Saturday, December 31, 2011


The boys saw their first live Santa Claus here in Dakar.
At a local supermarket, there was Senegalese, Wolof speaking St Nick the week before Christmas.

Both boys were quite brave, however, Laird broke down with fear after a few seconds of putting on a brave face.

Dylan staring bravely while Laird broke down.

Laird turned his back and would not look at Santa again.

Better luck next year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our family, friends, and loved ones back home. Cheers to a wonderful 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Valdmanis Prison

Front door

It's almost Christmas and our landlord blessed us with a gift of military style barbed wire surrounding our house. We are very happy about the added safety, however, our trees had to be drastically cut back in order to properly install the wire along the surrounding 10 ft wall of our house.

It looks like a prison. However, we will be safe inside. Not to mention we have for 4 guards, alarms, bars on all windows and doors, stun-gun, and mace. Oh yes, and 'robber rope'... For those of you that have not lived in a 3rd world country and have not heard the term 'robber rope' before: 'robber rope' is rope we have in various locations that will be used to tie up a robber.

Have left a message with Johnny Cash to see if he could come record an album from Valdmanis Prison.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It takes a village...

A highlight of our U.S. Thanksgiving weekend in Senegal was a two-day trip down to Popenguine, a little fishing village about two hours south of Dakar. We rented a house on the beach, swam in the sea, and ate leftover turkey. On our first morning there, we all decided to go for a long walk along the beach to town, before the sun got too hot.

On the way, we spotted about 10 men tugging on a thick rope that extended out into the ocean. About two hours later we returned from a stroll in town and the men were still pulling, and more people had gathered to watch and help. Birds were circling and diving. It felt like something was about to happen, so we decided to sit down in the sand and watch.

Laird and Dylan met some village kids and they all played together as we waited for the net to come in.

Given the amount of work, we expected the net to be teaming with fish. But when the men finally dragged it up onto dry sand, it contained barely anything. People from the village carrying empty plastic buckets rushed in and took what they could grab to go sell in the market. Children took the smallest fish, still alive, from the nets and put them in bottles of sea water to watch them swim. The men unfurled the net and put it up onto the beach in preparation for another day.

Finally, the net is on shore.

The ladies gathering the few fish that were in the net.


"We put the net out when the sea is calm, like today," said one of the wizened old fishermen, wearing a blue wool cap. He said they paddle a pirogue several hours before sunrise to set the net about 400 meters from shore, then they pull it in after first light.

"When we catch real fish, we sometimes sell them as far away as Rufisque and Thies," he said, refering to towns about an hour away. "But today we caught nothing."

Laird and Dylan were blown away by the whole scene and said 'fish' for most of the rest of the day.

Laird saying, 'Oh. Oh. Ohhhhh.' while watching the net.

Dylan loves the sand!

Letting the net rest for another day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Goree Swim Take 2

One thing you learn as a surfer is never to paddle directly against a rip current. If you feel yourself getting sucked out toward the shipping lanes, you're supposed to paddle across the current to calmer waters. Fighting the current head-on will only make you tired.

This little tidbit came in handy at the end of October when I joined up for my second Dakar-Goree Traverse -- a 5km swim from the city of Dakar to the former slaving station at Goree Island. When I did the swim in 2010, it took me about 3 hours and I had a mild panic attack half way through -- I'd never been so far from land without a deck under my feet. This year was much easier for me, but it wasn't without its challenges.

At the very end of the swim, next to Goree Island, there was rip so powerful that it looked like the Columbia River had been superimposed on the sea. About 50 swimmers battled the current head-on, clustered together in a swirling mass, as I got sucked into the fray. I dodged the flailing arms and legs and doggy-paddled across the rip into the shallow, eddying waters next to the island. One guy followed, and together we zoomed past everyone else through the relatively calm patch. Five minutes later we were on Goree sipping beer.

I didn't think much about it until yesterday, when the Senegalese Swimming Federation sent a letter to all of this year's competitors. It wasn't a note of congratulations, as I had assumed. It was an apology for "an incident that caused frustration to several swimmers".

"Essentially, a strong current affected a large number of swimmers, who were eventually trapped behind the Goree prison, with enormous difficulty getting out (...) In order to avoid risks to the swimmers and to ensure their security, we decided to remove them from the water (...) as many had been in the water for too long."

I was pretty happy not to have been one of them. And I have surfing to thank for it.

***Note: Richard placed second in his division!


Lindy and I at a perfect 'Finish Line' watching spot.