Yesterday on my way from the orphanage, I stuck my camera out the window of the taxi a few times. Generally I don't like taking photos (I hate looking like a tourist, just on principle), but I wanted to give an idea of what life is like here.
Football (soccer) is ridiculous here. People go nuts. When Senegal has a big match, the streets empty and from my apartment on the fifth floor I can tell when our team has scored by the simultaneously roaring of people gathered at televisions across town. It is very sweet, and I always smile at the sense of community the games bring, although it is annoying when I need to get a cab. So this first photo is of a sidewalk athletic store, with caps and jerseys for various football teams.
Music is gigantic here, and Senegal is considered to be the center of African jazz. (Have you ever heard of Youssou N'Dour? He is from Dakar and allegedly plays in town sometimes.) I thought living here was going to be this fabulous opportunity for me to hear all sorts of music, but -- and I am not exaggerating even a little bit -- music starts at 1 am and ends at 7 am. (We thought Flanagans was bad!) To me, this is just unreasonable. There is a music here called mblax, which is a mix of jazz, native African and Caribbean rhythms. Sounds cool, huh? Well, I will just have to buy the CD. So this second photo is of a sidewalk music store. They are everywhere alongside the roads.
Drumming is really big here. One day I was walking along the beach and I saw this man high up in a little dugout in a cliff wall with his face turned up to the sky, drumming madly. It was an incredible glimpse. People here are very engaged, artistic and spiritual. At any rate, I would like to buy a drum and take a class, but I actually feel a little intimidated. I would do it if I could drag a friend along with me, but so far no one is interested.
The next photos actually are from Saint Louis (4 hours north of Dakar), but they have these boats in Dakar as well. West Senegal is one big fishing port, and the fishing is done in these beautiful painted boats, called pirogues. Generally just two to five men will go out on each boat, which (I have read) they rent; boats cost abot $7,000 USD each. The boat bottoms are made from kapok trees; the trees are cut, hollowed out, packed with some sort of mud and left to sit for a few years, after which they are pliable and can be straightened to form the bottom of the boat. They last for years and years. We live about 3/4 mile from the sea, and from 5-6:30 every night we smell FISH. It can be pretty stifling, depending on how the wind is blowing, I guess. It smells to me like toasted dog food. I don't now why.
Eric and I went fishing one time with some friends, just to see how it is done. Basically, you get a plank of plywood with some really thick fishing line wrapped around it, and two hooks on the end. You put some shrimp on, unravel the line (we went down to about 60 feet), and give it a jerk when you feel something. I tried because I thought it would be hard, but it was not hard at all. Furthermore, because we were fishing so deep, the poor little guys' lungs all had exploded from surfacing so fast, so there was no sense even to throw them back. I have attached a photo of our guide, who had a very successful day. Here, he has caught two fish at once! He actually also caught an octopus, which was what turned me off to the whole endeavor for good. It was so beautiful and alive and writhing when he brought it up. As it was dying, I put my finger to one of its little sticky suction cups, and it latched on weakly. It was just so sad. All of us were bummed, I think. (Except the guide. He could sell whatever we didn't want to keep for ourselves.)
This last photo is a roadside art sale. Not very good (the photo nor the art), but I'm including it because there's actually a person in it (I don't like taking photos of people without asking). She is dressed in very typically. The women here are beautiful, and very outgoing and sweet. I have a good time joking with them, although they all charge me too much for my vegetables, and don't think I don't know it.
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