!

Iba's family in St. Louis

Dear readers, you are probably getting familiar with the landscape here.  There are children running about, family, neighbors, food, stories...
Iba has a big brother, Malik, who works security duty at night.
His wife is learning to sew in school.
Iba's father passed away last year making things more difficult for the family.
It's basically hard for everyone here.  The lack of capital for starting new businesses is crippling and people are suffering.  The wealthier Senegalese do not help their brethren, even within a single family.  There isn't really any social safety net.
So they look for any opportunity to get money from anyone who has some, like me.  More on that in another post.
I was very glad to see that one of Iba's long time friends rides a bike!!

Here are photos of Iba's family:

Mpal: Visiting Ameth and his family (Plan International)

Mpal.  Hot.  We arrived mid-day and entered a small compound behind a woodworker's shop.  The walls are made of cement block.  There is an outdoor latrine, always kept washed and clean, squat style.  A cooking area is also outside under a scantily covered palm roof.  Large cooking pots are placed on top of a large propane tank.  It always takes me awhile to even figure out who the key characters are - I'm at least trying to find the mother.  And Ameth.  He is still at school.  The older brother takes us there by car.

The school courtyard is teeming with children.  Magatte, Ameth's younger brother, leads the way in locating Ameth.  It becomes clear, if I did not already know, that Ameth does not speak French, only Wolof.  Iba and I wanted to also talk to the administrator, who advised us that Ameth was not doing well in school and he needed to step it up. We knew he had already failed this last year.  Ameth looked down at his hands, a very closed body position.  When I asked about the effectiveness of Plan, I got the political-speak back.  I didn't have any confidence in what he said.

Upon arrival back at the compound, I see one woman cooking, one doing laundry (by hand, of course) and the mom is cooking.  The fluency in French varies, but the smiles and warmth are universal.  What a delicious lunch we had...the traditional Senegalese food is rice with fish or chicken, which has all be cooked together making a fragrant, rich stew.  It's super yummy.

Afterwards, Iba (mostly, in Wolof) and I had a lengthy discussion with Ameth and his mom.  Things are very complicated.  Ameth lives with his grandmother, who lets him get away with anything.  The mom lives with family on the other side of town somewhere with a husband and brothers, but is not at ease there (not sure why).  Over two to three hours, Ameth opens up like a flower as we decide how to help him, finally settling on several months of tutoring so he can pass his exam.  His efforts to convince me that he needed a cell phone fell on deaf ears (what a great way to waste even more time, as far as I was concerned).  As for the mother, we also talked at great length about her desire to make money and become more independent.  I decided to give her seed funds to buy some fabrics at wholesale prices so she could sell them, with strict oversight by Iba.  It's pretty common for the Senegalese to fritter away money by giving it someone else or buying something they want.  I'm very strict about this.

During our discussion, a heavy-set woman arrived who had done the translations for the letters from Ameth.  At least she claimed she did.  She must have been sent the administrator from the school.  Her French was very primitive so I knew she was not telling the truth as the last letter from Ameth (or rather, signed as Ameth) was beautifully written in French.  This was a disappointment to me.

As we headed back to St. Louis, the air became cooler,  much appreciated.

What Senegalese people have for sale - they will let you know!

A nice man, 60ish, approached me to chat, telling me of "relatives" in California.  I was actually looking for an ATM of some sort, having blown through alot of money.  He walked with me to the right location and I entered through two doors into a small space with an ATM.  Every time I go to these places, its kind of scary because anyone can follow you in; there is no security and there is no lock on the inside.  He was, of course, waiting for me when I came out.  He told me that he is an artist and only then did I notice he had a large backpack, which he proceeded to open, pulling out at least three bags of jewelry.  Some of it was very nice and I ended up buying three necklaces and a bracelet. the lovely blue and white bands are different colors of electrical wiring, if you look closely.  Quite well done actually.   I did a little bit of bargaining, always some thing foreign for Americans to do, and he threw in an extra necklace into the bargain.  Was it a good deal?  I think it was a fair deal, maybe a little more than a Senegalese would pay, but not outrageously out of line.  I did notice that very simple necklaces in the hotel cost outrageous sums.

The Senegalese people sell fabrics with colorful designs which are nicely displayed on all the women!  There are tailors readily available who are happy to measure you and whip up an outfit of your choice.  (The women I have visited have also tried to give me an outfit of their traditional dress, but I have tried to gently explain that we don't wear clothing like that and it would be best put to use here.  However, one of them stuck their offering in Iba's bag anyway.)  In one of the pictures below, you can see the different types of fabrics in clothing items I have purchased here.

And, of course, anything else you might think of that would perhaps appeal to tourists:  masks, wooden objects of various sorts.