Sunday, January 23, 2011


These are observations that - taken individually - would never fill up an entire blog entry, but that certainly deserve a space.  In many instances, a picture would have been worth a thousand words, but walking around all the time with a camera would make me look like a tourist...

* Freedom is walking to work without a wallet, keys or a cell phone in your pocket. 

* The divide between rich and poor was never more apparent than the day I saw a deep blue, new Bentley Continental GT (MSRP: $182,800 or $207,700 nicely equipped) with the most luxurious, buff colored leather interior parked at a bakery directly next to a horse drawn wagon.  The horse had a roan exterior.

* I think McDonald's hasn't opened a restaurant here because the Senegalese like their hamburgers cooked so well done that the "Quarter Pounder" would end up looking like the "Quarter Ouncer."

* Buildings here are concrete.  I watched workers constructing the third floor of a building wherein 5 guys at ground level rhythmically shoveled sand up to 4 guys on a scaffold, who in turn kept beat and shoveled the same sand up to 3 guys on the 2nd floor, who in turn shoveled the sand toward several other workers who mixed the concrete using a manual machine.  I watched in amazement for several minutes, silently counting four seconds between shovels, and the workers never once lost beat although not one of them said a thing.

* African girls have bigger boobs

* Do you remember the last time you saw a child sitting on their parent's lap driving a car?  Do you remember how big the smile was on that child's face?  It's the parent's responsibility, so screw the National Transportation Safety Bureau.  If the parent gets in a wreck and hurts their child... well, here, they'll probably just have two more children.  And get off your mighty pedestal:  Malaria kills more children in Senegal simply because they don't have access to treatment than any form of parental irresponsibility.

* Where do stray dogs sleep at night?

* I have to cross one busy street to get from my residence to my place of work, but there is no crosswalk.  In fact, the rules of the road here are, "Biggest wins."  So, I stand on the side of the road and wait to cross the street.  But, you'll remember that I look a bit different than the average person in Senegal.  So, every taxicab that sees me must think I'm wearing a sign that says, "Early Retirement: White Guy Needs Ride Back to United States and Wants to Take a Taxi To Get There" and stops abruptly in front of me.  This, of course, impedes my progress across the street by up to five minutes per day.

* The official unemployment rate in Senegal is 49%

* I frequently run down a sidewalk that is frequently occupied by a very old woman and a very young child.  The old woman has lines all across her face that speak to experience, hardship and an ability to survive.  The young child is preschool age, dirty and better behaved than my children were at that age.  The lady has a parasol to protect her and the child from the sun and they sit on a mat.  I wonder who they are, why they   picked that place on the sidewalk, how long do they stay there and what they do to pass the time.  But, I don't speak Wolof and I'll probably never find out.  They have never asked me for money, but on my last week here I'm know where I'm going to leave all my spare change.

* We're directly on the west coast facing the Atlantic but the sunsets in Senegal are nowhere near as attractive as California, Hawaii or even Maine.

* I withdrew 50,000 CFA (about $100) from the ATM machine to attend a charity dinner with a friend.  Walking away from the ATM, I realized that I had two week's wages of the average employee and I was going to spend it on one meal for two.  A moment later, I realized that if I divided up the $100 amongst three guards, two housekeepers, three groundskeepers, a cook and two maintenance staff... that the charity needed the proceeds even more.  One person may be able to help change the world, but not even Bill Gates and Warren Buffet can just hand money to people and make everyone better off.  By strategically raising funds for organizations that can help change the infrastructure (teach a man to fish vs. give a man a fish), it might not take as much money as people think.

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