Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FINALLY..... Vacation time is here :-))



Hi everyone,

This will probably be my last posting before I take a week off and go to the southern region of Senegal called Casamance for a mini vacation.  It has touristy spots (even a Club Med) but where I will be going is a small fishing village on the Atlantic called Abene.  One of the son's of the family I am staying with works at a compound there, owned by a Dutch woman.  It is suppose to be very basic - small clean huts not far from the beach and NO ELECTRICITY.....  I am told the food is very good (mostly daily caught fish that one buys on the beach as the fishermen come back at the end of the day), the sea and the beach very beautiful, nature plentiful with some amazing species of birds and nothing much to do except just sit and watch the day go by.   Can't wait.....

Then I will come back and have 3 more weeks of Kiva work.  This time however, I will not be in an office but will be visiting borrowers in different parts of the country.  I saved the best part of the job for last :-)))  I am really excited about the prospect of meeting actual borrowers and seeing more of the country.

In the meantime, here is another photo essay from the last couple of weeks.

At the entrance of the "Art Village" 

I am not kidding - this is a car wash...

Golf anyone????

When I first saw this statue, I thought the yellow one was a bear and I thought how appropriate given the state of our economy :-)))  When I got closer, I realized it is suppose to be a lion - I think so anyway....

In front of the butcher shop

It's more of a butcher stand, actually.....  The meat sits exposed to the elements on a counter right on the street

Another view of the car wash

Istanbul Furniture Store - have become fast friends with the owner, Mustafa, who is from Izmir.  He imports IKEA like furniture from Turkey and assembles it here.  Have toget a picture of him too at some point.
At the company Holiday Party for the children of the employees - Yacine in the middle is the Kiva Coordinator with whom I work the most.  She is very sweet.  Aita to the left is the teller at the Yoff branch where I spend my days.  They're both beautiful women but for some reason, people here don't smile very much when they're having their picture taken.

I just fell in love with him.  The hat was just too much..... especially considering it is 80 degrees outside.

Yacine, her nieces and their friends with Santa.  Every child got a gift.  It was very nicely done.
The security guard in front of the Yoff branch with one of the neighborhood kids

Kids in the neighborhood  They love having their pictures taken and then look at it in the camers

This is the office where I work.  Since there are only 2 desks and two officers, I work at a small table at the very end (not visible in the photo) sitting on one of those plastic chairs.  Oh yeah... we also share the office with a little mouse who makes regular visits.  Never thought I'd be OK with a mouse running around :-)))
The teller's office where a Kiva borrower is making a payment

The IMCEC-YOFF branch & our security

The view from the upstairs office where I work.  The street ends at the beach on the Atlantic

New clients headed our way....

With Yacine, finally smiling....

This view reminded me of Istanbul.  This is the N'Gor beach and the tiny island right across is the N'Gor island.  It's a 5 minute boat ride away.

Les piroques de Senegal -  the fishing boats

Sunday, January 2, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Well, it is 2011 already.... Wasn't it only last year that we all celebrated the year 2000 with all that Y2K business hanging over our head???  Sure seems that way.

I have officially past the half way point of my Senegal experience.  Eight full weeks gone and seven to go... Have to be wrapping up the projects I am working on at work within the next 3 weeks because I have to spend the rest of my time pretty much travelling through the country visiting branches outside of Dakar.  Will also try and get some sight seeing in while I am at it.

Here are a few more pictures from the last couple of weeks.

The first two are of a traditional Senegalese dish - grilled fish and rice with a very tasty onion sauce called Yassa.  Lunch time at work.  One of the clients of the MFI at head office is a woman who runs a small restaurant in the neighborhood and every day they get lunch from her.  When I am there, I am always invited to join them.  We sit around this tray and share it.  It is actually a pretty interesting experience - a truly communal meal.  Although at first it seemed a little strange to me, I have gotten used to it.  When one is eating shoulder to shoulder with others out of the same tray, the whole experience of "sharing" a meal feels very real - you actually live the experience.

Everyone's ready to dig in...

Only leftovers are in front of me.  They're always telling me I eat very little.

It seems like all I am talking about is food this time around but here's a video from our New Year's Eve meal being prepared in the garden.   I am not very big on meat, but I can tell you the smell was incredible - better than the taste.

video


Senegal is a beautiful country with beautiful people.  They are very open, hospitable, kind, giving and quick to oblige with a smile.  Other than the mishap I had with my blackberry, I have felt nothing but safe and comfortable here.  I can't wait to get out of Dakar and see other parts of the country, where they tell me people are even nicer and life much more pleasant.  The Senegalese themselves consider life in Dakar hard, hectic and void of true Senegalese values.  Obviously, they haven't been to New York :-)))

Today, I was invited to lunch by Kande, the person I have been working with at the MFI.  He is in charge of "Social Performance," meaning the social impact of the MFI on the community.  He and his wife just moved to Dakar from the area in the south called Casamance, when he was promoted from being a branch manager to his new position at headquarters.  Kande keeps telling me how beautiful the rest of the country is - especially Casamance.  It is on my list of places to visit later on.    

Kande is in the middle with his wife on one side and his cousin on the other.  The little boy is his sister in law's son  who lives in the Bronx.  Guess what the baby's name is...... OBAMA!!!!  The white guy at the end is a Swiss friend of theirs.



Until next time....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

CAN'T BELIEVE HOW LONG IT'S BEEN SINCE MY LAST UPDATE

Sorry, I know it's been a while since I even visited my own blog :-)))  Thanks for the comments...

The truth is my routine is not that exciting.  I go to work 5 days a week, which so far means sitting in an office and trying to put together a Kiva manual for the MFI.  A step by step manual that will make it easier for them to process their Kiva loans.  It's pretty boring and technical.  The kicker is I AM DOING IT IN FRENCH...  At first I wasn't too thrilled about it but I've gotten into it and am actually enjoying it and appreciating what it's doing for my French :-))

On weekends I try to go to the beach at least once and sometimes go out for a drink in the evening with a few of the friends I've made here.  It's an uncomplicated and laid back life, which so far is working for me.  After years of not being able to read on a continuous basis, I finally have the time to do all the reading I want.

Thanks to my friend Aysegul who does the ordering for me I always have a good supply of books on my Nook.  I e-mail her the list of books I want, she orders them for me on the Barnes & Nobles website and I get to download them on my end onto my Nook.   We finally figured out a system and it's working beautifully.   Thanks Aysegul'cugum.  Right now I am on Homer's Illiad.  Never knew what a violent story it was...

Well, since there isn't that much to write about, I figured you would all appreciate "a day in the life of Lorin" through pictures.  Since most of you are dealing with temperatures around freezing levels, I thought these pictures of the day I just spent at the beach will either be appreciated or cursed at  :-))

The beach photos are taken from my regular spot at the beach at Yoff.  It's a 20-25 minute walk from where I am staying.  That particular spot costs me $3.00 and I can stay for the whole day if I want.  Today the surf was a little higher than usual - good for surfing.  I haven't been able to go in the water yet since I can't leave my stuff unattended.  However, there is always such a nice breeze that it is very comfortable to just sit and read or nap or people watch.  I do all three....

The other pictures are from my walk back from the beach.  I just wanted to give you all a flavor of what the streets of Yoff - a mostly residential neighborhood near the airport - are like.  Yoff is considered a nice/upper middle class suburb of Dakar.

Enjoy!!!!
The beach at Yoff

The house where I am staying is in that neighborhood in the distance

That's my spot to the left

The sand is really very fine


Here's my view
Today, there wasn't anyone else in this particular section I go to


Dogs at the beach..... I watched one of them do his business right on the sand before he went in

Exercising and showing off at the beach seem to be a very popular pass time for the Senegalese men

Oh yeah.... let's not forget these

3 very cute little girls with their mother...

One of the streets I go through on my way to and from the beach

A fruit stand

A goat looking for food

... and those that have found it

The Island of Yoff -  I don't think anyone lives there

Welcome to Bed, Bath & Beyond - the Senegalese version


Anybody need shoes???

How about furniture....

I think I found the store to buy my next party dress

This is a pretty good size grocery store

Closest thing to a department store - right on the street





Home Depot 

It's watermelon season and they're good

For both humans and animals

Not a bad place to put your laundry out to dry - a construction site by a main road

Way too many goats around looking for food

It's Christmas in Dakar

This is the bakery where I get a croissant every now and then.  They're pretty good

Soccer time

A pretty common vision - cars with missing parts

The neighborhood laundromat 

I guess it is the Michelin dealership


The local Nike store

They look good but I don't have the guts to buy them on the street.  They sit all day in the sun under a plastic cover