Wednesday, February 27, 2013

All in the Detail: Jeronimo Street Art in Dakar

Heya! I'm still kicking it in Douala, Cameroon. Just finished my room service and I am almost as enamored with the service as I was last night. Facilité, facilité, facilité....

One thing I will sayas much as I've been bad mouthing traveling lately, I am indisputably more inspired by my surroundings when on these business trips than nestled in my Dakarois cocoon. I swear, I've thought of twenty new blog posts in the past day. I know it is partially because I am alone with my thoughts for much of my time, but there is also something about taking in and confronting these less familiar surroundings that gets my wheels spinning, even if I'm here for work. Taxi rides observing the city offer a welcome respite from some of the stress I feel during the day.

Douala street scenes from the comfort of my taxi. 
Love how the pipes are displayed. All in the detail.
So I have a new idea for a series :) If you've ever seen pictures of African cities... they are not always the most picturesque. I happen to be a lover of urban landscapegritty neighborhoods and unfinished construction includedbut I will admit that the African cities I'm familiar with are not necessarily winning any urban beauty contests. But there is, of course, beauty to be found! And its subconsciously been one of my favorite past times over the years.

I am constantly noticing amazingly discrete, witty, thoughtful, intentional, beautiful, and interesting details throughout my travel in Africa. So with this new series, All in the Detail, I plan to showcase purposeful and often subtle aesthetic nuances that make me smile daily, without even thinking about it!

The inspiration for All in the Detail came from a door I noticed todaya door to a (shack) beauty salon painted purple with pink and green polka dots, smashed between two other decrepit shacks. Such a happy and colorful surprise, I wish I had taken a picture! Next time I'll think to ;)

I'll leave you with two images from Dakar that I immediately thought of to start off this series.



Now, this concept was executed by a foreigner (Belgian) and is obviously completely "intentional," but I absolutely love spotting Jeronimo's street art throughout Dakar and I have a feeling he was inspired by urban details as well. So I think its a good place to start :)


Check out this website for more about the artist and other photos of his street art in Dakar!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

La Facilité, or the Perks of Room Service

Is it wrong that I have a deep and abiding love for room-service?

Or maybe its a deep and abiding love for "la facilité" ... things that come easily. I can't deny that "la facilité" leaves me feeling relieved and blissfully unchallenged, but I also feel some guilt for appreciating the easier path.

I just discovered my hotel in Cameroon (...not a fan...) does have room service and a veil of despair, avoidance, and general grumpiness has suddenly lifted. I feel great, and pathetic at the same time. I've been subconsciously dreading having to fend for myself the past 2 hours and now I can finally relax and not worry about hunting down dinner. I didn't realize this was bringing me down so much until I felt this enormous burst of energy after biting the bullet and calling the concierge.

Perfectly average $16 meal hand-delivered to my hotel room door step. That salad did turn out a lot smaller than I expected though... and who eats avocado with ketchup?!?
In my defense, Douala is not the most welcoming city at night. As in, I've been warned not to leave the hotel alone by several people and I am definitely not a thrill-seeker in that department. Potential to be mugged/robbed/raped??? No thanks, I'm fine here, ensconced in my smelly hotel room. You would be surprised (or maybe not) that a lot of women attracted to living in Africa don't share these same aversions to (maybe perceived) danger. I was discussing Couch Surfing with some new acquaintances awhile back, and this Spanish girl told us about her friend who couch surfed in Afghanistan, Turkey, and I think Kuwait (???) with men who regularly and unabashedly asked her if she was down for sex and in countries where it was technically illegal for these men to host a woman to whom they weren't married or related. I think my face looked something like this throughout our conversation:
Um, what?!
Apparently, the men were perfectly polite when she declined wanting sex and this woman really had no problem sleeping on strange men's couches in repressive countries. A much, much braver... and crazier... woman than I!

Well, back to the main point: Mom and Dad, let it be known that I'm not into danger and the fact that my hotel has room service is the best news I've heard all day. That being said, in other environments I definitely think I should work on putting myself more out there, even if I'm alone! Let's be real: even if Douala was safe, I probably still would have chosen room service over venturing out alone. The thought of sitting in a restaurant by myself for dinner seriously repulses me. I can count the number of times I've had to do this... mostly in airports or in transit somewhere alone. And most of the time, someone comes up and talks to me and I'm miserable. Does anyone else share this fear/hatred of eating alone in public?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Out and About in Dakar: Color Inspiration

So, my mom visited me in Dakar last week. It was so much fun for me to be in Dakar as a tourist again! We went to the beach, we lounged by hotel pools, we wound through local markets, haggled for fabric and taxi rides, ate delicious food, and lots more. All the while, I snapped pictures I don't normally take the time to capture in my day to day life. Here are a few snapshots that had my mind spinning with color schemes for my living space. I used the Chip It! by Sherwin-Williams tool to make color palettes for each image... I love this handy little widget!

This beaded necklace at Ambre certainly fits in with my favorite color scheme: blue/teal and coral... though I find orange hard to capture in pictures.

Colonial architecture at the French Cultural Center...
there is that peach/coral with blue/teal again!

My mom snatched up this woven beach bag and I am still jealous!!! I LOVE this color pallet... and hope to find a similar bag to snatch up myself ;)

These were two Mauritanian fabrics I was debating between to compliment my new bedding, and maybe use for a  canopy. (I previously said I wanted Malian fabric but it was actually Mauritanian.) I'll tell you which one I picked in a future entry ;)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Tid Bits :) .... Belated

My mom left Dakar last night, and I'm just now catching up on stuff... and I leave tomorrow at 5am for three weeks. I'm not too excited, but I'm confident (and determined) that my state of mind will shift once I dive into the travel and check some things off my to do list. Right now I am just completely overwhelmed with everything that stretches before me, and everything I'm leaving here in Dakar that also needs my attention. This stress thing is honestly really hard for me to manage!

Sigh. I am a broken record.

To look on the bright side, I'm off to Cameroon first so the search for one of these Juju hats can commence!


But anyways, I put this post together when my mom first got here (last Sunday) and then didn't publish it because I wanted to add pictures. I have some other ideas for follow-up posts on her visit, and intend to write them in my downtime while traveling.

And now smattering of happiness from my mom's visit....

1) My mom arrived safe and sound in Dakar!

2) She brought my much anticipated West Elm bedding (will post a picture in a separate post)....

3) And they sent me the order TWICE and only charged me ONCE. So I now have two duvet covers and four shams... hallelujiah! (I will definitely be paying this forward in the near future :)

4) She also brought me Chipotle from the airport, a huge block of my favorite cheese, and a bunch of other lovely goodies. Thanks, Mom!

5) She is here to listen to me vent, like all good mothers do. Her moral support is absolutely invaluable.

6) We spent the afternoon at the beach today and it was both invigorating and peaceful. I need to remember to seek out the beach more often.

Fresh fish, the ocean, and a cold drink. Bliss. 

7) C. won his softball games and is going to the semi-finals tomorrow :)

8) No school tomorrow for school-y people, so people to partay with tonight!

9) A week of vacayyyyyyyy (..... kindof)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nothing Designy for Today...

So much for keeping up to a super regular schedule with these posts, although I do have quite a stock in the drafts folder... just not ready to post yet. My mom arrives very early tomorrow morning and I cannot wait! Before she gets here, my goal is to compartmentalize my work stuff from my family/personal/happy life so we can have a great week free of stress and pressure, and some productive work time for me at night. Life lately kind of reminds me of that scene from American Beauty where heads start exploding at the dinner table. I tried to find a clip from Youtube or a picture from google images.... but the search results were too gruesome to sort through!

Maybe this is more apt,

The problem is that I am obviously far from perfect (I don't like to speak up unless I feel 200% confident about something... and how often is that?, I sometimes retreat [procrastinate] when overwhelmed...) but I'm painfully self-aware. And when I don't feel great about the state of things, it pretty much eats my alive.

Two articles that are inspiring me right now (and interestingly, they are from the same two blogs I referred to in a similar past post :) ...

1) "Don’t tell me you’re busy," blog.penelopetrunk.com
Let's abolish the word busy. When you ask someone, “How have you been?” and they say, “Busy,” it doesn't mean anything. I’m sick of it. We all have the same 24 hours to fill. Everyone's are filled with something. 
The difference is that the “busy” people feel frenetic during those hours. Those of you who walk around telling everyone how busy you are, get a grip. Make some tough choices and calm down. There’s a big difference between a busy day and a full day. The former is so frantic that you aren’t effective.
Don't tell me you can't help it. You can... Recognize that a frenetic life is a life half lived.
2) "Please Don't Waste This Moment," jesslively.com
I know it can be difficult (or downright impossible) to be in a situation that doesn’t feel great. One that doesn’t allow us to reach our full potential or tap into our talents. 
But that is not an invitation for us to retract and give less than our best. To ignore what we can give and can share with others.
In the long term we all have the ability to create the lives we want. The short term is where motivation can often be most challenging when faced with difficult circumstances. 
Being in a less-than-ideal situation for the next week, month, or year makes it tempting to simply retract and purposefully hold back our most sincere efforts.

But the truth is: withholding our talents, energy, and love does us the most harm.
Though the people around us are sure to be affected by our lack of effort, we feel the most pain.
...Because deep down we know we are capable of great things. Even in difficult circumstances.  
We know we can rise above the present challenge and produce better results or serve more truly. 
As we consciously avoid putting forth our full effort we lose our joy and peace...
So here is to giving my best and feeling at peace knowing I have and will rise above and strive to put forth my "most sincere efforts." Here is to not focusing on the mistakes of the past but what I can do now to better my situation. The rest is out of my control!

Here is to finding my happy place.
Enough vagueness and mushy stuff... I'm off!

P.S. Don't worry, Mom, your visit is exactly what I need right now!!! :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Canopies, Travel Woes, and an African Outfit

Whelp, work has literally consumed my life lately... and unfortunately it shows no sign of slowing down in the near future. My lovely mother is coming to visit me next week.... very exciting! :) But unfortunately her trip to Dakar is sandwiched between my big-big-boss being in town, happening as we speak (ie. loads of high pressure meetings and an upset stomach), and then I am off on another grand three week trip all over West Africa, the day after she leaves.

Can't. Wait.

Not really. First of all, this three week trip means I won't be with C. on our two-year anniversary. Sad. Face :( :( :( And its just generally lonely traveling by myself to countries where I don't know anyone and can't easily make friends or explore on my own for safety reasons. Plus, lets be honest, I've never been the type to strike out on my own in a big city and start up conversations with strangers. I do love cities, traveling, and exploring... but with a companion(s). Even in my own city, I very, very rarely go out and do things by myself. That last time I did was to........... Um, I can't remember. In my defense, I would run errands alone in the US all the time but here shopping often involves such a hassle, I prefer to bring along a friend or a trusty boyfriend for protection and companionship. Its kind of a problem; I basically stay at home hibernating if I can't find someone to come along with me for adventures and errands alike.

Also, I'm just sick of traveling. But, the upside is I'll be able to do some mask/fabric/juju hat hunting. And I'm going back to Burkina Faso for the first time in 6 months, so I'll have a chance to really check out the local crafts for sale. If I remember correctly, BF has some stunning bronze and leather work. The leather stuff is mostly Tuareg style (for sale all over West Africa), but it looked high quality, probably because there is a higher concentration of real-life Tuareg people in this region. PS. I just looked on Wikipedia, and BF has the 3rd highest Tuareg population after Niger and Mali. Interessante. Anyways, the bronze figurines for sale here in Dakar from Burkina are hella expensive, so we'll see how I can do bargaining in-country. Pictures to come after the trip!

I should really start an African art business considering how easy it would be for me to bring stuff back to Dakar every time I travel. Not even joking...

To finish off this vent-y post on a higher note (sorry, I'm stressed from work and this is what comes out when I'm grumpy), a new bedroom idea! I had pinned this picture awhile back, but it popped back up on my Pinterest homepage recently, and then the wheels started turning...

First of all, this entire post is swoon-worthy. Second of all, I need to go to India.
This canopy project looks seriously doable, and now I can't get it out of my head. Matching curtain rods, two chains, some gorgeous fabric, and a local tailor to help pull it together since I do not sew. I was reviewing my bedroom ideas and I was starting to think my vision might be too barren/simple/frugal looking. I do want a light and airy feel, and I am on a budget, but a little character wouldn't hurt--especially as my new bedding is pretty neutral.

Here's the bed scheme again:

From this post about pillllooooowwwssss
I envision using a flimsy, airy Malian batik fabric for this canopy, with a larger pattern (not too complex), in either blue or red/coral, or some combination of both. A gorgeous fabric that I'll be happy to look at every day.

This may be bordering on awk-sauce, but here is a picture of me dressed in an outfit made of of said flimsy fabric. I originally bought this textile to make curtains for my room, but then decided the pattern was way too busy and made an outfit instead. You see how its has a different vibe from my other African fabrics...

That's me on the right. Oh, to be skinny again. Come on, New Years resolutions! Except my bangs are strangely pouffy in this pic.
In other news, I'm procrastinating so I should go now. Whoops. Promise I will be more upbeat in the future, especially as I document all the fun things I do with my mom in Senegal (and add some Travel Guides to the collection!).

Friday, February 8, 2013

AfricaStyle: The Bamileke Juju Hat from Cameroon

So, apparently these feathered Juju hats from Cameroon are all the rage in the design world. Like, truly all the rage, since.... 2010. Obviously I've been living under a rock (or actually in Africa, haha). I like them...

Via... $650
In purple.. $650.
Folded up... $650.
Two! $650
...... And since I could actually get one FROM Cameroon, I'm convinced. I want one, or even two if they can really be folded up so easily! I have never seen these in Cameroon, but I now have a mission on my hands. I am curious to know how much they would actually cost in country, after some cheeky negotiating.... after all, they are considered a sign of wealth.

PS. Here is a Juju hat actually on someone's head. What a novelty!
Check out this other blog post on juju hats, with more pictures of the real thing!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I'm so tired I can't spell fulfillment

Hey, friends. I'm still kicking it in Georgia. This week has been insanely busy and exhausting... and I have another reception in 40 minutes :( I have so much OTHER work and SLEEP to catch up on. Nonetheless, I am really enjoying this trade team. The three participants have been friendly, kind, and gentlemanly. It has been genuinely enjoyable spending so much time with them, even if I am completely spent at the end of the day! Constant translating is draining, especially about an industry with which I'm not very familiar. 

On a different note, yesterday while catching up on my daily blog reads, two little snippets really struck me. (Warning: I could not help but ramble in self-analysis. I'm sorry!)

1) According to Penelope Trunk in the article "How to pick a wife if you want to have kids" :

Women who are most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make: INFP.

Let's recall that I am a textbook INFP (with a pinch of extroversion in certain social situations). So my reaction: Whatttttt the whattttt?!?!? Obviously Penelope Trunk's blog is not the word of god, but this seriously frightens me! I read over the INFP description again and I am curious as to how she deduces that we INFP are impossible to please. I guess if typical INFP find happiness by making a difference, then yes, it may sometimes be difficult to feel adequately fulfilled. But I don't know, I'm still stumped by this less than savory prediction.

So I've been thinking about my contentedness--how difficult is it for me to feel satisfied? Am I always looking for something new, different, potentially intangible to fill a void? I don't think so. But I do worry a lot about the decisions I make, or don't make, the paths I take, or don't take... and how they will impact my ability to be happy in life. In a lot of ways I consider this self awareness a positive and necessary consciousness. But I do sometimes have a hard time following my instinct, even feeling confident about my instinct, or trusting that things will work out as they should. 

This is where her quote worries me: INFP women are "most likely to be dissatisfied in life no matter what choices they make." So all this analyzing and agonizing over life choices that will make me happy in the long run... is it all for nought? All my soul-searching, planning, crisis-prevention...  And yet she predicts I'll be unhappy no matter what path I take. Why?!?!? 

* Cue mental breakdown * 

I guess my approach has been to plan for a life that will bring my fulfillment; I have wanted to succeed in happiness, and I often worry I will make some irretractable mistake that will lead to failure in this endeavor. Maybe its time for me to reframe my perspective on happiness as a state of being rather than a prize to be won... or lost. Maybe its time for some Buddhism, haha.

I really need to think about this, especially after reading some of the comments about that line in the article. Thankfully I am not the only one who was "sucker-punched" by Penelope's harsh words!


2) On a lighter note, I liked this thought on blogging from The Little Green Notebook:
"As a blog reader, I know that I love getting to know the writer behind the blog as much as I love their great content. I love the small projects just as much as (sometimes even more than) the grandiose room reveals. I like feeling like I'm along for the ride as the blogger lets me get inside his/her head."
I definitely agree and especially like her way of describing the intrigue of the personal story behind the blogger. Glad to know I am not alone in appreciating this approach to blogging :) 

I'm back from dinner now and it is time for bed. No more thinking about whether I am doomed to a life of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. I have a feeling its not quite so simple... thankfully! ;)

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