Thursday, 10 May 2007


Bought myself a camera before leaving. Nothing snazzy. Digital and unbreakable. First such experiment since my parents & chalet Caroline folk scared me off the box by building a proverbial wall between situation and them. Just picture six adults with camera's in front of their faces while the "subjects" look for Easter eggs in the snow. But seeing as there must be such a thing as "responsible" cameramanship, I decided to go for it again.

Sadly it was stolen after a couple of weeks here (much like the mobile). Don't blame anybody but myself to be honest. But thought I'd give you some of the ones so far, having just noticed a terrible neglect of the same.

Markets... everybody knows I love markets. This one's clean. But there's dozens of them in Dakar. Fish, spices, tourist stuff, Chinese imports... you name it. My personal favorite is the fabric market (marche HLM), with at least 300 tailors in it. The astonishing thing is the tendency to cluster. According to Porter its a sign of a healthy economy. But here it makes no sense. For instance I am just having a travelling case made covered in old tin cans. The stuff is original, and great. But if you want it, you have to go to one specific part of town to look for it. Makes no sense if you ask me. Why don't they spread out?

Ever wondered why some African fabrics shine. Well, this labour is why. Pence per meter. Crazy! Somewhere near the HLM market mentioned above.

Fishing in Africa

Dead fish


Lots of dead fish. This stuff is killed, smoked and sent to landlocked places like Mali. Reminds me of spending a few hours on the back of a pick-up truck laden with the stuff in the north of Mozambique. Never smelt like that before...

Me with catch. I don't think I'll ever do it again though. They didn't kill the thing. Just let it choke and suffer. Horrible!

Baas with penis extension. He's the flatmate out here. From Luxembourg. Engineer.

Rhino, White Rhino. We did the token safari in the tiniest little park outside Dakar on the way to Sine. It was a sad sight. None of the animals were from here, and to "entertain" they raced the hyena's with the 4x4. Not cool!

Chilling in the middle of nowhere. This cleared piece of land will soon be a Formula 3000 racetrack. I mean HDI of 155 or so and having an international RACETRACK? Whats going on. But I guess they should build on competitive advantage that the Paris/Plymouth/Lisbon/Amsterdam/Barcelona-Dakar rally has brought.

Pirogue (traditional, colourful wooden boat they have all over the place) by Senegalese sun set. That's supposed to be a pun. There's no sunset here. Nearly always hidden behind a thick veil of water vapour rising from the ground. The depth of colour here is slightly disappointing. Looking forward to India in that respect.

Me fooling around on front of said pirogue.

Pretty flower

Eleni & Baas at breakfast. Don't they look happy?

One of the colourful car rapide's that I still consider the most effective means of public transport anywhere. Its free market working beautifully. They are trying to get the things off the road. Will be sad to see them go.

Me in said machine.

Later that day, standing on the street not really knowing what to do, we saw a huge crowd trying to get into the university campus. Followed, obviously, but weren't let in. After a climb through the gate we encountered this. A gig of a famous Wolof band (don't ask me WHAT they were called) with people hanging from every possible spot. Managed to push our way into the back of the crowd (god, I'm happy I am tall) and took in the whole thing. My first real insight into Senegalese style partying (I'm pulled into the expat crowd most of the time). Small groups of dancers breaking away everywhere. Lots of man-on-man t-shirt pulling stuff going on. But not in the homosexual kind of way!
(NB: I have come to think that we Europeans need some reeducation to get the pervasive homophobia out of us. At first even I was shocked by how long men hold hands at a greeting here. They are not scared of touching. Bit like women in the West. Now I do it all the time. Same with dancers. At first I thought 1-on-1 man-on-man was a sign of Muslim society not leaving enough women for everybody or something like that (I know its ridiculous). Now I know its just another way for men to relate from what I used to. - If you think that is sexual you should see what they do to the women. Its like a dry-hump greeting.)

Lutte (Wrestling) teams preparing for a hot fight. Shame I caught so little of it on camera.

dancing way of life

I've referred to this before. But since dance is everywhere, I can't help but do it again. Though Eleni's special insight is a mine for understanding and depth, you can see it on every street corner, on the beaches, in the classroom. It seems like Senegalese bodies are bursting with unrestrainable dance. Not only that... They are GOOD at it, and I mean really good. Its a feeling and ear for rhythm that lets them penetrate the polyrhythmic music like a knife warm butter; straight to the bottom of things. No movement seems out of place, calculated, or unnatural to the naked eye. Attempts to explain abound, and border on racist at times. The one I like the best however is that they grow up with it. Because music is everywhere. Was just reading the bio of the Baobab Orchestra, which said something about the first president Leopold Sedar Senghor, poet and cultural connoisseur, under who's reign art flourished (god I know little about the history of the country I'm in). Is it him or how far does this rhythmic upbringing go back?

Anyway, obviously loving the insights Eleni has in store for me. Exceptional experience with the dance she is studying with. A highly pregnant women who lives in a compound of about 18, all of whom do nothing and sometimes dance (More on that later). It's more like a hang-out den, punctuated by wild flying of arms and some high-pitched, loud laughs at the inability of the toubab to learn the steps. Those are themselves a copy from the music video's, which makes me wonder how connected they really are to traditional dance. But since Eleni keeps on talking about sexual dances & the man/women divide (basically women dance in private, men think they are showing off - and sometimes i tend to agree with them) and seeing the similarity between them and circumcision dances we saw in Sine Saloum (photo to follow), I don't really doubt it. Again its a question of untrained eye witnessing something incredible and new. Check out the video to convince yourself (eleni on the right):

Obviously became the centre of attention as unmarried toubab. Shame really. Everybody! wants out of the country, whatever way they can. (More on that later too)

Yunus's gilded splinters

Was reading a BBC online article the other day (nb: no. 1 waste of time... general news websites). Its about Yunus's political hopes, and his failure to present a viable opposition party because he
"discovered that I couldn't motivate enough people to put together a team powerful enough for such a daunting task"
(From Spiegel interview: "Ich habe festgestellt, dass ich nicht genügend Menschen motivieren kann, um ein schlagkräftiges Team für eine so große Aufgabe zusammenzustellen.")

Of course the news itself is sad. It looks as though Bangladesh could really do with some renewal in its politics to bring in trust and progressive learning.

But whilst reading the article something entirely else sprang to mind. I have been reading Banker to the Poor, his Autobiography (exceptionally easy read - story telling with nuggets). In it he mentions one particular episode, the opening ceremony of the newly independent Grameen Bank in a rural area, during which he:
"Looked out over all those women seated in their colorful red, green, ocher, and pink saris - a sea of saris - these hundreds of barefoot borrowers who joined our celebration. They had voted with their feet. There was no doubt about their commitment and their determination to break free from poverty. It was a beautiful spectacle"
Comparing this to a comment in the BBC article, which said that:
"Correspondents say that many people questioned whether he had over-estimated his popularity in rural areas, where his bank's high interest rates are disliked."
I wondered whether all was not rosy in the BOP/Microfinance space. Whether we are really listening deeply, or once again imposing conceptual solutions. Of course the history of Yunus's movement discredits this line of thought, being practical in origins. But can we really not do better than being the lesser evil?

What's up?

Not much, to put it bluntly. I said when coming here that it was for jobs and to examine BOP reality. Well, I noticed pretty soon that the former was a no go (even though I put extra effort in after noticing how high the quality of life is here). The main blame is with my need to remain in control (ie. I still feel unable to give my CV to somebody and “hope for the best”). Anyway, being in Intellecap’s second round and having a shot at the BOP impact assessment probably lets me off the hook on that one.

What do I mean when I speak of BOP (Base of the “economic” Pyramid – pc!!!) reality? Well. Its life really. Finding out who’s providing what for the poor… and what they demand. Old examples (BOP 1.0) include shampoo in single use sachets or the small Wrigley’s packet (see pic). Despite language barrier, I am trying to see what’s out there in the 2.0 world. Mobile Banking would certainly be one of them. But this seems a little unattainable for the BOP community non? I did here that there were some pilot projects out there? Can anybody help?

Best part of the 2.0 world is the “deep listening” requirement. I’m taking that seriously. Hanging out with as many locals as will hang out with me (although the rich world of Dakar and the middle class neighbourhood here somewhat inhibit me on the poor front). That means in short many evenings spent on the local basketball court (… these guys are good). Also the French course at university is doing its part of putting me in touch with locals. Although they are mostly from other West African countries and have come here to study language with an eye to university admission later.

Lately shopping has become a big feature, as well as a colonial style search for root causes. Im sure there’ll be more on that later.