When in West Africa…

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Pretend like you’re in East Africa! We decided it was time to take the kids to Bandia Game Reserve for their first glimpse of African wildlife. And despite the fact that Pape did not get to ride a lion as he’d hoped, it was a pretty great experience (made even better by our exploring buddies!).

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Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 10.52.42 AMLooking to do some last-minute sightseeing or sticking around for the summer? Pape is an excellent tour guide, accredited for all of Senegal, and he has put together package deals for visiting Saint-Louis, La Petite Cote or the Casamance (+ Niokolo-Koba option). Click here to download his flyer with details and pricing. Bon voyage !

Just like the old days: eye clinics!

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Eye clinics at Kery Yakaar (House of Hope) clinic

Over 10 years ago I realized I’d fallen in love with this guy pictured below as we did village clinics together. And recently, we got to do them again… and I fell again hard y’all.

One highlight of the week was that on Saturday morning Lance and Cindy did an eye clinic just for our friends. So we were able to invite people we know with vision problems to come to our house, hang out and visit and get a free eye exam and glasses. (Bonus: many of them also got a free check-up, courtesy of Pape and his toy doctor’s kit. Pictures at the end of this post…)

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Taking tickets and doing crowd control as the team got set up for the day

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Corinne was my model for the day. I took pictures of her going through each step of the exam so that next year we can use the photos to train more volunteers and then see more patients.

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People waiting outside the gate, hoping to be seen.

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Teachings on eye health in the waiting room

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“This one… or this one?”

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Glasses bagged, sorted and ready to go.

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Eugene, a wonderful optical nurse from a nearby town, cam to help us for the week.

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The ladies of the Methodist church cooked delicious meals for us!

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Good looking’ crew! Pun intended. :) Sidy, Patricia, Dr. Tabitha, Lance, Djenaba, Sidy, Eugene, Mme Manga, Francois, Cindy and Patricia.

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Dr Soh praying at the beginning of the day as the clinic opened

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Patients waiting in Dahra Djoloff

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I love this one.

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The little doctor will see you now.

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Our fruit and veggie vendors came to the clinic at our apartment. Check out Mr. Ba’s new specs!

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Taking Maman Ndeye’s blood pressure before her eye exam

9 things I learned as a model for NIANGO

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Hair and make-up backstage

At the first dress fitting for the NIANGO fashion show, the first time I got to actually hang out with the designer Rachel-Diane, she started a sentence with, “When you’ve done shows like this before…” I interjected with a very elegant, lady-like snort laugh.

This was certainly a new experience to add to my résumé. As you can probably tell, I had so much fun. It was like playing dress-up for grown-ups. And there was a red carpet. Of course, there were also cameras and a video crew and people I knew in the audience, but as long as I didn’t think about that part… so much fun!

So here we go… 9 things I learned as a model for NIANGO

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More is more, y’all.

1. Strong women can strut their stuff confidently in spike heels on the runway. Stronger women know when to say, “Um, I really can’t do that well so I’m going to wear with a more down-to-Earth level heel so I don’t fall flat on my face.”

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See my friends Jenn and Diana? (I didn’t. I was too focused on not falling!)

2. When it comes to runway hairstyles, more is more. Period. And if you’ve never played around with hairpieces (les postiches), you should give it a try.

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Crazy bedhead is in, right? Maybe I’ll keep this look…

3. I now know one word in the Sawa languages, spoken in the coastal region of Cameroon. ‘Niango’ means ‘woman’. (See? Now you know it too.)

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4 elements dancers opening the show. (Maybe next time they’ll ask me to dance!)

4. Shoulders back, chin up (not too up!), look straight ahead and smile with your eyes.

Striking her pose

Striking her pose

5. Well-designed dresses are cut to flatter women of all shapes and sizes. (I loved the little peek of leg with the dress I wore!) I tried several dresses at the fitting and then saw them on the models the night of the show and the dresses all seemed to adapt to the person wearing them. Très impressive.

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I loved this dress.

6. Dakar’s fashion blogosphere is awesome. I got to meet (and share a red carpet with!) some women whose blogs, Instagram feeds and Facebook pages I’d been quietly following for a while. But since I’m not being quiet anymore, HELLO La Bulle de T., Red Lips Beauty and In the Eyes of Leopar!

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Chillin’ backstage with Téclaire, taking selfies for IG

7. The NIANGO designs in this collection are ‘modern, ethnic and elegant’. I was hoping to at least represent two of these three, but I need to work on my laugh-snort before nailing elegant.

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The venue was a mosaic gallery over in Les Almadies.

8. Walking fast is a lot easier than walking slowly. Also smiling is a lot easier than not smiling.

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The end of the show

9. Rachel-Diane is not only a talented designer with a compassionate heart for women in difficult situations, she is graceful under pressure and has a beautiful laugh.

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Rachel-Diane, the designer

More on NIANGO’s new collection here! Rachel-Diane donates a portion of each sale to the Association Unies Vers’Elles to help at-risk women and children.

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A wonderful collection, a wonderful evening. Thanks, Rachel-Diane!

Spring cleaning? Decluttering? Consider donating…

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Over the next couple of months, many of Dakar’s expats will be moving away as their assignments and contracts here come to a close – which means that yard sale season is upon us! And then there are some of us who are staying here, but still feel the urge to do some serious spring cleaning and decluttering.

Whatever the reason may be, if you find yourself looking at a pile of stuff thinking, “Who could use this?” or “Where could I donate that?”, this list is for you! I’ve compiled a list of 20+ local organizations and projects that are in need of non-financial donations and many of the items could be in that ever-growing pile sitting in front of you…

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You can download the PDF below to find a good home for everything from can openers to cloth diapers, cleaning supplies to children’s books!

Download the PDF list

The list includes current donation requests from Keru Yakaar (House of Hope) Clinic, Orphanage Lac Rose, Animal Rescue League of Dakar, The Beer-Sheba Agricultural Project, La Pouponniere de Dakar, L’Ecole Renaissance des Sourds and other great initiatives in and around Dakar. Please share the list with anyone you think may be interested.

If you know of a project or organization that may want to be included in this list, just let me know. Thanks!

So how can we help talibés?

This is a tough question to answer, but one that many in Dakar are asking. As much as I wish I could spell out a solution to this “Decade of Abuse“, I can’t. But what I can do is share some ideas from people that I trust and hope that one by one, we can and will make a difference in the lives of these children.

If you have 100cfa (20 cents)…
Don’t give it to a talibé. Instead, say hello and ask his name. Buy some peanuts or another healthy snack for him with the 100cfa.

If you buy from a fruit stand…
Buy an extra kilo of very ripe bananas and ask the vendor to give them to talibés after you leave.

Why give the food after I leave?
This one is just a personal preference. I tend to shop the same stands and buutiks and I don’t want the talibé boys to know it’s me buying for them or else I develop a tail.

Okay, so why very ripe bananas?
Nutritionally, the ripest are healthiest. Plus the boys tend to like the taste better.

If you give clothes or shoes…
Buy inexpensive and/or secondhand. This way the talibé is more likely to be allowed to keep the items rather than them be taken to be resold for money.

If you have a soccer ball…
Play a quick match with some boys on your street. Sometimes we forget that these boys are children and they need to play and blow off steam just like every other kid.

If you have 3 minutes…
Step outside and get to know the first talibé you see. Keep in mind that you may not have a common language, but that’s okay. Take a few minutes to learn his name and pay attention to him as an individual.

If you go to a buutik…
Buy some baguettes with filling and ask the vendor to give it to talibés after you leave. Note that Pinton (fish spread) is more nutritious than the chocolate spread, but the boys may like it more if you buy them the sweet stuff. ;)

If you have 5000cfa ($10)
Hire a woman to do laundry for the talibés in your neighborhood once a week.

If you have kids’ vitamins…
Keep a bottle in your purse (or man-satchel, whatever) and give them out like candy, one at a time.

If you’re at the shake-n-sell market…
When you hit up the fegg jay market, buy ten sets of spare shorts and t-shirts for the boys to wear on laundry days (see above) OR just to give them some new clothes.

If you have a free morning…
Check out one of the many excellent talibé centers in Dakar to find out how you can help in a more hands-on way. Here’s a great place to start finding out more.

If you do give food…
Open the package if it’s wrapped or make sure they eat it in front of you. Otherwise they may turn around and sell it in order to make their daily money quota.

Also if you do give food…
Make sure you tell the talibé you hand it to that he needs to share with the other kids if they are in a group.

If you have a couple hours…
Talk with your neighbors (or even guards and houseworkers) and find out which families in your neighborhood prepare meals for talibés. Many families do this, especially on Fridays. Ask if you can contribute towards these meals, either giving a couple thousand CFA each week or maybe providing the meat, fish or chicken to supplement what they are already preparing for the boys.

If you see a flip-flop vendor…
Buy new shoes for talibés standing nearby.

If you have items to donate…
Check out this list to see if any of the items could be used at a talibé center.

If you speak French or Wolof (or have a translator)…
Go talk with your chef de quartier about the talibés in your neighborhood. Ask how you can help take care of them as a way to invest in your community.

If you have a First Aid kit…
Walk down your street and ask the talibés you meet if any have scrapes or sores that you can clean and bandage. Remember that while this helps meet a physical need, it also meets emotional needs as well.

If you choose to help a talibé center…
ASK what they need, don’t assume. Some may need specific food items and medical supplies, others may need sturdy toys or a water filter.

If you like grilled meat…
Go eat dinner at the Brazilian Churrascaria in Fann Hock. Proceeds help support their very reputable talibé center.

If you see a talibé out after dark…
Consider giving them money. I’m told that if they are out late, it probably means they haven’t made enough money for the day and are afraid to return to the daara.

If you have other ideas…
Please share them in the comments!

For more on how to interact with talibés, read this interview with former PCV and al-around-awesome guy Trevon Rainford.

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?

Hair
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.”

Nails

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Jenn-icure

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.)

Make-up
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.

Prints

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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!

Shoes

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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.”

Jewelry

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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!

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