Streets of Medina, and a Pearly White Polygamist

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I’m back in Dakar, and signed up for classes at the French institute. I’m staying in a spacious air BnB inside the university campus with a varrying crowd of young Europeans distributed over their 5 rooms, hosted by one of these phenomenons that puzzles my mind:  a pearly white German academic who is married to a beautiful, younger, smarter (my personal evaluation and I stand by it) Senegalese woman, and eager to take a second wife. 

My second air BnB is in Medina, on the 5th floor, with view of sunsets over the fruit vendors, coffee carts, electronics shops, kiosks, sheep markets, boulangeries, wood workshops, tailors and chique couture boutiques. Its a real bustly big city feeling, and for me that means a reasonable degree of anonymity, feeling confident and at home, and quickly knowing my way around (It also means amazing baguettes and fist sized ripe avocados to smush on them.)

The neighbourhood is deeply religious, and my sleep is interrupted with the morning call to prayer from the mosque down the street, and religious chanting floats in through my window in the evening. Sometimes I meditate at those times, the energy is conducive and beckoning. There is quite a lot of cat calling in the street (more so in Medina than elsewhere I’ve been strolling) though it eases a little after I change my jeans for a long, lose skirt and lose pants. 

Friendship offers are easy to come buy, more often than not though it will be from a guy – and most often he will be into you, though there are obviously many exceptions. Generally people are, true to the rumour, sweet and warm like summer days and have loads of humour. Always up for a chat, sometimes a walk to give directions, teaching you a new word in Wollof, its incredibly easy to find a smile or crack a laugh with someone, even as I arrive with a 37 word vocabulary and have to guess most of what’s going on. In stark contrast to Paris,  people in Dakar have eons of patience to let me try to remember the words I need. 

Ending here with the massive, and massively controversial, monument for the African Renescaince.

​Toubab, toubab! ….Toubacouta!

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Me and my companion check into what our guidebook tells us is the cheapest sleep in Toubacouta: Keur Yossou, and I ask the guy who shows us our room his name “I’m Youssou! This is my place, I’m married with two kids.. I’m not a reggae boy!” oh my “what’s a reggae boy?” “You know, the guys who hang around waiting to pick up young girls” young toubab specifically I guess so no joke, but Youssou is hillarious, even though I only understand a solid third of what he is saying (French challenge).

 
Everything else in town is mellow as honey, the mangrove is home to an astounding little island made entirely of sea shells, perforated by Baobab roots – this is a well trodden tourist path, but justly so, its magical. The dark waters of the delta are salty and swimable, floatable, splashable… The dry forrest around are home to baboons, monkeys, hyenas and colourful birds. A little village nearby turned touristic when they got a woman elder for chief, she welcomes us with a smacking kiss on each cheek (again, missed my photo opt because it was too amazing). We splurge and spend two days sailing around with a guide in pirogue, dreamy and totally worth it.



Landing in Dakar

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“You will feel the the wave of heat when you exit the plane. Ahh and also the smell” my friend’s eyes glaze over with a pleasurable wholeness “when someone goes and comes back and they open the suitcase you can still smell it, all their clothes smell like Senegal”. I smile and bite into my burger. “just make sure if you eat meat that its properly properly cooked all the way through” “definitely”. This is my last social and also last good advice before leaving for a month to Senegal.

 
I arrive midday in Dakar, and as I exit the air-conditioned zone of the airplane I feel enveloped by soft, warm, humid air. No visa is required and the boarder officer does not ask me my return date, just where I’m staying and laughs at my poor pronunciation. Then captures fingerprints electronically, snaps a photo and stamps my passport. All luggage is scanned by a customs officer before exit and then I’m out!

 
The smell. It smells of sunlight on stones, light incense, salt water, moto exhaust, flowers and spice. Its faint but ever present, the same way a house smells like the people who live there, and I get the pleasure my friend showed me describing it.

 
After checking in at the hostel I get a taxi for the centre, he drops me off at the wrong place, but at this point I am too starving to think. I go into the first place I see and order a grilled dourada and a coke, then ask for directions to the french institute so I can figure out language classes. The woman is either not sure where it is or what I need, hard to know since I only understand a few sentences. She doesn’t give up though, but tells her colleague she will go out and then finds a guy to whom she explains what I want, possibly, he doesn’t seem to understand either, so calls on a third person, who says he will show me the way, and then actually walks me 15 minutes to the place. Hospitality factor confirmed!

 
On my second day am already ready to crawl out of my skin, am alone and in serious doubt about the whole project, craving a full fledged hour long, bouncy conversation with someone. Why did I want to do this solo explorer thing in the first place? When does it get awesome? Gah! Another Afro-European friend comes to the rescue:
“Take your time. Slow down. Coming from London you still have that hectic rhythm. This is Senegal baby, pasito a pasito. You don’t need to talk to anybody…Eat something new, build up your confidence and then try your French”

 
By the mentioning of London I feel a manic impatience rising like a drumroll in my body, I inhale deeply and… let it go. I’ll come back to that soon enough.

Liquid nights

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Some places are sweeter to

drink in

than others

Mont Martre

Paris, Lapa, Rio

always with no roof

so the stars can freely

dust you dreamy

while spirits melt the city

and turn you liquid too

to sway into the night

to transmute energies

of the Wonder who

rips apart

artists

and other

receptive souls

Pigneto 

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“Come oooon, let’s go to bed already!”

“Babe, just go ahead, I’ll be in in a bit”

“No, but I wanna lay down with you”

He smacks me on the bum. He’s the man. Men are soft when their hearts are on fire. Lone boats sail around looking for home, for earth, some turn pirates from salt water and desperation and start robbing. Others pilgrims, striders, or even lovers of the big sea keeping them afloat and the stars that lead them.

But even the lovers look for earth, and when they spot it on the horizon they tremble with longing, hope, and the most crushing of fears.

I kiss the ocean-heart of my merman  husband, full of stars and space. I can wrap myself in his arms at night and float around in universes in infinity. Until he starts kicking me in his sleep and I slip into another bed to dream. Who do you run from, in your sleep, my love? 

Tenderness makes my skin sweat honey, where he doesn’t drink it, it evaporates to perfume to air. 

Last night in Dublin

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By the time I’ve removed glitter, mascara and smog from my face its 23:00. I change into pajamas and make a cup of herbal tea I brought back from home last time, and think of my childhood friend who always stock this particular blend in his kitchen cabinet.

I can’t connect to the hotel wifi so I switch on the hotspot on my phone and look at the time again, consider what time I should get up tomorrow. I need to pack my backpack and have breakfast before 11. 8 o’clock should do. 

Nathaniel is taking my Mac and phone to the office so it doesn’t have to stay in my unlocked room while we are on holiday. We may get new roomies in the meantime. 

This means I won’t have my Mac Friday night though, and I need to do my expenses before the weekend. I can do them in the morning, but then I would have to get up quite early. Giuliano wanted to go for an ocean dip in the morning as well, but since she is still out I think the pressure is off.

The chat connects, there are 63 messages from the crazy kids still at the bar, now another one. Two team mates are already back at the hotel though, having admin/PJ party like myself. I rub the lenses of my glasses to remove a stain, then send a selfie to the group chat. I check my personal phone, Loverman aka Merman has not replied yet, did he go to bed without texting me goodnight? I message mum and a friend, then leave it next to me.

I find the receipts I have already sorted for last week first. Personal phone vibrates, its Merman telling me goodnight. I smile and crawl a bit deeper under the covers.


 FR7407 to Luton

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I’m packing homemade flower remedies from mum, chocolates, artist brushes, glitter, herbal tea, 6 menthol lip balms. 

For the road my friend equips me with a tinfoil wrapped bread roll, an organic apple, a tiny box of raisins and November’s issue of Eurowoman with an article about being from a beautiful place but not feeling at ease there, and making home elsewhere.

I tear up as I bite the bun, sat in my blue and yellow Ryanair seat, already mid air. A girl in a tank top is riding on her mum’s shoulders on the commercial on the wall, the sun is shining, arms stretched out she looks like she is flying. To me now it looks like something that would be really hard to return to. I fumble for my head phones and blast a funkão carioca to remind myself why I chose that, and how it chose me too. Somewhere inside, my PC feminist scratches her head… But who has the time when the beat is this great? If you can’t twerk it sure aint my revolution.

 Tchau & Bjão Dina, vai se ver por aí!