Sunday, May 2, 2010
Day 1 in Africa: Love at first sight
Just one day...one day is all it's taken for me to fall in love with Africa. I am already convinced that one month will not be enough time on this incredible continent!
Upon arriving at the airport in Dakar, Dr. Johnson and I exchanged information with a Parisian couple we met on the way over that work at the French embassy in the cultural affairs department. They kindly invited us over to dinner later this week to further discuss our project and the possibilities of future French involvement in the upcoming exhibition. We located our charming driver, and were soon cruising through the main highways of Dakar at a speed that would have given Bapa a run for his money :) (although, unlike Bapa, his preferred driving illegality was straddling lanes rather than driving on sidewalks).
We made it safe and sound to our palatial apartment (pics and info to follow) just past 6 AM, I hit the sheets and was lulled gently to sleep with the sonorous tones of "Call to Prayer" wafting through my window.
2 hours later Dr. Johnson and I lethargically prepped for the day and headed down the Rue Carnot in search of the Protestant church our concierge directed us to. The service was a cultural and spiritual feast! The choir was absolutely incredible, and the congregation was full of men and women in traditional dress. The quaint mediterranean-looking (French colonial influence) stuccoed church was filled to full capacity. Three different priests offered their sermons in three different languages: French, English, and Wolof. We met some wonderful women and young girls after the service who volunteered lots of information on traditional jewelry and dress, and who are willing to meet for interviews and photo sessions.
I've never seen so many wonderful and unique spices as I saw in the main market which is housed in a fantastically delapitdated (odd combo of descriptive words I know, but It's truly the only accurate way I could think of to describe it) establishment which has been around since colonial days. Took some wonderful photos. Will upload them in the future.
After a late lunch and an afternoon nap, I slipped out to one of our apartment's terraces that looks over the ocean and the Ille Goree with the Senegalese novel "So Long a Letter" in hand for some reading, and waited for Dr. Johnson to wake up. Someone was hosting a street party out towards the beach. I could hear the drums faintly pulsing out a rythm and Wolof singing, the breeze off the ocean, and the lowering sun hitting the white and pink buildings provided the ideal reading setting for Mariama Ba's book.
When Dr. Johnson awoke we explored Dakar in the evening feasting on marvelous cultural delights. Women were performing a traditional street dance near the Place d'Independence, and there were many musicians playing and singing to both Wolof and Francaphone tunes.
On our way home we stopped at a fruit vendor's stand as he was closing up and bartered down some mangoes for breakfast tomorrow. Dr. Johnson said they import all of their mangoes from Mali and they're positively delish.
...If you've actually read this far, I salute you. This really is just a small sampling of everything that's happened in the last 24ish hours. All I can say is that I'm on total sensory overload, and absolutely in love with Senegal!
(Pic is of the view from the terrace off of the kitchen...morning haze over ocean)