I CANNOT believe…

that JACK LAYTON is DEAD.

That is UTTER BS.

Life is absolutely UNFAIR.

RIP JACK. I will miss you. Canada will miss you. Thank you for your service to the nation.

And God bless your family.

La Point des Almadies

Le Relais, Chez Mendy, Cadjafoul, Vertigo

All local bars/nightclubs in Dakar. And all places that I went last Friday night/morning. It was the epitome of “bar hopping.” It started with a meetup with two couchsurfers (CSers) at Le Relais, a bar/restaurant with a great seaview and an even more remarkable seabreeze. Nightime seabreeze in Dakar is phenomenal. Le Relais is one of two restaurants situated right next to “Magicland,” a mini-amusement part located on the Corniche, the highway beside the ocean that runs North-South through Dakar. I had suggested the place upon an earlier recommendation by one of the CSers (one of whom came to the Le Relais, a Canadian). Le Relais is a simple, unpretentious (despite it being located next to Terrou Bi, a very, very, fancy hotel) local restaurant with a wonderful location. It’s just a nice place to sit, enjoy the sea breeze and “shoot the shit,” as they say. We were there for not too long when the Canadian CSer suggested we pick up a friend who lived nearby Le Relais and head to a more ‘buzzing place’, also a local joint. To clarify, my definition of local here is really a place that’s not overly frequented by tourists, although some places are more ‘local’ than others. Le Relais is local enough, but due to its wonderful simplicity and sea access, was bound to not be kept a secret for too long and is therefore frequented by a decent number of expats. Chez Mendy, on the other hand, is a very local joint. My companions were the only conspicuous looking expats in the place, and slightly before we left, I saw another white guy walk in with some Africans. To confuse you the reader even more, Chez Mendy is local, but not quite. The place is patronized largely by Nigerians and other West African ‘expats’, howbeit those who had been living in Dakar for a decent amount of time and knew the city. Another note, I had been somewhat curious to visit Chez Mendy because the Canadian CSer had mentioned that more than being a club, it was really a “workplace” for the many prostitutes that frequented it. Upon arrival, there was a particularly vivacious, short, chubby woman dancing, whining and romping her way through every song that played. The Canadian CSer proceeded to mention that she was indeed “working” and not just dancing.

It was poignant that I was able to suspect, almost immediately after walking into the club, that a large proportion of the men inside – there were only a handful of women – were Nigerians. There’s just something about Nigerians that make them so identifiable, especially by a fellow Nigerian. It was not so much the way they dressed, but much more so the they way they looked. I’ve also always suspected that the rigours of Nigerian life gives some of our brothers a too-intense look, an almost do-or-die resignation, if you will. That look was printed in bold-type on many-a-faces that morning. My inklings were further confirmed by the lip-synching to the P-Square and Timaya songs that they dj blazed for at least 45 minutes before switching to the obligatory Rihanna and some too-hard hip hop. I danced with the Canadian CSer and her friend, and we were joined by the other CSer (a Turkish brother – he also brought a friend) whose friend remained seated. The Canadian CSer’s friend also brought two male friends (Senegalese and Ivorian) who loaded our table with an infinite supply of beer.

The Canadian CSer’s friend (are you keeping up?), a French lady, suggested we relocate to another place after the hip-hop set at Chez Mendy’s had gotten a bit much and the Turkish CSer agreed. The Canadian CSer had also been falling asleep and wanted to go so I said I would leave as well, but when we got into the car (the Turkish CSer’s friend drove), it appeared that she’d be going to the ‘next’ place. My curiosity didn’t allow me to object so I followed along. Unfortunately, the Turkish CSer had gotten offended about the French lady’s comment about there being a dress code in certain places in Dakar and when we got to the entrance of the ‘next’ bar, his tone became confrontational and he pretty much ordered the friend to go home. Sure.

The next bar, Cadjafoul was actually quite interesting. It was located next to the Dakar fish market behind some shops selling African art and slightly stunk of fish and the ocean. It was a thatched roof hut-like edifice with a walk-way that extended into another hut that was built right on the water. Definitely a nice place, but could have done without the smell. Nevertheless, when we arrived, the MC was trying to pair women with some old white expats in order to dance. I wasn’t entirely sure what the purpose was or if it was just for entertainment sake. After all the fan-fair, the three or so couples that had been seemingly bullied into submission proceeded to the dance floor and some seriously romantic Zouk (although Zouk beats are romance, period) started playing. It was actually kinda nice. The French lady had also commented that the MC’s accent was Ivorien, and it made sense after hearing the Zouk. Senegalese people don’t seem particularly enthralled by the Zouk. Another pseudo-local joint. To be fair, Ramadan began on the 2nd of August in Dakar and I had been told that all the clubs and bars and the like would be closed so I was rather surprised that these two clubs had been open at all. So it made perfect sense that there would be little or no Senegalese there on this night. Anyway, after checking out the pseudo-floating extension hut, my compatriots decided the music was too soft so we moved to the next place, Vertigo.

Thankfully, Vertigo was right next to Cadjafoul. In fact, we had walked past it on our way to Cadjafoul. And Vertigo turned out to be another joint which I suspected, at least this night that we went, was largely frequented by Ivoriens. When we arrived, coupe decale was blasting and many of the people were out of their seats and dancing. The men seated next to where we would encamp were all up, about six or seven of them, and all dancing rhythmically in unison. I was supremely entertained! We started dancing shortly after we arrived and I remained dancing even after the music turned to hip hop, which I was overly impressed with. I wanted to see these people dance! Anyway, my dancing was definitely ‘toned down’ – nothing like the night of Le Patio. I didn’t really feel like sitting and could not just stand. There was also an impromptu entertainer/rapper which was welcome but which meant an interruption to a Sean Paul tune – this was not welcome. According to the French lady – who also did not appear amused at the interruption of the Sean Paul tune – respect for those fasting (and would need to rise and eat around 5am) prompted the MC to announce that the club would close at 4:30am, although this was succeeded by a harangue on religious tolerance and the like. The announcement was made around 3:30am, just before the impromptu entertainment which was followed by a couple of PSquare joints and the beginning of a coupe decale set – at this point, I and the Canadian CSer (who had, by then remembered that she was still tired) called it a night and left Vertigo.

All in all, it was an interesting night out although perhaps I need to learn to be more present at these things instead of trying to come up with ideas on how to solve some of the issues on display. I won’t take up too much more writing room but just to highlight:

1) Nigerian women and prostitution. I know of their fame in ‘far-away lands’ like Athens and Barcelona but here in Dakar? I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do, but could it be that some are actually choosing to become prostitutes (i.e. for supplementary income), rather than being thrust into it by life’s circumstances? And how do our men help propagate this phenomenon?
2) Nigerian (young) men and illegal activity. Despite myself, I could not help but think, when at Chez Mendy’s, that the majority of the young Nigerian men I saw were involved in something untoward. Is this fair? I mean, can I, in my priviledged position of being a Nigerian-Canadian who has the audacity to return to Africa to look for a job even judge? The French lady that night mentioned that Nigerian men are “dangerous.” I countered that they only “dared” to do and think what others feared.  Survival and criminality are sometimes highly correlated, but does a life of difficulties justify criminality?
3) Young men in Africa OUTNUMBER women. By FAR. There seems to be a disproportional ratio of young men to women. It was egregious to me when I first arrived in Dakar, but I dismissed it and attributed it to the fact that more women are employed in domestic activities and are therefore less visible on the streets. But at Chez Mendy, Cadjafoul and Vertigo, to say men outnumbered women would be an underestimation. Each woman at these clubs could have gone home with five men AND there would still be men left. Are African women averse to fun? Mind you, I didn’t notice this imbalance at Le Patio, but then again, a lot of those women were looking for ‘monied’ expats. It could still be that the domestic working women may not be allowed to leave their employers’ home at night (in the case that they sleep there, although many of the ones I’ve encountered do not). It could also be a Ramadan thing, women the world over being generally more pious than men. BUT I suspect that there’s something else going on. Could it be that Africa has suffered more “missing women”?

Balla Gaye 2 vs Tyson – July 31, 2011

This is an obligatory post, one I feel mandated by my residency in Dakar. Senegalese people are  infatuated with two sports: wrestling and basketball, the former being that much more loved due to its being much more traditional. The last weekend before Ramadan (July 30th and 31st ) saw a flurry of activities as people tried to get in all their events and parties before they became virtuous for a month. I cannot recount how many parties I saw advertised on TV for Saturday, the 30th! Also, July 30th saw the final of the Senegalese basketball association match, which I actually went to (this will be the subject of the next post).

Anyway, July 31st was the big wrestling day in Senegal and the match of the year (which was even attented by the obscure daughter of the president!) was between Balla Gaye 2 vs. Tyson, which I watched on tv. Senegalese wrestling is interesting because the wrestlers train and plump up to almost thrice the size of a normal man. Eventually, their height, weight, size and (sometimes) muscle combine to make a formidable sight. Although I must say the amateur ones are just as skinny as normal so this really only applies to the the ‘big boys’ or more serious wrestlers.

To cut the short story even shorter, after much ado and pomp and amateur matches (that not many people seemed overly interested in), the main features made their entry. Granted, they had been in the stadium the whole time but they made their ‘formal’ entry. To be honest, I’m not much of a fan of the whole wrestling thing but I am a fan of their entrances! Basically, the wrestlers ‘dance’ in, to the drumming of a hired drummer, to choreographed dance ‘steps’ along with members of their entourage or team, with the periodic ‘liquid subtance’ being poured on the head of their heads. Sometimes, this water is blue, other times, it’s brown, but at ALL times, it is dirty. Sometimes it is washed off with ‘cleaner’ water, other times, it is just wiped off. Anyway, the dances themselves are not overly spectacular, it is just the sight of the hefty wrestlers pounding the ground with rythmic movements as deftly as any teenager that makes it entertaining, at least for me.

And the match lasted all of 30 seconds! The winner – Balla Gaye 2. I had imagined Tyson would win because he looked a bit more serious and BG2 was acting more like the crowd pleaser. After the match, I thought about their demeanors and decided that perhaps Tyson’s seriousness was actually some lack of confidence. Either way, I thought they should have given the crowd more than that. I mean, after all that ceremony and waiting? 30 seconds?!

Another Financial Crisis?

I had hoped not to get political or wax about anything economics related (particularly since I now so little about economics) but the current state of the economic world definitely deserves a mention, considering S&P few-days old political decision to downgrade the U.S.’s credit rating for the first time in HISTORY.

Unfortunately, even with my limited economics knowledge, I had always thought the so-called market never fully corrected itself in 2008 and there was room for more correction. It seems this ‘global market’ is trying to find the bottom it never really did in 2008, especially after banks that should have been allowed to fall were propped up by taxpayers’ money. Or perhaps this is finally the re-balancing of global economic power that will, in time, be succeeded by a re-balancing of political and military ones?

Certainly, the invisible hand of the market is a long one indeed, and it seems content to reach as far as it can. My only sympathy is for retirees or soon to be retirees whose nest eggs will be decimated by this.

The NYT has its pundits covering this tirelessly, but I found an especially poignant article about the apparent leadership failure of Obama. It’s a worthy read.

 

Atop Hotel Fleur de Lys

Scenes from the rooftop of a three-star hotel in Dakar where I went for a conference. THIS time, I managed to at least get a few cards. While networking is a skill, those who really excel at it make it an ARTform.