Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Vague nostalgia

Senegal, where I lived for five months in the beginning of 2005, is now in the middle of their presidential elections. It looks like the incumbent, Abdoulaye Wade, has an early lead in the polls, but the question is whether he will get over 50% of the vote out of a field of 15 candidates. If he doesn't, there will be a runoff election, and I am very curious to see the results. I am not a huge fan of Mr. Wade, who at 80 years old is 23 years older than the average life expectancy for a Senegalese male. He's not awful, and the media likes to talk about how Senegal is one of the stablest and most peaceful democracies in West Africa. But he's not great, either. And his wife is white, which has always sort of bothered me. I realize that this is hypocritical of me, since I believe that people should marry whomever they please and since I am white and dated a Senegalese man while I lived there myself. But in a country where most people who want to be successful end up moving to Europe and where white people are seen as the best ticket to a good life (such that strangers constantly hit on them in the streets of Dakar), I think it would be nice for the president to be married to someone actually from that country. It would be nice to send the message to Senegalese women that they are valuable, worthy wives, not just for Senegalese men who are struggling to make a living for themselves but also for the country's leaders and some of its most successful citizens. Not that I'm suggesting that a woman should define her self-worth through her ability to marry a successful man, but it's not nice to see the president of the country propagating the idea that to really get ahead, one has to go to Europe.

Then again, there's always the possibility that he and Viviane Wade are just madly in love and it was a match made in heaven. Who knows?

The other thing about Senegal that has been popping up a lot for me recently is Kangol hats. Maybe I'm just out of the loop, but I had never heard of Kangol before or since living in Senegal. But while I was there, I had a very good friend, Babacar, who had a couple of Kangol hats that he wore pretty much every day. Babacar was in general quite fashionable, and he had the best job ever: he worked as a "security guard" on a property that had absolutely nothing worth guarding. I visited him at work a couple times, and all did all day was lie on a mattress in a little hut and sleep. I have to say, I would love a job like that. He had dropped out of school quite young and refused to return despite his mother's desperate attempts to get him educated (including somehow getting him new papers that listed him as four years younger than he actually was so that he could be re-enrolled in first grade). So he could barely read, but he was ΓΌber stylish. And he wore Kangol hats, which I have associated very strongly with him since.

This weekend I saw at least three different people in three different places in DC wearing Kangol hats. And it reminded me of Babacar. It's been a Senegal-heavy last couple of days.

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