Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dakar, sweet Dakar

Its good to be home again in Dakar.
Coming back into the city, I remembered why I love all the hustle and bustle and life and sensory details that are here. Being awy for a bit has made me able to see it again with new eyes. The market is not so intimidating anymore, same with the public transport system. Things are a bit different, though. The temperature is noticeably cooler- I think I have to go invest in some jeans. There are mouton (sheep) everywhere, because of tabaski. Tabaski is a muslim holiday on the 21st where every family slaughters at least 1 sheep or goat. Its a big deal here. On tv, there are call-in contests where you can win money, fabric, a sheep for tabaski, or round-trip plane tickets to Mecca. Its not your momma's Price Is Right.

I have been corresponding with my Aunt Diana, who is a New Yorker through and through. Shes lived there for over 3 decades, and she has come to identify the city as a part of herself. This feels like such a strange concept to me, but as one who has been shuffled around (and has shuffled herself around) a lot, that concept is becoming more acceptable to me. To have one city that you know inside and out and that you will always identify as HOME, no matter where you are located. I feel like my sister knows this feeling with Milwaukee and my parents know this feeling with Manila. I wonder if I will ever have a location like this. Id like to feel at home and familiar with many many areas and cities, but where will I go at the end of the day to put my feet up. Where will the street vendors know my name? Every day I am so absolutely convinced that home is where your heart and family are. In that case, Milwaukee, New York, Dakar, St Louis, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Oconto Falls, Boston, Madison, etc. are my homes. Wherever you are, really. But where do I want to settle?

Yesterday I decided to try to conquer the beast that is Marse Sandaga, the biggest market in town. And, I forced myself to do it alone. I felt like it was something I had to do....sort of an initiation into being a real Dakarian. Dakarian? Dakarianite? Dakite? Person of Dakarian origins?
Anyway, by far the scariest part is the transportation. The bus and car-rapide systems seem completely random and disorganized and all the construction for next years International Islamic Conference doesnt help. In actuality, the system makes sense once you get used to it...and dont mind walking a bit. I did some shopping and was pretty successful at Waxal-ing, or barganing down the prices. I went to 3 different post offices looking for a package that somebody sent me, but 2 bribes and one lunch with post office workers later, I was sitting in Cafe Medina, savoring the gifts from my friend Shelly. Also, I had the best cafe au lait Ive ever had in my life there. The secret: sweetened condensed milk instead of cream. Digression! On my way home, however, the man sitting in the seat next to me was...pleasuring himself just a little too much, so I kicked him in the shin and stomped on his foot as I jumped off the car rapide. Nasty. Of course, I didnt know where I was because I just left asap, so I did a fair amount of walking with my baggage. Oh well. Always an adventure. Its good to be back in Dakar.

Hanging with my family and Moussa and friends has been great. He's same ol and we hang out and discuss and play solitaire while they smoke endless cigarettes and I practice my sorry Wolof.

Today I have to get jump started on my reserch by contacting orgs in Casamance. This makes me a little nervous, because I feel like Im just some punk kid that is trying to do something important without really knowing how. I feel like Im a little girl standing in my dad's giant shoes, trying to shuffle around the linoleum, without a definitive goal. What do I want out of these interviews? A lovely and moving collection of personal histories that indicate something proactive and useful that I can identify and write about.

Ah yes, being in Dakar means the time is always running out in these cybercafes. Happy Tabaski to you all!

1 comment:

Krista said...

I love you and I miss you. But I am so thankful that you have these ways of keeping in touch with us. It means everything to me when I read about what's going on in your African life and am able to feel the joy and exuberance that you are experiencing with each day.

Keep up the good work, Cath. Knee kisses.