Friday, November 27, 2009


Ouseiyno is a master carpenter who’s own workshop is falling apart. The jumble of tin and splinters lies hidden down an alleyway in central Dakar, infused with sand and the barnyard sounds of chickens and goats.

His furniture is magnificent and his confidence is startling.
“This bed will be around long after you and your wife are dead,” he tells me with a genuine smile.

I’m smiling too. You don’t get this kind of service at IKEA.

Despite Ouseiyno’s obvious public relations challenges, he finds a great deal of work in a city where a third of people are unemployed. He makes beds, tables, and chairs for transients like Kelly and me, but he also has contracts with some of the biggest commercial developments in town. When you can’t reach him on his cellphone, it is usually because he can’t hear the ring tone over the scream of power tools at the new shopping complex he’s helping put together in the Plateau.

He’s interesting in other ways as well.

“I’m going to Lingue for Tabaski, to be with my wife,” he says. Lingue is a several-hour drive to the interior, and Tabaski is a Muslim religious day (Nov. 28) in which every head of a household must slaughter a goat.

“You should come to Lingue some time. There is a woman there – how do you say – who is taken by the devil. She sits under a large Baobab tree and can turn into a serpent or a cat.”

I tell him a trip like that sounds absolutely fascinating. I also tell him I don’t believe in sorcery.

“If you come, you will believe.”

“OK, cool,” I say, feeling a bit like we’ve slipped into a new dimension.

A few awkward seconds go by.

“So when do you think the curtain rods will be done?” I asked.

(As soon as our shipping container arrives, we will be able to download pictures of the gorgeous custom made bed and two matching tables for $700 US. It is stunning.)

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