Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dakar Nest: Summer Daydreams for the Home

Why is it my imagination is absolutely a-flow with ideas and inspiration in this time of material want? Months passed without much inspiration or motivation, money dwindling on the usual uninspiring yet necessary purchases. And now... well, the wheels are spinning, the wallet empty. So in the meantime I content myself with collecting images for when the time is right, mentally designing spaces as I wait in line, as I fall asleep at night, whenever it strikes me...

++ A courtyard garden – I am dying for flowers and greenery to overflow our small yet potentially quaint space:

Like so...

++ Climbing flowers for our prison-like bedroom windows...

Either of these would be much better:

Via and via.

++ Craft idea: A wire sign with a Wolof phrase (Salaamalekum? Nangadef?) for the entry, inspired by Anthropologie...

++ Bunting with African wax scraps - I might actually be able to afford this! ;)


++ A custom upholstered headboard in African wax - just picture it!


++ A painted ceiling in the bedroom - a lighter peach, or blush... sunset inspired to play up on the beautiful afternoon light in here: 


++ A colorful rug for our huge hallway (that prayer mat has since relocated). Don't see this one happening any time soon... more prayer mats may need to suffice!

Like such:

Via the house in my recent Home Lust post.


++ Ladders and textiles, you can't go wrong...



* * *

I am also dreaming of the future in this transitional phase... Where to live next? Graduate school? Entrepreneurial ventures? Interior design? The UN? Starting from scratch with psychology?

Oh, how the mind wanders...!

Happy hump day ;)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Living in Dakar During Ramadan {And Fielding Incredulous Inquiries}

I am back from France! My trip was glorious, and per usual, it has been an adjustment settling back into life in Dakar, especially during hot season rife with power and water cuts, clouds of dust, and the usual eye sores. Not to mention, our fridge and water hose are broken, we don’t have AC (woe is me), and the normally speedy internet has been turned off, requiring administrative follow-up and it’s a holiday week here in Senegal.


BUT! I am feeling somewhat optimistic this Monday morning – probably due to the cup of coffee I just chugged - so enough dwelling on the “hardships.” Instead, I thought I’d switch gears and talk a little bit about life in Senegal during Ramadan... which ends today, with Korité (Eid al-Fitr) tomorrow!

So, what does Ramadan look like in Senegal? Well, Senegal is at least 95% Muslim so the impact of the Holy Month is most definitely omnipresent. Streets are relatively empty during the day, business is slow (but not completely dead), restaurants and clubs closed for renovation, beaches are empty... A lethargic heaviness cloaks the city during daylight hours, especially compounded with hot season. It is not unusual to spot people napping on mats in the shade in the afternoon, pausing from their work for a respite from the heat, thirsty throats, and grumbling stomachs (I can only assume).

Surprisingly, some aspects of life continue on without much visible change, particularly manual labor. I was quite perplexed to discover our neighbor constructing a new apartment building during Ramadan. The workers begin construction at 8am (right outside my window!), working diligently through the morning and afternoon. Color me impressed... and baffled at the timing.

At night, the city rouses from its slumber. Families break their fast at sunset, nibbling on a date and enjoying a hearty breakfast at 8pm. An ample dinner is served between 10 and 12pm, and adults and children filter out into the streets, socializing with friends and neighbors, running errands at the night market, enjoying the slight chill of night air.

Last night, C. and I "broke the fast" ;) with C.’s family (some members fast, some don’t... and it’s all good). After dinner we drove home to our neighborhood, surprised by the traffic at 11pm. Babies played on the sidewalk, women lined the street selling snacks and other goods. During Ramadan those who can, work at night and sleep as much as possible during the day. Children and adolescents shift their schedule to avoid activity during daylight hours. 

When I first came to Senegal to study in 2008, I arrived during Ramadan. I was curious to notice my teenage host brothers staying up until 4 and 5am (just in time for the early morning meal) and sleeping in until 3pm. Like the majority of their peers, they essentially became nocturnal. Of course my thirteen year old host sister was not privy to these hours, as she was expected to help with cooking and housework during the day. My blood boils just thinking about these double standards! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it ain’t easy for Senegalese women. #patriarchy


On this I can’t speak from personal experience, but for believers (and thus most Senegalese) Ramadan holds much spiritual weight. While people will definitely speak matter of factly about the challenges of carrying on every day life during Ramadan, I have never heard anyone actually complain about fasting. It is a sacred part of life in Muslim society, a natural and expected phase in the yearly cycle. That being said, it is obviously an incredible test of self sacrifice and will... and frankly I do not envy anyone this yearly spiritual duty.

While in France these past two weeks, I was asked time and time again about life in Senegal: how I handle (enjoy??) living in a developing country, and a Muslim country at that. More innocent questions were aimed at the food, living conditions, past times, etc. But underneath these inquiries, I sensed a degree of incredulous confusion. Definitely not from everyone, but some. I've had friends and family insinuate that they could never live in a Muslim country, regarding my current life choice with a certain bemused reverence. And honestly, I don't blame those who are skeptical; I would be too if I'd never truly lived (drastically) outside my comfort zone for an extended period of time. I guess that might sound patronizing, but... it is one of those things I don't think you can really understand or appreciate until you've lived (and embraced) it yourself. (Plus, obviously not every culture fits every person - for example, I don't currently have any interest in living in Asia or the Middle East. I'm referring more to the ability to empathize with longterm cultural immersion/appreciation.)

So my short answer is this: while some of my values do conflict with what I witness living in Senegal, the experience of thriving in and embracing a foreign culture has stretched me in 2394884 ways and led to immense personal growth. The connections I've made are irreplaceable. I don't imagine living in this constant state of "stretch" forever, but for some of us wanderlust-inflicted folk, identities strewn across multiple borders, there are foreign cultures that simply resonate within us, inexplicably and completely separate from religious label or skin color or any other external indicator. 

I was reminded of this truth, yet again, on my recent trip back to Senegal. On the flight to Morocco, I enjoyed people watching for sure, but it was on the plane from Casablanca to Dakar that I felt this sense of home (one of many!) wash over me. The familiar vernacular, the palpable sense of community even within the confines of a plane, the baby resting its head on my shoulder throughout the flight: I was on my way home. 

Photos in this post are from my trip to Touba for Magal in 2011. More on that adventure here!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Home Lust: Boho Glam Personified

Checking in from France - only a couple days left! - with another favorite home tour from, you guessed it, Apartment Therapy (best design/decor site ever).

As can be seen in past Home and Hotel Lust posts, I definitely have a penchant for bright colors, worldly accessories, white walls, vintage furniture, natural woods, etc. I love spaces with a well-traveled personality. But along with my love for eclectic bohemian, I am also drawn to a dash of GLAM.

Here is a home that perfectly melds the global vibe I so love with some dramatic and glamorous statement pieces and details. While the apartment in my last Home Lust post was what I called "attainable," I'm pretty sure this restored ranch falls into the "If I win the lottery" category... but a girl can dream, right?!

Behold the home of artist David Florimbi and Nancy Simon, in Santa Barbara. This gem pretty much personifies everything I love, while packing the glam punch. Enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Checking in from France! {A Whirlwind through Paris, Angers, La Rochelle, and Villard}

While I had the very best intentions of keeping things consistent around here, the less than consistent wifi in France (in the mountains, specifically) has not been cooperating... clearly last week did not work out. Womp womp.

Moving right along! I arrived safe and sound in Paris ten days ago - to grey skies, temperatures in the low sixties, wintry outfits, and tall boots. Not exactly the ideal picture of Paris in July ;) Nonetheless, we made the best of our first afternoon straight off the plane and spent a couple of hours at one of my favorite museums, the Musée d'Orsay, strolling past impressionist works and through sculptures in the former train station. 

The museum was followed by a delicious and decadent meal at the La Coupole, a Paris staple near our hotel (full disclosure: the service was very slow and a bit brusque). Our delectable dinner made up for it though ;) The hotel, Hotel Delambre, lived up to its description as clean, ideally located near the Gare Montparnasse (perfect for an early train ride), and comfortable - though a bit tight with three single beds crammed into a small room! Let's just say it would be cozy for two. I can't say the hotel was amazing, but it absolutely served its purpose and I loved the neighborhood. And I obviously appreciated the teal exterior.

Those fleeting hours in Paris were all too short, as we boarded a train early the next morning destined for Angers and rented a car to pick up my mom's friend on the way to La Rochelle for the annual summer music festival Les Francofolies. Before continuing on our journey, we explored Angers, visiting its famous castle and tapestry and strolling the old city's winding cobblestone roads. I loved it, especially the lush castle gardens - as is quite obvious from my photos ;)

^^ A Senegalese restaurant (/bar?!) in Angers!

La Rochelle was also a very pleasant surprise. I didn't know very much about the city before our trip, and wow, it was beautiful and quite the (classy) tourist hotspot. The city was obviously packed for the concert weekend, but it was still full of character, delicious restaurants, a beautiful port and castle, city park, and much more! Apparently there are also some very nice beaches in the area... I would absolutely return for a bonafide vacation.

^^The crowds at Les Francofolies were nothing to scoff at!

The weekend was truly a whirlwind... many hours in the car with countless rotaries, a new hotel every night, concerts and medieval castles, towers, moats, and duck confit.

On Saturday (only three nights after my arrival!), we boarded yet another train for Grenoble, followed by a winding bus ride into the mountains and FINALLY settled in our quaint mountain town of Villard-de-Lans. Hallelujiah.

^^Just a peak of Villard-de-Lans. More to come!

My mom has been returning to this town for the past eight summers, but I had only spent a long weekend back in 2010. With a full week in Villard-de-Lans this time, two major hikes, Bastille Day, and two concerts in the center of town, I was able to experience true mountain village life, as a tourist, of course ;) I'll share lots of pictures in a separate post!

To sum things up, I've spent the past ten days in Paris, La Rochelle, Angers, Villard-de-Lans, and now in Provence, in my grandparent's village of Cabrières. A whirlwind indeed. All that is left is a drive to Marseilles for my flight back next Friday, when I return to the joy of summer in Senegal :)

Until then, I'll be enjoying the sun, the pool, the cheese, and the flora of southern France with family and a good friend from elementary school, arriving tomorrow with her fiancé! More photos to come...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dakar Nest: The Anatomy of a Gallery Wall

After posting our latest living room updates, I thought it would be fun (maybe just for me?) to share a bit more about the gallery wall. I know you've wanted nothing more but a walk through my personal treasures, right?! Awhile back, I wrote about my "design philosophy" and desire to let my personal life experiences and influences guide my aesthetic and design choices. This gallery wall is definitely an attempt in that vein, or at least a start in the right direction!

An honest aside: after living with the gallery wall for a couple of weeks, I kind of wish it weren't so tight/symmetrical. But the pain of rehanging the frames is NOT worth it. Such is life. Also, I wish that flower on bottom right was just slightly to the right. I have issues. And yes, these photos definitely drive home the point that I have some frame straightening in my future. I noticed.

1. This "print" is actually wrapping paper I bought at LACMA when visiting Megan in southern California (summer of 2011). The colors are a little "anitque-y," but I thought it complimented the other pieces nicely, and was one of the few larger "works" (haha) in my collection. I'm young and a vagabond... meaning I don't actually own any art.

2. Love this ceramic plate from Morocco! I think I bought it Fes (but maybe Marrakech) on vacation with Laura, also in 2011. While exploring the medina, we disovered this hole in the wall ceramic shop in the labyrinth of the old city, and walked in to find a veritable maze of enormous rooms, filled with towering stacks of ceramics. Heaven. Sadly I lost most of my pictures from this amazing trip when my computer died a few years back! I want to go back for the sole purpose of rephotographing the sites, arts, and people.

This is the one and only digital photo I have from that trip :( Glad I posted this shot from Jemaa el-Fnaa on my travel blog! Photo credit to Laura Perry, now doing amazing things in Madagascar!

3. This black and white print is a reproduction of an antique photo of St. Louis, Senegal - the former French colonial capital of West Africa. I bought this print depicting the colonial Marché de Volaille (chicken market) in a little shop in St. Louis when exploring the city for the third time in late 2010 with my French grandmother who was visiting me at the time. I don't remember the name, but the shop that sells these prints is absolutely fascinating. Track it down if you're ever in St. Louis - I hope it's still there!

4. A tiny shot of traditional shoes for sale in Morocco, and one of the few photos I had printed from my trip - hallelujiah!

5. A second plate from Morocco, this one is definitely from Fes. Apparently the blue and white pottery is the city's traditional design. I think it says Fes in Arabic in the middle, but I'm not sure. If anyone can confirm or give me the correct translation - please do!

6. A card from my mother on my 23rd birthday... loved the picture, loved the colors. I always save cards, can't bear to throw them away. Glad I held onto this one :)

7. Ahhh, my favorite! I bought this three-photo frame at Ikea this spring, and decided to display commemorative wax fabrics from my travels rather than photographs. From top to bottom: Burkina Faso Woman's Day fabric from March 2013, Cameroon Woman's Day Fabric (also from 2013), and a Uniwax fabric from Ivory Coast commemorating peace after the recent violence in 2012. I bought these fabrics on my travels in 2012-2013, planning to make something out of them (maybe pillows). But I love having them on display in a frame, especially considering their meaning!

8. A photo from a trip to the Gambia with friends in 2011. We were descending huge canoes to cross from Banjul to Brikama, and out of nowhere came these men hoisting us on their shoulders (without asking first). Actually, getting ON the ferry, they literally came up behind us and stuck their heads between our legs without warning! It was startling, to say the least. So glad my "Queen Kim" moment was captured on camera. Sidenote: I posted this photo on Instagram awhile back and someone commented that the guy carrying me is probably her cousin! How INSANE is that?!

Photo credit to Julia Ritchey, a dear journalist friend now in Savannah.

9. Another plate from Morocco... but I actually bought this one in the airport in Casablanca, on a layover from France last summer, in 2013. I think this airport is cursed for me... I have misplaced my passport twice in the international terminal waiting for my flight to Dakar. The first, I left it in the bathroom while washing my hands. The second I left it in the restaurant where I ate lunch. But I did get it back both times, so maybe it isn't so cursed after all! ;) By the way, I am known for my travel fiascos; more stories here.

10. And finally... Neige! My beloved yellow labrador, who lives with my mom outside of Boston. I took this picture in 2013, I believe, and just swell with love for my pup every time I take in his regal profile. Neige is 12 now, which is very old for labradors. In 2003, my mom and I spent a week at a bed and breakfast in the South of France. The owner had two labs, one named Neige, and my mother fell in love. Pregnant with my brother at the time, she returned home intent to have our own lab! And so we added Neige to the family, right before my brother Paul. Let's just say those first few years were never devoid of excitement ;)

What can we conclude? I love Morocco!
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