October 29, 2004


This month of Ramadan is really enlightening for me. Besides seeing people's true nature when they are deprived of food, I also learn to appreciate the sacrifice involved in fasting...indirectly of course.
My colleagues often ask me "won't you fast with us, out of solidarity?". I respond "won't you come to church with me, on Sunday mornings at 6AM, out of solidarity?". They respond "of course". I have yet to see them really seriously consider the offer. Solidarity my ass!

I've also noticed that the month of Ramadan is also associated with masses of beggars usually congregating around the mosque. Some of them are women with babies that they breastfeed, other are old men with dark sunglasses, and others yet are people with leprosy who extend their fingerless hands in my direction. This has really been troubling me, and every morning, I seriously question my worth in Senegal.

This is a weekly newsletter for us American folks that explains the situation:

"A previous edition of the Khibar explained what Ramadan meant for Senegalese Muslims: during the ninth month of the Muslim year commemorating the revelation of the Koran to Mohammed (PSL) in 7 AD, Moslems abstain from food, water and worldly pleasures from sunrise to sunset for a month. This is to practice self-discipline and to recall the hunger of the poor.

And it is during Ramadan that the third pillar of Islam, almsgiving, is evidently and constantly enforced: Moslems believe that the charity given on earth to the poor, orphans, twins, aged and infirm will become one’s livelihood in heaven.
Dakar during the Ramadan month is literally besieged by hundreds of beggars falling into one or another category of alms receivers: one has to understand that Senegalese also give from a conviction that by giving they will receive. Foreigners are often perturbed by the number of beggars in Senegal; it is not perturbing for Senegalese Moslems, but since in Dakar the beggars are part of the landscape, and all the more so during Ramadan, it is best to learn a Wolof phrase if you are not in a giving mood at the moment. The phrase is Ba beneen yoon (the next time); one can also say: Baal ma (excuse me).

We had so many questions about the little beggars, the talibes, that a whole other Khibar is going to be necessary to cover this topic! Next week, then
Meanwhile, Deweneti (May God grant us life for next year); this is the phrase we use to wish people a nice Ramadan, too."

October 25, 2004

Moving target

I'm going to Antanarivo, Madagascar for Christmas. Yes, I know, I'm a lucky duck. The trouble started with the price of the ticket which is exorbitant. It's about the price of a really good new computer.

The travel agency doesn't use credit cards and my checks are worthless because they are made out to US dollars and not CFA francs. This means that I had to send our driver (no comments please) to cash my rather large check. He comes back with wads and wads of bills that, all piled up, are about 5 inches thick (about 10 cms for you wusses that use the metric system). I felt like the richest woman in the world. I was under strict instructions from our lady at accounting to count all this money. I felt giddy just flipping the cash from thumb to index. She also double-checked the amount with me and I suspect that she was taking secret pleasure in handling this much money. We tallied this up a couple time (just to make sure it was correct of course).

Then I set off to the travel agent, which of course made me a moving target. No one really bugged us but I'm convinced that my faced turned the color of the money I was carrying (in this case purple and green).

She received me with open arms and I felt very very loved. She took my envelope that I was clutching rather firmly to my chest and proceeded to count all the money slowly and staple it by wads of ten. It was excruciating and I honestly did not appreciate that smirk on her face. Each flip of the crisp money was deafening and felt like a quick sharp stab to my heart.

Now, I am "the price of a brand new computer" poorer and I still don't have my ticket. She said she'd send it tomorrow. I'm sure glad I know her sister because I can always hold her hostage.

October 21, 2004

En Brousse Against Bush

Dear all,

Well, it's time for another installment of a Run Against Bush Event. October 23rd is the 2nd and last International Run Against Bush day. We are planning talk a walk through the exciting Parc Hann located in our very own capital Dakar!

The park has 300 species of Senegalese flowers and plants as well as 134 animals. So if you are a newcomer to Dakar, have children, are an emerging photographer extraordinaire or just want to hang out with some cool people, please join us!

We will be meeting on the morning of October 23 before the sun gets too hot. We’ll give more details later on in the week… Check out the pictures on this site
http://www.au-senegal.com/decouvrir/parc_hann.htm .
Keep your calendars open :)

Talk to you soon,


Chers tous,

Nous sommes en pleins préparatifs pour la prochaine réunion du Run Against Bush. La deuxième et dernière Journée Mondiale du Run Against Bush sera le 23 octobre. Nous vous préparons une petite ballade dans le super Parc Hann qui se trouve dans notre belle capitale qui est Dakar!

On y compte aujourd'hui plus de trois cent espèces de la flore sénégalaise et, dans le parc zoologique, 134 animaux. Donc si vous venez juste d’arriver, avez des enfants, êtes un as des photos ou si vous voulez seulement être en compagnie de gens sympas, joinez-vous à nous!

Nous nous recontrerons le matin du 23 octobre avant que le soleil ne tape trop fort. Des details à venir dans le prochain email en fin de semaine… Des photos du parc se trouvent au
Gardez votre Samedi matin pour nous :)

A plus,

October 19, 2004


So, I was really freaked out about my ballot. It hadn't come in our sporadic monthly mail pouch and I really wanted my vote to count (I'm a 6 months old newly naturalized American, I've paid my taxes since the age of 16 so I feel I deserve the right to vote).

I filled out an emergency ballot, signed it, inserted it in the first envelope, inserted that in the second envelope, closed it, filled out my contact information and apprehensively gave it to my friend who was traveling to Canada. She promised to send it as soon as she got there. I felt like telling her to take good care of my baby, not to bend it, expose it to harsh Canadian weather and make sure that it slid to the bottom the mail box (sometimes it gets stuck in the little mail door--tragic).

Today, I received my absentee ballot. Shoot! What do I do now? Do I fill out this absentee ballot and send it with the risk of arriving late? Or do I forget it and hope that my emergency ballot is enough to count?


PS: Am I going to have to wait another month before the pouch goes out? Why don't they have internet voting?

October 18, 2004

Update on the Siamese Twin

A few of you have been making enquiries on the twins. So here's an official update.

"I need to make a retraction. The twin are not actually twins. They are very much two separate human beings: I saw one of them eat at the lunch table alone. She was looking very sad and forlorn."

Halloween and things generally associated with Autumn

I miss the leaves turning red, orange, brown and yellow. It's still very hot but it seems (gasp, dare I say it?) to be getting a wee bit cooler now.

I miss Halloween and the cheesy, gaudy store decorations that come with the holiday. I went to a crafts fair yesterday and met the Community Liaison Officers of the American Embassy--a glorified term for Party Organizers. They were telling me of a Halloween party organized for adults. One of the ladies was getting a witch costume made by local tailors. I stiffled a giggle, imagining a white lady with an African print dress and assorted pointed hat, braids in her hair, Senegalese sandals and straddling a home-made little broom that people use to sweep their balconies here. Scary costume indeed.

October 15, 2004

Cleaning lady

I just hired a maid. Yes, I know that it's ridiculous seeing as I live in a one-bedroom place. But she does my laundry and I truly love her for it (my idea of a good time wasn't spending hours on my knees scrubbing my clothes after work).

She probably relishes coming to my house for cleaning, twice weekly, because there's practically nothing for her to do. In fact, I try to cook a large meal the night before she comes in order to generate dishes for her to wash (I mean I wouldn't want her to be bored).

My maid dresses better than me when she is scrubbing my clothes, doing my dishes and mopping my floors. Refer to previous post for irony of the situation.

Dress Code

I have started taking Wolof lessons with a highly qualified teacher. He's nice but he's really hung up on the black/white thing. I feel I'm teaching him more than he is me: white people are normal, we are not all evil colonialists and we have greetings compassion and hand shakes in our culture too.

He is forever commenting on my clothes, more specifically my skirts (which are long enough to cover my knees). He tells me that this is too french and that I have to dress more like a Senegalese. He then proceeds to point out some appropriate outfits in magazines. I got a little annoyed last night and told him to relax, that I'm here because I want to help (why else would I leave my a/c, TV and cable, my IKEA couch, my good good friends and my natural food store at home?), and that yes, I do dress like a white person but in case he didn't notice, I was in fact white. Sheesh! Get over it.

This is one of the things that makes it tiring to live here. I am and will always be a white person. Like in Japan, I am Westerner. And in France, I am an American. And in the States, I am a Frenchie. Grrr!

Interesting development

Tomorrow is Ramadan. One of the twins is Muslim (the one on the left) and the other is Christian. One will fast, the other won't. I am fascinated to see how they will cope with this new development.

October 14, 2004

Siamese Twins

The Finance Assistant and the Secretary are two middle aged Senegalese women. They have been working together in the same company for the better part of 30 years. Every day at lunch time, they order one single dish that they share.

They gather their two chairs together, grab two spoons with their right hands (it is terribly rude to eat with your left hand in a Muslim country) and proceed to split every last piece of rice down the middle. They have equal pieces of oignons, rice and fish on each side of the plate and each has half a lime for sprinkling. They then relish their foods while talking Wolof in a very fast, animated way. Once, in a while they throw the fish bones over to an empty plate.

Sometimes, I have to stare really hard to remind myself that they are not attached at the hip. They're so cute, I can't wait to take their picture.

October 12, 2004

Yikes, Ants!

Yesterday, I was pouring myself a cup of tea and thus reaching over my counter to the sugar tupperware. I was about to pour some sweet sugar baby when I noticed a tiny teeny ant crawling out from the top. Then I peered over the edge to get a closer look and saw entire tunnels and chambers carved in the sugar, filled with cousins ants. It would have been a cool science experiment if I hadn't been so disgusted. I filled the tupperware with scalding water while chanting, "Die ants die"! Then I did a little victory dance. Bwaaahhhhaaha.

Never, ever leave anything outside of your fridge in Senegal. Unless you need the extra protein.

Cool!!! Our giant Ant Farm just arrived in the mail!  Posted by Hello

October 11, 2004

Boat, Moat, Float, Goat, Rote, Vote!

I've been reading political blogs in between things and am ashamed that I haven't been more vocal about this election.

So, I'll do my part by asking to please please PLllleaaase vote. Know how lucky you are about having the opportunity to vote? Plus, I don't want to hear ANY whining from you about the president, the economy, the lack of decent jobs or the state of our healthcare, if you haven't voted. Save it. Zip it. Don't complain to me unless you have voted.

I composed a little poem (see title of blog) that might help you remember. It goes a little sumthing like this.

"Mnemonic Device", by Dorothee

New Office

My boss asked me to move to an office closer to his. The office I work in right now is to the right of the main door. He finds it disconcerting that I can come into work and never even be seen. I chose not to be offended by that (I'll let you know that my attendance record is exemplerary) and said, "sure boss that's no problem".

Problem. The last two tenants of the office were men. Dirty men. As I was going through the hundreds of magazines, drawers, file cabinets and manuals, I found the following items: a rotten mouse with little insects running in and out of it, two used women underwear (I swear this is true), 2 chest x-ray and various blood works (of results that I will keep confidential), fake greasy black hair with pins still attached, a once-white now-beige sweater, a black tablecloth, 5 computer attachments and a pc battery, 4 large batteries, 3 colorful spools of embroidery thread, etc.

I spent all day dusting, ripping out the ugly 1970s shapeless posters, sorting issues by date, and generally being disgusted. Now are these proper working conditions I ask you? It's Monday now and I am embarking on yet more dusting and cleaning. My job description doesn't including maid services; I should get paid overtime for this.

October 05, 2004

Dakar Beach

On N'gor beach in Dakar, the boys wash their goats. They tell me that it's really good for them. The goats did not seem to be enjoying this (they had to be dragged into the water by their front legs) Posted by Hello

Back in Dakar

Back in Dakar. These old hair cutters' signs are prized piece of art for Toubab (white people) Posted by Hello

Backyard in Kolda

These animals are in my Kolda boss' backyard. He tells me that they are friends and that they keep each other company. Posted by Hello

Backyard in Kolda

This is a Jambar: it is a traditional stove that is very energy-efficient Posted by Hello


Bridge in Kolda Posted by Hello


Music Store. This little open stall sold home-made cassettes with faded pictures of African singers  Posted by Hello

Crazy Bird Posted by Hello

Trip from Ziguinchor to Kolda

To get from Ziguinchor to Kolda, you better have a damn good vehicle. The roads are awful and you end up driving more off-road to avoid the huge potholes than on the actual road. I look happy in this picture. I was not happy when I arrived in Kolda. Needless to say, the trip was hard. Let's leave it at that. Posted by Hello


White Posted by Hello


Red Posted by Hello


Orange Posted by Hello


Blue. The natural beauty of Ziguinchor is amazing. Yet, because of many years of civil strife, it has not been able take advantage of this. Neither agriculture nor eco-tourism are developed here.Posted by Hello


Posted by Hello

Ziguinchor is a little town in Cassamance. It is considered very developed for the South of Senegal. It even has an airport. Believe me, this is a miracle. It may be beautiful but the trash disposal and other social services leave a lot to be desired. This piglet is loving it though.

Our guard in Ziguinchor prepares a strong brew of tea on a coal stove Posted by Hello


This is Cassamance. Enough said. Posted by Hello

Island of Goree

Goree Island is a mix of old colonial architecture and modern fixtures and appliances Posted by Hello

Island of Goree

Young boys shout "Throw Money! Throw money!" and promptly dive to the bottom to retrieve the coins (which they then store inside their cheek) Posted by Hello

Island of Goree

This is the first glimpse of Goree Island from the boat Posted by Hello