That would be monotonous!

So I just felt the need to write about this.

I was just having a chat with a man who happens to frequent a small public library that I also frequent here in Dakar. He’s quite cool and helps me figure out certain things about my computer when I can’t get it to work or what not. I also try to get him to provide a brief synopsis of what’s happening day to day in Senegalese politics (it is a very exciting time for Senegal) but unfortunately, he has very little interest, although he has enough interest to read the front page of the major papers daily.

Anyhow, I was trying to copy some movies from him (apologies for those with very high moralities and would not do such a thing) and he showed me his facebook profile and that of his wife, and then proceeded to mention his three children. I kept asking him how old he was but he either ignored me or didn’t hear me. He all of a sudden mentions that he wants four wives. I said, “sure, to each his own.” It hadn’t occurred to me that that was common practice here but perhaps he just wanted to exercise his right as a human being to love multiple people simultaneously. He then asked me (or rather stated) that wasn’t that common in my country? By country, he meant Nigeria. I didn’t know what to say. I was both amused and surprised at the same time at this man. And then we come to the cruz of the story. His main argument for wanting four wives. He said it was “monotonous” to have only one wife. He didn’t want to succumb to a life of going home and sleeping with the same woman, in the same bed, every single day. What sort of life would that be?

He then asked me what I thought of the whole thing. I said, “Well, how do you plan on managing four women? I think you might end up being hospitalized for migraines!” He said, “What do you think? I’ll put them in the same house?! They’ll be living at different homes! Two days, I spend with one, another two days, I spend with the other!”

And that sums it up. Read into it what you may, but the man was just being honest. And this was only his view, which may or may not be shared ALL Senegalese men.

Society in Discontent in Dakar

I arrived in the Dakar on the 28th of June, and apparently, luckily so, as the previous few days had been marred by protests against the president (Abdoulaye Wade) and power outages. It was especially bad, I was told, on the 23rd and 25th of June, when Dakar people took to the streets to protest the president’s tabling of a bill to parliament that would enable one to win an election with 25% of the votes (it was normally 60%) and that would see the installment of a vice-president, something Senegal has presently done without. People were also wary of the president’s seeming intentions to, as it were, “hand over” the presidency to his son, Karim Wade, who is the current Minister of State for International Cooperation, Regional Development, Air Transport, Infrastructure and Energy. How one person can simultaneously handle such diverse portfolios is beyond me! But I suppose they are all related, as thinking so would undoubtedly make them so. Apparently the bill was eventually not tabled on the 23rd as the president had intented. However, people are still unimpressed with the president – many are calling for the disqualification of his candidacy in next year’s elections.

Some of these protests were also against the power outages that have been occuring in Dakar for at least about a year now, outages which began last summer. I myself even attempted, for a few days, to keep a schedule of when the electricity would come on and off to prepare myself, but the schedule just seemed to have no ryhme or reason so I gave up. What I did conclude was that when there was electricity, it would remain for at least two hours, after which anything could happen. One of the issues with lack of electricity in Dakar is the rather high cost of living that removes laziness as a option. So without electricity, many can’t work, and survival becomes a challenge. It also gets rather hot and humid here in June/July so that people use fans or ACs to sleep at night. And it seems like someone has been listening to the people. Even I have noticed a difference in electricity between the past two or three days and the first few days when i arrived. Or perhaps its a honeymoon until the people take to the streets again in protest.

It’s funny when people talk to me about power outages here. I just look at them and I think, “What exactly are you all complaining about?! At least there is electricity for a few hours a day! Have you been to Lagos?!” But I think that’s probably an unfair reaction citing a) the ridiculously high cost of living in Dakar and b) the fact that people have had constant electricity until only a year ago. In Nigeria, I think people have gotten used to the lack of electricity that it has become second nature. No one expects anything to change anymore and the powers that be have seemingly, totally eradicated the agency of the people that people no longer believe in their own collective power. But I can’t even debate Nigerian “power” politics here (no pun intended) – I wouldn’t do it justice, for many better than me have tried and sadly, have failed.

The actual electricity thing, to me, is actually of little consequence. I really only want it at night when I want to sleep to ward off mosquitoes buzzing in my ear. But I plan to invest in some mosquito coils, or use headphones to fill up the vacuum that attracts them. The rest of the day, the sun is bright enough, and at night, I have a flashlight for whatever else I need to do. The stove, not that I’ve used it that much, uses gas, and the refrigerator – well, I really only put something in it yesterday evening, otherwise it’s been empty all along. I would need electricity to plug my computer for the internet, but I can’t afford internet. Besides, they have the portable internet usb keys which is what I would buy if affordability was not an issue.

I try to be conscious and use the AC and electricity (when it does come) sparingly, but apparently, it matters little for they get billed anyway! Either way, the AC makes so much noise that I think it exceeds my daily decibel allowance so I can’t sensibly have it on all the time. Ahh…the joys of Africa.