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Ndogou: time to break the fast

I had coffee this morning.

Then I had more in the afternoon after a wonderful nap.

And I drank part of a Coke.

Then a super sugary cup of spicy café Touba at about 8pm.

So yeah, I’m going to be awake for quite a while…

photo 1

Playing with kids in the courtyard

This evening we went to break the fast or ‘ndogou’ at our friend Basse’s house. Cheikh had been there before but it was my first time meeting his family and being in their courtyard in the Yoff neighborhood. We arrived in time to visit before 7:48pm, ndogou o’clock.

photo 2

Basse and Bébé Ndeye

Taking the kids into Senegalese homes is (in some ways) so much easier than taking them to toubab homes. You know there will be other kids to play with, everyone watches out for them, they get to be the center of attention (where Pape was born to be) and they are allowed to be loud and crazy and silly.

This evening there were about ten kids in a courtyard smaller than my bedroom. The only ‘toy’ present was an old broken phone. We were there for over two hours and there was no fighting, no fussing, no crying. They just played… And were baffled and amused when Pape didn’t understand their Wolof or would speak to them in English/his made up Wolof-ish sounding language.

photo 3

Breaking the fast with café Touba

When 7:48pm struck, we drank café Touba and ate dates and little croissant pastries. (Pape had a steaming mug of milk and sugar with a chocolate filled pastry and that nearly sealed the deal that he wanted to stay there forever.)

photo 4

Steamed milk with sugar for this wild one

Next we ate a very impressive spicy rice dish with caramelized onions, grilled sheep, bell peppers, olives, merguez sausage, pearl onions, hardboiled eggs…

For dessert there were apples and bananas, followed by homemade sweet fruit drinks. And then for dessert-dessert, hanging out and visiting with Basse.

photo 5

Hanging out in Basse’s room after dinner


Dakar scene

I never know what time my weekly organic produce delivery will show up.

Sigh. Why can’t I ever need phone credit on a 100% promo day?

These mangoes are too juicy and messy.

Five taxis just stopped to try to pick me up while I was trying to go for a run along the ocean road.

They forgot the little spoon when they delivered my two scoops of ice cream.

My tailor doesn’t know Anthropologie’s Legend & Song Dutch Wax Collection.

My farm-fresh eggs have poop and feathers on them.

My sweat is sweating.

I’m too tired to make it through all seven floors of Orca’s housewares.

Ugh. Jambon bœuf.

Bapribap doesn’t make grown-up sizes.

That guy selling inflatable kiddie pools in the median gave a starting price of 70,000cfa ($140).

The American Store is out of root beer. Again.

Sam’s Pizza or Yum-Yum? Noflaye Beach or the Surf Shack? Can someone just decide for me?

My bread always gets stale because it doesn’t have preservatives.

I sat in a 45-minute traffic jam caused by… – wait, does a horsecart count as ‘traffic’?

Shady Shack is closed for TWO WHOLE MONTHS.


AND… The corner buutik was out of Oreos and olive oil.

Remove tongue from cheek now. Well… for most of them at least! Any others to add?

Riddle me this…

Q: What’s worse than power cuts and no water in hot season?

A: Power cuts, no water, hot season AND two kids with a stomach bug!

Yeah. Yuck. But what would be even worse would be not having a sense of humor about it all. ;)

One particularly challenging evening last week, after giving the kids bucket baths by flashflight, I commented to Cheikh that, “On the bright side, this is about as bad as it can get… And we’re coping and you and I are still friends!”

I read an article recently on the differences between the life we share on social media and the real life we live. (I think it was in a scholarly publication called Buzzfeed.) The idea, of course, is that we present a public image that is far more chic, put-together and polished than we actually are. So I decided that I would take some photos of #reallife and do a blog post on that.

However, I’ve decided stomach bug aftermath photos are just a leeeettle too #reallife for this blog.

(You’re welcome, by the way.)

Back in a bit. Gotta’ go run another load of laundry across the street and then come back to make a dragon costume, per the older sick one’s request.

Little village boy

I spy

I spy something blond…

The Africa that my kids will grow up knowing is not the same Africa that I grew up in. Not surprisingly, there are some big differences between village life 20+ years ago and big capital-city life in 2014. (I mean, as Cheikh likes to say, Dakar is the Paris of Senegal after all.)


Fruit from the baobab tree

Sometimes I grieve for the experiences that they won’t have because we life in a cement block apartment in an asphalt (and sand) neighborhood. And there are times that I wonder if my kids will feel like they have roots in Senegal later in life. Will they joke around in Wolof and know that thieboudienne tastes best eaten with your hands from the common bowl? I hope we give them every opportunity to make Senegal their home and not just their host country.

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Oh, I love this kid.

Today Cheikh took our son, Pape, to our friend’s village. We’ve known Demba since 2002 and he was actually the very first of our Senegalese friends that I told when we got engaged. This wasn’t Cheikh’s first visit to Demba’s family, but it was a first for Pape.


Hanging in the courtyard

He ate mangoes and baobab fruit right off the trees, chased chickens, pet baby chicks (and apparently the kids were petting his blond hair at the same time), saw newborn piglets, sat on a horse, “helped” plow the field and made a name for himself as quite the little lutteur (Senegalese wrestler).


Plowing with Tonton Demba

Sama xol dafa sedd. My heart is happy. (Literally translated, ‘My heart is cold’. Which, if you think about it, is happiness itself in hot season.)


Right at home


Good thing Pape was there to help!


Picking mangoes

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Sama xol dafa sedd.

I just can’t make up my mind about you.

I don’t think I can count how many times a day my mind changes about life here. One minute it’s awesome and amazing, and the next it’s just frustrating and crazy and I’m ready to hop on plane outta here, but then things calm down and I’m surprised by something beautiful. Fortunately, the beautiful usually outweighs the crazy.


I woke up early because the power went off. The fan I keep aimed right at me stopped at it felt like the room immediately jumped 20 degrees. Ugh.

But then I had breakfast, which included fresh mango slices, fresh English muffins and peanut butter. (I buy the muffins and PB from Senegalese women who have started homemade goods businesses.) Yum!


I hopped in a taxi and bargained for a price of $3 to take me to my destination. Not bad. But then again, the springs from the backseat were poking out and the windows wouldn’t roll down. Not cool. Literally.

Mid-morning I had a perfect café au lait with friends, enjoying air-conditioning and an ocean view from one of Dakar’s nicest spots.


But I came home to find that we still don’t have any water (for the second week). So I changed from my cute toubab dress into grungy stuff and hauled our laundry down four flights of stairs and down the street.

Down the street is our very, very kind friends’ house where there is water and an open invitation. Every time we go there to drop off/pick up a load of clothes or take showers, I’m reminded of how awesome our community here is.


I got a phone call saying the water storage barrels I wanted to buy had increased in price by 50% due to high demand. I mentally added this expense to the hiring someone to carry water up to our apartment each morning.

The humidity broke late afternoon, so it was pretty comfortable in our apartment and the horizon was clear and beautiful, accented by leafy, green trees that have heard the promise of rains coming soon.


The day ended like it began – with a(nother) power cut.

But at least this time my fan was plugged into the back-up battery system and just kept on spinning!

Power cut

Making a fast break

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.37.49 PM

Surprise! We had a visit from our son’s tuurando (namesake) who was down in Dakar for work and stopped by. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Pape, so all the talking and catching up carried us from afternoon into evening. All of the sudden I realized that it was nearing dusk, which meant he’d be breaking his Ramadan fast soon.

I was a little nervous, having never prepared an ndogou before. Fortunately I’d read an informative blog post recently (ha ha) and had an idea of what to prepare.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.37.37 PM

Coffee with milk powder and sugar, bread with butter and cheese, some dried fruit and a BIG bottle of water.

Pape washed up and at 7:45pm when the call to prayer sounded from the mosque in our neighborhood, he rolled out one of our mats to face Mecca and began to pray. When he finished, the guys went out on the newly screened in porch to eat… and keep visiting and jabbering like a couple of schoolgirls. ;)

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.37.59 PM

Rain, rain…

Rainy season 2012

I lost a bet on when the first rains would come. We hadn’t seen a drop since last October and I was sure the rains were coming early this year, but it seems that:
a) I was wrong.
b) I owe Jenn an ice cream.

There was a sprinkling rain on Tuesday morning, but I missed it cometely since we were indoors doing a toddler djembé drumming class. Even if it had thundered, I think the sound would have been drowned out!


The forecast for the next 48 hours calls for serious thunderstorms. (Although the weather site I was looking at also mentioned ‘cloudy skys’. Hopefully their meteorologists are better at weather predictions than spelling.)

While part of me would just love a big, booming storm to wash away all the accumulated dust and green things up, the other part has seen the anxiousness in my friends’ eyes when we talk about the rains coming. Flash floods in the roads, flooding in ground level rooms, water leaking into homes from rooftops, windows and cracks in the walls, walls falling down when their sandy foundations wash away…

We are praying for Dakar this rainy season.


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