Dakar fashion forecast: Summer 2015

Summer 2015: wax on, wax on!

Summer 2015: wax on, wax on!

The first heavy, damp breezes have started blowing through Dakar. As my Instagram feed fills with pictures of spring blossoms and pasty white legs on grass, we here in Dakar are rolling up our sleeves (wondering why we chose long-sleeves at all) and looking for replacement batteries for the AC remote.

So I’ve decided it’s time to share My Fashion Predictions for Summer 2015 in Dakar. Y’all ready for this?

Damp roots are a new twist on whatever style you’re sporting. For some this will mean a bit of frizz busting out at the hairline, but for others just an overall limp droopiness. Whatever the case, your hairstyle should say, “My blow-dryer is stashed away until November and I’m going to start showering three times a day soon.”


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Brightly colored nails are in, in, in to stay, stay, stay. Do you know why? I’ll give you three reasons. 1) Nail polish doesn’t sweat off. 2) Salons are air-conditioned. 3) We do it as a tribute to my sweet friend Jenn as she gets ready to leave Senegal in 41 days. Waaaah! (Bonus 4th reason: nail polish doesn’t run when you cry either.)

Forget that youthful dewy look of winter. Summer 2015 calls for full-on sweaty glow. Best of all, no new products needed! Just step outside and let hot season work its magic on your face.

Lipstick trend alert!
How many of you remember Courtney Love’s famous smudgy red lipstick? Summer 2015 is bringing that look back. A quick application of bright red or pink lipstick is the perfect way to say, “You know what hot season, I defy you to make me look tired and wilted!” Then when you forget and wipe the sweat off your upper lip, accidentally spreading lipstick up onto your cheek…. Well that’s just summer’s way of putting you back in your place.


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HLM stacks

Wax, wax and waxier. HLM market is getting in loads of new stock so it’s a great time to get in on some fresh designs. Skip the geometric neons (unless you’re into geometric neon) and go for the beautiful lilac purples, deep mauves, bright teals and bursts of golden yellows and oranges as accents. Remember, you can pick up 6 meters of Hitarget brand wax print for just 6000cfa!


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Sandals by Tony Alves

Minimalist. I don’t mean simple in style, but rather the minimum amount of coverage. You may laugh now as summer days are just gently teasing their way in, but mark my words, there will be a day when you think, “Ugh. Not the sandals with the thick straps. Too hot.”


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Ile de N’gor purchase

Have a little fun with it! There’s something for everyone in Dakar. If you don’t know where to start, hit up some toubab touristy vendors and check out the new wax-print covered necklaces starting at around 1500cfa. For something more personalized, go see Wendy at My African Heart and design a piece that’s uniquely you. But I warn you… You can’t stop at just one!

Want the real scoop on what’s in this summer? Don’t miss the Dakar Women’s Group’s Spring Bazaar on May 9th!

The Dakar episode has aired!

Filming last year with Mariétou and teeny tiny bébé who was just six weeks old

Filming last year with Mariétou and teeny tiny bébé who was just six weeks old

The episode of Ports d’Attache (Waterfront Cities) on Dakar that was filmed last May aired this weekend!

The full French version episode is available online here and below is a short clip, featuring us at Kermel Market, the fish market in Ouakam and then our place. (Pre-redecorating. Wow. So glad we did that!)

PS. English episode coming soon!

10 steps to a super-chill 1st birthday party


1. Have a friend with access to a private playground reserve it for you.
2. Have a friend who makes amazing cakes make amazing cakes. (Bonus points if same friend is a great photographer and can bring her camera!)


3. Send e-vites.
4. Pick up birthday plates and napkins at Hypermarché.
5. Pick up a special wax print birthday ensemble from Bapribap.


6. Borrow a cooler and fill it with frozen Kirene bottles.
7. Add super cute single-serving milk cartons that didn’t show up on time cartons of UHT milk for the kiddos.
8. Make a thermos carafe of coffee for the grown-ups.

Oh wait. Only eight steps. But her first birthday was nonetheless a very chill, wonderful event shared with special friends!




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Senegal Emojis, please.

Recently Apple released iOS 8.3 which included a pile of new emojis, which have been met with some criticism. My personal complaint is that there are still not enough accurate ways for me to express my Senegalerrific experiences.

I would like to request that the following emojis be included in the next Apple update.

Horse cart
Car raapide
Two car raapides that have run into each other
Rearview mirror covered in fur with dangling prayer beads
Motorcyclist without a helmet
Banged up taxi
Aerial image of a roundabout with traffic backed up

Thieboudienne common bowl
Chawarma with fries and egg
Vendor with limes in basket
Coconuts piled in a pushcart
Bissap baggie
Nescafé cart
Little tan-colored Solo cup
Kirene bottle

Scrawny chicken
Super scrawny cow
Sheep (tail down)
Goat (tail up)

Dust cloud
Finger writing in dust
Broom with pail full of dust

Wax print fabric
Wax print fabric emitting hearts
Police trucks with riot gear
CFA bills
Amadou Bamba
Orange promo sign
No water
No electricity

In the meantime, while waiting for Apple to add these to their collection, may I suggest we just make do using the following?





🍈 (That can be a mango, right?)



These already cover an awful lot of communications in these parts.

How to buy ____ when you don’t know the price

My husband likes this Senegalese dish called lakh. It’s basically millet porridge with soured milk yogurt topped with fruit and coconut. I like it occasionally, but he could eat vats of it. We haven’t had it in a while so I decided to be all wifely and make him some.

But it requires fresh coconut, which I know approximately zilcho about buying.


Fortunately my friend and I came across a guy selling coconuts this morning. In general fruit and veggie vendors are great at helping you pick out good quality, but I debated how to approach buying some since I had NOT A CLUE as to how much they should cost. I mean really, is there any better way to open yourself up to getting ripped off than just wandering over wide-eyed and asking how much? So I decided to try something.

I grabbed a 1000cfa bill (about $2) from my wallet and walked over. I greeted the vendor and asked how his day was going, then said, “Jaayma cocos ngir mille francs, s’il te plait.” Basically ‘please sell me 1000cfa worth of coconuts’. I had no idea if this would mean walking away with one coconut or 20.

Turns out the answer is three!


Please note that this system does not work for everything, say the sheep-skin rugs over by Hypermarché for example. ;)

Why I repainted our apartment

I guess ‘had our apartment painted’ is probably a more accurate statement since all I did was choose the colors, convince my husband, contact the painter, get a price quote, research the kinds of paint, second guess my color choices, schedule the painter, have Sen Express buy the paint (which wound up requiring two paint stores and one hardware store), take everything off the walls and move furniture, keep the kids out of all the fun paint buckets and other ‘toys’ and then finally… love it.


That’s not to say that it turned out as I had pictured. Somehow the colors I chose all seem a bit purplish, but I’m hoping they come off as ‘daring, bold choices!’ and not accidental mauve.

I had been debating whether or not to paint for several months. On the one hand, our original off-white color was fine. It was fine. (Like oatmeal… or bananas that are too mushy to enjoy but not mushy enough to justify tossing.) Also painting isn’t free, believe it or not, and we’ve already invested quite a bit to get this penthouse in shape.

But the things we’ve spent money are were functional, like a pump so we could have water and iron security bars to keep us safe. These are things that make a place livable, but not a home. I want our home to be a place where we can rest, relax and enjoy being. I want it to be an escape from the rest of life outside. As a wife and a mom (and even just for myself!), I enjoyed taking on this purple-tinged challenge.

Here’s what I learned:

– Darker colors make a room feel cooler, more cave-like. In Dakar, this is a very desirable thing!
– Accent walls are harder to pull off than I thought. Mine are more like ‘slight variation’ walls.
– Darker colors make white bathroom and kitchen tiles seem brighter and cleaner. #score
– Seigneurie Soytex matte satiné paint is beautiful. It costs more for a reason.
– Repainting is a great way to make the place you live feel more like YOUR home. Totally worth every centime. (And you can tell your husbands I said that. ‘Cause they’ll listen to me, right??)

Things you learn when you live in Senegal

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5 things you learn right away

  • ‘That sound’ is the call to prayer. Five times a day. It will become the background music to this stage of your life.
  • ‘That smell’ is incense. Or garbage. Or fish market. But probably all three.
  • ‘That hand gesture’ means slow down, I’m going to cross the street here in front of your moving vehicle.
  • ‘That feeling’ is your skin frying in the sun.
  • ‘That thing’ in his mouth is a chew stick, a traditional toothbrush.

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5 things you figure out quickly

  • The going rate is probably half the first price given. Bargaining is expected.
  • Making balls of rice to pop in your mouth as the oil runs downs your arm.
  • Power cuts happen.
  • How to say, “I have a husband.” in Wolof.
  • Attaya packs a mean caffeine punch.

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5 things you pick up along the way

  • Tying a wrap skirt so that it stays on, but loose enough to walk in.
  • The urge to shake people’s hand every time you walk into a room.
  • Dressing more modestly.
  • A more relaxed attitude about being on time, but higher value on time spent with people.
  • Giarrdia.

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5 things you never fully master

  • Walking with the elegance and fluidity of a Senegalese person.
  • Fluency in four local languages, like everyone else.
  • Dancing like THAT.
  • Making ceebu jenn as wonderfully as the woman who taught you.
  • Explaining life in Senegal to someone who’s never been here.

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