My Dakar places


On Valentine’s Day two years ago, I flew to Dakar. So much has happened since then that it feels more like a decade.

It also feels like I left Dakar ages ago, but it’s actually only been eleven months, which is so unbelievable to me that I redid the math twice. Still, eleven months is long enough to lose touch with a place, and the list I’m about to post may be a little outdated. But I’ve been promising it to myself and others for too long to let it evaporate. And things change far more slowly in Dakar than in New York, so even though there are surely new places to discover, almost all of these old places could still be going strong. (I’ll edit the post accordingly if I learn differently.)

Without further ado, and in no particular order, my favorite places in Dakar… Continue reading


A Valentine’s Day love letter to Dakar

One year ago today, I broke up with New York and began my journey into the arms of Dakar.

New York was a bad boyfriend that I stuck with so long only because I have attachment issues. I kept saying to myself, maybe if I do x, y, or z, NYC will finally return the love. It didn’t happen, because New York doesn’t love people; New York only loves itself. But because New York is also charismatic, and attractive, and exciting, and always offering interesting stories and whirlwind adventures right when you’re on the verge of saying, “Fuck it, I’m out,” (classic mixed signals), I ignored how unhappy my relationship with the city was. Until I couldn’t ignore it any longer, and I started flirting with leaving New York for Dakar.

Coming here was the best decision I ever made. I don’t have a love/hate relationship with Dakar the way I did with New York. That’s because Dakar doesn’t play hard to get. There are no velvet ropes or impossible rental markets or hours-long commutes through dark, crowded holes in the ground. And Dakar gets me. It gets that cities are made for connecting with people, not for throwing money around. It gets that people need to move at the same pace our ancestors did, even if our technology permits us to go much faster. (In Dakar, the technology does not actually permit that, and I’m thankful for it despite my grumblings.) And Dakar still has character. It isn’t being taken over by global capitalism and slowly turned into a cookie cutter version of every other metropolis.

But I don’t want to use Valentine’s Day to pen thinly veiled hate mail to my former flame. Instead – Dakar, let me count the ways that I love you: Continue reading

Yiddish wisdom about love

My mother’s grandmother spoke to her in Yiddish, and there were two expressions she used that my mother has in turn passed on to me:

Az will kommen der b’shert, es will sein ohne zwei worte.

[When the right one comes along, it will be without saying two words.]

Wenn der putz steht, der sechel legt.

[When the penis goes up, reason goes down.]

I’ve got overly romantic sensibilities, so I find the first saying ridiculously sweet even though I rationally know that subscribing to it is dangerous. If you’re waiting to be struck by lightning upon first viewing your b’shert, as it were, your prospects will be significantly reduced.

The latter turn of phrase makes me wish so much that I could have met my great-grandmother. It seems that she, like my mother, had a gift for saying highly inappropriate yet hilarious things to her progeny. I wonder what other awesome Yiddish wisdom (or Yiddish curses) she spouted that have since been lost to time.

Happy Valentine’s Day! My sincerest hope for you is that you spend today with the right one. And if s/he hasn’t come along yet, may you at the very least not be in the company of an unthinking dick.

[Painting by Marc Chagall, whose work is resplendent with both romance and Yiddishkeit.]

Happy Valentine’s Day!

One of my favorite love stories:

From StoryCorps: “In January 2007, Rachel P. Salazar and Ruben P. Salazar were living 9,000 miles apart and completely unaware of each other’s existence. But when an email meant for Rachel accidentally went to Ruben, it wasn’t long before an ordinary mistake began to look like an extraordinary stroke of luck.”

And in the same vein… a beautiful clarion call about love in the age of Tinder (which includes a tale of learning a foreign language and moving abroad for love, so it’s totally relevant here).