Gift bags for the prison

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385 gift bags!

Do you have any idea how many boxes it takes to hold 400 toothbrushes, 400 tubes of toothpaste, 400 bars of soap and 400 bottles of lotion? I apparently did not. When the Sen Express delivery guy started carrying boxes in to our apartment, they. just. kept. coming.

That was the first time I started to think that maybe, just maybe, we’d gotten in over our heads on this one.

The Christmas card-making table just some of the many volunteers who helped out

The Christmas card-making table just some of the many volunteers who helped out

The second time I felt overwhelmed was when all the boxes were being unloaded, opened and lined up for people to go through and stuff wax-print gift bags with the toiletry items and then make Christmas cards.

But let me go back a bit… About two months or so ago, our church decided to do something special for Christmas for the inmates at three of Dakar’s prisons. That idea grew in several very cool directions, but I volunteered to help coordinate the gift bags so that’s where my focus stayed. Fortunately, my friend Monica jumped on board and we work really well together. (That’s code for: “We think very much alike, but her ideas are usually better than mine but since we work as a team, she makes me look good.“)

Monica, my gift bag-and-coffee buddy

Monica, my gift bag-and-coffee buddy

So we brainstormed and made lists, then drank coffee and made another list, emailed and texted our lists to each other… And the end result was 1600 toiletry items and 400 gift bags parked in my hallway, then loaded into cars and driven to our church’s Christmas pot-luck picnic where 100+ people helped stuff the bags and make handmade cards for all 385 inmates.

There are several key people (in addition to Monica) I want to thank who helped us pull this thing off:

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- Djiby from Malika Monkeys and Marietou from Khady Couture who made the 400 wax print bags. They were gorgeous and worked perfectly.

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Dakar’s best errand and delivery service. We’re big, big fans.

- Elhaji and Bima from Sen Express who helped us get price quotes on the toiletries (then haggled for a reduced rate), then bought and delivered the items… up four flights of stairs.



- Thierno from our corner buutik who got us a great deal on antibacterial soap and had it ready even before we needed it.

Maman Ndeye at the prison

Maman Ndeye at the prison

Maman Ndeye, Seby, Jan and Michele who took these gifts to the prisons and coordinating the rest of the festivities and celebration, including a great meal!

- Everyone at ICF who gave generously so that we could plan these events in the prisons.

Aaaand that would be my son doing the 'drive-thru' at the pot-luck table.

Aaaand that would be my son doing the ‘drive-thru’ at the pot-luck table.

- My husband who watched the kiddos at the picnic so I could focus on the gift bag stuffing and card making.

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My friend Tabitha and her daughter working on gift bags

- AND… all those kids who stuffed bag after bag and made card after card! It was beautiful and amazing to watch. There were about 25 kids who just kept working, and I mean little ones too! Some of them had their parents with them, but most were just doing it calmly and orderly on their own. Grab a bag, put in a toothbrush, put in a toothpaste, put in a soap, put in a lotion… repeat. Thank you so much!

Me demonstrating gift bag assembly. I must have done well (even with my 'assistant') because the stuffers did great!

Me demonstrating gift bag assembly. I must have done well (even with my ‘assistant’) because the stuffers did great!

All loaded up and ready to go!

All loaded up and ready to go!

Hello, harmattan…

Sandy skies = beautiful sunsets

Sandy skies = beautiful sunsets

The winds have changed around here. The humidity has being replaced, gust by gust, by the harmattan winds blowing from the Sahel Desert… right into to our apartment.

But these sandy, dry winds feel cooler than the ever-present muggy heat that had been hanging around since July, so I say bring it, Sahel. Move your sandy dust onto my floor, my kitchen sink, my toothbrush, my pillowcase… Just bring that cool air with you!

Shown here, the dust that accumulated in a 24-hour period on the floor of ONE room of our apartment.

Shown here, the dust that accumulated in a 24-hour period on the floor of ONE room of our apartment.

My harmattan morning ritual…

  • Pretend to still be asleep when Little Thing 1 jumps on me to wake me up.
  • Realize that although it’s still dark out, it is in fact time to get up.
  • Groan. Stretch.
  • Wash the dust off my face.
  • Fluff the dust out of my hair.
  • Brush my teeth. (Hopefully not dusty.)
  • Lotion. More lotion.
  • Drink at least a liter of water.
  • Look outside and mentally crack a joke about the ‘white Christmas’ Senegal is having.
  • Apply Chapstick.
  • Put on sweatshirt.
  • Decide I probably need more lotion on those elbows.
  • Put on sweatshirt again.
  • Put on flip-flops so I can’t feel the dust on the floor.
  • Attempt to make it to the kitchen (COFFEE!) without being spotted by Little Thing 1 or Littler Thing 2 who will inevitably need urgent assistance with a diaper, finding the right green car or getting their head poked through the right hole of their hoodie.
  • Sigh and think, “Well, at least it’s not hot and humid!”
  • Sneeze.

Citizen’s arrest

Lanes are just suggestions.

Lanes are just suggestions.

Fellow Dakarois,

Change begins with each of us. And it needs to start on the Ancienne Piste strip of chaos, or maybe that section of the airport road where old men hobble across the street in front of oncoming traffic and then attempt to leap up on the cement median wall. Or you know what, let’s just start with horse cart drivers and taxis.

Effective today, December 3rd, I authorize you to make a a citizen’s arrest in any and all cases of horrible driving in Dakar. This would include, but is of course not limited to:

  • failure to even acknowledge that there is a lane (aka, the African drift)
  • lack of brakes
  • use of turning indicators as decoration
  • use of turning indicators to communicate ‘it’s safe to pass me on this side’
  • horse carts. Period.
  • windshield visibility reduced beyond 50% due to cracks that were obviously made by someone’s head
  • running walking casually into oncoming traffic
  • not giving the ‘thank-you thumbs up’ when someone lets you in
  • failure to look at all before pulling out in the road
  • letting your cows and sheep wander down our fine streets
  • being a jerk at roundabouts
  • spewing a cloud of black exhaust that limits visibility of other drivers

Get out there and let’s do this, people. (But if you pull over my husband, be nice and just give him a warning, okay?)

Say ceebu jenn!


Our very first family-of-four photos! Pape is three years old, Ndeye is seven months old and I am much younger than Cheikh. That’s all that matters.

These photos were taken at a favorite crêperie here in Dakar by the lovely Ashley LaRue of Lemon & Lavender. I’m so happy to have pictures of us at this stage in our lives that are not long-arm selfies. Thank you, Ashley!

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Things I’ve never said in Senegal…

“Wow. That is cow grazing in the median is really fat.”

“This ceebu jen just doesn’t have enough oil.”

“Is the weather ever going to heat up?”

“I have too much wax print fabric.”

“That Sagam security guard’s tie is way too long.”

“It was a nice taxi ride, but the car’s interior decorations were a bit understated for my taste.”

“Mangoes again? Ugh.”

“I stopped going to the spa after discovering bucket baths.”

“I bet that little baby is cold. Can someone find a fleece blanket and winter hat for him?”

“The hardest part of running in Dakar is all these hills. I mean, have you seen the Mamelles?”

“There are too many Thanksgiving turkeys to choose from at the supermarket.”

“I’m going to Sandaga market to relax.”

“Did you hear that gas is down to $6/gallon?”

“The first time I put on a big headwrap, it just felt so… Well, so natural and beautiful.”

“Dinner by candle light. How special!”

“The mosque loudspeaker isn’t loud enough in our bedroom.”

“Look at how smoothly that horsecart navigates through traffic.”

“I think Yankee Candle should make a scent inspired by Soumbedioune fish market.”

“Did I miss the exit to the mall?”

“The sunsets in Dakar are mediocre.”

Yesterday evening

Yesterday evening

Your turn. :)

17 things I love right now…


1. Captured in the wild.
Considering bébé Ndeye is now seven months old, we decided it was time to have some family photos with all four us taken. We were able to get one of Ashley‘s very last photo session slots before she leaves Dakar. I’ve only seen the sneak preview above, but love that it truly captures our family at this stage in life. Plus many of my family photos growing up were taken in front of banana trees, so that’s a special touch that’s significant to me.

2. Loo wax?
Wolof immersion has begun. Our apartment is now a ‘try saying it in Wolof first’ zone, which means all day long I’m asking people what they just said to me, “Loo wax?” and to speak more slowly, “Waxal ndank.” But it’s working and my Wolof is slooowly coming back and getting stronger.

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3. Pumpkin-n-spice, and everything is nice.
My friend Jane surprised me with a bag of pumpkin spice coffee that is perfect for drinking by the Christmas tree (yes, it’s already up.) as I de-groggify myself in the morning. When it’s 80 degrees out, you do what you can to create holiday spirit!

4. Water.
We have it! Enough said.

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5. Shopping.
Lots and lots of shopping. The biggie for me is this weekend’s Christmas Bazaar put on by the Dakar Women’s Group. But so many other good shopping events this time of year!

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6. Listening.
Every morning after breakfast, as a family we take a couple minutes to stop and listen to what God has to say to us. Sometimes it’s clear and big, sometimes it’s quiet or we don’t hear anything. But it all gets written down in this notebook.

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7. Fruit & veggies.
Along with cooler temperatures come a wider variety of produce. Melons, green beans, papayas the size of my melon and more…

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8. Monday morning dates.
It’s on the calendar for each week. No matter how tired we are from wild parties kids waking us up or how many things on our to-do lists for the week, Monday morning is either a coffee date or brunch date for us.

9. Electricity.
We have it! Enough said.

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10. Jeans.
Cool season is arriving and we welcome it with open arms and legs covered in denim.

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11. Frozen and packed solid.
My freezer, that is. We’ll be celebrating with a small crew of friends, but the meal is still, of course, a full-on production. Just the way I like it! So my lists are going, my shopping and prep started and my freezer is getting filled to the brim with everything that can be done in advance.

12. Naps.
Not for me, don’t be silly. Kid naps. At the same time. Like they are doing right now. Which means I can actually type this whole post in one sitting.

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13. Do you dashiki?
I’m a little lot obsessed with dashiki wax print fabric these days. And I got a little more obsessed when I found out it’s in short supply in Dakar markets. I’m like a dashiki hoarder now. Interesting tidbit: Locally this print is called addisébé, because the style comes from Ethiopia. (According to my tailor.)

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14. Baskets.
These are one of Senegal’s best inexpensive treasures. Good for storing toys, piling in laundry, keeping bread fresh, organizing junk… Love them.

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15. Soup’s on!
I made a giant vat of roasted vegetable soup. Onions, green onions, carrots, butternut, sweet potato, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peas, red beans, blackeyed peas, corn, celery and herbs. Pape had three bowls in one sitting.

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16. This kid.

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17. And this one.

Dakar Christmas shopping guide – UPDATED (again!)

I’ll update this list as I hear of more shopping events (anyone have the scoop on CAEDAS or the Base Militaire Christmas markets?). But here’s a start!

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DWG Christmas Bazaar
When: Saturday, November 22nd, from 10am to 5pm
Where: ISD on the Corniche
What: The Dakar Women’s Group presents the 2014 Christmas Bazaar, the best shopping day of the year! This year there will be 100 vendors and a bake sale. Entry fee is 1000 CFA/adult and 500 CFA/children up to age 12. Bring the whole family! Proceeds go to charities in Dakar and surrounding areas. Download the DWG Bazaar poster here.


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Atmosphère Marché de Noel
When: Shop anytime now, then go back starting November 26th for their Christmas market
Where: Their shop in Almadies, back behind UBA.
What: Beautiful home décor, gifts and accessories from Senegal


Marché de Createurs et d’Artistes at Little Art House
When: November 29th from 10am to 7pm
Where: Little Art House in Cité Mamelles
What: Works by Design by Do, Anne Calfo, Wendy Spivey, Jackie Di, Marie Jampy, Les Mosaïques de Sophie, Isa Mauro, Deborah, Caroline Gueye and Sebastien Bouchard


Pop-up Christmas
When: Saturday, December 13th from 11am to 8pm, and Sunday, December 14th from 1pm to 7pm
Where: Hotel Fleur de Lys in Almadies
What: The best of African fashions for adults and children, featuring Bélya, Denine, Miss Wudé and Studio A


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When: Saturday, December 13th
Where: Portuguese Ambassador’s Residence in Fann. 77 613 0582.
What: gifts from around the world, international foods, special activities for children. Entry is 1000 cfa for adults and those over 12 years old.


Marché de Noel
When: Saturday, December 13th at 10am
Where: the Institut Francais in Plateau
What: clothing, accessories, glass paintings, natural beauty products, leather goods, organic food, etc…


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African Fabrics, Accessories and Products Pop Up Store
When: Sunday, December 14th to Tuesday, December 16th
Where: Sign up for the event on Facebook to receive the address.
What: Nafi is bringing original Ghanaian wax to Dakar this Christmas and will be selling them along with other accessories and products. Several patterns are available but not in big quantities so hurry. Some natural products for hair & body will also be available. Don’t hesitate to add your friends and family to the event. The more the merrier. :)


FIDAK (aka ‘the Foire’)
When: December 18th-29th
Where: Just off the VDN at the Foire (CICES)
What: A huge gathering of vendors from all over Senegal and West Africa (and beyond!). A great place to buy fabric, local food and beauty products. Also some great décor items. Entry fee is around 500cfa and parking is available.


Diami’s Jewels
When: By appointment
Where: Your house
What: Diami brings you her current collection of beaded jewelry, including necklaces, earrings and rings for women and girls. Her prices are excellent (starting at 500cfa for handmade beaded earrings) and go up to around 7000cfa for her chunkier necklaces made with traditional beads.


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Christmas cards by students at the deaf school
Beautiful cards, packages of 4 all occasion cards plus 3 Christmas cards and envelopes OR 7 Christmas cards/envelopes. All cards are prints of original paintings done by deaf children. All proceeds will go towards the construction of their new school for deaf children. Suggested donation of 5,000 cfa per pack. Larger orders can receive reductions.

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Reserve your cards today by email or by phone: / Jerome 77 613 9713 or Jane 77 609 9376


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