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