Marché HLM & Plage de Yoff

At 3pm, I bumped into Kira, who told me that she and Talisa were going to the Marché HLM in half an hour. Score! I’d missed out on all of the previous HLM excursions because I’d always been at the dispensaire.

Africa loves its fashion, and Dakar is no exception. Marché HLM is the best place to buy fabric in Dakar. There are rows of open-air stalls selling brightly-colored patterned cotton, the strange tableclothy or tafetta-like cotton, “brocade” that is more like a thick lace, bejeweled/sequined sari-like fabric, and chiffon.

Though I’ve seen people actually weaving fabric here, everyone also seems to be selling the same things. I want to know Senegal’s, and Africa’s, manufacturing import/export ratio, especially concerning Chinese products.

I ended up buying five meters of two patterns of cotton for $1.60/meter. The prices were pretty fixed and it was difficult to bargain with vendors – most of them wouldn’t even bite. Still, apparently we payed relatively fair prices.

I didn’t get any chiffon though I have a love affair with chiffon. Because chiffon is transparent, I’d have to buy another layer of opaque fabric to be sewn underneath, which would double the cost of material input. After I get dresses made out of this fabric, I’ll see if buying the chiffon is worth it. My love affairs with contrast piping and buttons will also have to wait, but at least I’ll be able to satisfy my love of bows, contrast stitching, and dresses with pockets.

I was starting to really miss the West by Sunday. This was triggered by my planning for my Europe backpacking trip (that’s just asking for it), and by my host mother telling me that if I drank more than 50L of water in a month, I’d have to buy the extra myself (families limiting drinking water has become a common problem though our families had been paid for essentially unlimited water – 1.6 liters a day is not enough in this climate).

Fortunately I was able to find paradise at the beach at Yoff. The white sand was so fine that when wet and squeezed, it felt almost like oobleck. There were straw cabanas dotting the sand that cost only $2 to rent. The water was cool and light-colored, and the currents so strong that we could easily go bodysurfing in water less than a foot deep.

Stands with grills and clear-eyed fresh fish on ice lined up by the cabanas and we had freshly prepared fish for lunch. As expected, it took an hour from the time we sat down to the time we actually got our food, even though we were the only four people the stand was serving. I didn’t mind – the woman was descaling the fish right in front of us, and when the fish came, dressed with some vegetables, it was spiced just right.

This is not exactly how I pictured “West Africa.”

By the time it was 5 or 6, the beach had flooded with people. “It seems like every Senegalese male between the ages of 15 and 20 is here!” blagued* Kevin. Per usual, there was at least one large football game going on. There was a Red Bull-sponsored AIDS awareness campaign that was playing a mix of American and domestic hip hop. I felt like I was in one of those places were people pay $300 a night to lounge around on the beach all day – and it was awesome!



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