8-1-00
Re: Arrival
Meridian Hotel, Senegal

It's ironic and beautiful that the first impressions I have here are of the color of skin; theres and mine. I looked out from the balcony of our posh hotel and noticed that the soil around the decorative palm tree has the deep reddish brown of their skin and mine.

In the airport there was a slender very young girl in a long black dress and a silver chain and her skin was an even flat dark brown-red and her eyes had the intelligent poise that I noticed in the people waiting with us in the airport for hours until the plane finally left at near midnight after being scheduled to leave at 1:15pm.

Still, the flight was fairly smooth except for some turbulence that came just where I thought there might be serious trouble in my dark imagination: as we approached Dakar.

The stark contrast between the rich and poor was obvious even in the very early morning light as we took a cab to the posh Meridian Hotel. I've never seen such poverty. Dwellings that can barely stand made of rubbish because they are in the midst of rubbish. The images from movies are now real.

Also real are the interesting tensions between Alan and I as he ardently tries to "correct" my attitudes about culture and behaviors. It requires great presence and clam on my part to not feel condescended to. I've decided to try and learn French from him to give him a natural and more productive way to balance our respective positions. He asked me just now to explain quantum physics to him….

Soon we will be going into town for the first time.

2:30pm

Just came back from a walk on the shore. It rained and I decided to stay wet in the warm air. Took some pictures of my feet on the shore and the waves. Saw another woman with stunning skin. What happens to us away from here? It's as if our plumage fades…..

10:11 pm

An extraordinary day with our first visit to central Dakar. All of the energy of chaotic traffic and the endless variety of humanity with its intensity against the backdrop of a molting city.

Assane met us at the city center and became our guide: to the cyber café; and then with me to our new hotel; and then to the street market where I bought rings for Susannah and I that are being made; then arranging a car for us and then to a store through a maze and then to the café where I sent email messages to Sus and others and then back to the hotel where we met Badou where we had dinner at a great restaurant (vegetable curry) and then on the wet dark road, the stunning prostitute with the amazing warm smile who for the first time tempted me…. A day!

And mostly I cherish the bracelet the dark-eyed beauty Sona gave me. I wear it.

The extraordinary open-hearted spirit of the people here is another wonder. There are of curse many variations on the street from the lame and very poor to the young brass-balled men. But I've never experienced so many who are willing to engage me with what seems to be genuine warmth and sincere curiosity about what could emerge from talking.

The few whites here have a familiar sense of self-possession but there's a condescension about them that is obvious.

I can feel myself opening to them and myself in the process.