Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Goodbyes - Yele Fulani Music Group

This Yele Fulani musical group came to our hotel to play for us the last night of our stay.

Saying My Goodbyes

A few days before our scheduled departure from Dakar, I began to feel a mix of sadness and excitement. The need to absorb the sights, smells, feelings, and to remember the people I'd met was strong. I started to carry my camera with me more often. I know, I know. This blog is evidence that my camera was practically my best friend during this trip, but now it became the tool that would link me back to this place and time, and the moments were coming to an end! These photos are some of the final memories recorded.
While buying my morning paper that last leisurely morning, I made sure I got a photo with my paper guy. He would come to the hotel restaurant each morning, knowing that he had certain sales. (I wish I'd asked his name.)
Cathy and Sue cooperate with me as I take a photo outside a souvenir shop around the corner from our hotel.
Therese, my roomie for the Boston segment of this trip, and I pose at the farewell dinner. Therese is a talented musician and technology media expert. Something about her attracted children (and vendors) in droves. She appreciated the unrestrained joy of the children. In fact, children in Sokone are probably still playing "Duck, Duck, Goose" and "Red Rover, Red Rover" because she and Suzanne taught them how. Talk about leaving a piece of yourself in Senegal!
Chon posed with Jan at our farewell dinner. Jan's plans after the Senegal trip meant that she would not depart with us to New York. Chon and Jan shared similar interests and had spent some time visiting art museums and shops together. They both used Lonely Planet guidebooks to navigate the streets in several of the towns we visited. Being a rookie traveler, I appreciated their leadership when we set out to eat or to take advantage of sights or events which were not scheduled on our program itinerary.

The biggest shrimp I have ever eaten! Note that the heads, eyes, and whiskers (?) are still attached. This would be my last group meal in Dakar.
John, a rare orator, speaks for our group as we present gifts to our directors. John endeared himself to group members with a quick wit, a great sense of humor and a Staten Island accent. Ousmane Sene poses with him as we say our goodbyes. Ousmane brought energy and joviality to the table from the first to the last day of our seminar.

Samba Gadjigo spoke on behalf of the directors at our farewell dinner. He was eloquent, as always, and touched our hearts with the sentiment that our new understanding of Africa goes home with us to our classrooms, our schools, our districts, our communities, our families and friends.
Ousmane Sene and Mbye Cham, project directors receive a framed photo of our group at the farewell dinner on July 3oth. Mame Coumba, in blue, also wove her way into our hearts as she made sure that our time in Senegal was both educational and enjoyable. I shall not soon forget her chastising the young boys who tried to hitch a ride on the back of our bus while we were in route to Touba.

Worth her weight in gold, Mariane Yade, is not only beautiful but resourceful. Her job at WARC was as a, well, um. . . She did everything! As assistant to the directors of the Fulbright seminar, she did whatever was necessary to assist us as we worked on our curriculum projects and visited the sites of Senegal. We took advantage of her as a language translator, coordinator, logistical planner, and in many more ways. This photo was taken as she was saying good-bye to us for the last time.

Morning after morning, Sue and I would pass this woman as we walked or ran along the corniche. She was one of the only Senegalese women we crossed paths with as we endeavored to exercise our well-fed bodies. After several days of smiling and nodding to one another, we began to say "Bonjour" and "Hello" alternately. Sue is special because she is not afraid to say what she thinks or ask questions that occur to her. She is always sensitive and kind in the process. Because our "woman in red" answered "Hello" in English, Sue stopped to ask if she spoke English. Alas, she did (does). That led to the exchange of email addresses the next and last full day of our trip. Our "woman in red" is Ndella, and we have been able to become e-pals. She is gracious and willing to answer our questions about life, customs, family, religion, schools, and more. From this experience I have learned that I should not let an opportunity to meet people and learn their stories pass. My life is richer because I am getting to know Ndella and because Sue taught me not to be afraid to approach people.

Instead of simply heading out on my morning walk with fellow Fulbrighter, Sue, I packed my camera along in order to record the route. While a few still photos can give a glimpse of the environment, I couldn't capture the combined sense of freshness of morning, warmth, and humidity that was the usual climate for these walks. We picked 6:30 a.m. as the time of day which would be light enough to see, but early enough that the streets were not bustling yet. The streets and walkways were already busy with people preparing for the workday, but not like they would be just minutes later. Various combinations of Fulbrighters participated in these morning walks. It was a great time to get to know one another.

Mornings along the corniche were a time for reflection for some residents and for exercise for others. The Porte du Ille Millenaire is representative of Africa's past and global future. Through the door, you can see Goree Island, the island from which slaves were shipped across the Atlantic, representing its colonial past. The view of the ocean represents Africa's global future, and the woman with the horn is welcoming the 21st century. Architect Rock Atepa Goudiaby created the piece, and it was inaugurated by President Abdoulaye Wade in 2001. This structure, for me, has become a symbol of the time one takes for oneself to reflect, to rejuvenate, to prepare for upcoming tasks, and to foster friendships. It is, after all, the people that I miss more than anything else. The places and activities were extraordinary experiences, but the people with whom I shared this adventure, both Africans and Americans, are the true life-changing component of a journey like this.
I couldn't help it. I passed this athlete of stone every morning.

A last look out the window of my hotel room.
I'd grown fond of my home away from home, electrical outages and all.
Each day I passed by this painting in the hallway of the hotel.
Check out the beautiful view of the hotel pool from our breakfast venue. Occasional rains meant only the covering over of the tables with awnings. The restaurant staff didn't miss a beat.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Contemporary African Art

A great place to get a sampling of what contemporary West African artists are creating is the Village des Arts in Dakar. My post of 7/11/10 introduces you to this wonderland of creativity. A community of local artists have studios all together in this one place near the major stadium in the north part of town. The government sponsors this effort. On the grounds, there is a gallery for the display of selected works. Some of the artists are highlighted at

A gander through the gallery was an experience in itself. After the cab adventure I told you about in my entry called "Transportation - Getting from Here to There" of 8/7/10 and upon arrival in the art village, Sue, Suzanne, and I went our separate ways as we were each interested in different art and had different personal reasons for visiting on this day. Admittedly, Sue and I needed Suzanne to interpret for us in some cases, and she was patient and gracious as she made the link between us and the artists we wished to speak with. Sue, by the way, had a special bond already, with a young artist whom she had interviewed for her curriculum project. These kinds of personal interactions are the pieces of this trip that will last in our hearts and memories the longest. Sue would have to tell you her story.

Poster and "Les Jumelles" by Alpha Sow
The Obama poster is typical of many hints at the village and beyond that Senegalese people are watching the U.S. and rooting for Obama in his role as president. T-shirts with his picture abound. Back to the gallery - - - The floor of the gallery was of sand or sawdust. By now I can't remember exactly which, but I had the impression of soft, quiet, and the fresh scent of wood. During my visit, I was the sole observer. Sue and Suzanne were otherwise occupied. I snapped only a few photos of the art represented here.

"La hantee" by Sarane

"Eko Sapiens 1" by Akomian, "Jazzman" by M'ballo Kebe, "Mariage traditionelle", by Assane Gning, and "La Tontine" by Bidounga Russell.

"Jour de FETE au Village" by Bidounga Russell, "Confidences 2" by Sela Diallo, "Duo de Jazz" by Issa Diop, "Ndabu Gaan", by Zulu Mbaye

"Ndabu Gaan 1" by Zulu Mbaye

"Le Bois Sacre" by Tita Mbaye, "Ama Zulu" by Oumar Kata Diallo

"Le Masque" by El Sy
"Objectif" by F. Camera
The artist whose studio I spent the most time in on this day (July 30, 2010) is called Seni Mbaye. He spoke enough English that we could communicate about his work. He had jazz playing on the boombox and was working on a series with jazz as an inspiration. He had been in New York in 2007 as a guest artist and had a photo album which we looked through as he described his experience there. I came home with two of his paintings. In fact, were you to see me in any of the airports I spent time in on my two-day trip home, you'd have seen me carrying my rolled-up canvases, wearing my backpack over my Bohemian-style brown dress with the teal scarf that protected me from mosquitoes faithfully for the duration of my visit to Senegal. I was quite the sight.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Saly-Portudal is south of Dakar and considered a part of Mbour and Thies. It is a BEA-utiful resort town. Wikipedia says it is the number one tourist destination in all of West Africa. I can see why. Clean beaches, plenty of great food, nothing to do but relax, swim, read, and shop.

Saly-Portudal was once a Portuguese trading post. That's your whole history lesson for this post.

What can I say? We relaxed, ate, read, swam, and shopped.

More relaxing, eating, reading, swimming, and shopping.

Ahhhh. . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lac Rose - The Pink Lake

Two destinations were on our itinerary for Thursday, July 29th. First would be a stop to view the famous Pink Lake and then on to Saly-Portudal for a relaxing day at a beach town and resort. Below are some of the scenes from the bus between Dakar and the Pink Lake.
I keep thinking this is one of my favorite photos. What a beautiful smile on a beautiful girl. She is selling water in plastic bags.

We have arrived! First, a rest stop at a hotel near the lake, then on to that pink(ish) lake.

Does it look pink to you? Check out the mounds of salt. A high concentration of salt and cyanobacteria in the water cause it to appear pink, especially in the dry season. The color also depends on the weather. If the sun is out, there is a better chance to see what all the fuss is about. Any industrious person can set up a salt mining business here. They just have to be willing to do the work. A very small amount of this salt now resides in a "jar of honor" in my home. I didn't take it, a vendor gave it to me, calling it a gift. Of course later I was pressed to buy something from her because she was kind enough to give me a gift. Anyway, I'm glad I kept it, because it's a reminder of people I met, things I learned, and how I was touched by the entire experience this summer.
A little-known fact: Episode 6 of The Amazing Race included a task here. Contestants had to bag salt. (Haven't you always wanted to be on The Amazing Race?!) They also went to Goree Island's House of Slaves, and had to guess the author of a poem by former Senegalese President Leopold Sedar Senghor.

To get some of my photos, I walked into the water. It was as warm as if I were stepping into a bathtub. The dried salt coating left on my feet and ankles was a little bit uncomfortable, but I had been learning to adapt to heat, humidity, and the idea that I would not look and smell fresh and clean for very long at a time in this climate, so this was no big deal.
Fulbrighters and vendors are in the distance. Notice the girl in yellow who has decided I must look at the beads she is selling.
"Take a picture of me." I did. She gave me a piece a paper with an address on it to send her the photo. The paper includes her name and "Lac Rose". I wonder if it would really get to her...