8 favorite games for children in Dakar


Chicken, Chicken, Goat

The object of this game is to walk in a circle, tapping on each child’s head until one is finally chosen to be the new picker. Maa!

Gendarmes and Voleurs

A game of tag in which the gendarmes, who are in pursuit of the voleurs (the team being chased), arrest the voleurs by tagging and putting them in Reubeuss jail. Voleurs can stage a jailbreak by tagging one of the prisoners without getting tagged themselves.

Mamadou Diop

A form of tag played in the ocean. One player is chosen as “It”. This player closes his/her eyes and tries to find and tag the other players without the use of vision. The player who is “It” shouts “Mamadou” and the other players must respond by shouting “Diop”, which “It” uses to try to acoustically locate them. If a player is tagged, then that player becomes “It”.

Pin the Tail on the Donkey

Please do not use a real donkey.


Hot piment

Involves players gathering in a circle and tossing a small hot pepper to each other while music plays. The player who is holding the “hot piment” when the music stops is out.

Red light, Green light

The “it” person stands at one end of the playing field, with the rest of the players at the other end. “It” turns their back to the others and calls out “Green light!” or “Red Light! Green Light! 1, 2, 3!” The players then run as fast as they can towards “it”.

At any point, a player may call out “Power Cut!” at which point all players run in any direction they want, resulting in complete chaos that is made worse by police officers giving conflicting traffic directions.


Rock, Paper, Plastic Bag

Rock-paper-plastic bag is a hand game usually played by two people, where players simultaneously form one of three shapes with an outstretched hand. The “rock” beats plastic bag, the “plastic bag” beats paper and the “paper” beats rock. Alternatively, the paper gets used to wrap bread at the buutik.

Seynabou Says

A player takes the role of “Seynabou” and issues instructions (usually physical actions such as “jump in the air” or “hop over a pot-hole”) to the other players, which should only be followed if prefaced with the phrase “Seynabou says”. Players are eliminated from the game by either following instructions that are not immediately preceded by the phrase, or by failing to follow an instruction which does include the phrase “Seynabou says”.

Ebola prevention resources


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. To date, there are no cases here in Senegal. We pray it stays that way.

I’ve been working with Women of Hope International to develop materials for preventing Ebola and have their permission to share them here. Please feel free to download, reproduce them and distribute them. These lessons are designed to be used in a primary health care setting for community health education, not necessarily for health care workers who are dealing with patients infected with the virus. The booklet can be printed in black and white on A4 paper.

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Ebola booklet – outside – French

Ebola booklet – inside – French

Ebola health lesson – French

Ebola booklet – inside – English

Ebola booklet – outside – English

Additional information and resources in French and English can be found here at International SOS, which is an excellent site for getting updates on the Ebola outbreak.

Shoppers extraordinaire hit HLM market!

One of the outer alleys of HLM market

Car door slamming
Horn honking
Woman laughing
Bus coming

Cross the street
Dodge the hole
Step over the puddle
Enter in

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“I’ll take this one. And this one. And that one…”

Narrow walkway
Vibrant umbrellas
Filled tables
Sitting vendors

Drinking coffee
Eating bread with chocolate spread
Come eat breakfast.
Next time, then.

photo 2

Annica, Ashley and Michelle stocking up

Hello, Madame.
Try this one.
Buy a necklace.
Buy a sarong.
Buy your husband a shirt.
What’s your price?

photo 3

Decisions, decisions.

Hello, Madame.
Try this one.
Buy a teapot.
Buy a bra.
Tell your friend to buy a skirt.
What’s your price?

photo 2

Danielle waiting as they cut a fabric we decided to share. (Spoiler alert: she and I are going to be twinsies A LOT in the near future.)

You speak Wolof.
What’s your name?
Are you Muslim?
Bébé… what’s her name?
Give her to me.
But I need another wife.

Café touba
Car exhaust
Fried beignets
Charcoal fire

Shopper’s paradise.

Beaded strands thrust in my face
Stacked t-shirts pressed into my arm
Fabrics spread to catch my eye
Buy a scarf.
Buy a dress.
Good price today.

Hello, Madame.
Try this one.
Buy a serving platter.
Buy your baby an outfit.
Buy some glow-in-the-dark lingerie.
What’s your price?

photo 4

My catch of the day!

Sound like fun? It is! More info here: 10 things to know about HLM market

9 must-haves for new moms in Dakar

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I’ve never been a new mom anywhere but in Senegal, so some of these may be universal. But I know that when we moved here and I was pregnant with our first, I felt clueless and just wanted someone to hand me a shopping list. Well, if that’s you… here you go! You may also be interested in this post on having a baby in Dakar.

1. Ring sling

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Babywearing is a practical option in Dakar and also very appreciated by the dakarois, but it can get pretty hot. I have a Moby Wrap, but it’s only usable a couple months (wipes away sweat) of the year. I also have an Ergo and would definitely recommend it for older babies. But for a newborn (or older) in hot season, a lightweight ring sling is the way to go. I have a linen Sakura Bloom sling (lifesaver daily) and also a wax print Djiby Wrap from Malika Monkeys, which is a very budget-friendly option available locally.

2. Phone numbers
* SOS Médecin: 33 889 1515 24-hour doctor service that comes to your home. They can do rapid malaria tests, write prescriptions, arrange ambulance if needed… We love SOS!

* Pédiatrie24: 33 864 4422 New to Dakar, 24-hour pediatrician service that does walk-ins or home visits.

* Bio24 lab: 33 889 5151 THE full service lab in Plateau.

* CMCO lab: 33 824 9929 Located in Fann so more convenient to get to, has shorter wait times, but does not do all lab tests.

* Pharmacie Guigon: 33 823 0333 The BIG pharmacy for Dakar. If they don’t have it, you’re out of luck.

* Pharmacie Mathilde: 33 865 0765 Our corner pharmacy. Not huge, but well-stocked and the pharmacist/owner is wonderful. She can order whatever you need in 24 hours. If you live in Mermoz, this is a good one to know.

* Innovation Taxi: 77 030 3594 Whether going to doctor’s appointments or just a playdate, this is a great taximan to call. He’s safe, reliable, has seatbelts and AC. Hourly rates and more info on his Facebook page.

3. Earrings

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Baby girl will not be considered a baby girl until there are sparklies in her earlobes. It’s of course entirely up to you as to whether or not to poke holes to adorn her ears or not. If you choose not to, just be prepared to say, Jiggeen la (it’s a girl) over and over.

4. Locally available medications
Efferalgan: fever reducer, pain reliever
Stérimar: saline nasal spray that is wonderful for keeping colds at bay
Exophene: heat rash prevention and treatment

5. Antibacterial wipes

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It’s truly wonderful to live in a place where everyone (grandmas to presidential guards) loves babies. But in a hand-shaking, baby-loving culture, you’re going to want some wipes in your purse or diaper bag.

6. Mbott cloth

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Once your baby has head control, a Senegalese mbott carrying cloth will be your best friend. Well maybe not quite, but close! Lightweight, easy to toss in your bag and comfortable for both mom and baby. Also doubles as a portable play mat. There is a little learning curve, but well worth it. (I’m working on a tutorial for tying them. Just hold your horse carts and I’ll get to it when I can.)

7. Community

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Nearly every neighborhood has a playgroup, songs group, Mommy & Me group or other similar type community meeting weekly. Ask around (or ask me!) and get connected to one. The Dakar Women’s Group is also a great place to meet other moms (or ‘mums’) in your area.

8. Booster seat

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Not only is it more practical at home than a high chair, boosters have the advantage of being portable. This comes in handy at restaurants (some have high chairs, but usually pretty gross) and when traveling. We have this one from Fisher Price and it’s great.

9. Diaper wipes
This one may seem obvious, but bear with me. Disposable diapers here cost about double the price in the US, so if you can do cloth (hey, finally a good use for the bidet!), go for it. Diaper wipes are also not only expensive here, they are often dried out by the time you open the package. You can add water, but they never seem to hydrate back up like the American kind. And of course, you’re going to want a diaper wipe warmer.

That was a joke, people.

Truth from Real Housewives of Dakar


Our weekly coffee date (minus Annica and Michelle)

Following this blog post that was going around a couple of weeks ago, my weekly coffee date girlfriends and I challenged each other to 24 hours of #igtruth. For those of you that aren’t fluent in hashtag, the idea is to share photos of real life. Not the stylized, cooler-than-thou stuff.

My friend Awa started us off with a(n always) hysterical look into her life.

And here’s my contribution…

1 pjs

Mornings are not my friend. Neither are these super-ugly shorts, but it was already over 80 degrees at 7:30am.

2 Alec bed

As I’m trying to get us all ready for the day, he’s insisting he wants to go back to bed. An option that would have been great at 6:15am when he first woke up…

3 bfast 1

Breakfast on the floor, next to the toddler who wants me to sing him songs so he can “go to sleep”. Coffee #1 is underway.

4 spit up

Hair: check. Make-up: check. Real people clothes: check. Baby spit up on my shoulder: check.

I'll just add that shirt to this teeny tiny pile of laundry...

I’ll just add that shirt to this teeny tiny pile of laundry…

6 sandals

New outfit featuring non-spit up shirt, wax print pants by Rama Diaw and custom sandals by Tony Alves. Feeling good. Let’s roll.

7 coffee radisson

Once a week, I savor every moment of kids-free café au lait with friends. It only lasts for about 87 minutes, but the conversation, laughter and ocean view are enough to recharge my batteries.

10 trash can

I came home to this. I have no idea. Super Trash Man? I love this kid.

8 lunch

2pm and I realize I should probably eat some lunch. Last piece of ‘banana cake’ it is. (Actually just banana bread baked in round cake pans and then frosted with peanut butter. But the toddler thinks it’s cake and that’s what counts.)

9 speculoos

Apparently (despite the lunch I laid out for him) he got hungry too. I found him scooping Speculoos cookie butter onto a banana. And no, he did not have permission for the butter knife, the cookie butter or eating by the laptop. But a recent parenting article I read suggested that instead of losing your temper, try taking a photo first. a) You’ll enjoy laughing at it later, b) Gives you time to cool off first.

11 water tray

On a cool, collected Mommy roll, I made up this water play tray for him.

12 water tray 2

Still wearing the blanket cape.

13 bidet

He wanted more water play. I sent him to the bidet with IKEA dishes. (Just in case you were wondering, that’s all our bidet is ever used for. That and washing matchbox cars.)

14 statue

Why yes, I do have a second child. She just often get out-seen by the toddler. While he was playing in the bidet, I laid down with her to get her napping. Just as she was drifting off, I heard something being pushed into the room. Superhero was pushing around the kitchen trash can and pulling out prized bits to distribute around the apartment. I got an empty Crystal Light packet on my pillow. Then he brought his baby sister this heavy wooden carving for her to snuggle with. I confiscated it.

15 bath paint

Tried the nap thing again with her. I directed him to the tile shower wall and gave him washable paints. No, really. It’s paint, not blood. Promise.



17 dinner dishes

Dinner time! I think we picked a good night to start working on the toddler’s table manners. He did great with his napkin, eating his salad with a fork… right up until taking the first bite of pasta and rather innocently announced, “Mom, dat not food. Dat trash.” And then folded his hands politely, waiting for me to propose another main course.

18 yvia bath

There she is! Bucket bath o’clock. I even heated the water in the microwave first, just to be fancy.

19 sunset

I love our view and Dakar does have some incredible sunsets.

20 pj tantrum

Pre-bed protest because I wouldn’t let him wear these pajamas. Nevermind that it’s 90+ degrees and they are winter pjs. Nevermind that it’s two pairs of pants, no shirt…

Let me eat cake! Bedtime treat / extra serving of veggies since it was carrot cake after all.

Let me eat cake! Bedtime treat / extra serving of veggies since it was carrot cake after all.

22 running

Early morning “run” with my little buddy. We did .8 miles in 42 minutes. It was an exercise in patience more than anything, but we had fun! And saw lots of rocks. And lizards. And sticks.

23 bfast 2

Back to breakfast, 24 hours later. My wonderful husband made me breakfast for after our run. But a little someone got to it before I could. Fortunately he didn’t drink my coffee!

For more #igtruth from “Real Housewives of Dakar” check out these Instagram feeds:


Happy Korité to us!

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The 30 days of fasting for Ramadan is over and was celebrated today (or yesterday, depending on which religious leader you follow). In Senegal, this holiday is called Korité, but most of the Muslim world calls it Aïd el-Fitr.

photo 2

Mariétou invited us to come celebrate at her husband’s family home in Ouakam. Turn at the mosque, follow the sandy path, pass the buutik, another mosque, then look for the sign advertising chickens for sale. That’s her brother-in-law’s business. He’s also a television repairman. Other brothers in the family are architects, electricians, surgical techs, carpenters… They’ve pretty much got it all – and all under one roof since the whole family lives together. Mariétou and her husband share a room with their four boys who are the most polite, well-mannered little young men. (Mariétou wouldn’t stand for less, I can assure you!)

photo 1

We went from room to room, greeting brothers, cousins, aunts, nephews, parents… Pape ran around underfoot with all the other kids, wrestling, singing into pretend microphones and sneaking bites of chicken from serving bowls that weren’t fully covered. Ndeye was passed around from arms to arms and hardly fussed at all the whole time we were there. (And even when she did, Mariétou swooped in to get her ‘petite princesse‘ before I could even cross the room.)

photo 4

We got home a little after 4pm and Pape crashed on the couch by 5pm. It’s almost 9pm now and he’s still out and looks like he’ll sleep through until tomorrow morning. (Happy Korité to us!)

My dress (aka the ‘toubaboubou’), Ndeye’s dress with bloomers and Pape’s boubou were all designed and made by Mariétou. She’s amazing. And she’s got a Facebook page for her couture!

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


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