Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 3 in Africa: Bijouteries

Mornings in Dakar are a real feast for the senses. The streets are full of older women selling fruit and veggies, and bringing in fish from the ocean on large baskets on their head. School children are scampering off to school and business men are crowding the streets on their way to work. Every so often you'll see a young goat-herder move his small pack of goats across a busy intersection, and taxi drivers lay on their horns and yell obscenities in Wolof. The smell of fresh bread, fresh urine, and freshly cut flowers all mix together to form an indescribable scent only found, I'm sure, in this wonderful place.

We spent the morning figuring out the banking situation and attempting to take care of our portable printer problem. One thing that is very different culturally here from America, is the time it takes for any kind of sales or exchange transaction. It is expected that you will "discuter un peu" (barter) over the cost of an item--it's almost an insult if you take something at cost. It's also considered poor customer service to spend less than ten minutes with each person at the bank. Because of this custom, Dr. Johnson and I decided to split up--she would take the printer to a hotel that had an IT crew who would hopefully fix it, and I would wait patiently for my ten minute exchange at the bank, we would then meet up at the hotel's IT center.

30 minutes later, I was leaving the bank after making my exchange when I suddenly realized that I'd completely forgotten the name of the hotel where I would find Dr. Johnson. I knew the name of the rue, and that it began with the letter "T", but that was it. It didn't take long for a young man to approach me selling butterfly wing artwork to offer his assistance. Unfortunately, he didn't know the hotel I was describing. Luckily another 2 boys joined my growing entourage and they each were able to direct me to the right hotel after I described the beginning letter of the name of the hotel and the IT center.

3 days in Dakar and I've already been told I should compete to be Miss Universe, I've been asked to be a Bijoutier's 3rd wife (but, he told me I'd be his first American wife...consolation prize I guess...), and I had a random boy hit his knees and profess undying admiration and affection for me. So, it appears your prayers have been answered Mom--I may be producing grandchildren for you sooner than you think ;).

We spent the evening with Dr. Johnson's friend Aminata. She took us to the traditional jewelry shops in town, and offered to go with us to Medina next week to interview some older women on camera about the traditional jewelry, and more particularly, when and where it is worn for the upcoming exhibit. She has been an invaluable resource as she speaks wolof, french and english. She was able to translate the wolof of the older goldsmiths for us.
Tomorrow we will go to Soumbedioune--an area of Senegal known for its artisans and particularly its goldsmiths.


  1. Yay, real pictures!! But, I do love your descriptions--I can picture Dakar in my mind.

  2. At least you remembered the professor's name and the fact that it was a hotel you were meeting her at. I probably would have been like Biffy from that one Jeeves and Wooster episode: "I remember her name was Mabel something or other."

    Oh, and by the way, you can't marry someone from Senegal—I plan to be living in the same state as my sibs within ten years or so, but my plan only works if my siblings have the same plan!