Monday, July 5, 2010

Touch Down on the Continent

A view from my room. I am on the third floor of six in this hotel. This picture was taken very early in the morning, perhaps 7:00 a.m. Later in the day, the street is bustling with vendors. Bustling! My room is simple, but clean. The doorknobs and lights operate differently than the ones at home. There is wireless internet here, but the electricity is not dependable. We have occasional "brown outs" in which most of the town's (the hotel employee said all of Senegal's) power is out. They must have emergency generators which keep the essential lights on, but no outlets, TV, or air-conditioning works when the power is out. Currently, the power is out. There has been a life-saving breeze blowing today (7-6-10).My dinner on Monday evening was very good. Language translation was a little tricky, but I believe the waiter said this fish is perch. A dichotomy seems to exist between abundance and want. We have been fed very well here. Too well. I simply cannot eat all that I am served. At the same time, I am increasingly aware of the need to conserve other things. Toilet paper is sparingly provided, and in many cases already, I have found the need to bring it with me because some facilities do not provide it. There is evidence of want on the streets, in some areas of the city more than others. Like any city, I suppose. I've heard differing figures, but around 50% seems to be the average number to describe unemployment here. When rural, agricultural lifestyles are no longer productive, Senegalese do what anyone else would do. They move to the city to find work. With the crowded conditions and the weak infrastructure, including city public works and housing, Dakar strains under the pressure but is working on this problem. It is also a land-locked city, meaning there is only one way in, and one way out of the city. Traffic is unpredicatable, especially if it rains. The rain does not drain well, which limits where one can drive.
After lunch on Monday, I enjoy visiting with my new friends. It is still hot, but a breeze has begun to move the air around, so it becomes pleasant. This is me with Steadman from Kansas, Suzanne from California, Yumi from California, and Elana from Washington D.C.
This is one mode of transportation for people or goods. However, cars, busses, and taxis crowd the streets as well. In fact, it took us about two hours to drive through the market streets to get to WARC today (7-5-10). Some unusally busy streets held us up. It should have taken only a few minutes to get there. That, however, gave us a very good opportunity to see the market.
Books for sale at the local market. A market scene from the bus tour of Dakar. Taking us on a bus tour was a good way to give us an overview of the city. Some parts are nicer and have newer buildings. Others are very busy. People everywhere are selling goods. It reminds me of New York city streets where there are street vendors and tiny stalls which contain goods for sale. This, market, however, was ten times more crowded with makeshift storefronts and had far more people trying to sell their wares without even a place to display them. There is construction going on in most parts of the city, but some of it looks as though it's been abandoned for a very long time. Trash is also common in the market streets that I have seen. I'm told that there is a trash pick up service, but they pick up only what is in the small cans, and people don't feel the need to use the trash cans when they are ready to pitch their waste. I saw this happen at the airport upon arrival to Dakar. The research center is located in a quieter, government business part of town. I hope to get lots of good work done there.

* Check out this short video of a drive down a Dakar highway.

A reception was held for us this evening. It featured dinner, meeting our new friends from the WARC, or the West African Research Center, a couple of bands, and dancing. We were very tired, but everyone participated in the dancing as well as the eating.
Parotille played for our reception on the first evening we were here. They began with familiar American songs and artists like George Benson and Carlos Santana. I'm pretty sure my George Benson album is still in my closet. They then moved to Senegalese rap. Theirs was on the milder side of the genre. Rap in Senegal is used as a tool to send messages of peace, family responsibility, protest against corrupt government, and love. I have to take their word for it because I understand very few of the lyrics. Fou Nalade followed with more rap, and then Parotille finished the evening music performance. We will be seeing musical performances many more times, both scheduled on our itinerary and optional opportunities. Senegal is widely known for its distinct music. Watch for more information on the music called Mbalax.


  1. Wow Arlis - this is already fascinating to read! I look forward to the days ahead as I follow your adventure! Glad to see that you arrived safely - I hope you are feeling better!

  2. WOW! A completely different world.