Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Senegal Limps

I often write about how much I love Senegal.  And I really do love it.  I feel so lucky that it has been a part of my life, and I am grateful for what it’s given me.  I am well-aware that I have gained more here than what I’ve given back.  I actually don’t feel like I can give much back except to write about it.  I like to at least pretend that a few people will read and perhaps more strongly empathize with the daily struggles of people in this part of the world, and that, somehow, it will make a difference. 
But, despite my love for this place, I am ready to go.  I am worn out and frustrated, at least for today.  I figure it is good to feel this and good to write it down because I’ll need to be reminded of this feeling as I write my dissertation.  I’ll need to remember this frustration, which I share with my neighbors and all the people I meet in the course of a day, because it’s part of the story of how people are existing here. 
We are in the third week of a continually deteriorating power situation.  The day before it got really, really bad was the only day that we’ve had power all day with no break in service since we’ve been here.  It was as if they gave us a little gift to prepare us for what was to come. Yesterday we had power for a little less than two hours.  Today, I got out of bed at 5:30 am, hoping to write a few emails and catch up on the news before I had to get the kids up and before the power went out again.  It went off at around 7 am.
Our cooking gas ran out today.  When I went to replace it, I found that the price had increased by 22% since last month.  I am funded by a Fulbright.  I can handle it, but how can a Senegalese person, who can’t work because there is no power, handle it? 
Every time I go to visit one of the gardeners in my research study, I hope to find that he’s been able to purchase the seeds he keeps saying he will purchase, and which he needs to start his garden.  As so many people are in this growing town, he is a day laborer.  When he works, he makes $2-3/day.  But he doesn’t work every day and has not been able to get the money together to spend a couple of dollars on seeds. 
This isn’t really a post I want to use to critique or implicate the international development machine or global corporate capitalism, and I hope it comes off less as complaining, and more as an expression of temporary frustration and dismay.  I have the luxury of knowing that, for me, this difficult situation ends in May.  But, for people here, their efforts to pursue their own paths to development and well-being will continue to be stymied.  I don’t know that I’ve ever read an academic paper on how frustration must figure into socioeconomic development.  Though, I suppose you can just read the news and see that for some, it might cause them to want to blow something up, kill a bunch of people, or set themselves alight. 

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