Friday, May 31, 2013

A Streaker in Abidjan

First off, thank you so much to those of you who weighed in on which logo we should use for our Six (6? Six?) Bougies brand... tons of people "voted" on facebook, instagram, pinterest, and the blog... 

It is currently a close tie between #2 and #5, with #1 in third place. Megan and I haven't made a final decision, but it's been awesome getting so much feedback! I devised a somewhat complex scoring system and have been tallying up ;) Not obsessive, or anything....

Original post here. Vote away!

Feel free to continue giving us your opinion, we would love to hear!

Today is the last day in the Blog Every Day in May challenge. If I post today, I will have participated at about 68%... not too shabby?! Certainly better than my usual 8 posts per month... maybe. It may sound silly, but this challenge was actually quite pivotal for me. Before jumping on the bandwagon, I wasn't very dedicated to this blog and I was super-nervous about "putting myself out there" – my writing, my aspirations, my desire to actually meet people via blogging. I was also in a pretty miserable place with my job.

This challenge provided me with an outlet for my stress, opening my eyes to the therapeutic qualities of blogging. It also spurred me to really jump all in to the project Megan and I had been casually talking about for months... and we're really doing it now! So exciting :) I see a light at the end of the (employment) tunnel...

* * *

Anyways, the last prompt is to share a vivid memory. After much thought I don't really feel like getting serious today, so I thought I would share a ridiculous tidbit from one of my recent work trips.

Coke in Abidjan: "A million reasons to believe in Africa."

I will not beposting a picture relevant to this post ;)

On my last jaunt across West Africa, I spent one week in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d'Ivoire, accompanied by a Senegalese baking technician. Our task is to travel around the city performing technical demonstrations in bakeries – some planned ahead of time, some not. These trips tend to be a whirlwind of activity, with a lot of time spent in the baking underbelly of the city, with mostly (if not all) men... for reference, this bakery dialogue took place in Abidjan.

A few days into the trip, we are driving to the headquarters of a very large bakery chain, down a leafy side street in an upscale neighborhood, in the basement of a building under construction. Slightly sketch, but actually a very established business run by a Lebanese family. We'd been there a few times before.

As we drive into the parking lot, one of the workers (baking or construction, I do not know) is prancing around the small parking lot completely. stark. naked.

From a distance, it wasn't obvious... but driving up. Yeah. He had just showered and seemed to think this parking lot was a men's locker room. I suppose they aren't used to seeing women on a regular basis (though there was a female secretary!). Or he was crazy.

I did not know what to do. He had spotted me in the car and wasn't covering up... I couldn't pretend not to notice him, and I definitely did not want to make eye contact or appear to be staring. I didn't want the people around to start watching this *hilarious* encounter with a white woman and snicker at me. We were only a few feet away from the man, so I did what any normal human being would do: crouched in my seat and shielded my eyes. Because apparently I'm a Puritan who is scarred by nudity.

But really?!

My work companion, the Senegalese baking consultant, starts swearing profusely at this man's gaul.  "F*ckhk#$Jjkjfdkj#$J!!!!!" He yelled out the window.

I'm stuck in the crouch position. We park but can't get out of the car. I am NOT walking by this naked man with a group of men watching me avert my eyes.

Finally, our driver rolls down the window and screams,


A more direct translation would be, 


And so he did. And then I came out of the fetal position and strutted my stuff into that building like it ain't no thing, blushing cheeks and all. 

Oh, to be a woman working in a man's world. A Western woman, at that.

Fodder for the memoir ;)

P.S. You would be shocked at the number of naked crazy men you see walking around Douala and Abidjan in broad daylight. Its obviously sad that these people with mental health issues aren't being taken care of, but is also quite jarring to stumble upon multiple times in the day. But you do! Craziness.

On that note, goodnight and farewell, Blog Every Day in May Challenge!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Logo Fun.... A CALL FOR HELP!

I'm a day late... sorry friends. Today (yesterday) is all about pictures, and how convenient because 6 (six?) Bougies needs your help! We are in the midst of a blog redesign, making an Etsy shop, and other exciting tid bits :) We would loooove your input on potential headers/logos. 
(I put a few notes/disclaimers under the image.)

Six or 6????
Circle or oval???
Teal, white, or both???
Script or print???

Please leave your votes and opinions in the comments!!!

A few notes....
  1. #3 isn't actually a final design, just testing out the potential for a banner/label to make it easier to read. Thoughts?
  2. The colors can be tweaked on everything (you might notice the background image doesn't look exactly the same in all the logos).
  3. The blue on bougies in #5 (one of my personal favs) should be darker, so use your imagination for that one.
  4. Please excuse my rudimentary graphic design abilities (re: the collage, not the headers! Those are allll Megan :). I use Picasa as Photoshop, haha.
Thanks for the input... we're excited!

~ Kim and Megan ~

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tailor Tales: Custom Tailoring with Western Fabrics and Styles

Dear Readers,

I'm switching things up a little bit today. This Blog Every Day in May challenge has been great... and it has really pushed me to dig deeper in my posts. But, I still love me some fashion/textiles/design blogging :) And this weekend I bought some new fabric on a whim, and now the wheels are spinning!

My fashion sense is pretty... run of the mill, I think. I don't really like to splurge on clothing, unless its someone else's money ;) My every day uniform consists of skinny jeans/pants, a flowy/flattering top (not too much cleavage, not too tight), a scarf (depending on the weather), a cardigan, earrings, and flats or sandals. The end. Sensible and cute (I like to think) but not exactly pushing the envelope.

On Saturday I went with Megan and Gina to the fabric store {not traditional fabric... the Dakar version of Mood}, and I came out with something new. I always have the most success when I'm not looking for something specific! However, I took several pictures of the fabric and it looks pretty heinous. Take my word for it - its a lovely, summery chiffon! Here's the fabric, and what I'm envisioning:

My goal is for effortless, stylish comfort. A lightweight and modern kaftan to throw on in the heat. I'm excited for a new flowy summer dress! :)

P.S.... I'm really picky when it comes to having things custom made. I get quite frustrated when I have a new outfit made by a local tailor and it doesn't turn out just so. I hate, hate, hate when my clothes are unflattering or constricting and uncomfortable.  I'm regularly flabbergasted when these outfits don't fit perfectly, even though the tailor took my exact measurements. I think its because my proportions don't compare to Senegalese women, womp womp.

Here are some past (and semi-successful) Western-style and Western fabric dresses I've had made here in Senegal. The trick is finding a tailor who really understands a) Western cuts, b) chiffon/silk fabrics, and c) tailoring to flatter the body. Its also really important to have an idea of what fabrics work best for different styles, and to know what flatters your own body, of course.

Love this fabric, but the waist line tailoring didn't work out... nothing a belt couldn't fix! ;) I also wasn't a big fan of how he placed the pattern with that large horizontal stripe around my midsection.

But anyways.

My cousin's wedding in Paris! I took my dress out of my suitcase at the very last minute and put it in my carry on. Good thing because I didn't get my suitcase until the day I was returning to Senegal. Damn you, Tap Portugal! (Hence the too-light tights and cheap-ass shoes...)

The color of the dress in the above picture is closer to the actual look of the dress. The flash really brought out the (wrinkled) lining in the picture below, which you couldn't see in real life.

I wish the beading had been more intricate, like in the pictures I showed the tailor. Sidenote-this tailor was literally beading the sleeves in my living room up until ten minutes before I had to leave for the airport, muttering "This has never happened to me before, I swear!" Someone didn't manage his time well! I also had to use a pin to secure the neckline so I wasn't flashing my family members at the wedding ;) Annnnd in retrospect I would have made the waist band a little thinner. Water under the bridge now!

Check out my Pinterest board for dresses for links and other designs :)

I think I also found a new tailor this weekend who really "gets" fashion beyond the typical Senegalese styles. Here's something he had ready for a client in his workshop, modeled by the lovely Gina (its a little big on her):

Imagine this blazer {in the right size} with a solid white or black tee underneath, skinny jeans, and metallic flats. SWOON!

Wish me fashion luck! :)


This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Take II: Polygamy in the Press

Its Sunday night and I'm sleepy. Twas a relaxing weekend which brought some much needed relief from work stress. I went fabric shopping (!!) and laid out at the beach, discussing prostitution and polygamy with friends. Success, in my book.

The beach was absolutely packed today, the sky hazy and air heavy.

Today's prompt for the Blog Every Day in May Challenge is to share something I read online, leave a link, and discuss. After dropping the polygamy bomb yesterday, I wanted to round up some links on the topic of polygamy in Africa, highlighting points I find interesting or enlightening, and potentially educational for the public ;)

Before studying African studies in college (and before spending a semester in Senegal), I didn't even realize there were countries and communities where people still practiced polygamy in the open. Partially in response to this realization, I focused much of my undergraduate studies on women's rights in Africa and researched topics like female circumcision, micro-finance, polygamy, and the influence of tradition and religion on female empowerment in developing countries.

But the topic is so vast and complex, and my opinions and experiences fairly complex as well... its hard to know where to even begin tackling the subject. Its Sunday night and my head isn't in a place to sum up my thoughts and opinions in an eloquent manner. So that discussion will take place gradually on the blog as I share cultural tidbits from my time living in Senegal and traveling in West Africa, and how my perspective and understanding has evolved and deepened over time.

Finding relevant articles turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I don't really think these articles paint a complete picture of the topic, but they are informative nonetheless. Also the tone a lot of journalists use to write about polygamy is aggravating, and their perspective limiting. Those caveats aside...

1) Here is one somewhat interesting article I found, "On Thursday, It's Wife No. 3 in Polygamous West Africa," from almost ten years ago.
Today, Sene's three wives have separate apartments in the luxurious villa of high ceilings and grayish-white-streaked marble floors. 
At night, the wives often gather in their husband's room to watch TV, before two retire to bed, leaving just one behind. 
"Polygamy is in the mind," Sene said, his wives signaling agreement. "Those who have not experienced it don't know anything about it and therefore criticize it."

2) And then I stumbled upon this article, African Women in France Battling Polygamy, discussing polygamy in African immigrant communities in France... from 1996!
Mr. Djaara asserts that polygamy is hardest for the husband because his wives fight a lot, he has his job and does all the shopping. He shops because he must control all the money, he said. 
Given his complaints, why does he want more than one wife? "My father did, my grandfather did, so why shouldn't I?" Mr. Djaara said. 
"When my wife is sick and I don't have another, who will care for me?" Besides, he said, "one wife on her own is trouble. When there are several, they are forced to be polite and well behaved. If they misbehave, you threaten that you'll take another wife."

3) A similar article in the New York Times on polygamy in New York African immigrant communities.
“It’s difficult, but one accepts it because it’s our religion,” said Doussou Traoré, 52, president of an association of Malian women in New York, who married an older man with two other wives who remain in Mali. “Our mothers accepted it. Our grandmothers accepted it. Why not us?” 
“The woman is in effect the slave of the man,” said a stylish Guinean businesswoman in her 40s who, like many women interviewed in Harlem and the Bronx, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you protest, your husband will hit you, and if you call the police, he’s going to divorce you, and the whole community will scorn you.” 
“Even me,” she added. “My husband went to find another wife in Africa, and he has the right to do that. They tell you nothing, until one afternoon he says, ‘O.K., your co-wife arrives this evening.’ ”
4) This simple blog post by a study abroad student from a few years ago was interesting too, especially the comment by Kineh (who I would guess is Senegalese):
But, in fact, many of Senegalese women ARE NOT in love, neither loving, their husbands. The main responsibility and chastity of a husband is not sexual fidelity, but sufficent financial support. That is why many women accept becoming second, third or fourth wife... and that is also the main reason why many first wives do not want to have a co-wife; not because of jealousy (eventhough that occurs too, often), but mainly because of material reasons.
 5) And if you're interested in a headache, check out this academic article written by an Oxford professor who reduces polygamy in Africa to a mathematical equation. I can't help but chuckle at academia when I read articles like these nowadays! {I'll be honest, didn't make it past the introduction.}

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wide Hips and Polygamy

Today on the Challenge: Something someone told you about yourself that you'll never forget.

Senegalese fashion show #1, circa 2008.

When I first, first, first came to Senegal back in August 2008 (almost five years ago!), I was a study abroad student living with a Senegalese host family. It amazes me to think back on how my perspective and understanding of Senegal has changed since those first few weeks and months. 
Despite our classes and activities on Senegalese society and culture, I understood so little! 

I was 20 at the time and my host sister was 13 going on 18. We often spent evenings in my room or on the roof in case of a power outage, comparing the U.S. and Senegal, whispering about her latest love interest, and spying on the neighbors.

On one such evening, Aïda sat on my bed chattering as I prepared to go out with friends. At this point, I was already well-aware that the Senegalese are direct when they comment on your appearance. People will mention your "jayfondé" (badonkadonk) upon first meeting you, or chime in with opinions on whether you have lost or gained weight. Oh, you have a pimple on your forehead? Someone will be sure to point out that large and very red "mosquito bite." Nowadays I just find it comical :)

But that night, Aïda laid back on my bed and began to really observe my derrière with a critical eye. I braced myself for her remark.

"You know, Kim. You don't exactly have a jayfondé {booty}. Your butt is actually quite flat. But you DO have hips. Wow, your hips are really wide. Men love wide hips."

Oh, man. I am chuckling. At the time I was horrified. Awesome. My butt is flat, but THANK GOODNESS I've got wide hips. I'm saved! That being said, her analysis was pretty spot on.
I'm not in denial; my derrière in no way resembles the amazing curves of most Senegalese women. {I wish!} But, my hips don't necessarily lie either ;) She really hit the nail on the head with her apt description of my posterior. 

I will certainly never forget it, nor that first lesson on the bluntness of the Senegalese.

Senegalese fashion show #2, circa 2011.

* * *

A bonus shocker from Aïda: One day I was helping her prepare a meal in the kitchen and I asked where my host dad had gone as I hadn't seen him in a few days. She looked at me with a strange expression in her eye and continued with her work, mumbling that he was traveling. I didn't think much of it.

That night we sat on the roof top terrace, enjoying the cool night air and surveying the neighborhood from our perch. She leaned in and whispered that her dad had two wives, and he alternated spending two days with her mother and his second wife.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. I knew polygamy was very common in Senegal; I had studied it in textbooks and read Une Si Longue Lettre. I wan't that naïve. But my host parents were both highly educated, successful, with significant careers. They also appeared to be a very "normal" and affectionate couple. It had never crossed my mind that they might be amongst the statistics I had studied. 

I won't get into my opinions on this subject as I could probably write a novel on the topic {women, patriarchy, life in Senegal}. I certainly have my feelings that have evolved over the years as I have lived in Senegal for longer periods of time and interacted with women in various situations. And these opinions have been influenced by my own experience as a woman in Senegal.

One day I'll post about it ;)

But for now, this was another poignant reminder that things are often not as they seem, especially living abroad!

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Three Worst Traits

Diving right into Day 24 for Blog Every Day in May (... which I clearly haven't, whoops). But I'm hoping for a resurgence this last week! Work is slowing down, just slightly. Don't want to jinx anything, but I am hesitantly crawling out of the pit of work despair. 

We shall see. Insh'allah.

Right now THIS weekend is upon us (though I do have work tomorrow) and I am starting to plan for a weekend away with my lovahhh in less than 7 days.  Can't wait to escape and unwind and unplug. And before that happens I am getting all my admin stuff DONE. Next Friday will be a glorious day. Again, Insh'allah.

^^ A building under construction protected with colorful plastic prayer mats. Love the unintentional mosaic, spotted while driving around this week for work.
Until then, back to the challenge. My top three worst traits.

1. I procrastinate. A lot.

I guess this is fairly common, but I would be willing to bet my procrastination veers towards the abnormal and unhealthy, particularly because it comes out most when I am overwhelmed. I procrastinate... I avoid... and the stress mounts. This vicious cycle continues until some absolutely unavoidable deadline or consequence forces me to get my shit together and PRODUCE. And then I'm super efficient and productive. 

And I'm left to wonder, bleary eyed and exhausted, "Why did I ever allow myself to get so stressed, so behind?!?"

The same thing happens every. single. time. and I have yet to learn.

P.S. When the task in question is something I'm passionate about, I don't procrastinate. In fact, I work really well under pressure (by necessity!) and this does pay off, sometimes. Hence why I really need a job that I love. Working on it.

2. Sometimes, I'm not as happy for people as I should be. *Cringe*

I feel like that automatically makes me a biatch. Well, let me just say, it really depends. Most of the time, I am beside myself elated at the success and happiness of my loved ones. This often includes high voices, screaming, and jumping up and down.

But on a few occasions, I have been known to let other factors get in the way of being purely happy for a loved one. It might be due to envy at their success {gulp, hard to admit} or because I've been feeling dejected or slighted by said friend. Who knows. I am always disappointed in myself when I recognize this reaction in me. Very much working on it.

3. I'm hesitant to speak up, particularly in groups or high-pressure situations. 

I don't like making a fool of myself (who does?), but I allow this to stop me from taking important risks and speaking my mind when it matters! For example, I very rarely participated in class throughout high school and college. I would spend the entire class formulating a comment in my head, and either wait so long someone else said it or decide it didn't sound smart enough.

How silly of me! I know, in theory, that this is silly behavior... 

And yet, I still struggle with it, especially in intimidating work environments. I am painfully self-aware which only exacerbates the problem as I imagine 3498448 justifications to hold back as I picture myself appearing... dumb.

Ugh, I exhaust myself with these pointless insecurities when it comes to public speaking!

* * *

And now for C.'s perspective on my 3 worst traits. Yes, I asked for it, haha. 

1. My tendency to correct him in English or translate for him when he already understands... Supposedly ;) Point taken. Sounds obnoxious.

2. My need to share important/scandalous/interesting updates with a multitude of people... or anyone who will listen!!! Sometimes before him. For example, telling my bff about something ridic my boss said on gchat before I turn to tell him in real life.

Its true, I'm a sharer. Its also called being a girl, and sharing with like-minded girls ;)

3. I'm lazy. Or as I like to call it, low-energy. I've talked about this on here before, but I can easily fall into the "Netflix trap." Ie. Once I'm comfortable and cozy, there's little hope for outside activity. But thrown into a physical task, or something out of my comfort zone for whatever reason, I'm fine! I enjoy it! C. is very active and high energy so I can see why this frustrates him... I like that we're different in this respect because he pushes me to do more than I might otherwise.

But, this is definitely a point well taken.

At this point, pretty much all hope is lost. Especially with a snuggly puppy in tow. Just being honest!

Alright, enough self-abuse for tonight... I am off to bed :) Happy weekend, friends!

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unveiling 6 Bougies and the DWG Spring Bazaar

Saturday was a great day! My good friend and fellow expat Megan and I are working on a project that involves 6 Bougies as a brand for home goods, jewelry, and other creations inspired by and incorporating African fabrics purchased in Senegal and along my travels through West Africa. Megan has an extensive background in art and art education and has already done a lot of the legwork on her own.

Hi Megan! Hi 6 Bougies!

The details of our joint project are very much still in the works, and we have a lot of ideas being formed and figured out. But we're both very excited at the prospects and sharing the progress little by little on this blog and other forms of social media :)

We spent the day promoting the blog, selling Megan's creations, perusing the work of other artists and designers in Dakar, and soaking in the sunshine on the grounds of the Dutch Ambassador's residence in Senegal for the Dakar Women's Group Spring Bazaar.

Ta da! Pillow cases on the left, tote bags hanging from the tree, and some gorgeous handmade jewelry by Megan! Most of the pillow fabric comes from my travels to Ivory Coast.

She also happens to have baller style ;)

It was really interesting getting some initial feedback on "6 Bougies" as a brand. For example, some French speakers were actually expecting that we sell candles (bougies means candle or spark plug in French). Hey, maybe we need to add a signature candle to our product line?!

Others were familiar with the Vlisco brand that inspired the name, and some people had never heard of Vlisco or knew little about the stories behind many African fabrics, like the original Six Bougies pattern. But almost everyone who stopped by was interested and intrigued by the name... so we think that's good?!

Tassels from Morocco. I call dibs on the earrings on the left!

We're curious, what comes to your mind when you hear or see 6 Bougies as a brand name? And if you happened to be at the Spring Bazaar, please say hi!

We also have a fair amount of pillow cases, bags, and necklaces still for sale... please email me ( if you are interested! Megan is returning to the U.S. in a few weeks and will start selling things online and organizing shipment :)

P.S. At some point I'll be doing another post on some other super-talented and creative vendors at the bazaar :)

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Heart Blogland

Five of my favorite blogs and why I enjoy them... ready, set, go! Of course narrowing down my choices was no easy task ;)

First a little Sunday recap. Today was spent catching up on some much needed rest and quality time with C. We also watched First Position, which had me in tears and I totally recommend. I slept horribly last night (/did I even sleep?) and had stress dreams about work in anticipation of the arrival of yet another consultant. I headed to the airport early this morning and gobbled down an egg sandwich in a shack next to the parking lot as I waited. The attendant escorted us to the wooden bench, flies buzzing about, with a gallant "Welcome to the Airport restaurant!" :)

I have completely lost my appetite these past two weeks due to my anxiety; I guess the only positive side effect is that I've lost a few unwanted pounds! My life will be my own again in 10 glorious days.

This picture is from over two years ago! Flashback to carefree times. Sigh.

Anyways, blogs, blogs, blogs.

1) The first would obviously have to be Megan at Across the Pond, as I gushed in my blog crush post as part of this challenge. Love her and love her blog!

2) Now, I will admit that despite not being ready for children myself, I do have a thing for "mommy" blogs. But I also have a HUGE thing for intelligent, quirky, and opinionated blogs. And for those reasons I love Girls Gone Child, written by Rebecca Woolf. I started reading through her archives, got hooked, read her book, and now follow her daily. Also, we both wrote for Chicken Soup for the Soul back in the day ;)

3) I haven't been so focused on design in my May posts, but originally I envisioned this blog as a place purely devoted to Africa-inspired design. Then I realized I can't help but write about my life too. And other stuff. All to say, I LOVE design and decor blogs. A few favorites: Amber Interior Design (my favorite interior designer everrr), The Little Green Notebook, Peppermint Bliss, and Justina Blakeney, among others. This is where I need a favorite blogs tab to go on...

4) Then I've got a few blogs I read purely for the quality of the writing and the humanity so apparent in their narratives. A favorite in this category (especially her archives) is Irretrievably Broken, a writer and scholar who chronicles her divorce anonymously with exquisite and often heart-wrenching prose.

5) And finally the category of self-help/career advice. I've quoted both of them before, and really enjoy thought-provoking blog posts from Jess Lively and Penelope Trunk. These women could not be more different in their approaches and opinions to career advice. And Penelope Trunk can be quite inflammatory... not sure I agree with her on several points. But I'm consistently inspired by both Jess and Penelope and especially love the articles on personality types by Penelope (start here), and the entries I linked to from Jess in this post.

Yup, so that's 9 blogs I read... out of over 100.

Obviously I heart blogs :)

I could really go on, but my bed needs to be cherished before Week Three of Crush Kim's Soul commences on Monday morning :D

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Teenage Trip to Peniscola

I had a wonderful Saturday and can't wait to share all about it on the blog, but that post is slated for Monday ;) See, I'm planning posts in advance. Progress!

In the mean time, I will carry on with Blog Every Day in May with a vivid and descriptive story from my childhood.

At age 13, I travelled to Peniscola with my French grandparents, their 12 year old tutee Kevin, and Amelie, a family friend and the senior at 15 years old. Peniscola is a beach city in Valencia on the Spanish Mediterranean coast (with a rather... provocative name). I normally spent my childhood summers at my grandparents' house in the south of France, so this jaunt to Spain was somewhat out of the ordinary.


It stands out vividly in my memory as my first dip into adolescence and a summer of (tame) firsts.

I remember the swimsuit I wore every day to the local beach. A silver metallic tankini. I remember the exquisite pain of being thrown against the pebble beach by enormous navy waves. I remember learning, quite quickly, to dive into these waves rather than be slammed against the rocky shore. We found a sandy beach half way through the trip and spent the rest of our days at this new location.

I remember turning my back on my towel and returning to find my beach bag robbed by some riffraff on a motorbike (witnessed by two women sitting nearby). Ciao ciao, discman, library book, and library card.

I remember lunch with the owner of the rental house and being scolded for sniffling at the table. Apparently in French culture (and maybe Spanish), its more acceptable to blow your nose at the table than sniffle. Who knew?!

I remember staying up late with Amelie and Kevin to watch inappropriate movies dubbed in Spanish after my grandparents had retired to bed. I recall a racy movie involving Cyndi Crawford and train tracks.... I also remember standing back quite enviously as Amelie found herself a summer boyfriend. Harumph. This pattern repeated itself for many years to come.

I remember a cut on my knee from earlier that summer that became infected by the salt water and turned brown from sun exposure. I wear that scar to this day. I remember my constantly blood shot eyes from spending so much time in the (polluted) ocean. I remember peeling the sunburn off Amelie's shoulders like chimpanzee brethren.

I remember being catcalled by Spanish men as I walked to the phone center wearing a towel around my waist. Meowing, whistling, kissing noises by older men in the presence of my grandfather! My second experience being publicly objectified by men... the first was the previous summer in Italy, at age 12. Yup.

And I remember not so much the actual incident, but proudly retelling the night Amelie, Kevin, and I stealthily snuck out of the house to sit on the pebble beach not far from our rental house. I think we lasted thirty minutes. (I may have urged us to get back to the house before our escape was discovered.) 

There were no cigarettes, no alcohol... just an odd group of pubescent kids testing the boundaries, backs on the rocks, eyes to the night sky, waves crashing in the background... a first taste of rebellion.

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Seeking Resilience

This week. 

This week may live in infamy as one of the most stressful, soul-crushing weeks ever. Work-wise, at least.

I had all intentions to keep up with the blog every day in May challenge, but its just been out of my control these past several days. Its been one of those weeks where you think you make progress, you think you overcome obstacles... only to be knocked down again and again, further down the second, third, and fourth time around.

I do hope to regroup, rejuvenate, and get back to posting regularly. But right now what I need is a vacation on a remote island far, far away with no email, no responsibilities, a cold drink in my hand, and a book to numb my brain. 

That's not happening, unfortunately.

Whelp, anyways. A favorite picture of myself and why? I've posted this picture before, but it feels particularly fitting today. I wish it were better quality but I lost the original when my computer crashed awhile back, so the facebook relic will have to suffice.

To be honest, despite the idyllic setting, I was not in a happy place at the time this picture was taken. Putting things in perspective, this time in my life was actually far more personally trying than what I am dealing with right now. 

BUT, I was actively searching refuge and rejuvenation, and that search and constant struggle to rise above carried me through difficult times. So not only am I sitting on the beach reading, as I would love to be doing right now... its also quite in line with my current situation. Inspiration... you could say, even if its hard to soak in at the moment.

Seek out resilience.

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I Miss.

Tonight, and most nights, I miss my family, first and foremost. 

In honor of Mother's Day.

I miss waking up in my childhood home, to the presence of my mom in a rocking chair at the foot of my bed, talking to me as if I'm awake and ignoring my pleas to let me sleep just a little bit longer! I miss her french toast and bacon (oh, how I miss bacon). I miss being able to call her from DC (for free and with no time limit!) after a day at work with my crush to rehash each and every word exchanged between coworkers, and what those words might truly signify. 

I miss being called upstairs to tuck in my brother, the sound of a small kiss blown my way across the dark room as I linger at the door.

I miss tiptoeing into the kitchen to make myself a stealthy snack of bread and my dad's precious French cheese, only to be caught in the act, mid-scrumptious-bite. I miss preparing my dad his own snack to share in cheese conspiracy.

I miss pillow fights and bedtime stories with the twins. I miss careless afternoons splashing in the pool with the boys, reminded of my own childhood and the hours spent in a nautical world of mermaid romance and explorers chasing lost treasure.

I miss my grandfather's dedication to protecting my innocence as a budding teenager spending her summers with French youth in village parking lots and night swimming in friends' pools. He was always quite punctual (if not conveniently early) in retrieving me from said excursions. (Really, he had nothing to worry about. My shyness was protection enough.)

I miss people dear to me, moments, and feelings. I miss my childhoodthose transitional times that felt unending and ethereal in the moment. 

I miss conjuring a vivid family memory from yesterday, last week, last month. 

At this transitory stage in my life, my memories to draw from may be fewer and far between, but ever so meaningful and deeply engraved in my history.

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On Blogging Every Day in May

Ugh, I failed... didn't post on Friday :(

Yesterday was one of those days. Actually, this Blog Every Day in May challenge falls at a particularly inopportune time for me, based on my work schedule and the pressures and deadlines I'm facing right now. If only I could go into more detail... just trust.

This picture has nothing to do with this post, just a walk down memory lane: visiting Scotland in 2009. Lovely!

BUT, part of the reason I was (and still am) so intent on sticking to this objective is because I want to blog regularly in spite of my crazy work schedule... because, in all honesty, it will always be crazy. My job is just demanding and stressful by nature. 

This blog brings me much needed joy and therapy and acts as an invaluable creative outlet where I can unload and tend to a side of myself that is otherwise neglected. I need this escape!

So this challenge for me is personal: How can I carve out the time and dedication necessary to this blog while managing everything else? I'm learning a lot. I need to write posts in advance when I do have some spare time. When I can, I need to set aside a specific time each day to devote to writing and brainstorming, and I need to hold myself accountable. 

Well, anyways. Yesterday was especially terrible. I worked until 10pm, and I came home absolutely destroyed by the stress and heaviness of the day. I'm just fighting to maintain my sanity at this point. 

But despite the "inconvenience" of taking time to blog when I'm stressed and overwhelmed, it absolutely pays off. The comments I've received and contacts I've made these past two weeks have played a huge role in lifting my spirits and giving me some hope! So not only do I need this escape, I especially need it when its hard to find the time to write. That might be when I need it most. 

I'm dozing off... I haven't followed the past two prompts, I hope to catch up eventually.

Good nightttttt!

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

One Moment: Relief and Buses

^^The back view of a Ndiaga Ndiaye yesterday, public buses here in Dakar... not to be confused with Car Rapides!

The drive home from work is an enormous relief, and I never tire of the colorful buses that dot the streets of Dakar as we make our way home. A stop in traffic provides a rare opportunity to capture one of these buses on camera, in motion. Notice the French and Senegalese flags. "Talibé Cheikh" represents the followers of a Muslim leader called Cheikh, who run this bus company. 

I love the attention to detail on these hand-painted buses, like this fabulous car rapide I snapped at the market a few years ago...

The eyes! The flags! The color!

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On Seeking a Fascinating Life

Some people are naturally drawn to adventure, to thrill seeking, to constantly pushing the edge of their comfort zone. 

Despite the unconventional nature of my life these days, I'm not actually one of those people. It takes very intentional decision-making (and pushing through overbearing fear and worry) for me to surround and place myself in situations that will force me to grow, evolve, and further discover the world. 

I felt nauseous for months (and lost at least 10 pounds) after I made the decision to move to Africa post graduation. And trust me when I say I can easily fall victim to the cocoon of the couch and Netflix... even in Africa.

But, confronted with and in the midst of opportunities for growth, I thrive. And I know this about myself. Overcoming the initial hurdle of getting there... that's a different story. 

This quote is advice for me, and maybe for you too... a reminder to get off the couch and seek out the fascinating life!


P.S. I feel like I've written a novel this past week of the blog every day in May challenge. Work has been and will continue to be crazy (again, fodder for the memoir!) and my inspiration is sometimes dry... but I am determined to see this challenge through ;)

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fear, the Crux of It

I promised myself I'd get through the Blog Every Day in May challenge, so here I am.... 35 minutes to my deadline.

Today was less than stellar. Work blows. My grandfather went into emergency surgery this afternoon. (He's in recovery now, thank God... still not completely out of the woods, but closer.)

I don't feel so inspired to answer the question of what I am most afraid of; I don't really feel like digging deep, or even digging witty and pithy.

So let's make this short and sweet. Or maybe, bitter.

I discovered I was afraid of heights on this day. One panic attack later, I semi-conquered my fear.

* * *

I'm afraid of dying.

I'm afraid of losing loved ones.

I'm afraid of not identifying my potential, or true calling.

I'm afraid of not fulfilling that potential. I'm afraid of underachieving.

I'm afraid of disappointing people in the process.

I'm afraid of not knowing how to measure success.

I'm afraid of repeating or recreating mistakes.

I'm afraid of divorce. 

I'm afraid of single parenthood.

I'm afraid of taking people for granted... and realizing it too late.

I'm afraid of making irreparable wrong decisions.

* * *

Alright, now that I'm sufficiently depressed, its time for bed. Haha, jk, jk.

Maybe it's because my day was awful and I'm feeling really blasé, but I'm kind of okay with these fears. Maybe it's because I'm already acquainted with loss and disappointment.

Life is, by nature, scary. And you deal. And as much as any of these major things out of my control would suck.... they're out of my control. So no point in living in fear. You take things as they come.

As for the fears that are within my control. Whelp, that's what introspection and growth are all about... and blogging my feelings ;)

Nightskis, friends.

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Monday, May 6, 2013

What I Do

"If you couldn't answer with your job, 
how would you answer the question 'what do you do?'"

Welcoming committee at the airport in Douala, Cameroon.

I eat Senegalese lunchrice and fish (cost $1) at 3pmon a console in an electrical supply store, alongside the store employees.

I befriend bakery workers across West Africa, fielding enquiries that sometimes go like this:
1) What's with Michael Jackson??? Why did he want to turn white???
2) Explain to me the drug trade with South America. How do they get past the metal detectors at the border??
3) Why do Americans get so many hideous tattoos all over their bodies?
4) Are karate/martial arts popular in America?
I translate a technical visit in a meat factory in Burkina Faso, where I have the great pleasure of learning how sausages are made in the third world. I have no choice but to taste the finished product.

I guide African visitors through the maze of stores like Target and Best Buy, advising on the benefits of Andorid versus Apple tablets, on shoe sizes for children back home.

I respond that "No, I'm not lonely in my hotel room tonight. Thank you very much."

I navigate corners of the world I never imagined visiting in this lifetime, alone.

Sometimes I am pushed to the edge of my tolerance and adaptability as I navigate foreign business practices and environments.

And yet I am repeatedly struck by the universality of hospitality, openness, and goodwill across all cultures.

I dream of starting my own business in an industry about which I'm truly passionate... design, decor, human rights, female empowerment.

I dream of pursuing my vision in this wild world where I thrive on teranga*, sensory stimulation, and the sea breeze.

*Teranga is the cornerstone of Senegalese culture, a principle rooted in hospitality and sharing.

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Amourette d'une blogger (?!)

Oof, if I don't post in the next 30 minutes I will fail on blogging every day in May! Must persevere!

Let's just say I'm new to the interactive blogging world. I've blogged for awhile, and love reading other blogs, but I've never been one to comment. I've either felt intimidated, or shy, or self conscious about my blog (or lack thereof)... whatever, I made excuses. So you could classify me as blog lurker more than anything.

Now I'm treating this Blog Every Day in May challenge as my chance to come out of the blogger's closet... no more being shy! Since we have an opportunity later in the challenge to list some of our favorite blogs, I'll take this chance to talk about a blog I love written by someone I think I'd click with in real life as well ;)

Let me profess a blog crush that has constituted my one-sided stalking/lurking for months! Nope, not weird at all ;)

Megan at Across the Pond, I <3 your blog!

When I first discovered Megan's blog, I went back in the archives and read every post. Yup, all of them. From the beginning. It took a few days but it was totally worth it :) And I was sad when I was up to date!

Megan's smart, witty, stylish, and hilarious. She has made the most of some difficult experiences and circumstances. We're both expats, and without knowing the details, I can relate to overcoming heartbreak abroad... and finding new love.

I absolutely love her posts on Stephen's accent/misunderstandings/silly quotes. In fact I was just thinking today how some of C.'s superstitious habits could make for similar blog fodder. She inspires!

Soooometimes lifestyle blogging can tread ever so slightly towards self absorption (I've definitely been guilty). Then again, that's part of the appeal! But Megan walks this line so admirably. I'm also constantly inspired by her brevity... ugh, if only I could make my points in fewer words, with equal laughs!

All in all, I think Megan has the innate ability to document her life while not taking it too seriously, providing laughs, tender moments, cute clothes, new t.v. shows, and hilarious family videos. Also she's gorgeous. Megan's posts often leave me chuckling awkwardly in front of my computer screen, reflecting on life as an expat, and generally rooting for her success and happiness.

There you have it! My blog crush!

P.S. Megan, if you've ever wondered who's reading your blog in Senegal, West Africa... now you know ;)  

This post was written as part of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge (2013).
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