Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Senegal?

If all stories are about leaving home or returning, either Iliad or Odyssey, I wonder if blogs are, too.  In this section I hope to describe if not understand Dakar, Senegal for the next six weeks leading up to their presidential election on February 26th, 2011.

Sitting to write on this 10 degree morning in Minnesota, a rare January mosquito bounces against the window.  As I start taking anti-malaria pills in a couple of days, this seems somehow ominous.  

So, this leaving contains several stories of course, but I’ll start with a simple one.  About 8 years ago, SPA hosted a Fulbright scholar from Dakar (Pape Diop, a name equivalent to John Smith here) who taught African Literature and French.  He and I became friends and stayed in touch.  We occasionally joked about working together in Dakar some day.  Last year when writing my sabbatical plan, I recalled those jokes and wondered if I could really work with Pape at Cheik Anta Diop University coaching his PhD English Literature students in writing?  On a Skype call last winter, his teaching team agreed to the plan. The opportunity to live in a place like Dakar not as tourist or traveler, but rather as a colleague within a community feels like an amazing chance to reunite with a friend and to have a brief window into the way most of the world lives.  And while I will appreciate January temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s, a coastal location and amazing music, working in the African university system will be a challenge as this NYT article suggests-

Should the university shut down as it did in the last contentions elections, my back-up plan is to work with a middle school teacher I met at the Stanford Design School workshop in June.  But having lived and worked in Greece and Morocco, I already know that best laid plans thing pretty well. If all else fails, I'll drink coffee, run on the beach, and listen to amazing music.  Now that's a back up plan.

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