Along the Corniche
Check out my new blog dedicated to all things about the move to Dakar: ABroadinSenegal.wordpress.com
Guy got to check out the time-consuming process while in the Market.
There are no movie theaters or big grand malls or theme parks, but if you ask me if
there is anything to do in the Dakar – below is the detailed account of what I did last
Sunday, and loved every minute of it.
The temperature was perfect. It felt like OBX North Carolina in spring time. The
breeze was fresh, the sun was bright and the sky was perfect baby blue. Contrary
to my previous week’s note’s declaration that I would be running the marathon,
I didn’t. I stayed at home on Saturday, apart from a quick pizza at the Surf Shop
along Route les Almadies as we enjoy the view of the ocean, read books that
I’ve not had the chance to, and watched Modern Family like it was my job. So
cooped up the previous day, which I preferred, I decided to hit the road on Sunday!
I did not need to travel very far as everything was literally 2 minutes away.
We started at 10:30 am (It was a Sunday, obviously we slept in). My boys, husband
and child, hit the driving range at Hotel les Almadies. Never crowded, you are
guaranteed to get a spot most of the time. And if you are not a golfer and want to
learn, Levi – the golf pro – will be there to help. He also gives private lessons, and
could even take you to the course as your pro guide.
Since I am not a golfer, I went to the Nature SPA inside the hotel. Located below the hotel lobby reception on the right soon as you walk in, it is one of Dakar’s well kept secret (I find peace and tranquility when I visit – really!).
Heading towards the spa on a small ramp, you will find a little store of wellness treasures from candles, massage oils to perfume and scented products for home. These items come from France, and although a little pricey, they are guaranteed to be enjoyed. My first treatment was a mani-pedi. They do these treatments on a small porch facing the ocean, where you can relax and unwind whilst drinking a cup of tea on a comfortable lounge chair. That has already made my day. After that, I jumped straight into their ―Sportif‖ massage treatment. Like a tenderized meat, I was paper weight soon after.
Alas lunch time! Although we’ve discovered that Hotel Les Almadies is still doing Sunday Brunch buffet, which we marked for next time as it truly looked scrumptious, we all drove down to the boat stop for Ngor Island. We went to Maison de Italia, formerly Chez Carla, by boat, which was an experience by itself. Truly a paradise in Dakar! Someone even uttered that it felt like we were in the French Riviera, which I could not contest. It has a pier lined-up with lounge chairs, where you can relax and read a book and sun bathe (do not forget those sunscreens, though). We
had hearty meals of grilled seafood, huge fish and gambas, whilst my pasta lovers had Spaghetti Basil and Arrabi-
ata! As we wait for our meals, we played at a tide pool, which is perfect for a dip and playing for kids.
And of course, Ngor Island is perfect enough to explore by foot!
We made it back home at 5pm, having a mini-holiday just around the corner, which we didn’t need to drive or get stuck in traffic for – priceless! Try it sometime; it made us realize how amazing it is to be in Dakar this time of the year!
I’ll start by saying that this isn’t me and that these aren’t my photos from the trip. The are images from a Google search but are the same facility that I saw.
The Franciscan sisters have run this amazing orphanage since 1948 for children and infants under the age of two. We’ll be spending part of Saturday afternoons volunteering here after we move in August. Dakar La Pouponniere has been one of three charities that ISD has focused their outreach/service learning on.
I was pretty scared about what I was going to see when we went into La Pouponniere (French for nursery). There have been plenty of Dateline specials over the years about different orphanages around the world and none have necessarily been able to shine a positive light on any of them, at least that I have seen on television.
La Pouponniere is run by Franciscan nuns and is a bright and cheery place. The walls have been recently painted pink with Winnie the Poo mini-murals around (think pediatrician office waiting room). There are two sections-one for infants and one for toddlers under 24 months. All in all, there are currently ninety-three children in the Sister’s care. Guy and I had a chance to meet the nuns, as well as some of the many young women that they have working as “nannies-in-training” that help to care for the children. There is a small school for those young women that is part of the facility. My understanding is that the young women are from rural villages and that they receive education (think one-roomed school house) and job training that will be of help to them in finding paid employment upon adulthood. It’s also my understnading that the majority of the infants/toddlers are at La Pouponniere because the mother either died in childbirth in a area where they had no access to medical care or the infant was abandoned. Without a nursing mother, the families do not have access to formula or the ability to take care of the infant. The sisters take care of the infants until they are 2, eating table food and able to return to their family. Families can visit on Sundays if they are able to get to the city.
There are a few YouTube videos of La Pouponniere that different volunteers have made. It’s a pretty amazing place.
Guy started with the infants and I started with the toddlers. It was a hot day and there didn’t appear to be air conditioning, but there was a nice breeze coming through the windows. Guy ended up with some of the older toddlers outside with another volunteer playing with toys in a little courtyard. I stayed with the toddlers, played toddler games, gave hugs, rocked some, helped give a bottle to one (the bottles had little metal hang tags with numbers on them that identified which child got which bottle). The young women helpers were playing with children, handing out bottles, taking a couple at a time for a bath, etc. I’m sure they have many other things that keep them busy non-stop. While I didn’t have enough French to communicate with the girls, they were very smiley, sang and played music for the children and seemed very personable. My inability to communciate with the girls and nuns as well as I’d like to, will be one big reason that I keep brushing off my very rusty French.
The horse and cart or the donkey and cart were on the roads with the cars. They weren’t as prevalent as the cars, but we saw them regularly. They were almost always colorfully decorated, some with bells and braids.
“Wow!” sums up what my husband and I thought of our week in Senegal. “Wow!” is extra appropriate because in Wolof it translates to “good”
I had been warned that the airport could be a very trying experience so I was prepared for the worst. I actually found it no worse than the time we had flown to Cabo, Mexico. Quite a few airports that I have been to (including JFK) have poor signage to start with, throw in a foreign language, and a bunch of people who want to “help” you get your bags, and you do get some chaos. The best advice someone gave me was to remain Zen and politely keep saying no to anyone pushy about “helping”.
I could not get over the fact that the ocean could be seen almost everywhere we drove. I know I’m a landlocked Ohioan, but it was beautiful and very present! Some of the beaches were rocky (like the one to the left) but there were also sandy beaches.
There was a lot of construction in various phases all around. As we were landing, my husband did have a “Oh bleeep! What have we done?” type of moment as it was hard to tell if things were going up, coming down, or both. Once we were on the ground, it was a different story. We found the Senegalese to be extremely friendly and willing to accept my very bad French.
We were picked up by the head of the school and started our visit with a tour of the school and grounds, as well as touring the new construction that is taking place (a four story building that will house the middle school and high school students). We even got to meet some of people who were just getting out of church that takes place (International Christian Fellowship) at the school on Sundays.
I loved the school campus and had the opportunity to spend three days on campus with the outgoing head of curriculum and other administrators from the school. I was even fortunate enough to be present for a half-day professional development day for the school. I’m used to Ohio schools where the classrooms are around the perimeter of a school and hallways are on the inside. ISD was like many other warm weather climate schools where the hallways were on the outside and open-aired with the classrooms behind (like my nieces’ school in California). I was able to feel the ocean breeze the entire time I was on campus, which I just adored.
Despite that fact that there a few worries about the fact that it was the election run-off day, everything was very peaceful and there was a general feeling of pride that the Senegalese had an election, not a coup like Mali. While we were eating dinner on the Atlantic, the restaurant staff had the television on in the background and were so delighted when Macky Sall was first declared the winner and then congratulated it by President Wade, who lost his bid for re-election. They could hardly wait to go and tell everyone in the restaurant the results.
The staff at the s
chool was wonderful and so welcoming and helpful. We were able to visit several of their homes to see the different types of housing provided by ISD. They were all great and even nicer than anything I would have thought to expect. We got to see where we will probably be living and I loved that it was near other staff members and within walking distance of the school.
During our visit we had fun posting things on my Facebook account such as:
Things you’ll never hear in Granville #1-
me “Careful- don’t step on that goat leg?
friend-“Was it just a bone or was there flesh on it?”
Guy-“Hoof, fur, and everything.”
For the most part, it was life as normal (ha, ha) in a warm environment with the sound of French running in the background whenever we weren’t at school. Then there were things like the trampoline park next to the ocean and the mixture of horse-drawn carts on the roads along with the cars, goats wandering freely, little stall-like ‘stores’ alongside the roads, and people peddling items such as cashews, oranges, and other items. It’s going to be an adventure and one I’m very glad I have the opportunity to have.
Part of the getting ready process is deciding how much info to share (or not share) with my children ahead of time about what they might expect in Africa. There is a fine line between preparing them and scaring them. The photo above is from a different expat’s family and some of the food items they packed for their move. The photo below is a traditional Senegalese meal that is eaten with your right hand. Now I expect that our reality will live somewhere in between the two photos.
There will be things that we pack for the move, including food or household items that will just make things easier for everyone (One child could live on instant oatmeal). I also expect that we will have many opportunities to eat traditional Senegalese meals. I’m guessing that silverwear can be used if that is the comfort level for the kids (or us). I don’t feel the need to replicate the exact eating or grocery experience for my family while we are there. That is one of many things I am looking forward to as being able to experience a different culture.
I am taking the opportunity when things come up in regular conversation to make connections for them.
child–“Wow there is a lot of trash along the highways. It must have been under the snow that melted.”
me–“You know not every where in the world has trash pick-up like we do here in Ohio. Some places don’t have trash pick-up at their house.”
child-“I can’t believe that guy just can the red light.”
me–“Even though traffic laws are very important to obey, not everyone always does that, so you always have to be thinking about your safety when you are walking and not take the traffic rules for granted.”
On the other hand, I don’t like it when people word their comments to me in a way that implies that the children and I should be terribly frightened. I’m sure they aren’t thinking about it that way, but it does honk me off a little.
“You must be so trepidatious!” (We aren’t, excited-not nervous. And stop suggesting to my kids that there is anything of which they should be afraid.)
“Your poor mother must be beside herself!” (She’s not, but my mother-in-law is a different story. CNN effect)
“I hope you’ll be able to communicate from over there in some way.” (Yes-they have phone, internet, Facebook, parcel post, etc.)
I have been preparing by reading blogs by people who currently live in Dakar or Senegal. I have been enjoying:
The View From Here (an Ohio missionary couple in rural Senegal) is also one I check frequently.
I know that there isn’t anything that is going to be able to completely prepare all of us for this move, but it IS going to be a positive experience for all and we are going to learn a ton that we would not be able to learn by moving to Indiana or even London.
It’s okay if the idea of moving to West Africa is completely beyond your wild imagination. Everyone has different comfort levels. We aren’t scared. We are excited and know that there are going to be highs and lows along the way, but so would there even if we never set a foot outside of Granville.
Guy and I are getting ready (it seems like nonstop) for the move to Dakar, Senegal in August. Before then, he and I (sans enfants-do you like how I worked some French in? I haven’t had to speak or think anything French since I left Luxembourg December 1992!) are going to Dakar in March so that we can do things like:
In addition to those kind of practical things, I also have things like this that I’m thinking about:
Do I really need to keep this ugly winter coat I’ve had for 15 years since there won’t be any “just in case” I have outdoor recess duty when it’s a negative wind chill? (My children refer to it as the marshmallow coat—Goodwill here I come!)
Will be there signs of seasons changing there that I’ll learn to look for like Ohio’s first crocus, hostas corkscrewing out of the earth, and silly little groups of tiny birds arguing over a worm? Or is it always so warm that things like vegetation or birds don’t change year round?)
What grocery items do I count on that I might not be able to recognize without a picture? (I’m thinking I should see if I can find a French grocery store online and look up some staples to see what they look like in their packaging).
What exactly does 1000 pounds of belongings look like. Is that a lot? Just a little?
Should I buy a French press coffee maker so that I don’t have to count on the electricity being on every morning?
What am I going to do with my hair? (Without my awesome hair dresser)
I’m sure you have things you are wondering about or think I should be thinking about. Please feel free to put them in the comment section so I can try to figure it out before August.