Sundowners with the boys...
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Dakar does not have a mail delivery system. Maybe because there are no specific street addresses. From what I understand, there is a post office where mail 'may or may not' arrive. Supposedly, if you know that you are expecting a letter, you can check in to the post office every few days to see if it has arrived. Packages 'may or may not' show up as well, and there is certainly no 'mailman'.
Today someone delivered a piece of mail. I'm assuming it was someone that worked at the post office who figured they would drop it off on their way home from work. It was slipped under our gate...
And where there is a will, there is a way... It was a bill for Laird from Maine Medical Center! Postmarked on April 5, arriving today on April 20. 15 days....not too bad!
Looks like we won't be late paying this one!
Monday, April 19, 2010
Kelly and I took the ferry to Goree Island over the weekend to see the slave house and the 'Door of No Return' -- the final threshold for thousands of captive Africans bound for plantations in the Americas during the 18th century.
Sadly, the museum was closed to the public while we were there -- we'll need to go back. But we took a walk around the notorious island, a quiet spit of land dotted with crumbling colonial buildings and an old French fort, and then had a nice lunch overlooking the tiny harbour.
It was around then that we had the pleasant surprise of seeing a boisterous welcoming ceremony for none other than Canada's Governor General, Michaelle Jean. For those of you who don't know her, she is the Queen of England's representative to Canada, and perhaps best known for eating a seal heart while touring Canada's indigenous Arctic communities a year or so ago.
Anyway, it was an interesting scene. Senegalese women wearing pointy silver hats, similar in shape to a witch's hat, strolled up the end of the dock to await Jean's boat while drummers thudded and chanted. Dozens of children waved Canadian flags, and in the water a few Senegalese military vessels zipped back and forth menacingly. When Jean's boat pulled up to the dock, people started dancing and the drumming intensified.
Alas, it was a bit anti-climatic. She emerged from the boat with her entourage and slowly made her way down the dock, meeting and greeting. And then the pack moved at a slug-like pace toward the direction of the slave house, which would no doubt be opened up to give the honoured guest an exclusive tour.
has been clever with the marketing of the slave house on Goree Island. Historians believe that it played only a small role in the slave trade, with perhaps only a hundred or so slaves passing through each year -- compared to the much larger operations further south in , Ghana, and Benin. , meanwhile, may have been pure symbolism as it leads out onto a patch of shallow water wholly unsuitable for ocean-going ships.
The Door of No Return
Still, it's place on the far western tip of Africa, the closest point of land to the United States, makes it an attractive touchpoint for remembering the horrors of slavery. Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, the King of Spain, have all come to this spot to consider the inhuman human trade.
We couldn't hear her, but apparently Jean -- who says her Haitian ancestors were likely carried from Africa on slave ships -- spoke to her crowd of admirers to tell them that slavery is not yet dead in Senegal. Human Rights Watch had come out with a report the day before claiming that at least 50,000 children in the country were subject to slave-like conditions -- forced to beg in the streets by masters who routinely beat them -- and that the government was doing too little to stop it.
The move by Jean was perhaps not as headline-grabbing as eating a seal heart. But just as bold.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Some pics from the last two days.
Thank you Auntie Kristin for the hilarious bibs!
Half Canadian Half American
Dylan napping on brother Laird
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Toubobs usually do their grocery shopping at a supermarket called Casino. It's a typical supermarket fully equipped with air conditioning, frozen foods, meat, fish, etc. However, Casino is extremely expensive and the produce is not fresh.
At most large intersections there are fruit and vegetable stands. Today I went to the local produce stand to buy our vegetables. This was my first time, as I was still trying to figure out the names of all the fruits and vegetables in French, as well as converting weights for various veggies. Fruits and vegetables are sold in kilos rather than by the piece.
demi kilo carrotte
un kilo tomato
cinq cent salade
un kilo onione
un kilo pomme de terre
demi kilo suisse
demi kilo salami
demi demi kilo fraise
Although my accent was terrible, I managed well. I couldn't remember potato in French but pointing helped me get what I needed. It's amazing how good you feel when you try to communicate in an unfamiliar language and succeed. Maybe tomorrow I will try to order meat or fresh fish.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
This week I began a three month intensive French course at the French Institute. Monday I drove home from class as quickly as possible as I missed the boys. When I entered the boys' room, Laird looked at me, gave me a huge toothless smile, and squealed with delight.
I thought my heart was going to burst.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Yvonne is an incredible cook. She has natural ability to look inside the refrigerator and pantry, see what we have for ingredients, and put a dish together. She never follows a scripted recipe unless she is making something she has never made before (like when we asked her to make Falafel). Her recipes are all kept in her head, and her Senegalese specialties are recipes that have been handed down in her family.
She usually starts cooking around 2 pm. This week, I have joined her in the kitchen for her cooking sessions as I want to discover the secrets to her dishes. I bring the boys downstairs and we all sit in the kitchen. It is not only a time for me to see how she cooks, but also a time for us to talk with each other.
Yvonne supports many people in her household. She has 5 children, grandchildren, and even has some of her sisters children living with her. Two of her sisters were killed by rebels in Casamance when they were sleeping. She left her husband many years ago, which is a very brave thing for a Senegalese woman to do. It's hard for any woman to do, but here in Senegal there are cultural reasons why women should never leave. It is deeply frowned upon, no matter what the reason is for leaving.
She said she left him because he hurt her.
And that is when I noticed the many scars on her back. Arms. And legs too.
My time with Yvonne in the kitchen is something I look forward to every day. It's not just about learning her secrets to her creations, but a time to get to know her and learn about Senegalese culture.
Today we are making Ratatouille.
Friday, April 9, 2010
In Dakar, the Senegalese call anyone with white skin 'toubabs'. (pronounced like two-bubs). Last week Yvonne and Monique told me it was time to 'get rid of that toubab thing'. They were talking about the Baby Bjorn that I use, a front backpack style baby carrier.
So, after going to the market and picking out fabric, Yvonne and Monique helped me get the boys on my back African style. According to them, they say carrying babies this way makes for a stronger spine, better head control, and has babies sitting up and walking faster than any other baby. Hmmmmmm, not sure if I believe that. But one thing that is for sure, is that Laird and Dylan LOVED being carried this way. I think it's because the way their bodies fit in the fabric is reminiscent of the way they were in the womb; it brings them comfort, the constant motion of mama moving around is relaxing, and it makes them feel safe.
But don't tell Yvonne and Monique that.
And then someone came home from work and wanted to try it too. Yvonne and I have never laughed so hard.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Last weekend Richard and I headed to Ngor Island, a small island just 1/2 mile off the coast of Dakar. Paradise is what we had found.
Ngor Island is the home of the Ngor Right and Ngor Left waves...always big and considered 2 world class surf waves. And indeed the wave was big. If you have ever seen Endless Summer, you will recognize a lot of the footage.
Richard surfed while I relaxed at the Restaurant La Maison d'Italie under a seaside umbrella. The beach is calm and beautiful... with many buvettes on the beach where you can have a cold drink. To get there, you take a pirogue over from Dakar (about 500cfa or 50 cents) round trip.
Waiting for the boat at Ngor Beach.