Burkina Faso

I leave tomorrow for a week in Cape Verde. Here are some Burkina pix to tide you over til I’m back. 🙂

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Have a rebellious weekend!

Hey! Guess what? This morning I rejoined the news team I worked with last week, to film the first interview that Adama Barrow has done since becoming Gambia’s new president yesterday. I got to shake his hand and offer him my congratulations. Thrilling, amazing, and a very small antidote to the horror of today. The interview was supposed to air in a 3pm broadcast, but it got pushed back indefinitely because the protests in D.C. stole the spotlight. And thank God for that. To everyone out in the streets of America today, I salute you and your civil disobedience. Keep it up!

That’s about all I can write about our national tragedy without getting nauseous and sobby, so I will change the subject…

The photo above is of all the wax fabric I’ve accumulated during my sojourn in West Africa. Ready-to-wear, non-secondhand clothing stores are really few and far between in this region, and what people do instead is buy fabric and take it to a tailor with a photo of the sort of thing they want made. The tailor creates the custom order for a fraction of what it would cost in the United States.

This concept is my dream come true, but I have been paralyzed by indecision over what to make with each piece of fabric, and during 11 months in Dakar I have yet to visit a tailor. I’m not sure I’m going to stay in Senegal much longer so I really need to get to one soon, but it’s become sort of emotionally painful to commit to cutting up such beautiful fabric in one way and not another. The Vlisco fabric that includes the film strip is especially difficult for me. I bought it not only because I love the colors and the pattern but primarily because it speaks to my life’s calling. If I use it for something small like a shirt or a throw pillow, the fabric’s content will become unintelligible and thus lose its meaning. But it’s not nice enough to frame, and I don’t want to make it into a dress, and pajamas seem a waste. Finally I decided I’ll bring it back to the States uncut and use it to reupholster the chair I inherited from my grandmother about 20 years ago and that has been sitting in my parents’ basement since. As for the rest, I spent a ridiculous amount of time matching clothing styles to fabrics, changing my mind, getting annoyed at myself, and finally forcing myself into decisions that I may or may not regret later. But at least this week reminds me that fashion is just another opiate of the masses and it does not matter one bit what I am wearing when there are totalitarian new world orders to resist.

On that note, here are some things to read while you’re on your way to a protest this weekend (and if you are, I hope you stay safe and warm, and have fun!):

“Avoidance speech” is both a fascinating and terrible concept.

50 wondrous places to visit in 2017.

The most beautiful public toilet in the world is all about the view.

Here’s a BBC story about Cafe Cor Coumba that apparently inspired the story I was in. It was filmed by a friend!

Three idioms across the world.

Male applicants, feminine language. This article suggests changing the language; I would suggest changing men.

A small-world story from my favorite museum’s blog.

One of the main reasons I don’t want to return to the US is 24/7 work culture. This article offers sad evidence of that. Americans don’t use all their earned vacation days. That is so screwed up.

my week in the news

Last week, I emerged from my funk just in time for, and perhaps in part because of, a 5 day-long job subbing in as cameraperson for a major news network’s live broadcasts about the political crisis in The Gambia.

I was both incredibly psyched and absolutely terrified to do it. For an anxious person who does not work well under intense pressure and who is not very confident about my camerawork, running live broadcasts is just about the scariest job there is. But for someone who is in thrall to the glamour of chasing stories across the globe and fascinated by the culture of journalism – a culture that I as a documentary producer am close to but not part of – it was too good an offer to pass up. Continue reading

One hour, a painful Skype call, and $5 additional dollars later…

…the exact same itinerary has been rebooked, and I was told that this time it is confirmed by the airline and thus will not be summarily cancelled like the last one.

Trip back on.

I won’t go so far as to say all is right with the world again, but at least I get to distract myself with a tropical paradise four days after all goes wrong. (I am counting that as a positive thought.)

easy come, easy go; or, WTF 2017?!?!

I think I’ve well established on this blog that I am not happy about 2017. In fact, I’m worse than unhappy, but I don’t need to use this space to air my mental health issues. In any case, I thought a vacation might lift me out of the muck, and I pinned my hopes on an epic West African road trip, only to fall deeper into my malaise when I had to cancel it due to logistical annoyances. Instead I moved on to planning a trip to Cape Verde, and I bought remarkably affordable tickets on Friday for a trip at the end of January. It helped. I felt myself starting to climb out of my hole by getting excited for the beach and the mountains and the music and the people… Until today, when I woke up to this:

So it seems 2017 is dead-set not only on misery of a general “the world is going to shit” nature but also in a very personal “someone up there hates me” sense.

I will attempt to contact Expedia and figure out an alternate plan to get to Cape Verde in February. But first I will shake my fist at the sky and curse 2017 with the biggest GO FUCK YOURSELF I can muster. So much for that positivity resolution.

Have a good weekend!

Here are some interesting reads from this week:

The French are fighting back against 24/7 on-call work culture.

Reducing your language learning baggage, or: “All you need is to keep going.”

An interesting article about the E.U.’s swelling language roster.

The most misused words in English (I am forever getting bemused and nonplussed wrong).

And finally, the New York Times has just released its annual “52 places to go” list, and it has me feeling slightly possessive and territorial because Botswana is on there. Stay away, please; it’s all mine in 2017!

Have a great weekend!

P.S. The photo is apropos of nothing, really. I saw the can in the supermarket and thought it looked like gorgeous art. Also, this week I did roast chestnuts for the first time ever. They were delightful even though half the joy of eating them is the wintry feeling and it is in no way, shape or form winter here. (Thank you, Mark Slomiany, for that one time you made them and I saw how easy it looked!)

Mauritania

On December 1, I flew to Nouakchott, Mauritania to start a 4-country shoot about people who are locally active in the movement to abandon FGM, or female genital mutilation (also known as female circumcision or excision).

The first thing I noticed about the country was the amazing breadth of awesome outfits worn by both men and women, a result of the confluence of West and North African cultural influences (mostly, I think, Arab/Berber, Wolof and Fulani). As someone already conspicuous in my outsiderness, I didn’t want to take photos, but this Google image search is sort of representative.

The next morning we left for Kiffa, an eight hour drive into the Sahel desert, before dawn. Continue reading

immature humor

My favorite faux amis yet, spotted in Ouagadougou.

In French, this sign advertises custom-made stamps. But in English, it seems to tout very, very unappealing candy.

As I wrote that last sentence I realized how weird it is that you are allowed to double your very’ies and really’s for effect in English. I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen the same in French with très or tellement. Can anyone confirm if it is ever done?? (Double question marks: not grammatically correct but I like them anyway.)

happy new year!

I don’t know why I keep writing about the new year since I am possibly less enthused about it than anyone else on the planet. But, I did do two fun things to ring in 2017:

On New Year’s Eve a friend hosted dinner at his house and then we went up to the roof to count down to midnight. The annual official fireworks display was cancelled this year due to security concerns but the Dakarois took it upon themselves to pick up the slack. For at least a half hour, fireworks popped off every few seconds, every which way you turned. My photographic evidence, unfortunately, is not much proof at all… I managed to capture exactly one remotely-in-focus firework on my iphone.

I asked the people I was with to forgive my Eeyore-ness but to please help me come up with something, anything, to make me hopeful about 2017. Here’s the best we could do: a highly effective ebola vaccine has just been cleared for use in case of another outbreak, and the recent Chinese ivory ban means fewer elephants will die. (I would welcome your additions to this rather sad “list.”)

The next day, I went with Mamie, Tantie, their cousin, and a couple of friends to see Youssou N’Dour’s annual New Year’s concert. Mamie insisted that we get there before 10pm because she was sure the show would start early, it being a work night. I have been in Senegal less than a year, yet found myself setting straight someone who’s lived here her whole life. I told her, “If this show starts before 1am, 2017 really is bringing the end times with it.” And like clockwork, Youssou came onstage at 1:03 am. At 4:03 am, he was still running up and down the catwalks like a man half his age, and I had decided that third time’s the charm and I am done seeing him in Senegal. It’s a constant battle between enjoying the music and wanting desperately to be in bed, and with each show the old lady in me tugs a little harder towards the latter.

Speaking of being an old lady: at 12:30 after standing in the suffocating and pushy crowd near the stage for two hours, I had had enough and abandoned my group to go hang out at the periphery. There, I could breathe, but I also felt rather hopeless and adrift. This was a really bad omen for the year ahead. Then a man who had lugged over a plastic chair for himself offered it to me to stand on instead, so that I could see the stage. And then the woman on the chair next to mine put her arm around my shoulder, commanded sweetly, “Il faut dancer!” and led me in a distinctly Senegalese dance move with her arm around me the whole time. Normally I’m all about personal space but the woman’s generosity of spirit – bringing me into her joyful fold when she saw I was deflated and alone – changed my mind about 2017. I decided that the omen before had been a false one, and that this was in fact the real sign. We are never as isolated as we feel, and things are never as bad as they seem.

Here’s the concert, if you’d like to watch. It was so good, as always.

(I love the first song in the video above, and the one at 57:57 is my all-time favorite.)

(Another one of my favorites is at 26:27.)