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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.

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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!)

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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.)

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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

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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.

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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. ;)

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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.

Respecting Ramadan and our fasting friends

sm Khady praying“Oh, that smells awesome. I’m so hungry!”

I said it without thinking and immediately wished I could have swallowed my words before they made it out of my mouth. Today is the first day of Ramadan and less than six hours into it, I had already goofed and said something rather inconsiderate in front of my Muslim friend who is fasting from sunrise to sunset for the next 29 or 30 (depending on the moon) days.

The conversation that followed though really helped me to understand some ways that we as non-Muslims can respect Ramadan and our fasting friends. In a country that’s more than 95% Muslim, Ramadan is a big deal and affects nearly every aspect of life for one month a year.

Here is some information on how Ramadan is observed in Senegal and also some suggestions below, but I’d love to hear from others too!

- Families wake up early to eat breakfast together before the sun rises. For moms, this means about a 5am wake-up to get the meal ready. If women around you seem sleepy, they probably are!

- From sunrise to sunset, no water or food. Some who take fasting regulations very seriously won’t even swallow their own saliva, so watch out for spitters.

- The five prayer times are a crucial part of Ramadan. My friend brought her prayer mat with her to our house so that she can pray at 2pm.

- Modesty is also very important. If you went to the beaches in Dakar last weekend, you saw that they were packed. Some of that is due to the heat and some is the ‘last hoorah’ before Ramadan. Running around in a bathing suit and pareo wrap is not considered acceptable during this time. (In addition to her prayer mat, my friend is also keeping her head covered when she leaves her home.)

- All men are required to fast. Women should fast as well, but if they are pregnant, breastfeeding or on their period, they do not have to. The fasting days can be made up at another time. One friend of mine who has an eight-month-old and is breastfeeding is choosing to fast this month even though she could delay it because it’s much easier to do in community than alone.

- Breaking the fast (ndogou) at sunset is a family event and many people will leave work early during this month in order to be home in time to eat in community. (For those who can’t make it home in time, there are vendors selling dried dates along the streets.)

So how can we respect our fasting friends, colleagues and workers?

- Avoid eating or drinking when you’re out and about. Eating lunch in a restaurant is still fine of course, but be discreet with those sips from your water bottle as you’re running errands around town.

- Be aware that people may want to take time to pray at around 2pm and 5pm. This may be your house-helper, your taxi driver, your electrician…

- Ladies, consider wearing longer hemlines and opting for short sleeves rather than spaghetti straps on tops.

- If someone comes to visit you during Ramadan, ask if they are fasting before offering a drink or something to eat.

- If your visitor is at your home around a prayer time, they may ask where they can go to pray. Have a place in mind where you are comfortable letting them pray and know which direction Mecca is so that you can help orient them.

- Consider letting your workers leave early to be home with their families to break the fast. This is very appreciated. For women, this may mean leaving as early as 4 or 5pm if they are the ones preparing the food.

- If you can’t let your workers go home in time to break the fast with their families, you can offer them an ndogou, such as coffee or café Touba with milk powder and sugar and some bread with butter or mayonnaise. If you have a worker staying on through the evening (nanny/babysitter, for example), offering them a meal as well would be appreciated.

- Don’t schedule appointments in the evening, if you can avoid it. (Or if you do, don’t be too surprised or annoyed if the plumber arrives late!)

Hot season greeting cards

I just called the water company to ask about the cuts we’ve been having this week and was informed it’s due to a manque d’eau (water shortage) across the city, but not to inquieter (worry). Yeah. Right.

My friend Stephanie over at Red Letter Paper Co had one of her greeting cards picked up by Papyrus recently (congratulations!), so I thought I’d give my card-writing skills a try.

Inspired by Dakar in hot season, and all its various cuts and shortages…

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INSIDE: Um, blank. Have at it.

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Keeping the romance alive!

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No, Dakar, it isn’t.

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INSIDE: And wondering if your power is on and if so, can I come take a shower and sit in your AC?

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INSIDE: If so, can I live in it?

INSIDE: If so, can I live in it?

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I think that says it all.

My personal favorite.

My personal favorite.


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