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So far, since moving to Dakar, I’ve been robbed, infected with parasites, hit by a scooter while walking downtown — although I did hit him back, so we’ll call that one a draw — stalked via text message, ripped off and proposed to more times than I can count.
I've also been welcomed into the homes of strangers for countless cups of attaya and platters of thieboudienne, walked along the ocean, climbed an enormous baobab, learned to negotiate —well, gotten better at it at least — and laughed, alot.
I’m learning that life here is an exercise in extremes. Dry season, rainy season. Shiny black Escalade, rickety horse-drawn cart. Fishing pirogues pushing peacefully out to sea at dawn, vendors yelling and grabbing in stinky, chaotic markets. The haves, the have-nots.
Monday night, I went to see legendary Senegalese singer Baaba Maal at Dakar’s French cultural center downtown. Resonant is how I’d describe Maal’s voice. As the stage filled with musicians plucking and pounding away, Maal went from sitting with his guitar, to standing, to throwing off the outer layer of his boubou and joining the dancers gyrating around him. The show’s energy climbed along much the same trajectory until the crowd was on its feet, dancing and clapping in the cool, night air.
I caught myself having one of those “all’s right with the world” moments, an admittedly rare occurrence since I moved to Senegal two months ago.
As I waved to a friend and joined the flood of people leaving the stands, a short guy with crooked teeth and tarnished diamond earrings jostled by me. I reached down a second too late. My cell phone was already halfway out the door.