Sunday, December 13, 2009

Artisan Expo

This weekend was yet another whirlwind filled with trips to Dakar, yummy food (thanks family back home!), and art. Friday afternoon, after spending my morning running failed errands, I set out for Dakar. Luckily I had a quick ride because I was sitting next to man who incessantly hit on me the entire way even though I put in my iPod and completely ignored him.

The regional house in Dakar has been a zoo since Thanksgiving because all of the volunteers who are a year or more in are going home for the holidays. Those bastards. While I may be infinitely jealous of their impending voyages to the promised land, it's not as hard as I thought it would be to talk about home and it's amusing talking about habits we've picked up here in Senegal that are completely inappropriate in the States. These habits include, but are not limited to, picking one's nose, hissing to get someone's attention, and obviously... eating with your hands followed by licking your hands clean. Luckily the US also has things like Kleenex and forks to help with this process... that is, if people remember how to use them.

Since I'm completely exhausted from all the back and forth I've been doing since Thanksgiving and I'm trying to save money since Christmas, New Years, and WAIST (the infamous West African Softball tournament) are all on this pay period, I brought some of my new goodies sent from home for Katherine and I to make at the regional house. Friday night we had gnocci and tomato sauce (thanks mom!) and last night we had pizza! I have to give a shout out to my cousins Adam, Ben, and Sarah for this one because Katherine and I were fending off other vultures (volunteers) from out amazing pizza crusts, pepperoni, pizza sauce, and portabella mushrooms. We added some good cheese and onions and I must say we create a masterpiece. It was amazing. In other food related news, I will admit that I splurged on some fried chicken today and while I feel like a fatty I am completely unapologetic because it was crispy deliciousness.

After going out Friday night and sleeping outside because there weren't any beds open at the regional house, we got up early on Saturday for the Artisan Expo - the reason I was in Dakar. I met Dioss' mom and sister at the event. As I've mentioned Dioss' whole family is very artistic... and prolific. When I got to the American Club (place where PCVs hang out and location for the expo) Madam Ly (Dioss' Mom) and Khady (sister) had already set up... or so I thought. They were only halfway unpacked and I scurried around the American Club stealing more tables and chairs because they brought an absolutely absurd amount of merchandise. There were literally thousands of pieces of jewelry and a lot of art that Dioss and his dad created. It was insane and our booth spilled out in the general square. Oh well... we're bad ass.

It was also really cool to see the artisans that other volunteers are working with. Katherine is working an awesome tailor who makes very cool hoodies and bags that look like Longchamp bags. The girl who works with the juice makers that I met on tournee was there as well as some other jewelry vendors, a wood carver, another bag stall, and a few miscellaneous other booths. Dioss' art was definitely the most unique product at the expo and we were the big money makers for the weekend.

While I was very happy with the results of the expo, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Dioss and his family keep no form of ledger nor do they keep track of costs or inventory. There were other artisans at the expo who are much more advanced in that regard. The family is very smart and very motivated, but we will have to start at the beginning with lessons about separating personal and business expenses, direct and indirect costs, and just the discipline it takes to write everything down. After the expo, I'm really excited to get to work because I know that I can help them, and especially Dioss, take their business to the next level. Another aspect of taking the business to the next level is addressing the quality of some of the jewelry. I actually bought a necklace from the other jewelry vendor because Madam Ly's goods all are very generic, very Pier 1. They also brought a lot of cheap, plastic, Made in China bracelets, which they definitely should discontinue purchasing if they are mainly targeting Westerners. We have a lot of work to do.

Yesterday was the big day at the expo and this morning Talla did a formation on costing and traffic was slow. I spent the day being incredibly antsy all I wanted was to get back to Thies and have my own space and just stop moving around. I also feel badly that I've missed sessions with my typing ladies and my girls at Keur Yaay. So, as soon as the expo ended I jumped in a cab and went to the garage where I was very nervous because the garage was dead. Usually when I'm on the Dakar/ Thies route I have to fight for a position in a car because there are so many people. Today I was the first person in the sept-place and had to wait over half an hour until it filled up and we were ready to go. I am spoiled because I live on the main national high-way so this wasn't really a long wait... but I wanted to get home, which I did in record time. Once we got on the road it only took a little over an hour.

Now I'm in my room making some Chinese food Shirley sent me because we had the traditional Sunday meal of millet + milk + sugar combo, which my mom made... When my mom makes things I know that I need to be scared because it contains 5x the amount of sugar than when anyone else makes it... hence the Chinese. I could barely stomach it.

Check out my new pictures and Happy Hanukkah (night 3)!


  1. Yes you do have a lot of work ahead of you but more importantly you have an amazing product. Both Dioss and his father have fantastic work. I love the paintings.

  2. Chinese food for Hanukkah.....very traditional! Don't forget to save some Chinese for Christmas dady!!!