Didn't get to see so much this time. Short visit -- flew in late Saturday night, flew out Wednesday -- and three very full working days. So, not much time for sightseeing.
That said, there were a few interesting points.
-- The Senegalese government is still somewhat sensitive about criticism. I didn't think the report we were presenting was particularly critical, but we still got a lot of pushback. Some of it was justified, some of it was of the "why was my agency not consulted about this" sort, but some seemed just... political. Talking to the cameras, type of thing; how dare the outsiders say that Ministry X lacks competence and has transparency problems. I'd encountered this sort of thing before (every development consultant has) but I was surprised to see how much there was of it.
Possibly relevant (or possibly not): Senegalese President Wade has been publicly contemplating another term of office. He's quite old, and this would require (sigh) amending the Senegalese Constitution; many observers think Wade is really setting up a run for his son. Either way, not really a positive development -- especially since Senegal has, by African standards, a pretty good democracy, with a free-ish press and an active opposition.
-- I didn't get much time to wander around, but I did manage a brief stroll downtown around the Institut Francais. I was struck again by how busy and crowded the downtown is, and also by the amount of... I guess you'd call it sidewalk culture? People working, and to a great extent living, on the sidewalks. Guys who want to sell you stuff, of course -- if you're a white guy walking around an African downtown, you'll get a steady barrage of offers, and possibly a few "barnacles" who want to start conversations that will inevitably turn into an offer of services. These guys seem to live on street corners. And beggars -- there were some really sad ones this time, including a guy with no arms. (Just writing that makes me twitch.) But also lots of people who were doing business on the sidewalk -- food vendors, and the like -- and who seemed to be more or less living their lives there. Like, the woman roasting peanuts. She had her roasty-wok-thing, and some charcoal, and peanuts. And a blanket spread out, and her kid -- toddler -- napping on the blanket beside her. There were a lot of vendors with kids, actually. I assume they had somewhere to go at night, but during the day they seemed to have this whole life-on-the-sidewalk thing going.
-- Dakar has lots of book vendors, which I consider a positive sign in any country. There doesn't seem to be a lot of literature in Wolof; the books split about 80% French, 15% English, and a sprinkling of "other". I saw a lot of crappy American paperbacks with publication dates from about 1975 through 2000. Wonder where the stuff the secondhand bookstores won't take ends up? Wonder no more.
-- In a professional context, I was struck once again by how Gallic educated Senegalese are. It goes way beyond the language. Gestures and other nonverbal stuff -- I think I've mentioned that French think of picking off points on the fingers? -- and also a very French way of presenting information or conducting conversation. On the bad side, pedantic and niggling; on the good, incisive and clear.
Well. I don't expect to be going back to Dakar soon (though, mind you, I didn't expect this trip either), but I'd be happy to. Wish I'd had another chance to visit Goree. Oh, well.