Friday, July 30, 2010

Farewell Dinner and Reflection

As if to punctuate our experience here in Africa, the gods gave us lightning and thunder for our farewell dinner tonight. As usual we had some great food. We also exchanged gifts and made a few speeches. But it was the tears of Mame Coumba that told me we had made our mark on Africa as Africa has made its mark on each of us.

I miss sleeping with Smudge and I’m ready to go home but, I have had an experience here unlike any of my other travels. I’ve had trouble understanding much of what I’ve seen but, this I can tell you for sure; Africa wants our respect as a brother with an equal birthright. Yes, there is much poverty here but, as we offer a helping hand we must be willing to acknowledge our own shortcomings and offer to work side-by-side as equal partners to better the world. I have seen many clever entrepreneurs and hard working people with an optimistic vision of the future.

For now, I will need more time to reflect on my experience. But, the strongest image in my mind is of a small girl in Toubacouta. She was maybe two or three years old and she leaned next to me as the drummers were drumming and many of the villagers were dancing. I could tell she had a strong urge to run out and dance as she watched some of the older girls dance. Eventually, she ran out with a very serious look on her face and danced with surprising skill. All the older girls were smiling and laughing as they danced but, this little one maintained her sober face and when finished dancing she returned to her place next to me as seriously as when she had left. It was clear to me that she needed to be a part of the dance and she was intent on giving her best dance.

A few minutes later, one of the dancers grabbed my hand and invited me to dance. I was like that young girl. I decided to give my best dance. Though I’m sure my moves were awkward, my dance partner could see I was offering my best and her eyes lit up as we moved to the pounding rhythm. Sweat ran from our brows as our faces got closer and our eyes locked and our hearts pounded in unison. Our conversation was not in French nor even in Wolof but, I think I’ve never had such a meaningful discussion.

I gave my best dance.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Work is Done

Well, we've all completed our research projects and given our presentations. I can't believe tomorrow is our farewell dinner. Then we will have a day to do as we please in Dakar before leaving early Sunday morning.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Village Clinic

We visited the village clinc yesterday. This wagon had just brought a woman to the clinc to have a baby.

And below is Toubacouta's youngest resident; just a few hours old.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Late Night and a busy day

Here's a picture of my lunch from yesterday.

Today we went south to the Gambian boarder and talked the guards into letting us cross without a visa.

This is a video from a party the people in the village gave us last night. It seems I have become the John Travolta of Toubacouta. They really like my dancing. It may take a few minutes to load but, it's worth it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Here's the video

I managed to upload the video from this morning. We spent most of the day today traveling around the river delta in a boat. We stopped at a village along the way where I got this picture.

Morning in Toubacouta

We were on the road most of the day yesterday but, I saw this boy in an Obama shirt when we stopped for lunch. After a very bumpy ride, we eventually arrived in Toubacouta and are staying in a very nice place on the Saloum River. We've already seen some monkeys and will be taking a trip down the river this afternoon. I wanted to upload a video but the connection here isn't good enough.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday the19th

Monday was a bit of a slow day but, very interesting. We started the day at WARC with a lecture by Dr. Anna Fall-Gaye on African Diaspora in Cuba and the resulting Yoruba religion; La Regh de Ocha. We ended the day with a tour of IFAN; a West African "Museum Program".

Today we will again be at WARC for a roundtable discussion on Modern Migrations and African Diaspora. Then lunch followed by another roundtable discussion on Secondary Education in Senegal.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back to WARC

After an evening at the arean to watch the national sport, we return to WARC today for more lectures.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fishermen at Sunset

We just got back to Dakar and I will write more later. For now I'll leave you with this video of fishermen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sleepless Night

I know I said I wouldn’t be making another blog until our return to Dakar but, I find myself unable to sleep. We began our day with a bit of group reflection on our experience so far. I told the group that I felt a bit like one of the many piles of rubble you see on the streets of Dakar. I’m never really sure if a particular pile is the result of the ongoing construction or decay. But, until today, this ambiguity was playing only with my intellect. After walking among the many children in Pikine, I feel I have now begun to imbibe the spirit of Africa. I suspect I’m not the only one in our group getting little sleep tonight.

Getting Out of the City

Last night we viewed a short Senegalese film called "La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil" by Djibril Diop-Mambety. Today we visited a "suburb" of Dakar called Pikine. Early tomorrow morning we leave for Touba and I will not be able to make any blog entries until our return on July 17.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Day to Relax

Today we took a boat to Ngor Island just to spend some time on the beach. It was a much needed rest for us. Tomorrow we will be back at WARC for more lectures and discussions.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Very Full 1st Week

This is Saturday morning and we will be going to Goree Island where we will have a lecture by Dr. Ibrahima Seck, an historian. Goree Island is the Island where they gathered slaves before shipping them to America.

Our first week of studies has been very interesting. The Director of WARC is quite a gregarious person; always laughing, dancing and making sure all of our needs have been met. Most of our lectures have been about the culture, history and politics of Senegal and West Africa. I have been very surprised by the complexity of these issues but even more surprised by the always eloquent often poignant manner in which our presenters bring out bits of clearity from these surprisingly byzantine topics.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lunch and Taxi Ride

To the right is a picture of the kitchen at WARC and left is my lunch for the day.

Below is a link to a video of my cab ride back to the Hotel from WARC.

Dance Picture

As promised, here's the picture of me dancing. Steadman Rogers took it with his cell phone.

Thanks, Steadman.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

WARC Reception

My second day in Dakar is coming to an end as I prepare for dinner. I will be doing most of my research and attending seminars at the West African Research Center (WARC).
Last night they had and welcoming dinner for us with live music and lots of dancing. Believe it or not, I danced with the woman in this video. I think someone may have gotten a picture of us. If so, I will send it in a future post.

In Dakar

I am finally in Dakar but very busy. I only have time to post this photo.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Almost There

I'm at the Logan International Airport waiting to board the plane. I should be in Dakar by tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I've posted this video of a Senegalese Drumming and Dance demonstration from our three days of Orientation.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 1 in Boston

Well, I arrived in Boston at 1am Thursday; checked into the hotel; slept for a few hours then headed out to walk the Freedom Trail with three of the other Fulbright-Hays participants. Bunker Hill was at the end of the trail and we climbed the steps to the top and took this picture of Boston. We then rushed to the Center for African Studies at Boston University for our first day of orientation which included a Balafon performance by Balla Kouyate: