Fabric Frenzy

Hilary Brown - Senegal


October 26, 2009

It was like entering a giant maze of fabric yesterday when we went to buy fabric for Tabaski, a big holiday at the end of November. Little stalls were squeezed together forming make shift streets and allies. Umbrellas and blankets were hung over head between the stalls giving the illusion that we were inside when we were really out. Fabrics of all different colors and textures covered the sides of each stall; some shiny and all one color, others bright with patterns made from eyelet cutouts, some sparkly and bedazzled and others with bold waxed patterns. As we made our way through the bends and curves of the allies, shaking our heads at the many fabrics placed right in front of our faces and people motioning us to follow them I felt like I was in a fabric cave.

I broke off from the group with Alec and Victoria to explore but we were soon searched out and brought to a particular stall by a young man who had come with us from the Baobab Center that we all call Ben Wallace. We were greatly disappointed when shown what, according to them, is the only type of fabric that can be worn on Tabaski. It is a stiff shiny table cloth like material that is one color with a pattern of a different shade of the same color. When we had found a color we were okay with, which for me was a light lavender, we were told to hand over 10,000 CFA and that we would be given the right change. Being with Ben Wallace we figured he know what he was doing. However when the “change” came back it was obvious we had been given the westerners price. As the morning progressed we continually found that our so called guides who were supposed to be helping us preferred to herd us around and encourage shop keepers to refrain from the traditional bargaining. Luckily, we had a few chances to escape them and were able to purchase some fun, bold fabrics for traditional shirts.

To get back to the Baobab Center we took a bus. Unlike in the U.S. where you put your money into a machine and it spits out a ticket in Senegal there is a person who sits in a metal box in the middle of the bus. You pass your money through the grating and they pass back a ticket. In a car rapid, another form of public transportation, a boy sits at the back and you pass the money back at some point during the ride. I find this interesting because while the car rapid is one of the places you have to watch for pickpockets I have been told and observed that you can be sure that when you pass your money to the person behind you it will make it to the back.

Upon returning to the Baobab Center I was told that my mom had called. Considering I do not even think my mom has the Baobab Center’s phone number I was sure there had been a mix up. I was then told that she wanted to know where I was for lunch. This made me realize they were talking about Mme Corenthin, the woman whose house I am staying at, and that I was a little late for lunch, oops. This eventfully morning was followed by playing banana grams in French and the adventure of buying a new phone for Alec because his first one was stolen.

Hilary Brown