Friday, November 26, 2010

Coupures, French Keyboards, and the Ambivalence of African Daily Life

Apologies for the prolonged silence. It has been a long time since I have properly posted here and an equally long time since I've been in touch with most of my lovelies. There are many reasons for this, but most of them are entirely too dull or far too juicy to repeat here. In short, my priority is always to fully live and love Africa and writing publicly about it is way down on the list. There will be plenty of time for stories, debriefs, and beer-fuelled waxtan yi when I return home. (Thirteen weeks down, a short twelve to go.* Eep.) I also finally am truly feeling settled in Kaolack and much of what I experience is merely African "daily life." Compared, of course, to daily life in Canada, each day is full of intense, unexpected, and completely new experiences, but they still carry a certain amount of ambivalence: "Oh Africa. C'est comme ca."

There are, too, some practical reasons for my silence. Ironically, in the city with comparatively fast internet and strong wifi, my internet time has been drastically reduced. In order to write here and to post long-winded e-mails, I need four things:

(1) Power;
(2) A computer or computer access;
(3) Functional internet;
(4) The time and desire to write.

And I need them simultaneously.

Unfortunately, it's rare to have all four at the same time. I no longer have a laptop to call my own, daytime power cuts are frequent and lengthy, internet can be spotty, and there are lots of things to do besides writing tales for public consumption. And, when I do get on an APROFES desktop, I have to battle with a French keyboard.

This post is a great illustration of the challenges. I began to write it on a desktop on Nov. 12 – but, there was a power cut when I was partway through writing, and I lost everything. So then I wrote much of it by hand, and waited almost two weeks for all four conditions to arise and get it on my blog. They haven’t yet, so I’m currently (Nov. 25) typing in a word document and don’t know when I’ll be able to post this. There’s no power, the borrowed laptop I’m using is almost out of battery, and I’m about to leave for Gambia to attend the naming ceremony of a very special newborn.

Also – good news – I’m going to Gambia to pick up Leanne’s laptop. She and Margaret finish their internships tomorrow (!!!!!!!) and are going travelling for four weeks. Leanne is generously lending me her laptop during that time. This means that I’ll have more reliable computer access, but I have no idea if that will translate into improved e-mail communication, more regular blog posts, and photo sharing. On va voir.

In other very brief news, I have a stranger (Gambian word for visitor) coming to visit! In eleven short days I will head to the Banjul airport to meet my father! He’s coming for a whirlwind trip of Gambia and Senegal, to see his daughter, and to experience a very personal side of Africa. We’ll engage in a bit of tourism, but the plan is mostly to head to Njawara, Kaolack, and villages in between to experience African daily life and meet the people that have brought me into their homes and hearts.

And, now, finally, I am about to post this. For real. It's 11:00 AM on Nov. 26. I'm in Njawara, in an unusually quiet office, using solar power and slow, but functional, wifi. So that's it for now. I'm going to take advantage of the computer access, power, and tranquility to pump out an agroforestry document.

Love to you all!

*This was true at the time of writing, but is not longer accurate. Now, it's 15 down, 10 to go!!!

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