Toubab Dialaw

Actually, that’s not really where we went, and this post is long overdue!

Toubab Dialaw is a tourist town about an 1.5hrs from Dakar – where we went was a fishing town called Yen, located just a few minutes before Toubab Dialaw, and not as touristy. The German Institute in Dakar was organizing a two day concert with Senegalese (and one German) acts around Toubab Dialaw and we thought it’d be fun for a mini-trip. It really was a nice weekend away, we stayed at the ‘abandoned’ house of some expat. There are such homes scattered around the area – beach-front homes built by monied expats who to abandon it (actually, they get a caretaker to watch over it in their absence) because they’ve returned home or visit once or twice a year. So those caretakers (like the one we stayed with) ask their friends (people like us) to come over and use the house, lol, otherwise it just stays there and collects dust. The owner of the house we stayed in is apparently not overly interested in returning to Senegal so until he (or she, i dont remember) figures out what to do with the place, it’s just there…

The ‘wow’ house is supposedly owned by some cement guy (not Dangote!), and it really is ‘wow’ indeed!

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Walking Along the Corniche

The Corniche is the nicest stretch of road in the city. It’s some sort of expressway that runs north-south and it is revered not only because it is so well maintained, but also because it is etched right along the sea, thus earning it some scenic miles. Driving along the Corniche (during non-peak, low or no traffic times) is a joy – you get the beautiful sea breeze, the view of the sea and the sight of some of the nicest properties in Dakar – which is why it’s a shame that I had never taken a walk along the stretch closest to my neighbourhood, Ouakam. The Ouakam stretch begins at the ‘mosque of the divinity’ (pic below) and ends at some roundabout where the next neighbourhood begins. Last Tuesday was a holiday and I decided to do something with myself. After fantasizing about going on various excursions, the one that finally materialized was the simple walk along the Ouakam Corniche. An ex-colleague had asked me to go along with her and her husband to take photos of them both which she wanted to send to her parents. It was a chance to make myself useful in various senses of the word.

All in all, it was a pleasant walk (I had also brought along a friend and we continued after my colleague and her husband had turned back as her pregnancy rendered her unable to overdo the walk) – I had hoped to walk to the fish market (also along the Corniche) but it proved too far and it had begun to get dark and I wanted to be able to see the fish I was buying. A sage had one told me that to tell if a fish is fresh, one has to look at the clarity of its eyes. It’s a bit difficult to use this advice at night so I avoid buying fish at night, If I can. To be fair, all the fishes at the fish market are fresh, in the sense that you can safely assume they haven’t been packaged, frozen and shipped from China (the Chinese actually ship fish from Senegal to China and other parts of the world for resale) and in the sense that they would be at most a couple of days old although most are literally ‘fresh off the boat’ (I think that’s the most sensible use I’ve ever made of that phrase). The issue is that they don’t freeze them so even a fish only a day old appears, obviously, much older later in the day. My experience buying fish has been ok though; some have been fresher than others but all certainly been fresher than anything I would buy in Canada, especially at this time of the year.

We did get to buy some ‘fresh enough’ fish (realized the eyes weren’t as clear as I’d imagined when I got home and could actually see them) but they were still good!

Pictures of the Corniche below…

Goree Island

Finally found my way to Goree Island a couple of weekends ago. I won’t go into details since those can be easily found using your favorite web search engine but it is basically the island where they shipped our people from, complete with a ‘House of Slaves’ in which one finds ‘The Door of No Return’. The island is rather nice and I guess one could suggest the traders were being ‘kind’ by letting our last sight of the motherland be a memorable  one. But I suppose it was the least they could have done.

Anyway, here a few pics. I’m not sure if it’s my browser or wordpress, but uploading pics has become a chore and a half as I discovered the hard way on the last post. I also discovered that I have a (rather small) limit for pictures! I guess we’ll see what will happen as I approach that limit which I hope will not be anytime soon!

Weekend at Saly

I went to a beach town two hours from Dakar called Saly with a bunch of Chadian students. I went because it was cheap (less than $15 for transport to/fro, lodging and meals the entire weekend). Since there is no such thing as a free lunch (or even a dirt cheap lunch), I shoulda known what was coming with the $15. First off, we were promised three meals a day (we got at most one REAL meal – breakfast was two/three dumpling/bun like things and a mini cup of coffee; lunch was always too late; and dinner, we just never had). There’s a photo below of a lunch dish that we absolutely CLEANED UP, starved we were.

And lodging – we slept (at least) seven to a room (we had to scramble to find somewhere to sleep even – there were lots who slept on anything they could find including the bare ground), and the shower tap in the bathroom in our fought-for room room was ON all weekend because nobody could figure out how to turn it off. I definitely expected poor organization (anything run by students…) but I hoped it wouldnt be as bad as it was.

Looking at the bright side, the discomforts were only for a couple of days and I’m pretty sure I’ve put up with worse. And I got the chance to travel outside of Dakar (within Senegal) for the first time since I’ve been here. I also had my first party house experience (long overdue!) and got a chance to see (West) African Youth at their ‘partiest’.

A note here on partying African Youths – they are tame compared to what I’ve seen or heard of, definitely compared to Canadian university students. 100-something youths in their early twenties in a party villa in Canada? I would have seen more than my share of condoms, too many empty alcohol bottles to count, and the odd alcohol-poisoned or seriously injured youth. Maybe it’s MTV in North America. Or maybe it’s that Africa youth actually DANCE, which takes up time thus leaving less time to do other things. Sometimes it just leaves them too tired to do other things. And this includes men. In fact, sometimes men are often more enthused about dancing than women (noted on this trip). One of the girls I went with commented on Sunday afternoon, ‘some people just CANNOT NOT move when they hear music’. Or maybe they realize they’re still young and should dance all they can while they can. Whatever they case may be, they are tame, and I am glad for it.

Would I do this kind of trip again? Not really sure. There were too many people (one hundred and forty-something in one villa), too many things poorly organised or not organised at all. But it was cheap, I got a chance to travel within the country for the first time since my time here and more interestingly for me, I got to see how the African youth ‘gets down’. So maybe.

Check out the pics below.

The Monument…up close!

 

It might appear that I have a slight obsession with this thing but that is not the case. It’s just that the sight of it is, well, unavoidable – at least from where I live. Anyway, I decided to do something with my life and walk up the stairs to get a close-up view , so below are some pics! Despite my principled opposition to ‘the thing,’ it is NICE up there. You get the wonderful sea breaze and a rather nice view of the city and the ocean. AND there’s greenery! For this reason alone, I will be returning…

Brussels…à mon avis

**this is an older post that I thought I had posted!**

I went to Brussels with my work the first week of September. I work (I’m using the word ‘work’ in a very light sense here because the salary is, well, …) for an organization (called AGI, in English) that works on issues of governance on the African continent. Basically, they organize workshops and dialogue sessions to get Africans (decision-makers, politicians, private sector people) themselves people talking about how to solve the governance issues facing the continent. Now the idea of ‘governance’ is just as broad as you imagine it to be but they work on a high-level, in the sense that they try to get people in higher level positions to debate, discuss, dialogue or what have you. That’s the brunt of their work. BUT they also, from time to time, get contracted for projects, evaluations or studies by state institutions or multilateral/bilateral agencies, one of which happens to be the EU. So my organization got a contract to carry out a study (with an EU based consultancy) to determine the impact of an EU governance instrument called the ‘Governance Incentive’ for ACP countries which was launched in 2006 and funded through the 10th European Development Fund. The purpose of the trip was to present the prelim findings of the study (this is the second study carried out on the same issue – I actually learned about this instrument in school) to the European Commission. They present the final report in October or so. The study had been started prior to my arrival at AGI so I came just at the end of it. I wrote a few paragraphs on a part of the study (which were mollified and almost disfigured in the draft report that I saw) and slightly proofread the document but I really did jack.

Anyway, one of my colleagues (there are five in total, including me – a SMALL NGO) couldn’t go due to visa issues so I think I was sent in his place, because otherwise I had no business being there. Also, my org works primarily within Africa so it was a rare chance to travel out of the continent and I arrived just in the nick of time with my privileged Canadian passport that allows me to travel almost anywhere in the world at whim! We were supposed to be there for two days but my project manager offered to extend the ticket by one day (until Friday so I could stay the weekend) so I ended up staying until Sunday morning to see Brussels a bit and visit an ex-clasmate.

The train ride into Brussels was rather disappointing. It was almost as terrible as the train ride into London from London Gatwick. The weather in Brussels was also atrocious. I thought Lund weather was terrible, but the ex-classmate that I crashed with for a few days (a Swede, in fact) also thought it was one of the (if not the) worst weather she had experienced.  All this notwithstanding, the city grew on me just overnight. I think it would be a fantastic place to hang out in one’s youth although I’m not sure how much I qualify for that anymore, lol. It’s a small city (comparatively), the political centre of Europe and essentially, it’s heartbeat. It’s also the destination of young Europeans who want to further their careers in politics, lobbying, development, diplomacy, etc. In fact, you get a lot of ambitious, remarkably talented youth who want to become diplomats – who wouldn’t?! So most come to do internships (a lot of time, unpaid – the horror! European Parliament or European Commission interns do get paid quite well though, I was told), some for entry-level jobs, but many end up staying because Brussels’ ‘internationalism’ (permit me to make up a word, no?) is incomparable and to have to return to their unexciting towns or cities is just, well, unbearable! Unthinkable, even! Many are also economic migrants – linguistically talented Italian or Spanish youths who leave their countries in search of jobs. The majority of them speak at least three ‘coveted’ languages, although mind you, this is easier to do in Europe where you already start off with one such ‘coveted’ language and where borders are such that you are necessitated to speak another. In fact, apart from the older generation, I don’t think I’ve ever met a less than bilingual young European.

I was thinking to myself, could I even compete in this market?! Most of the youth I met had either started or were completing a Masters’ degree, at least trilingual, multiple internship or work experience, and ambitious to the brim. But then I suppose it’s one thing to be ambitious, and it’s another to be a calculated risk-taker. Europe is, well, SMALL so going from Rome or Madrid to Brussels is not a particularly big deal. Even culturally, not a whole lot of changes. I guess my verdict is that these youths ‘dem’ are ambitious but overly risk-averse. With all their skills (and I’m not sure I’m even half as ‘skilled’ as them, If I could use such a word), why venture into an overly saturated market like Brussels, if all you want is experience? Why not go to a ‘developing country’ where you WILL gain the experience, your skills will be more valued and will be worth more when you return? But not everybody can leave their comfort zone. Hell, it’s too hot here for me in Dakar and I would rather be in the Canadian fall but I’m here and I’m toughing out because I know, even if I’m only here for a few months, it will be worth it at some point in time (don’t know when, lol).

Ok, enough with the harangue! The moral of the non-story is: Brussels is a cool place to be for a short while, lots of young people (Italians and Spanish if you’re into that sorta thing), lots to do (every night if you’re inclined), lots of people to meet and connections to make, rather expensive, awful weather, and absolutely competitive (for young people trying to get into ‘that world’).

The following are some pics!

Plaige Hans Bernard and the other beside it…

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