Saturday, October 31, 2009

Back in the US of A

Richie is arriving today! Despite the unsettling health update here 2 days ago, Richie's upcoming arrival has definitely lifted my spirits. He will be here for almost a week, where he will then be flown to Kenya for a week long conference, then back to Senegal.

Everything will be so much easier to take and digest with him here, rather than being oceans away. I am so happy. Every day is a blessing that these boys are still with us. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

PS. Happy Halloween. Please send along pics of your costumes... Would love to see you or your little ones in the festive spirit. The worlds cutest lion with the most gentle rooaaaar is making an appearance today at the prenatal center at maine med. Any guesses who it is? And no, it is not Richard.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Search of a Radio

With Kelly “patienter”-ing in Maine , and me about to move into a palatial villa with no furniture or television, I figure I need some form of entertainment to while away the lonely evenings. A radio, of course, would do the trick.

So today before work, I decided I would buy one. My first stop was Armena, a clean and well-equipped and intensely air conditioned store near the office that tends to draw the expat community. The gentleman, a Lebanese entrepreneur, guides me over to a glass-encased display of two radios. The cheapest one is 25,000 CFA, or $50, and has no obvious redeeming qualities to justify such an exorbitant price.

“That’s a bit expensive, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes, but this radio provides you a choice of using batteries if the power goes out.”

“Oh, right. That’s cool. Let me think about it.”

I think about it while driving off to the next spot, a little shop in Ouakam village a couple of miles up the road that I had seen a few days before. The sign reads “Electromenager” – basically a place to buy electronic devices, so that’s promising.

I park the car in the dirt near where the brilliantly clad village women are selling the morning catch of dorado and thiof that the men have just brought in. It would be hard to find a more freshly caught catch of fish, but by the smell of it, it has already ripened considerably in the powerful morning sun.

I walk into the “Electromenager” convinced I’ll find a broad selection of moderately priced radios. But all I find a man sleeping in a room that contains nothing but chairs. He wakes up.
“Do you sell radios?”

Hmmm. No.”

“Do you know where I can find one?”

“The hairdresser, just down the street that way,” he says, pointing down a crumbling road opposite his shop.

I jump in the car and head toward the hairdresser, wondering why a hairdresser might sell radios. Maybe he misunderstood me. Or I misunderstood him. It doesn’t matter because I don’t get far. A giant pile of sand had been dumped by a truck into the middle of this narrow street, blocking all traffic except for people and goats.

I do a three-point turn and head back toward the office, convinced I will not find a reasonably priced radio this morning. I’ll ask Babakar.

As I approach the office, however, I spot a young man with a table by the side of the road, a small detail amidst the chaos of Cheik Anta Diop Street . He has radios. I pull over. In Dakar , unlike New York , you can pretty much park anywhere.

“How much for your radio?”

“Lu?” he says inquisitively.

“Er.. What does this cost?”

“Five thousand CFA,” he says in perfect English. It has the choice of using batteries too. Luxurious at this price.

I’ll have my BBC and my flashlight after sundown.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One Week

Today is my one week anniversary of hospital bed rest.

The most difficult part is the mental challenge. Not knowing the future, and trying to stay hopeful is the most difficult and stressful part. I have not taken any wheel chair rides, and shower only once every few days.

The physical struggles are mostly muscular at this point. (I won't get into the gastrointestinal issues of lying horizontal 24 hours a day!) My muscles are softening, and my lower back aches the hours away. During the last two days, I have spent almost 20 minutes trying to rid my hair of knots that have accumulated in the back of my head. Maybe a few dread locks wouldn't be so bad!

A website on bed rest suggested that you should create a schedule for yourself while on bed rest to prevent counting ceiling tiles to pass the time. The teacher in me jumped right on board with this advice. I'm still trying to work this out but it may go something like this:

6-8 am- Wake, breathe, and await Doctors and Nurses
8 am - Order breakfast
8-9 am Eat and Internet
9-10 Knit
10-11 Osteopathic Doctor visit
11-12 ?
12-3 Lunch and Soaps
3-5 This is usually Lindy and Liam time :)
5-8 This is usually Mom, Sandra, and Ange time
8-9 Junk TV
9 -10 Bed

I have never watched so much junk TV in my life. A family member who survived 3 months of bed rest told me that junk TV was her only way to pass time and not 'think' too much. I totally agree. Please dear friends and family, do not worry about my brain going to mush... I still cannot relax enough to read.

I am learning how to type on my side and knit with arms in the air. I still have not mastered drinking laying down, but hopefully will figure that out soon. I have allowed myself to eat sitting up, but still have managed to slop food all over myself.

I have a new respect for anyone who has ever survived a period of bed rest. It is not fun or relaxing in any way. It is scary, emotional, and one of the biggest mental challenges I have ever been through.

My friends and family...I don't know what I would do without you. Your positive spirit, encouragement, advice, and help has meant the world to me. Thank you.

Today is 1 week down. I am 23 weeks. If I could make it to 28, we will be in the safe zone. If I could make it to 32 I would be blessed, and if I could make it to 35 I would be one of the luckiest mommas in the world.

I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Il faut patienter.

Scrawled in red magic marker across the white door inside the police station are the words "Commissioner of Domestic Affairs." The door itself is half-open and, from my spot in line in the hallway outside, I can see a man of barely twenty wearing a Liverpool soccer jersey and a ball cap, flirtatiously interviewing a young woman.

He’s clearly the commissioner, and I need a stamp from him in order to open up a Senegalese bank account. He’s getting goofy with this girl, and she’s acting a bit annoyed, but not enough to hurt her own chances of getting a stamp.

"Il faut patienter," says Babakar, a colleague of mine who is helping me navigate this task. "We must be patient."

That’s a common refrain in Dakar, and incredibly good advice in a place where unemployment is so deeply rooted that onion-like layers of government bureaucracy are seen as a viable means of keeping people at work.

This young man behind his desk is a lucky one, I realize. Loads of his friends and relatives are probably in the streets trying to find something to do for a handout – wash a parked car, guard a parked car, help someone park a car... He may even have nephews in the Talibes, I imagine, the swarm of pre-pubescent children who spread out across Dakar every morning with yellow bowls to gather donations for the Maribou, the Muslim spiritual leader.

"Why do you need this certificate of residency?" he finally asks me when I’ve "patienter"-ed myself to the front of the line.
He knows the answer.
"To open a bank account," I say, a bit embarrassed.
"To open a bank account," he says with a half-snarl in his voice. He looks at me and he sees money. "Come back in 24 hours."
"OK, thanks," I say getting up to leave.
The sign behind his desk reads, "Only God knows what tomorrow will bring."

Earlier in the day Babakar and I had visited an unmarked building on a non-descript road in order to get another document stamped by the chief of the neighborhood – a stamp I need in order to get the other stamp from the young commissioner.
(NOTE: I think in the U.S. you just need to bring a utility bill with your name and address on it, right? That wouldn’t work here because there’s no post. I’ll tell you about the bizarre process of paying rent and utility bills later.)

And yes… I said chief. He wasn’t in tribal attire, just a sporty shirt, pants and sandals. But he had the gravitas of a chief nonetheless. Another lucky one who’d found gainful employment in the disbursement of ink.

"Sit down," he said, pointing to a wooden chair by the wall in his courtyard.
I sat.
It was remarkably cool despite the midday heat outside. Behind him, a woman was sweeping dust and keeping the compound nice and neat. Beside him, a young man in a polo shirt wielding a stamp was standing next to a plastic table.

I wonder how you apply for the job of chief.

Babakar, a few words in Wolof. Passport goes down on the table. Document comes out, scribble scribble. "Give him 250 CFA (50 cents)," Babakar says. Done. Stamp.

No hassles here. I guess he’s going for volume.

Anyway, this was last Thursday and I still don’t have a bank account. The Commissioner was true to his word and the document was ready when he said it would be, but the bank was inexplicably closed today. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Even if I get an account, an ATM card could take months. A friend told me last night that he’s been waiting six months for his ATM card to be ready. He may be back in Europe before it arrives.

No big deal.

The more time I spend around here the more I realize how distasteful it would be to complain. I’m doing just fine.

And for the details, well, "Il faut patienter."

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Dakar is a wave magnet. It juts far out into the Atlantic , catching swells from three cardinal directions. The means that on almost any given day you can find a place to surf – heaven for a wave-hound like me.

One morning last week, I got up before work and zipped over to Vivier’s reef – a sweet little spot facing West that has a narrow channel and a perfect wave breaking off urchin-infested rock ledges on either side.

The last time I’d been able to surf before work was in 1999, when I was a reporter for the Journal Tribune in Maine . There’s no better way to start the day, but the experience here in Dakar was quite a bit different than the morning sessions of a decade ago.

The sea in Maine during the fall and winter months can be turbulent, cold and devoid of life. The fish have gone south or offshore for the winter and the pleasure boats have long since been pulled from their moorings. The surroundings are unspeakably beautiful, but also lethal. A 6mm layer of neoprene rubber prevents a quick death by freezing.

Many times I’ve sat beyond the breakers at Higgins Beach , often with snowflakes falling around me, looking out toward the horizon and wondering about the surfers and the beaches on the other side, exotic nooks and crannies just off the nearest points of land in every direction.

Now here I am.

Floating over a reef swarming with fish, wearing shorts, a rash guard and a golf hat against the sun. I see a hand-built wooden pirogue loaded up with Lebou fishermen pushing up the coast. The water ripples and flying fish the size of a finger break the surface and travel low through the air like dragonflies. On the shore I see five Muslims conducting their first of five daily prayers. Another two people are walking toward the rocks in front of the channel, carrying snorkel gear and spear guns. These are locals who make a living selling fish to the seaside restaurants… heading to the office as it were.

A set comes in, the first swell feathering in the light offshore breeze as it gets stopped up by the shallow reef. An easy drop as the wave jacks up to a couple of feet overhead, and a hard left bottom turn sends me on my way down the line. I can see boulders and coral heads pass beneath me through the clear water. I kick out and paddle back up along the channel, watching the rest of the waves in the set peel mechanically along the reef, mirror images of each other.

By now the pirogue, brightly painted in yellow, red, green and black, has arrived within 50 meters of the reef I’m surfing. A school has been spotted and the crew is yelling in Wolof, setting up the nets and positioning the boat. The engine revs and the boat cruises a wide circle around the school as the crew throws the net out behind the boat. One of the crew, wearing a scuba mask, leaps of the moving boat and into the area rapidly being encircled by the net. I’m not sure what his job is, but he’s diving down into the school, appearing quite busy. The circle is completed by the pirogue and the rest of the crew starts pulling in the net for the catch. The chatter is loud and excited.

Another set comes in. Another ride over the coral heads. The spear fishermen are now in the water passing north over the next reef. I paddle back up the channel.
The pirogue is nearly done bringing in the net and I can see they’ve managed a reasonable haul. They move along, and after a little while so do I…. Time for work.

This is what its like surfing on the wrong side of the Atlantic . Totally different. But the smile on my face as I arrive to the office turns out exactly the same

One Day at a Time

I have been here for four mornings thus far, and seem to have already found myself in a bit of a routine.

I usually wake around 5-6 (still on teacher schedule I think), get my vitals taken, and open the window shade to await the rising sun. I sit here in silence and 'just be'. This is time I spend ridding myself of the nightmares or worst case scenarios. I somehow get myself back on track, and the tears take a vacation for the day.

By the time the sun rises over Hadlock field and it's multicolor trees, I am feeling good. Breakfast is ordered, the doctors arrive with their encouragement, and then I anxiously await the visitors of the day. One of the nurses, Cathy, found me a laptop to use that belongs to the floor that has made a HUGE difference. I have 'accidentally' ordered yarn, pattern books, health and beauty aids that are nowhere to be found in Africa, French tapes, etc. I have even been getting caught up on prime time TV....Grey's Anatomy, House, and today I will tackle the Office.

I am allowed to shower once a day and also can take a wheel chair ride. I'm not comfortable with either just yet, so visitors beware of the new greasy hair style I am sporting.

There are times in the day that are difficult. The clock stops at times, and I wonder how I am going to do this for a few months. I am surrounded with knitting, books, magazines, and all sorts of goodies. But, the mental battle of fighting worry and stress takes away from any desire to pursue a hobby or relax.

Most of the time, I repeat my mantra in my head, 'I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.'

And to be honest, I really don't have a choice. These boys need to be nurtured just a few months longer, and I know 'I can do this'. For them, I can do this.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Home Sweet Home

As some of you may know, I have flown back to the US due to complications with this pregnancy. I am so grateful that our doctor in Senegal told us to get home as soon as possible.

I am now at Maine Med, where I will be on hospitalized bed rest for at least another month and half, possibly more. Although the hospital setting can be alarming, I must admit, there is a part of me that feels so safe and relieved to be here.
  • I have a beautiful private room.
  • There is an extremely caring nursing staff that are taking good care of me.
  • The Hi Risk Doctors are experts.
  • I have cable. Better yet, there are English speaking channels.
  • I can order off the menu any meal I want. And, I can read every item and don't have to use my translator.
  • There are no lizards roaming around this hospital.
  • I can take 1 1hour wheel chair ride a day. I am considering coordinating wheelchair races with the other ladies here.
  • I don't have to wear anything but pajamas all day long.
  • I will be an expert in day time soap opera television.
  • I have a beautiful view of the changing foliage out my window.
  • My godson, Liam, runs around the room and hall saying 'Auntie Kully' repeatedly and makes all around him smile and laugh. I think he should pursue a career in hospital therapy.

I don't know what I would do without my friends and family. You know who you room is cozy, I have everything I need here, your support means the world to me, and I count the minutes until your visits. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The only thing that breaks my heart is leaving Rich behind. I am worried about him, he is worried about me, and we are both extremely worried about our two healthy beautiful boys. As hard as this is, we know that I am getting the best care possible.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things to do...

Driving down the decrepit highway, I can feel my fists grip the wheel more tightly with each passing mile. There are no exits, no signs, no turnoffs, and I’m going in the wrong direction with just fifteen minutes before a meeting I’ve arranged with the man who will hopefully install the generator in my house. Kelly’s at the paint shop waiting for me. All around me, cars that look like they belong in a junkyard rattle past, their drivers speeding along with the confidence of someone who knows this road. Cracked windshield, a rear bumper made entirely of tape, a car veers off to the left and then back again to avoid some kids carrying loads of lumber across the highway. On either side of the road, a chaos of crumbling buildings and teaming masses of market-goers. I’m lost and getting loster.

This was 915am on a day in which Kelly and I had just three things to do: buy some paint for the house, meet the guy who will install our generator, and get a few household items. It’s the kind of agenda that could’ve been taken care of in 30 minutes at Wal Mart. But the day didn’t end until dark, and even then we didn’t get it all done. It was the perplexing obstacles that seemed to rise up in front of us at every turn that made it a West African day about town instead of a trip to the mall. Here are some highlights:

-The generator guy never actually showed up.

-A man offered Kelly and I a cage full of sparrows as we trekked by foot in the 100degree heat more than mile in search of a bank that wasn’t crippled by a power outage to pay cash for our paint.

-Kelly and I bounced down a crumbling Dakar street, dodging goats and children, to find Mauritanian fabric from a tiny shop in which we got amazingly friendly service from people who spoke only Wolof.

-Dust from the Sahara, blown down by the seasonal winds, covered every inch of our bodies and the windshield of our car before lunchtime.

-A completely unexpected rain storm flooded our neighborhood that evening, nearly cutting us off from getting home.

-The gas station in our neighborhood ran out of gas.

-We couldn’t find a curtain rod for less than $35, but were told we could have an ironworker handcraft a complete set for next to nothing.

- Guys with machine guns stood along the road every 50 meters or so, directing traffic.

In the end, we managed to get the paint (which cost $250 for just two small rooms), rescheduled the generator guy and got about half of the household good we needed. I’m told that’s about par for the course around here – schedule three things, but only do one or two.

As tiring as it was, it was fun. I think it beats a trip to Wal Mart anyday.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some quickies...

It's a Small World
Last night at dinner, I heard what seemed to be an American English accent saying, 'Kelly, is that you?' Shocked that anyone knew me here, I surprisingly said 'Yes'. Sure enough, they too were an expat family from Washington DC living in Dakar since last December. Julie explained that word has gotten out through the expat community in Dakar that 'a nice American pregnant white woman named Kelly' has just arrived in Dakar. We spent some time talking with her and her family. Coincidentally, she happens to be a mid-wife here in Dakar; we are setting up prenatal classes with her.

Small Accomplishments
Today was the first day I ate at a restaurant without Rich, who translates the menu and orders for me in French.
I was determined to give it a try by myself. I went to a lunch cafe that we have been to a few times. On the drive there, I practiced ordering my large bottle of water, nem, and falafel sandwich.
Sure enough, when the waitress came over I said 'Bonjour. Ca va? Je voudrais un grande bouteille de l'eau, et falafel, et un nem. ' I'm not sure how good my accent was but she seemed to understand as she said, 'Merci' and left with a smile. I let out a big sigh of relief and an incredible sense of accomplishment came over me.
Now don't be mad mom, but it seems I forgot my manners. The only thing I forgot to say was please, rather 'sil vous plait'.
Next time.

The Twinnies are Kicking
The last two days have been quite exciting. The boys have been moving and kicking up a storm. I have felt some subtle internal kicks for a few weeks, but today as I sat down with my hands crossed on my tummy, I felt a big kick on my hand. At first it scared me and I immediately jumped and pulled my hand away....forgetting for a moment that it was a growing baby inside.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keep the Cannibals Away

“Coconut trees are good because they keep the cannibals away,” said our new friend Samba, a tall man with a brightly-colored woolen cap who insisted on helping with our purchase of plants at the outdoor nursery.
“You will like living in Senegal, but it is important to learn our philosophy so that when you return to America you can teach your friends and family there,” he said.

I didn’t bother telling Samba that there weren’t many cannibals or coconut trees in New England or New York these days, but he wouldn’t have been interested anyway. He was on to new things. Anyone care for a pinch of dirt mixed with blood and spit rolled into some newspaper to ward off evil spirits?
“This will ensure that you two and your unborn babies have good fortune here. Some advice that I offer for free. Just rub it on yourself,” said Samba, who’s timid older brother hid behind enormous sunglasses, attempting to light a cigarette with a broken lighter.

With all the uninvited action, it was difficult to concentrate on the task at hand – to buy as couple of potted plants for our new house from Waly, the gentle gardener who tended this patch of seaside soil.
There was no end to the choices – palms, papayas, almonds, ferns, hostas, aloe, and a massive number of other incredibly healthy-looking greens and flowers stretching up along the roadside as far as the eye could see. Standing in the shade of the plants that grew there, we’d picked out about seven different specimens and were negotiating the price and sorting out the delivery when Samba strolled over, making a rather normal transaction into a true Dakar experience.

“I would love to help you plant these at your house,” Samba offered.

“No thanks, Samba,” I said.

The plants were cheap, so it was not too painful when we finally realized the only way to prevent Samba from giving us anymore handfuls of dirt or suggestions on how to keep evil spirits at bay was to give him a buck so he and his brother could grab a coke and some couscous down the road. He was either a sorcerer, or a guy who knew how to freak out a newcomer to get a free meal. Not believing in ju-ju, I reckoned the latter.

Twenty minutes later the donkey cart with our plants arrived at the villa and we arranged them around the house. Plants can really make an empty place seem alive. And while we were exceedingly happy with how these new additions fit into our home, I found myself paying particular attention to a plant that had clearly set its roots deep into the soil on the property long before we’d arrived. A sturdy coconut tree planted by the front door.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Note of Thanks...

From Rich and I... Thanks to all the friends and family that have sent us extensive emails keeping us filled in on the 'goings on' at home. Your notes mean the world to us, and have helped us feel connected despite being so far away. Thank you for your support and love.

Some like it hot...

Summer months in Dakar are August, September, and October. Despite being the rainy season during these months, we have yet to see a bit of rain. Temps during the day hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Being pregnant, and officially 'large', my ankles have seen better days. In fact, for the last few days, you can not even see a bit of ankle bone. When I can, I have tried to listen to my body and rest by the pool or take afternoon naps. Pregnancy and this constant heat is not easy... A/C is a luxury and most places, even restaurants may not have it.

Wow...if I can survive this heat now, imagine how easy it will get when I am not pregnant!

Rich is in heaven with the waves here in Senegal. On days when he works the late shift at work he will surf in the morning. On days when he works the early shift he will surf in the evening. It has been almost 10 years since he has been able to surf everyday, and he is absolutely thrilled. There are many places to watch him surf that have cabana bars; in the evenings I watch him while I enjoy the sunset and a cold coca-cola! His surf talent is incredible...he rips through well over head high waves without any problem. Okay, I'll stop bragging. Videos to come soon.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tea Time

There is something quite fascinating to watch here in Senegal and that is 'tea time'. Often you will see large gatherings of mostly men and boys circled around a brewing kettle on the side of the road.

These gatherings are not just about wanting to drink a cup of tea, but more about socializing, people watching, chatting with friends, gossip, jokes, etc. while the tea is brewing.
The tea is called 'ataaya' and it almost looks like a Guinness beer when served. Ataaya is a West African tea with an extremely high caffeine content mostly made from large amounts of green tea leaves and lots of sugar.

There are some precise laws to follow when making this tea. The main rule is that making tea shall never be rushed.
Green tea leaves should be infused with a small amount of water and a large amount of sugar for hours. The 'in-charge' tea maker must constantly watch the kettle to make sure to remove from heat when the lid starts to rattle. The first infusion is usually ready after an hour. Then, the tea maker pours the tea from the kettle into 4 tiny shot glasses from 3 feet above. This will ensure lots of froth. The glasses are then emptied into the kettle and finally, then poured again back into the glasses which are now heated and covered with froth. Truly, these tiny shot glasses have the appearance of Guinness with a nice amount of froth at the top.

The first infusion is a considered a strong wake up call, only given to strong men and 'those that dare'. The 2nd infusion is strong and sugary. The 3rd is 'sweet as love' as they say here.

At Rich's office, the guard makes them ataaya everyday around noon. Rich said that they only receive two rounds, not the full three, which makes me wonder....which of the 3 infusions he receives.

Yassa Poulet

There are some extraordinary dishes here in Senegal, known for the perfectly spiced meats and rice. I must share this Yassa Poulet (pronounced yeah-saw) as I have become addicted to this meal.

Yassa Poulet:
10 limes
5 tbs. Peanut Oil
2 chicken bouillon cubes
5 onions, thickly chopped
2 (3 lb.) chickens divided into 8 pieces
1 cup water
1 habenero
4 cups cooked rice *See below special Senegal Rice recipe
Optional raisins and olives

1. Grate zest of all limes and transfer to a bowl with juice. Add 2 tbs. oil, bouillon cubes, onions, s&p, and optional raisins and olives. *Some restaurants also mix in pieces of orange and fruit.

2. Rub this mixture onto chicken. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours. Strain chicken, reserving onion marinade.

3. Grill chicken, or sear in a pan, until both sides are crispy and brown. Do not cook chicken all the way through. Set aside.

4. Heat remaining 3 tbs. oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add reserved onions and cook, covered, until caramelized, adding 1/4 cup water at a time to avoid scorching. About 30 minutes.

5. Add any remaining marinade and chicken. Season with s&p and boil. Then simmer on low for 20 minutes.

6. When chicken is fully cooked transfer chicken to a platter with onion sauce. Serve with rice. Mmmmmm. Wicked good.

Senegal Rice (Nyankatang)
Most Senegal rice is made from African Djola red rice from Casamance and guedji (a flavorful dried fish spice). More than likely you will not be able to find these ingredients. A great substitution is to use basmati cooked in low sodium chicken broth.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Count of Monte Cristo

There are only French channels on the cable TV here. I tortured myself when flipping through the stations and excitedly found an episode of 'Friends'. Shock hit me when Ross began speaking to Rachel in French.

For 3 weeks, I have not seen any television as our TV in NYC was packed early. I got a quick fix in NYC when I was able to watch the premiere of 'Grey's Anatomy' at our hotel. Other than that, nothing.

Evening hours in Dakar have been enjoyed with lots of reading, knitting, and long lasting dinners with Rich. The first few days were quite nice and somewhat 'cleansing' to exist without the 'boob tube'. However, it's been 3 weeks now and I would give anything to turn my brain off and veg-out to some TV.

Tonight is Movie Night at the Club Atlantique. The movie starts at 7 showing 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. We have absolutely no idea what the movie is about; all we know is that we are going to enjoy the sweet sound of an English movie....

Je m'appelle Madame Kelly

Today was day 1 of intensive French class at the Alliance Francaise. The 10 mile drive took over an hour as there was a lot of traffic in the middle of the day.

There are 12 students, with classmates from Germany, Brazil, Paraguay, Guinea, Angola, Spain and Gambia. There was another American, Alicia, who was born in Uganda and raised in Indiana. In fact, she arrived in Dakar the same day I did.

I knew that she and I would hit it off when it was my turn to introduce myself to the class in French. Alicia leaned over and whispered, 'You go girl'. As of yet, I have not found too many English speakers here in Dakar, and those that do have a beautiful and quite 'formal' tongue as it is usually their second language. 'You go girl' meant that she and I would be able to talk casually and relaxed, which is exactly what we did.

I had always wondered how language teachers teach a specific language without knowing the students native language. Now I know. Our teacher only speaks French. She talks and talks with lots of hand signals and drama to her French words. If you don't understand something you have to shake your head and she will further elaborate in more French that you may, or may not understand.

I have never been so lost. But, I found comfort when I looked around the room and saw 11 other blank stares with jaws touching the ground. At the end of class, Alicia and I left the building together and could not stop laughing. This type of teaching is called immersion; it is the fastest way to learn a language.

Classes are 3 times a week for 3 months. I have only been home and hour and have already completed my homework. Au revoir.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Elisa's Tote

Before I left NYC, some dear friends got me a gift card to my favorite knitting shop, Knitty City on 79th btw Amsterdam and Broadway. I found this lovely Euroflax yarn, which is strong and made of hemp and linen. Of course I bought green and purple (those of you that have been around me the last few years know that I am crazy about these colors)!

I am working on this market bag and will probably give it to our innkeeper when we leave the hotel. Ann is a lovely woman who has taken good care of Rich and I over the last week.

Above is a pic of the original pattern example from one of my favorite sites . The pattern is free and is quite fun with lots of yarn overs and k2g's.

Thank you Norah and Barb!

Here Comes the Sun...

The last few days here in Dakar have been wonderful. Things have really taken a turn. The airport trauma has finally left our systems, and we are both starting to see the incredible beauty in this foreign land.

Rich has surfed the last few days head high waves and is in heaven. We have both started to feel better about this move for various reasons...
  • Our house is lovely. We are so excited to get it up and running.
  • Our doctor here in Dakar is incredibly knowledgeable, caring, comforting, and reassuring with this pregnancy abroad.
  • I have signed up for intensive French Language classes starting tomorrow.
  • We have found an American Club for US citizens only equipped with a gorgeous pool and... lots of ENGLISH SPEAKERS!
  • The traveller's stomach has left my system.

Not to mention one important thing: The Senegalese are EXTREMELY friendly. Once you leave the airport gates, people will wave and smile at you from across the road. Waitstaff at restaurants shake your hands and welcome you into their restaurant. If I could describe the Senegalese right now with one word, I would say 'friendly'.

Today for the first time, I drove around this city while Rich was at work. This may seem like no big deal...but to me, it was quite the accomplishment. There are few street signs here, I do not speak the language, and before today, I was scared to death of getting lost. How could I ask and understand how to get home? But, today was a success. I got my bearings, and spent a few hours cruising around with the windows down, ocean air filling the car, and rocking out to the most wonderful African music on the radio. I discovered many markets with local goods, some French bakeries, practiced driving to my French school, and even managed to locate Rich's office.

Today was a very good day. I think I am starting to appreciate being here.


PS. Please know that if you visit us here, Rich and I will make sure we are at the airport before you arrive so you do not experience what we did:)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Twins

2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 boys. 2 BOYS!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reminders that you live in a Third World Country

Just a few things we have noted over the last few days we thought were quite funny...

  1. A donkey will deliver your brand new refrigerator.
  2. Some of the potholes are bigger then your bathtub.
  3. Cars that should reside in a junkyard, don't.
  4. Local fruits and vegetables are unrecognizable.
  5. Dust, dust, and more freaking dust.
  6. A simple errand can take hours. And hours.
  7. The locals can't speak English but when they see your Martin guitar, they say 'Ahhh Martin'.
  8. Yes means maybe, or yes, or no.
  9. You can park anywhere you want. You can drive however you like.
  10. Sleeping with a mosquito net around your bed is a necessity, rather than to have a stylish romantic feel.
  11. You need to iron your clothing, even your panties, after it dries on the line outside to kill the bugs.
  12. You can light a fire on the sidewalk to make tea in the afternoon.
  13. You are encouraged to light your paper garbage on fire, rather then disposing of it.
  14. You will not have an address, and will get used to drawing maps for people. No postal service either.
  15. You may lost your routine parking spot in front of the office to a puddle of raw sewage.
  16. People that make less than $10 a month can still have ocean front property.
  17. The lights go our every night for a few hours, whether you want them to or not.
  18. You will no longer wear your favorite perfume, as bug spray will be your new scent.
  19. You will get used to sleeping to the sound of generators.
  20. From now on, every time you get sick, you will not wonder if its simply a cold or flu, but rather if it's yellow fever, malaria, meningitis, or typhoid.
  21. No matter how careful you are with drinking bottled water, washing fruits and vegetables, enjoying drinks with no WILL get travellers diarrhea. It hit me on just day 4 here.

To be continued.

Love to all,

Kelly and Rich

Welcome to Dakar

I suppose some would say that our homecoming to Dakar was the worst welcoming possible.

Despite the 2 hour wait on the runway at JFK, we managed to enjoy the 8 hour flight to Dakar with constant smiles and pure excitement.

Rich had carefully organized transportation from the airport to our hotel as he knew the Dakar airport experience was quite scary. He followed up with our hotel driver with numerous phone calls and emails to ensure a car would be awaiting us, and not vice versa.

Because of the 2 hour delay to our flight, our driver was nowhere to be found. Rich and I had 6 suitcases and a guitar between us to manage.

Immediately after leaving the baggage carousel, we were surrounded by 10 men who were touching our bags and wanting to 'help'. It's amazing, not one person spoke a bit of English, but all saw the guitar and said 'Martin' with big smiles. It was quite alarming to see all of these men touching our bags; Rich stayed calm and politely discouraged their help.

This went on for an hour and a half, and complete darkness. Please keep in mind, that I am pregnant (with ankles the size of watermelons), jet lagged, sick with a cold, and scared to death of the goings on at the airport.

Finally, as the sun began to come up, our driver finally appeared. All of the men began to run with us, trying to grab our bags....always touching them in some way to remind us they were the ones that were 'helping'.

Our driver's car was extremely old and full of dents and rust. The trunk had to be wired shut. This car would have been scraps in the US.

After we were all loaded, Siso, a local Senegalese deemed himself to be 'in charge of our stuff'. He was quite friendly, and we got a good feeling from him. He decided he would escort us out of the airport in the taxi along with us.

And that's when the yelling began. The men outside the car began to yell at Richard as soon as the engine started. Not able to speak French or Wolof, I could not understand a word. They would not let him, or Siso, shut the car door. The driver began to drive...slowly at first just to scare them away, then faster and faster.

Rich still could not close the door as these men were running with our car and hanging on to the car door for dear life. Eventually the men fell to the wayside and the car was able to slow down which I was quite relieved about as we were not driving on smooth pavement, but rather a dirt track. Dirt tracks are far different from dirt roads; they are quite bumpy, littered with rocks, wrecked from flooding, and full of pot holes the size of bathtubs.

There were 2 thing I prayed for in the cab after that. 1. Not to vomit. 2. Not to cry.