Sunday, May 31, 2009

HLM Marché

Emily and I managed to untether ourselves from our computers on Saturday morning and caught a Touba bus over to HLM Marché. This market is known for having one of West Africa's most vibrant and eclectic array of fabrics, with tailors around every corner available to make a custom fit outfit for just about any occassion. Unfortunately, most vendors here also have been the subject of one too many tourist photo shoots, it seems, because there is a consistently negative reaction to my camera no matter how nicely I ask about taking a photo. However, the young girl in the first photo, named Hadeh, was actually excited to pose, maybe due to the conversation that took place beforehand.

Hadeh: Where are your sandals from?
Me: They're from America. From Colorado, in the middle of the country.
Hadeh: Oh. Col-OR-rah-doh?
Me: That's right.
Hadeh: Can I give you my phone number?
Me: Sure! Can I take your picture?
Hadeh: Yeah!

The boys in the 2nd photo took much more persuading, involving my refusing to pay them to take their photo (yes, every one of them), walking away, and then coming back and asking if I could take a photo if I bought some of, for lack of a better term..teeth sticks. Senegalese people, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, can be seen with these twigs in their mouths because they taste good, clean your teeth, and supposedly calm your stomach. So I bought a small bundle and snapped my one allotted shot. Finally, the last photo was allowed because I bought 6 meters of cloth from this shop. Later this week I'll ask my friend Talla, the teenaged tailor that runs a shop next to our hotel, to make me a couple of skirts so I can get out of the boring brown one I wear literally every day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In my humble opinion, our team is as talented as it is handsome. Some portraits taken this afternoon...









Making progress

Training continues, and despite some inevitable setbacks (namely, super problematic software) it's apparent that the team is learning and progressing each day. For example, we've left behind the draft paper surveys and graduated to handheld devices, or PDAs. I'm happy to end the constant printing/copying cycle and save a few trees!

Friday, May 22, 2009


The sky is trippy tonight... same color as the buildings and the sand in Grand Yoff!

Training week

This week we're training a team of about 20 Senegalese men and women to deliver our surveys in 50 rural villages. We have something like 7 different types of data collection instruments, including the straightforward paper-and-pen check-the-box type (although in our case we use PDAs, a stylus, and some simple software), an engineering assessment of the water system in each village using a platform called Manobi, a 'choice experiment' using the randomized delivery of photos that show different attributes (to use the academic term--better described maybe as a 'feature') of water systems pre- and post-upgrade, and GPS data collection of village structures using ArcPad. This is a whole heck of a lot of training to do, for ourselves and for the enumerators. Lately I've been feeling as if there never was a time when I did anything BUT stare at my computer, but nonetheless it's satisfying, almost exhilarating, to see the project taking shape. Some photos of our choice experiment training today:

Above is one ideas for portraying the 'distance' attribute of water supply systems using a simple picture. Below the artist is explaining to the group how we might portray this to people with relatively low education levels.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

evening run

Emily, Ralph and I go running each evening around sunset through Grand Yoff and see, well, just about everything under the sun. Taxis are buzzing about next to horses drawing carts loaded with cement blocks on bumpy roads, which always turn into alleyways with goats running alongside packs of children wearing holey t-shirts and no shoes, all yelling "toubab! toubab!"at us as they kick their soccer balls through the sand, the ragged balls kicking up dust and bouncing off of the crumbling walls that feature the same sketches of the local marabouts' heads, or of the same two haircuts available at the local haircutting shack. Then there's the 20-something guy leaning up against the wall smoking a hand-rolled cigarette in knock-off Gucci sunglasses, kittens hiding behind a gas can at his feet, ladies adorned in glittering robes walking by with their heads held high, sometimes because they're balancing a load of vegetables up there, teenagers shouting at each other while they talk on their cell phones...

Water hunting

We spent a couple of days in Feb visiting villages and searching for evidence that water is being used for productive uses; that is, things beyond drinking, cooking, washing, and bathing. We found cattle! And abreuvoirs, or watering troughs. As I hung back at a very safe distance, Ralph walked right up to that bull's watering hole and got his data collection on.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I'm in Africa again. I'll be here again for 3 months, but this time my field work will be taking me to Senegal and Kenya, with possible trips to Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi squeezed in. So many adventures ahead...

We are again a small team (just 3 of us), and this week finds us working just about around the clock on our project's kick-off. By the end of June we'll have delivered 7 types of surveys to 50 rural villages. We're wondering whether and just how much "productive use" water systems (aka fancier systems that deliver more volume to homes, courtesy of Senegal's abundant aquifers) improve people's lives by supporting their livelihoods. We're wondering if a sense of ownership among community members for their water system actually means the infrastructure is better managed. We're electronic survey coding maniacs. We carry silly little PDAs around with us everywhere to test these surveys out! There are of course a few moments for relaxing and fun, but very little time for blogging I'm realizing... Nevertheless I'm going to do my best to keep you all updated regularly.

Well, I'm having a blast in Dakar, and I'm trying my best to take in everything around me with an open mind and heart (as the blogs new title suggests) despite the occasional insanity that tends to set in after a night of endless coding.

Here are some pictures taken from the roof of our guesthouse last night:

Yucky trash pile in front of our guesthouse that sends unpleasant
smells into our work room by about 3pm everyday as it bakes
under the African sun! We were happy to learn that someone comes
to clean it up once a week, at least.