Sunday, May 4, 2008

May newsletter from Dakar

B&G May newsletter from Dakar

Life has drastically changed now that Bernard started work in late March with Catholic Relief Service Senegal (an American NGO). His Senegalese predecessor left post suddenly, leading to a quick and desultory interview the following day and starting the next. The office and staff are friendly and located in town centre (12km) and which is easily accessible in 15mn on a just opened and smooth 4 lane seaside corniche. Despite the position being Agricultural Program Manager, the job is not very interesting as it's more admin/finance and mostly about closing down a $2.2million-2.5 yr project with bureaucratic procedures and a few leftover internal issues (overdue reports, partner mis-cooperation and glitchy budgets). But it's only until the end of July and I get to upgrade my French in a professional environment, the downside of which is having to use an AZERTY keyboard and dealing with french grammar and spelling (one can assume that the French don't like short quantitative sentences, as full stops and numbers also require the shift key and that they switched the A and Q keys so as to use the subjunctive for yet more nebulous verbosity?).

The project started in late 2005 to help farmers in 3 southern Mauritanian regions and Senegalese farmers in 10 (out of 22 regions) recover from the 2004 locust infestation which greatly affected many sahelian areas and to mitigate against recurrences. USAID then tacked on an Avian Influenza prevention and mitigation component for Senegal in 2007, cobbled from some leftover USAID funds. As usual it's difficult to work with the national government as they keep reshuffling departments, ministries and staff but field cooperation seems much better (staff probably glad to get some real money).

Road hazards: camels and Mercedes

I also spent some time in Mauritania and it is a big and empty and of dunes, camels, flowing garments, all shapes of Mercedes vehicles (why?), regular public prayers and high but dry day heat. The landscape is very photogenic, and so are the people but they don't like cameras much.

More sand and more dunes

Women's group in Kaedi, Mauritania - mostly herders, short farming season

Mauritanian camels waiting for their tourist visas to enter Senegal

Now that we're back on an income, we have found a nice, new, breezy, first floor (upstairs), 3 bedroom flat just across from B's sister so that we can keep sharing the car, washing machine, kitchen stuff, shopping, cats, magazines, etc..

We live behind the 3 arches and in front of the small planes's runway

We almost feel like newly-weds, camping indoors on plastic furniture till we can find something more affordable and tasteful. Getting utilities unofficially hooked up took “only” 2-3 weeks with much haggling (the electric company has run out of meters). The landlord and family live on the ground floor.

He is a respectable older man with a job in the agriculture weather service, is well travelled and knows English, so we get along well. The back of the flat backs right onto the quiet part of the airport with nice views, breezes and an unintended bird reserve. Gina is busy getting our flat organised, learning French with a strict but friendly Senegalese tutor and she just found a part time job teaching English to public health professionals.

On the fun side, though there has not been much time for that lately, B has gone sailing in Dakar Bay on a lovely small wooden boat, built by Mennonite friends. On Sunday afternoons we sometimes go to a local beach to swim and to look at the kitesurfers.

Senegal public transport - getting onions to market

That’s all for now and best wishes to all you northerners for a nice spring! Bises,

Bernard and Gina and the ZZs.

Skype: bernardcrenn