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Published: April 10th 2010
African Renaissance statue
(Statue is at top of hill and photographer was sideways)
Just before Easter weekend I spent a few days out of Kaolack. First to Dakar for gathering of those here with IFESH (International Foundation for Education and Self-Help). There were several other things I had wanted to do, but those did not materialize. I had wanted to meet a few people and do some sightseeing. Instead I soaked in the environment and just enjoyed being there. I also went to stay with a friend in a nearby town. She was pretty busy and the accomodations were modest. Still I was able to attend Independence Day parade there. Very Cool. As long as I go with the flow, the final results are just fine.
A vestige of colonialism is that Christian holidays are still observed in this Muslim country. Schools are closed for 2 weeks for Easter. Since there are numerous Muslim holidays, education suffers some. Simultaneously, April 4th Senegal celebrated 50 years of independence, and it was a big deal. Several other African countries have their 50th in 2010 and attending the others' makes each bigger. The president invited about 100 Americans, including Jesse Jackson.
One major event was the inauguration of "African Renaissance" a statue bigger than the
Statue of Liberty. It is controversial since very expensive, built by North Koreans, and not locals; it shows a woman dressed in what one reporter called a wisp of clothing-- not to the liking in this majority conservative Muslim society.
To try avoiding crowds and traffic I left Dakar the day before independence. Did not work. Transportation was hard to find and trucks still caused plenty of congestion. I went to stay with a friend. If I had stayed in Dakar or gone bac to Kaolack I would probably not have attended the parades there. That would have called for looking for taxis and a good vantage point. Neither was a problem where I was and this was nice. Lots of schools had kids there. Some were chosen because of good grades. What a great way to reward students! Musicians and dancers were good. Girls'and Women's groups were well represented: those in agriculture, fishing, restaurant owners, beauticians, supporters of education for girls, and they were very conspicuously put in the military contingents. It looked like went to get her hair done just before and they were beautiful. It was hard to take pictures but I just held my arm
high and snapped. The flavor of the event came thru in some.
With independence in the thinking, a couple conversations went to personal outlooks on that. My counterpart in a small town knows and is known by many. Personality is a part of that. It is also the big fish in a small pond issue. Small means less crime, more warmth, more laid back. Unlike many people, I still like the anonymity of the city. In Senegal I am already an oddity as a foreigner; I don't want any more attention. Places where people can more easily keep tabs feel stifling to me. The greater freedom has a price, but it is preferable to me. Always 2 sides to a coin.
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