So we’re sitting at the gate, waiting to board our flight to Dakar from CDG Paris. This guy on his mid50s starts talking to us and his story is that he’s from the US, first trip overseas and is headed to meet up with a friend who lives in Dakar.
At first it’s just casual convo about what to do, what to see… but pretty quickly it became obvious that this traveler had no idea what he was headed into. I don’t say this as a criticism of him – how could he know unless someone told him? But it did get me thinking on what the very basics are that I would tell someone arriving at good ol’ DKR-Yoff solo.
Coming home to Dakar after two months in the US means a lot of changes.
It means trading my grande vanilla sweet cream cold brew for plunking a straw in a fresh coconut.
Trading Aldi for Auchan.
Trading late evening runs along sidewalks for 8am along the Corniche.
Trading convenience, choices and snack sizes for making do and whatever size they have in stock this week. Continue reading “Trading spaces”
1. August in Dakar acts a lot like August in France. Quite a few restaurants and businesses will be closed for their summer holidays. Most restaurants do a pretty good job of keeping customers informed via Facebook pages. Others that don’t should really read this… 😉
2. Small vendors are still open! Véronique‘s amazing all-peanut butter, Diami’s incredible yassa and thieboudieune, Marie’s homemade English muffins, granola, cinnamon rolls, pizza crusts, tortillas, honey, bagels and more… Dakar is home to many small vendors who deliver their artisanal products to your home for a small fee, which usually winds up being even less than you would pay for the taxi fare to go pick up your order. Woohoo! (And there’s also the service side as well: Lamine’s fantastic mani-pedis, Marietou’s custom-made wax print clothing and home decor, Marie Claude‘s massages and spa treatments – all in your home.)
3. The biggest holiday of the year is coming up in early September. Be aware that crime rates increase leading up to Tabaski as the ram sacrifice and its festivities require a lot of CFA. Continue reading “5 tips for August in Dakar”
Hi! Welcome. I know, it’s crazy hot and muggy this time of year. No, it really does get better – right hand pinkie promise. (You’ll learn soon enough never to do anything with your left hand and why…) But yeah, around the end of October it will get even hotter, but the air will be super dry and still. Almost creepy still. It’s miserable for two weeks, but you know that means that cooler weather is on its way in. And by Christmas I’m betting you’ll have even worn a light sweater or jacket a couple times. Trust me, by the end of spring you’ll be thinking 70 degrees is downright nippy!
That’s the thing about life in Dakar: the things that drive you crazy will either change or change you. Sometimes both. Continue reading “Dear new arrivals in Dakar”
June is a horrible month for expats. It’s the worst. So many goodbyes. Even the ones that aren’t particularly hard or remarkable add up and up and up… until the weight of all the losses seems like it will crush life out of you.
“Are you ready to leave?” I asked her. I wanted to hear her say yes. I wanted to hear that she knows they are making the right choice, that she has lived every experience she wanted to in Africa, that she has closure and said her goodbyes well and that the time for them to move on to the next step and she’s excited about it. But I also knew that hearing those words would hurt because it would feel as if she’s ready to move on from me, as if our friendship was one of the items she had piled up in the give-away stack to leave here.
My head knows it’s not actually true that she is moving on from our friendship, but my heart knows that distance changes things. I know this from experience as the expat who ‘gets left behind’ over and over… Each goodbye builds on the pain and sadness of the previous ones. It’s been a year and we are still grieving the losses from last June, the month of Expat Exodus, plus the ‘bonus departures’ that come up so quickly and take your friends unexpectedly. It’s part of the revolving doors of expat life.
So yeah, June hurts.
Everything in my expat-self wants to become tougher because of it. It doesn’t take long for the goodbyes to get too hard, too often and all you want to do is shut down emotionally.
Two thoughts swirl in my brain at once:
1. This is too hard. I’m finished. I’m done opening my heart up to make friends, knowing they’ll get taken away six months, a year or two years later. I don’t want to risk the heartache.
2. This is too wonderful. As hard as it is, I have to choose to continue opening myself up to these amazing, go-deep friendships. I don’t want to risk missing out on a gift this meaningful.
Long story short, we spent the night at an airBnB in Ngaparou because we got caught in traffic for a Gamou (pilgrimage) type event trying to get back to Dakar today. (No, this wasn’t the Catholic pilgrimage to Popenguine just a few miles away on the same weekend. We knew about that one.) There was a Muslim pilgrimage at Nguekokh near Bandia. Insane. So. Many. People.
We sat and sat and sat in traffic, barely centimetering forward, after a day adventuring with our friends who arrived in Senegal recently and were now stuck in the traffic in the car behind us as people, motorcycles, cars, trucks and more swam past us like a school of fish swimming in the opposite direction. Oops. Continue reading “Dakar day trip? Be prepared!”
1. Buy (or make) Ramadan baskets.
A thoughtful gift for friends who are fasting during the month of Ramadan. As in many things, it’s the thought that counts so don’t worry too much about getting the contents of the basket exactly right. You can buy them, or put them togetherput them together yourself. Either way, the sentiment will be understood and appreciated.