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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lunch is Served

Hello again!
Thanks for sticking around. I'm picking up right where I left off.

So, the one thing that I was especially nervous about when coming to Senegal, was the food. I can officially say that all my worrying was for naught. We went to this restaurant called Djembe, which is in downtown Dakar (It was really weird that we were one of the few customers). The service was excellent and the food was delicious. I ordered brochettes, which are fish kabobs. The fish was seasoned to perfection, moist and plentiful. 

A djembe is a very common drum across many countries in Africa.

Look at this deliciousness. The diced goodness on the left was a sort of slaw.

Apparently it is very common to eat fruit as a dessert in Senegal. I was so full, I could barely finish my bananas and pineapples.

I found it interesting that the owner was white, I'm not sure of his ethnicity or nationality though. Very courteous, and hospitable. Blame it on my unworldliness/naivete.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sights of Dakar

 We're finally in Dakar!! I liked Cape Verde, really I did but I am all about Senegal. And gosh darn it we're finally here. Take a look at the sights from my point of view.

The National Palace

Monday, February 4, 2013

Foot Meet Mouth

We didn't sleep because we had to leave the hostel at 4am. Our flight was super late and I was so tired. While at the Nelson Mandela Airport, speaking of which, my idea of Cape Verde has improved because of this homage to Mandela. I'm used to Cape Verdeans not acknowledging/embracing their Africanness. It was so awesome seeing the Senegalese men in the TCAV airport. I am in love with their traditional garb called boubou, especially the grand boubou. I just think it looks so regal and refined. 

So I made a major faux pas while waiting for our flight. I saw a young lady in the bathroom and I congratulated her. She said "Oh for what?' I said 'Your pregnancy". Wonder what her response was? Say it with me class. "Um I'm not pregnant". Cue to me stuttering and making a hasty exit out of the bathroom. Keep in mind this conversation is in French so it was even harsher. Leave it to me to put my sassy size seven and a half foot in my mouth.


We went to a hole in the wall restaurant to eat authentic Cape Verdean food. It took us over 20 minutes to find the restaurant. We walked by it several times, but when we finally made it we were psyched. The food took so long to come out, which my I'mHaitianandthereforeusedtospendinganexorbitantamounoftimewaitingforfoodsothat'snormal. 

Fresh from the sea

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Seeing Santiago

We drove around the town of Santiago and also stopped to visit Sidadi Velha, a former slave market.

I am always oddly fascinated by cacti, I'm not sure why

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Forgive Me Father For I Am In Awe

I am simply awestruck by Praia. I can't say that I had any real preconceived notions of how Cape Verde would look, but I did have some coworkers/friends who told me that it was dirty. I always try not to let the experience/ideas/opinions of others color my views but I'm sure they crept in like a thief in the night anyway. Take a looksey at the wonderful sights.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Man Can Not Live on Bread Alone

We went to a bakery down the block from our hostel. Local cuisine is always a plus for me. Cape Verdean bread reminds me of Dominican bread. I had a flaky pastry that had chicken and cheese with fresh squeezed orange juice. Tropican-who? 

I am a huge flour fan. Bagels, baguette, croissants, muffins and rolls. The more gluten the better. 

This looks like a Haitian chicken patty. Different flavor but tasty nonetheless.

I told y'all about my love for flour products. I had to get some more bread to satiate my appetite.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


We went to this really chic restaurant for dinner. There was a live band playing a lot of classic Cape Verdean tunes. Our lone Cape Verdean quipped that the music was from his parent's generation. I loved it. Aside from food, music is one of my favorite introductions to other cultures.

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How Not to Order Dinner in Another Language

I've never considered myself very adventurous. In fact, I actually think that I can be a stick in the mud at times. Like I've always been wary of traveling to far away places with hard to identify foods. Come on we all know I live to eat. Then there's also the language barrier. Oy ve. Can you imagine thinking you ordered chicken and they bring out a goat's head or cow liver? I say all this to say that is almost exactly what happened to us in the restaurant. The lone Cape Verdean in the group wasn't with us for lunch so we had to make do on our own. 

Take a look at the menu and see if you can figure out what's what.

This is before we took a look at the menu

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pretty Pretty Praia

Praia was so pretty and clean. It was also surprisingly quiet. Most of the folks that live in Praia made an exodus to their respective islands (Cape Verde has 10 islands, but only 7 are inhabited). 

Futbol stadium (CV was qualified for a huge game)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

TAC who? TACV!

The flight was delayed, but after the wine I don't think I minded too much. We got real food (I was ravenous, sorry no pictures but it was like a beef stew with salad a roll and dessert) the first go round and then a sandwich the second time. I don't remember how long the flight was, I'm not sure if it's because I was sleeping off and on and every time I woke up we were still flying over one of the oceans or if it's because we switched timezones. Maybe a bit of both. Flying TACV (Cape Verde airline) was one of the most memorable flights of my life!! I always joke that all Cape Verdeans are related (they really are) but this flight just about proved me right. I've never seen such a boisterous flight before. So many people were up and mingling and going over to talk to other passengers. After a while I was a bit miffed. The young lady sitting next to me seemed to be pretty popular with the fellas. Every time I woke up, I found myself at eye level with some guy's crotch. Quite annoying. The flight attendants started chastising some passengers and asking them to return to their seats after a while. I wonder if it's normally like this, or if it was the excitement of the holidays that made everyone so merry.

Don't worry it's only apple juice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cheers to the Freaking Trip!!!

Bom dia!
That's Cape Verdean for hello/good day/good morning. Since I'm on my way to Cape Verde I might as well use some of the limited vocabulary. We're a group of 5. Prior to the trip I didn't know any of the other participants. After almost three decades of life on this sometimes lovely planet we call Earth, I have learned a thing or two about myself. One very relevant lesson, is that I don't do well under restriction or when forced to socialize with others. Yes, I know sound a little psychopathic. I love people, I love learning about everyone's story and what has shaped them to become who they are today; but I don't like having to be on. Clearly I've never done well in the diplomatic aspects of relationships, work and well life. Still a work in progress folks. Back to Cape Verde, we flew to Cape Verde, because it is a direct flight from Boston(who knew?!). We'll spend two days in Praia and then fly to Dakar, that is about an hour flight. The fact that there are that many Cape Verdeans in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to necessitate a direct flight from Logan Airport to Cape Verde is awesome, and it isn't Delta or American Airlines or that godawful clunker Spirit!! Errrmmm Haiti can we get on this ASAP?! Enjoy the airport pics below.

What better way to kill time than to imbibe in some adult grape juice?

I'm ready!!

Drinking alone is never fun.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Holy Crap, I'm going to West Africa!!

Hello again,
My biggest concerns were over what to pack and what I was going to eat. Hello! Unless you're new to Mai Musings, you already know that my biggest, almost daily concerns are what I'm going to eat, and what I'm going to wear. Yes, shallow I know but we all have our vices and mine are pretty harmless, for now. The clothing concerns surrounded both the weather and the culture of Senegal and the different regions that we would visit. Although Dakar, the capital is a major bustling city; Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country. I worried that I didn't own anything that was conservative, cute and comfortable. I didn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities but at the same time I didn't want to wear an overgarment/hijab/abaya/chador/burqa/jilbab just to travel without fear of harassment. This may sound silly to those who are familiar with Senegal, but as someone who didn't know more than 6 facts about Senegal. Yes, I counted. It really is 6:

1. They have a lake where the water is pink; Le Lac Rose
2. Dakar is the capital
3. It's in West Africa
4. French is the official language
5. It's a predominately Muslim country
6. Wolof is both an ethnic group (one of the largest I believe) and a language

My second concern was over food. I've eaten Senegalese food twice, count them 1 & 2. Once from a coworker's wife. I remember the meat being delicious and I attributed it not to the spices she used, but to it's halal state. Sidebar; when I become rich and famous am financially able I am going to only purchase halal/kosher meat. It is just so delicious. My second foray into Senegalese food was at a Senegalese restaurant in Boston, called Teranga, it wasn't the most pleasant. Although it's been almost two years, I distinctly remember not liking the flavors that assaulted my tongue. So back to the present day, can you understand my concerns? Thank goodness, the third time was really the charm. Stay tuned to see all of the delicious treats that tantalized my appetite for two weeks.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wait, Why Are You Going To West Africa?

So as you may have already read from my previous post, I'm going to Senegal, by way of Cape Verde. I have been interested in Africa, specifically West Africa for many years. The first country that I really wanted to visit was Ghana. Then I became interested in Benin, because of the connection with Haitians. Most slaves that became known as Haitians were purchased in Benin. I've been told that many of our traditions, particularly our Vodoun practices are derivatives of Beninese vodoun culture. There's also a town in Benin called Ayitine (sp?) which some believe is why Haiti claims that name. I was determined to make it to Africa, it was just a matter of picking a specific country and going with a specific purpose. I figured a francophone country would be the best introduction as I have a francophone background (Haiti is a former French colony), and I reasoned that it would be a great way for me to be forced to practice my elementary French. When I realized that the African Studies department at UMass Boston was hosting a two part conference in Cape Verde and Senegal, I knew that it was now or never. The conference in Senegal was on Leopold Senghor and his legacy. Senghor was the first president of Senegal and he was also a renowned poet. Cape Verde's conference would focus on Amilcar Cabral, a freedom fighter who led the fight to liberate his African country people from the clutches of Portuguese imperialism. Today marks the 40th anniversary of his assassination. I didn't know a thing about either man prior to the trip and I was excited and eager to learn about these two great thinkers who sacrificed so much for the betterment of their respective people and countries.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

West Africa? Well Don't Mind If I Do!

Hello (waves ecstatically),
I am back and settled in. From where you ask? From West Africa, specifically Senegal and I spent about 2.5 minutes in Praia, Cape Verde. I had an awesome time. Praia was beautiful, the people were nice, the food was yummy and I was cold. Hehehe. Sounds weird that the Bostonian who left the States at the end of December is complaining about the weather in West Africa, but I really was cold. The sweaters that you will see in upcoming posts are not for show my friends. I had many interesting experiences in Senegal. Some awesome and some not so awesome. My trip was not life changing in the least bit, nor did I expect it to be. I met many wonderful people that I hope to stay connected with. My taste buds are still singing the praises of Senegalese food. I have so many beautiful souvenirs to remind me of the culture, people and teranga (hospitality/generosity) of Senegal. Come join me on this adventurous trip from the coast of West Africa to the former capital of French West Africa.