Tag Archives: dakar

Year in Photos 2016

Sometimes pictures are better than words. They can tell more of a story, inviting the reader to infer their meaning, ask questions about their significance to the writer, and wonder what happened before and after the snapshot was taken. I’ve been telling a story of my year in photos for the past couple of years (click here for my year in photos for 2014 and 2015), and it is an exercise I enjoy, looking back through my year’s photos, deciding which ones to include and which ones are better left out. Without further adieu, here is my 2016 year in photos, in chronological order.


My Senegalese Market Experience #sol16 26 of 31


I’m not new to the market thing. As a former resident of China, and extensive traveler in Southeast Asia, I know a thing or two about markets. I’m always curious to check out the markets in new cities that I visit, to soak up some of the culture and pick up a few trinkets and/or a piece of art along the way.


Dakar has a few local markets around town specializing in everything from fabric to art to used clothing. Mel took me to a market mainly focused on art, but luckily they had a few shops that also carried fabric, jewelry, and other knick knacks. The first thing that drew my attention were all the bright colors; anyone who knows me knows I love color! I felt like a kid in a candy store, looking from one thing to another, not sure what to buy first. Some of my favorite things were the colorful, handwoven baskets, fabrics in all sorts of colors and patterns, paintings of local scenes and people, and all the handmade jewelry.


One thing that’s essential when shopping at a local market is knowing what the going rate is for certain items. This information is vital in order for you not to be ripped off. In China, I knew whether the price they quoted was good or not, based on my experience (and that of others) over the years. As a foreigner, you just have to expect that you are going to be ripped off to some degree, but you want to minimize it as much as possible. They see my blonde hair and American accent coming, and I might as well have dollar signs floating around my head. As a seasoned market shopper, I drive a hard bargain and am adept at negotiating. But in Senegal, I had no idea what I should expect to pay for anything, neither did I have a firm grasp on the exchange rate from CFA to USD. Mel had only been to a fabric market here in Dakar once, so she didn’t know normal prices either. We took the offer them half of what they quoted us approach, which sometimes worked, but other times did not. Even so, we weren’t sure whether or not we were getting a good deal.


As we walked through the market, lots of people tried to get us to shop at their stands. It was pretty overwhelming, so I tried to ignore whatever they were saying to me. When ignoring didn’t work, I said in English, “Sorry, I don’t speak French.” They would then bust out their spiel in almost fluent English. Senegal’s official languages are French and Wolof, and around town I haven’t heard much English, so I was definitely struck by the amount of English spoken by the vendors. Mel and I became everybody’s “sister,” whereas in China, everybody was “friend.”


We quickly realized that stopping into a shop just to browse was frowned upon, and you would quickly get literally roped in if you went into a shop. More often than not, vendors would physically grab us, pulling us back into their shop or not letting us leave. Another tactic was to block us into their shop and not let us leave until we bought something. We had to forcefully tell them that we did not want to buy anything, and to let us go. Regardless of us being firm, they would repeatedly grab us and try to pull us back into their shop. I haven’t experienced this type of aggressive behavior at markets before, and I was definitely put off by it. Not all the shop owners were like this, as you can tell from the picture above, but there were enough of them that it was noticeable.


Another nuance we found while shopping at the Senegalese market was that many shop owners would agree to one price outside of their shop, but once you came in to buy it, the price would jump back up. We would argue that we were not going to pay a higher price when we had agreed upon a lower price, and they would resort to grabbing us to keep us in their store. Another tactic used quite often was for the vendors to tell us how poor they were and how much they needed the money for this or that. Now, I know that most of the Senegalese people live in poverty, and that they probably do need the money, but begging is not going to make us buy something, especially if it’s something we don’t really want. I feel very bad about the poverty situation in this country, but that does not mean I am willing to pay an exorbitant amount for any one item. That’s not a long term solution to the problem. One tip I do have is to go to the market with small bills only- 1,000s and 500s- because oftentimes they didn’t want to give back any change if you gave them more than the total. Instead, they tried to give you change back in the form of other goods in their shop.


My experience at the market was more positive than negative for sure, and I managed to get some really cute stuff to take home and remind me of my time in Dakar, but I will say that the constant harassment by the vendors eventually frustrated us to the point that we decided to leave earlier than we had anticipated.


Dakar, Day One #sol16 19 of 31


Highlights of today: Meeting Reina. Spending time with Melissa. Sunshine. Seeing a bit of Dakar. Shopping at the American Store. Hanging out with Sally, Bruce, and T. Watching the sunset on the beach.

After some much needed sleep, I eased into the day by hanging around the house with Mel and Reina. Reina was so funny! When she first saw me, she was so uncertain about this strange girl in her house. I kept getting the stare down, which just made Mel and I crack up. After a little while, she warmed up to me and even let me hold her. We became fast friends. She is such a happy baby- always smiling and laughing. She likes being held, which I love!

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We got a late start to the day, but the sun was out and the weather was amazing! It was warm, but not hot, and there was a steady breeze all day. I got to see a bit of the town from Mel’s driving me around- we pulled over to snap a few pics of the mosque and the ocean. We then stopped by the American Store, where I was able to stock up on things I can’t get back in Albania (hello Cheerios, Oreos, and Mac n Cheese!). From there, we ran a few errands, and came back to play with Reina before dinner.



The place we went for dinner, Le Ngor, overlooked the beach, and watching the sunset while listening to the waves was so relaxing. I had a very tasty coconut shrimp curry with rice and a few bites of Sally’s honey sesame shrimp. Sally, my friend and colleague in Albania, and her boyfriend joined us for dinner. Despite being eaten up by mosquitos, I really enjoyed it. We rounded out the night with drinks at the Radisson Blu hotel, overlooking the ocean. All in all, day one was a success. Day two begins with brunch on the beach. I think I’m gonna like this place!