have a delightful weekend

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In the two weeks since getting back to Dakar from vacation, I’ve been attempting to create a sustainable routine, something that has been lacking since I arrived here in February. It’s been hard, since my schedule has been all over the place – sometimes out of town for work, sometimes traveling, sometimes doing nothing / half-heartedly studying French. But in order for this place to feel like home, and if I want to avoid weird jags of isolation and anxiety, I need to think of myself much as I think of my nieces and nephew: little powder-kegs waiting to explode if they don’t do the same thing at the same time every day, if they don’t get enough sleep, if they don’t eat well, and if they don’t get a chance to run around like maniacs every once in awhile.

With that in mind, I went to my first ever “aquabike” class yesterday night. My usual form of exercise is running, but it’s been way too hot for that lately. I recently discovered that the place I thought was a community pool just two blocks from my house is actually a dedicated water-biking center. You’re halfway-immersed in the water and an instructor leads you through a one-hour workout that involves a combination of spinning and calisthenics-type stuff. The trial session I went to last night was awesome mostly because I got to be outside in the night air without feeling like I was going to melt or get eaten alive by mosquitos, but also because it was a just-intense-enough workout after weeks of being a couch potato. The pricing is fairly ridiculous – going twice a week would cost about half my monthly rent – but I’ve decided it’s worth it to put something regular on my schedule that’s beneficial to my mental and physical health.

Along those same lines… tonight I’m going out dancing for the first time ever in Dakar. It’s going to be a relatively early night, though, because on Saturday I fly to Benin to start my next job (!!). I – and thus my blog – will be gone for a week, but I look forward to picking up where I left off when I get back at the beginning of October.

In the meantime, here are a few interesting and relevant Web pickings for your reading and viewing pleasure. Have a good weekend / week!

Visual journeys by six photographers to six very different countries (including Ethiopia).

I just found out that Dakar’s beautiful, wonderful car rapides are on their way out and I am so, so sad.

11 funny-because-it’s-true(ish) French travel tips for visiting America.

How (and why) you should talk to strangers when traveling.

Two different writers discuss why they travel alone as married women, here and here

[Photo from Aquabike Centre Dakar]

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beautiful buildings of Dakar

I am a big fan of midcentury design in general and a huge fan of midcentury African architecture in particular. There seems to be a huge range of styles, each drawing from different regions, periods, and influences. I’ve been calling it all Midcentury African for now and promising myself to look for actual terminology and history later, whenever I find the time to go down that rabbit hole.

For months I’ve been taking pictures of my favorite of these buildings in Dakar and it’s high time I shared them… Continue reading

(get over the) hump day inspiration: Jack Canfield edition

I harbor a very strong fear of posting cheesy* motivational quotes by multi-millionaire self-help gurus on my blog, but since everything I want is on the other side of that fear, I’m doing it anyway.

*yet powerful, practical, and true

Ethiopia

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Last month I went on a whirlwind three-country tour of Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa. Carrie Bradshaw once told Big, “We’re so over, we need a new word for over.” On this vacation I repeatedly told myself, “This is so amazing, I need a new word for amazing.”

This post is devoted to my Ethiopian amazement… Continue reading

masse critique, or something like that

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Last night I went out for drinks with three native French speakers, including one Parisian. (This is significant because Parisians speak three times as quickly and enunciate half as much as Senegalese.) We spent three hours gabbing away, during which my fairly infrequent mis-comprehensions were quickly smoothed over and my more frequent mispronunciations never stopped the conversation short. As is my wont when my French is going well, I had a moment of exiting my body and looking down at myself from above with a nearly overwhelming sense of pride and astonishment. I felt like I had crossed over some great divide and earned my stripes as an official French speaker, though I couldn’t tell you where or when the transition happened.

The ironic thing is that the precise moment I wandered off into the clouds to pat myself on the back was the same one in which the person I was talking to abruptly switched gears to ask whether I could understand him. He probably noticed my eyes looking through him into the middle distance of fantasyland. I assured him that yes, I had understood everything, but in fact, you can’t understand what you haven’t actually listened to.

In English, when I find my way back to a conversation after becoming distracted, I can do a sort of rewind to the last thing I missed, because my ear processed the words even if my mind didn’t. I operate sort of like my sound recorder, which is capable of capturing audio starting 2 seconds before I hit the record button. (I have NO IDEA how this works.) But in French, if I miss something, I can’t get it back, because it was never there to begin with. The sounds flittered through my subconsciousness, yes, but my brain never bothered turning them into words.

So, in that respect, I’m still stunted in my French. But who cares, because when I actually pay attention to what people are saying, I can understand the words coming out of their mouths. I can understand words which were once meaningless gobbledygook.

It’s pure and utter magic. (Magic that took a lot of work.)

[Photo: Kurt Bauschardt]

home again, home again

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Landed back in Dakar on Wednesday morning at 3am, two hours late and in the midst of a downpour. It was hotter and more humid, by a long shot, than I’ve yet experienced here. And it has continued to be stifling and sweaty the rest of this week.

Still, it’s nice to be back. I call this place home, but it only halfway feels like it because of how much time I’ve spent out of town since I first arrived. It would have felt like cheating to skip out on Senegal’s rainy season altogether. And the speed with which I dispensed with my money during my one month of vacation had started to worry me. Especially after I got word, halfway through the trip, that the job I was supposed to start tomorrow has been delayed indefinitely. Eeks.

I’m now waiting to hear about three separate video projects, in Benin, Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso. I would be thrilled to do any of them, not only for the work but also for the travel. I figured going to three new countries in the space of five weeks would calm my wanderlust but it only fueled it. In Ethiopia, my friend and I started calling out names of countries we wanted to visit and we didn’t stop until we had basically listed everywhere on earth. Just saying the names of those places out loud and rapid-fire got me tipsy with euphoria. And in Johannesburg, I hung out with a group that included a guy who told a story about borrowing his mom’s bakkie (South African slang for a 4X4, derived from Afrikaans) to go on camping safari in the Botswanan Kalahari. My eyes were like saucers and I informed him, “If you ever go again, I am coming with you. It doesn’t matter when. Just let me know, and I will be there.” And then everyone else wanted in, and it was agreed: 2017 Botswana road trip.

BOTSWANA ROAD TRIP. What kind of amazingness is my life right now, that that is an actual thing that could actually happen? What kind of transcendental awesomeness is it that I could tell myself – and realistically mean it – that when I return to Southern Africa to go to Botswana, I should add at least four weeks on to the trip in order to properly see the parts of South Africa I missed this time around, to climb the orange sand dunes of Namibia, and to check out Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zambia while I’m at it. And to maybe fly to Madagascar, too.

Of course, that’s all dependent on me getting my next job so that I can finance such craziness. So for now I will stay happily put in Dakar, hustling and crossing fingers for good news.

I’ll post vacation pix here as soon as I sift through them all…

In the meantime, have a good weekend!

P.S. Here are two cute things I read today:

How kids around the world get to school.

Lost luggage goes to America’s greatest thrift store.