Tuesday, February 23, 2010

sunset at La Phare--check.

A recent exhausted Sunday (after staying out late dancing Saturday night) found me on my way to the Mermoz beach with friends.  But plans changed--and off we went to explore a new beach, near La Phare (the lighthouse), in Mamelles.  We walked north for a ways along Rue Ouakam until a car rapide pulled up with space for all of us.  We clambered in, and off we went, none of us knowing exactly where we were headed.

inside the car rapide, which had pink lacy curtains and a heart-shaped pillow
that said "I Love You" hanging from the rear-view mirror

The beach we found was fabulous: small, calm, without all the world's football players exercising.  And there was a little bitty bar, and some guys were grilling fish, and one guy was catching fish.  And it was just beautiful.  We stretched out and enjoyed ourselves.  The water was frigid.

the lighthouse is situated on the hill/cliff in the background here

we spread out our panne-style skirts and tanned

And then the sun started going down, and we started going up--up to La Phare.  It was about a 20 minute gentle hike.  It was windy, and the light was lovely.

restaurant at the top, where we had bouye juice and fataaya poisson

And then it got dark.  We walked down surrounded by the sound of crickets, caught a taxi, and returned home.  I was windswept and exhilarated to have accomplished one of those things on my list of things I must experience while in Senegal--a sunset from the top of La Phare.  Beautiful.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

workin' out

If you want to stay in shape in Dakar, the first and most obvious option is to take up running.  After all, that's the way everybody else does it.  In the early morning (anywhere from 7 - 9am) and the late afternoon (after 5pm), you will see men running (yes, mostly just men) along almost every major roadway that has a sidewalk.  There's an occasional marathon-speedster, but it seems that the pace of running is more often a slow kind of jog.  A determined walker could easily overtake them.  This seems to go along with almost everything else that I've observed about life in Senegal: nobody hurries.

The men wear shorts and sneakers, and sometimes soccer gear, especially if they are on their way to a field or beach to participate in one of the enumerable football games that go on here once temperatures go down.  And the few times I've seen Senegalese women out exercising, they've been wearing pants or shorts that go to the knee--nothing above that.  Women also make up the majority of the walkers, not the runners, and they are often accompanied by a man.

And so I started running, too.  When I arrived, another student recommended that I run along La Corniche Ouest, a major highway on the western edge of Dakar.  The first time I did, I realized why: stunning views of the ocean, a steady breeze, a constant sidewalk, and the company of many other runners.  I get a fair amount on attention, since I'm white and wearing shorts.  Aside from looks, there are comments--either encouraging or flirtatious--that I never respond to as I puff past.

palm trees, cyclist (rare, sans helmet), shack, sea, and taxi along la Corniche

the Corniche is also home to Sea Plaza, an under-construction shopping center,
and the Radisson Blu (above, in the photo), a super-fancy hotel that my friends and I 
dream of spending the night in, if only for the hot showers.

There are even stations set up along la Corniche--basic concrete and some wooden and metal bars--to permit runners to do some musculation as well, like pull-ups and sit-ups.  Unfortunately, the Corniche also gets kind of boring.  In spite of being able to do crunches while looking out at Ile des Madeleines and waves crashing against black rocks, I decided to find something else, somewhere else.  (Also, air quality is can be not-so-great, and once or twice my chest hurt after a run.)

And so, about two weeks ago, I signed up for a membership at Gym Olympique, not far from home or the beach or the Bienvenue to Dakar sign that appeared in one of my earlier posts.  My guide book describes Gym Olympique as "state-of-the-art," and it's certainly well-equipped and well-maintained.  It's a complex that includes a fitness center, dance/yoga/spinning studio, tennis and squash courts, a club house, a game room, and a pool.  A membership is expensive, but worth it.

the front entrance to the gym--la salle de fitness is on the right

The clientele at Gym Olympique tends to be more mixed-race and monied than the general Dakar population.  Taxis wait outside, because those fitness-buffs who didn't drive their own cars to the gym can probably afford a taxi.  I'm close enough to walk home in 15 minutes, and so I always refuse the offers of "Taxi, madame?"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

things you see (a lot of) in Dakar

A beautiful weekend, featuring late nights and a late afternoon making ataaya on the beach.  And now, as promised, a list of things that you will see a lot of in Dakar, if you ever decide to come visit.  Which you should, of course.

  • Bitiks and fruit stands. "Bitik" is "boutique" en Wolof, and they are tiny shops built out of metal with a proprietor and tall stacks of essentials: margarine, milk, Nescafe, candies, cookies, shaving cream, shampoo. At the fruit stands, the wares (oranges, apples, clementines, cantaloupe) sit in trays, looking appetizing, and the bananas (from green to yellow to brown) often hang off of a string or wire.
  • Trash.  You get immune to the sight of it.  Plastic bags caught on barbed wire almost look pretty.  And there are always torn up bits of 1000 CFA phone cards.
  • Taxis.  Peugeots and Volkswagens, in various states of new-ness, fill the streets of Dakar: some with fancy paint jobs (bold black letters saying ALHAMDOULILAH, "thanks be to God"), some with a furry tail trailing off the back, near the tailpipe (I don't know what it is, but it's probably there for luck).  And then there's all the other public transportation--colorful and dangerous cars rapides; big and brimming Dem Dikk buses; and more that I have never tried.
  • Jaff and phone cards.  "Jaff" is the name for peanuts toasted in a wide round pan and then packaged in tiny plastic bags that cell for about 25 CFA.  You often see women cooking it on the side of the street, and selling other kinds of nuts alongside it.  And as for the phone cards, you see vendeurs--usually young men--selling them, waving plastic page-covers full of the cards at passing cars and pedestrians.

    Finally, a picture or two:

    view of the monument from the top of la Phare, between all of the radio antennae

    one of the best desserts ever, at a restaurant on Ile de Goree
    grapes, pineapple, cantaloupe, and apple, drowned in bissap juice

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    magic land or bust

    The air is cleaner and the city quieter, what with half the population gone to Touba for the Magal pilgrimage.  It's also extraordinarily windy.  I guess that's what happens in flat places.

    Yesterday, after Wolof class, a few friends and I decided to se profitent de la ville vide, and we went to Magic Land--the almost deserted, nearly decrepit theme park on Rue de la Corniche Ouest.  It cost 2500 CFA (a little more than $5) to get in with 10 tickets to spend on the rides.  Including the four of us, there were probably 10 people in the park, meaning that we got the personal attention of the operators there, who would turn on any machine that we wished to ride.  We were eager and enthousiastes.

    posing with the statues at the entrance to Magic Land

    this is my Senegalese boyfriend, Jack

    in addition to the rides, there was a mini-zoo, which contained
    1 donkey, 2 camels, and a pen of geese, peacocks, and some more exotic-looking birds

    cute, huh?

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah bumper cars!

    aaaaaaaaah mechanical bulls!  
    (my butt still hurts from falling off.)

    and the sun set on us, low and orange over the ocean
    (a side note: sadly, we did not ride the Bump Jump)

    I can say that I am becoming more acclimatised, too--I've bargained harder for taxis and ignored panhandlers and chatted in Wolof and told a guy (who was en train de giving me his number) that I was married, which worked wonders.  I have a gym membership and homework assignments and many possible adventures for the weekend.  I am, as we all are, making a life here.

    And finally, a video-view of Dakar from the top of the ferris wheel at Magic Land.  If you can't watch it below, click here.