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Conference at Dakar, Senegal


From: Melissa Enderle (melissa_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Oct 15 2000 - 15:10:02 PDT

Hi all,

As long as I brought my computer along with me to the teacher's
conference in Dakar, Senegal, I guess it would be a good idea to
write an email letting you know what I have been up to here. We did
come a few days early, but the main reason we are here in Dakar is
for the teachers' conference consisting mainly of international
schools in West Africa. Sort of like a NEA or NAEA convention.
Dakar is a city right on the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the
coast is rocky, while others have nice soft sandy beaches. The hotel
where we're staying at is ok, but it does have a nice beach on the
ocean, a good view, as well as a swimming pool. I did go swimming in
the ocean and also saw some crabs last night on the beach. The
weather in the morning and evening is quite nice, with an ocean
breeze. Midday, the sun becomes quite hot, combined with the humidity.
In addition to swimming, I have also been doing a few other
things. Sunday we (13 teachers from my school) took two fishing boats
out to an island that was a wildlife sanctuary. The ride there was
pretty and adventuresome, with the boat getting a little bumpy with
large waves. At least I didn't get soaked like the people in the
other boat! The island had some beautiful coves where emerald-green
water splashed against the rocks. Yesterday we went to an artisan's
market and then the regular market in the afternoon. Some of the
vendors were a bit pushy. At the regular market that is famous for
its beautiful cloth, the taxis squeezed their way through the narrow
streets - if we hadn't quick jumped into a stall, we could have had
our toes run over!
In the evening, some of us went down to the beach to listen
to the drumming, which one of the local people had told us about.
True to african tradition, they were about 45 minutes late in
starting, but once they did, the players (and audience) were really
into the music rhythm. A few of the people from our school have been
taking lessons in african dancing, and so they tried out some of
their moves - to the delight of some of the Senegalese. After a
couple of hours, the drummers disbanded.
As I am writing this from my hotel balcony, I can see boats
on the bay as well as about 25-30 people working together to haul in
a large fishing net. Yesterday we saw one catch - two marlin fish.
Lobster, barracuda and shrimp are a few other items caught in the
Dakar waters. I had poissons brochettes last night - which was
excellent. I intend on having some shrimp yet. Yesterday I also had a
senegalese meal - red rice in a spicy sauce, with beef and a variety
of vegetables (carrots, cassava, cabbage,peppers, etc.) on top. Two
of us had that meal at a tiny shack-like restaurant right on the
So far I have found Dakar to have some similarities and some
differences with Bamako. Even though the population is similar (about
one million each), Dakar is much more cosmopolitan. In Dakar, you
will find some taller buildings - a skyline. In Bamako, it doesn't
feel like a city - rather a sprawling village. While we found some
people in Dakar to be a little pushy and/or edgy, I have found people
in Bamako to be only peaceful and gentle. Theft and pickpocketing is
rare in Bamako, while in Dakar, it's more common - and bold. In fact
one of the people at the conference experienced an attempted
pickpocketing. One guy hassled the couple to buy an item, then a few
others came around. One grabbed the man's pantsleg and began trying
to jiggle the wallet out of the man's front pocket. Luckily the
couple realized what was happening and was able to take action. You
also see people openly begging - or more accurately actually
demanding money. In truth, the people in Bamako are probably more
needy on the whole. For both cities, the body of water is the
lifeline - the Niger River for Bamako and the Atlantic for Dakar.
Activities from fishing to bathing to washing clothes happen here. In
both cities you will find people dressed in typical African clothes,
and the women balancing everything on their head. You will find more
goats, donkeys, and other animals on the streets or grassy areas in
Bamako, but some still can be found in Dakar. Transportation seems to
be more established (or "modern") here in Dakar.

A group of us went to Goree Island today. About 2 miles east
of Dakar (we took the ferry), it is a small island with
colonial-style houses. The main part of the visit was going to the
Maison des Esclaves - the slave house, built in 1786. Recently
renovated,the slave house is a grim reminder of the slave trade and
Senegal's involvement in this brutal trade.

Well, the conference is over today. Other than some rain last night
and early this afternoon, the weather has been sunny and warm. The
conference was ok. It was great finding out where everyone taught -
from Kenya, Congo, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Senegal, and much more. Some
people, while their school is fine, are in areas that are politically
instable. I'm sure glad that Mali is stable in that respect. I
exchanged emails with the other few tech people that were here and
got to meet some fascinating people. The hotel was another story.
While the view was great, the rooms had something to be desired. The
carpeting was never vacuumed (probably not for several weeks), they
never seemed to get the idea that 2 people sharing a room would need
2 towels. And who could forget the cockroaches. They loved the hot,
moist bathroom. Luckily, they visibly stayed confined to the bathroom
and not in the sleeping area. Oh well, only one more night to deal
with them...

Last night was a great finale. Some local dancers performed an
incredible show for us. Four drummers, two flute (wooden) players,one
buffaloon player, and some other percussion instrument accompanied 6
young women and 5 or so young men. Through the dancing, they told a
story. At one scene, (in which the main young woman was dead), the
men came out wearing costumes including masks that reminded me so
much of the Jaguar masks of Mexico. In addition, all revealed how
physically fit they were. Wow, what an incredible workout african
dancing and drumming is! Both the men and women also performed
acrobatic-like feats. Even the instrumentalists performed some pretty
cool moves while playing. Everyone was in carefully planned costume,
with the dancers changing several times.The evening was topped off by
a nice meal including local fish, shrimp, senegalese rice, and
True to Air Afrique (the airline) form, the flight was delayed once.
I am told that there are not enough planes to meet demand, so it is
nearly guaranteed that the flights will be delayed. The ironic part
is that the airline is owned by Air France! Just because it's Africa
it receives less than equal treatment. Gosh, even the national museum
didn't have any catalogues for sale - they all were in France!
Speaking of museums, make sure you visit the IFAN national museum in
Dakar if you are in the area. It has a wonderful display of West
African art, with an especially strong emphasis on masks. In
addition, they have the life-like displays of the various group's
dwellings, people wearing the masks, and others wearing the native
costume. Much to see and even more to learn - especially if you know

I am putting a few pictures on the zing album of the trip. Take a
look if interested!

| Melissa Enderle |
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/ / / / Melissa Enderle