Perfect Day in Dakar

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I think that this afternoon might have been the most enjoyable one that I have had since coming to Dakar.

It started after school–I walked with some friends to a nail shop that a few other girls in the program have visited. The place is a hole in the wall–very close to literally. Most boutiques in Dakar look like they’re set up in a vacant garage of someone’s house (and this is true for many of them). This place looked like it was a vacant half-bath that someone had set up shop in. There was barely room for five people in the shop.

Inauspicious beginnings aside, I managed to get a totally excellent (and vaguely Toucan Sam-esque) polish change and nail shaping for 1000 CFA/$2. It was bonkers cheap, the people were nice, and at the end of it my hands were covered in glitter. There is nothing about that situation not to like.

After that, we headed back towards my own neighborhood. On the way back, we passed the local beignet lady. (There are other ladies who sell beignets, but as far as my program is considered, she is the Irene Adler of the whole industry.) There is no beignet lady in my own neighborhood, and I had never seen this one out before.

Of course I bought beignets. I got eight of them for 200 CFA/$.40. They were fresh out of the vat of oil and served with a sprinkling of white sugar in a newspaper sack. They were pretty much the best.

After that, I stopped by Ousmane the tailor’s shop. I gave him requests for two skirts, a dress alteration, and a whole new dress–this was yesterday morning. He had everything finished by tonight, and then replaced the broken invisible zipper on one of the skirts in approximately 30 seconds. Why he had an extra eight-inch lilac zipper lying around is anyone’s guess, but my current theory is that he’s magic/has invested part of his 10,000 hours in setting up zipper supplies.

With the zipper fixed and necessary alterations made to the dress (he made me a shirt dress that doesn’t gap, you guys), I finally made my request. I asked him if–seeing as my mother had requested to see a picture of the man who makes all my clothes–I could take his photo.

He laughed and said sure*. I think a Wolof equivalent for “weirdo” was tossed in there, but whatever. If I get literally nothing else from being here, my relationship with this particular tailor will have made my time here worth it. (And it’s not just me. One of my friends in the program excitedly told me the other day, “I made Ousmane laugh!” And we were duly impressed.) Dude is incredibly talented and also has a nutso supply of zippers on hand. Cannot be stopped!

Is it a little bit depressing that my best day here was pretty much entirely related to consuming things? Totally, yeah. But on some level I feel like I kind of need to get over that and enjoy what things I can enjoy here. I have 18 days left as of writing this (and 14 as of posting), and I want to leave Dakar thinking that the last four months of vague discomfort and alienation were overcome by the good things that the city has to offer. And if it’s mostly cheap things for me to buy? That is within my power, and I’m going to take it.

Because seriously, that manicure? Totally sweet.

* The photo is not being used to illustrate this entry because I didn’t ask his permission. Feast your eyes on my sweet manicure instead. Ignore the fact that I appear to be the same color as a dead cod.

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