Sunday, January 24, 2010

"now you are a real third world child"

The title of this post is a quote from my oldest host brother.  He made this remark after I had lugged up water from the downstairs tap in order to bathe in the upstairs shower (there's not enough water pressure, and there hasn't been for a few days, now).  I suppose I feel a little proud.

my three best friends in Dakar - all in the Mt. Holyoke program - on our way to the Mermoz Beach

Now, to continue with my lists of things, here's one that I've been thinking about for a long time: Things You Will Not See in Dakar.

  • Traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks.  Cars and buses move by their own laws here, and pedestrians have to cross the street with determination and projected nonchalance.  There are roundabouts, which have signs, and sometimes a sign warning about horse-and-buggy drivers, but that's about it.  Also, few streetlamps except on the highways, and so it gets very dark at night in most neighborhoods.  You can see the stars.
  • Trash cans or recycling bins.  Even if there were bins, there's no one around to collect all the trash that this city produces.  Sometimes there are street sweepers, who tidy up the gutters, and sometimes the government decides to bulldoze lampposts and storefronts to widen the road (like what's recently been happening on Rue Cheikh Anta Diop), but other that that, there's little organized effort to be seen.
  • Cyclists.  This goes along with the lack of signs and street markings and the pollution.  You just wouldn't want to be out there on a bike.  Sometimes, I see one or two, often not wearing helmets.  Crazy.
  • Chain stores.  At least, none of the chain stores you would recognize.  There's MyShop, and La Gondole, and Casino (very French), and City Sport.  And beyond that, things are pretty independently-owned.
  • Sunhats.  Most people don't wear 'em.
  • Toilet paper.  The Senegalese don't use it.  Instead, they have a system of washing--with a bucket of water and a cup by the toilet for that purpose.  Most of us foreign kids end up buying our own paper.
This list eventually will be followed by Things You Do See (a Lot of) in Dakar.  Stay tuned.


  1. Hmm. The no toilet paper I get. (In this country, before TP, there was the Sears Roebuck catalog.) I don't quite get the washing, though. Not to be indelicate about it, but OK, you wash with water. What do you dry with? Or do you not dry?

  2. Can't imaging how a city of 1.2 million manages without regular trash pick up.

    How does the "floating" suburb exist? Where do all the layers of trash come from?

  3. Dad - we have no idea how they dry off. It remains a mystery and we feel too delicate to broach the subject with our host families.

    Mom - Trash comes from Dakar, I think. It absorbs goods and spits out trash.