Ndank, Ndank: Life in Dakar’s Slow Lane

“In Dakar, you do one thing in the morning, and one thing in the afternoon”. This is the advice I received from a friend before my first ever trip to Senegal’s capital, or to anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, for that matter. It was the advice she’d received from a friend upon her arrival in the city, where she tried to take life at her standard pace, and failed. I have no excuse, since I’d been forewarned, but learning how to take life ndank ndank (slowly slowly) is still a work in progress for me. Dakar is a strict teacher though; there’s punishment in store if you go too fast, but when you go slow, this vast, chaotic city starts to make sense. My first lesson in living the slow life came on my very first day. I was anxious to see the city – all of it! All at once! To go here, there, and everywhere! But Iberia managed to leave my suitcase in Madrid, meaning I had nothing in Dakar apart from the clothes I’d already been wearing for the past 24 hours. So my first morning was spent in Ouakam market, haggling for skirts, t-shirts and sandals of various shapes and sizes, in the vague hope that they might sort of fit when I put them on. But that was the best training-ground possible for life in Dakar. I learned the basic rules of etiquette and haggling, in part from speaking to so many vendors, and in part from the pure, desperate fact that I didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on clothes, and...

On Moving to London and Writing

A hard-to-categorise post, an outpouring of thoughts, my need to write. And a bit about moving to London.    I’m not the first person to move to London to seek their fortune, and I certainly won’t be the last. Ever since Dick Whittington slung his posessions over his shoulder and made for the streets paved with gold, people have flocked to this city. The fortune I’ve come for is not necessarily monetary – though as any struggling creative-type will tell you, a little of that wouldn’t go amiss – rather, I’m in search of new opportunities. London has more of, well, everything, than anywhere else in the country. More variety, more noise. It has history in spades, sitting comfortably alongside the fast-paced, glass-fronted modernity. I love walking through London, discovering hidden corners just off streets I know well, finding places of peace in the busy centre, or searching out a busy hub. Funnily enough, it’s the latter I seek to write – there is something about a hum of background noise and a creative venue which seems to help me focus. My favourite place of all to write is the Southbank Centre, and in fact, that’s where I am now, working to the sound of chatter in a dozen different languages, occasionally looking up to see how the setting-up of a Mexican fair is coming along, just below me in the Clore Ballroom. A couple of men are sawing and nailing pieces of wood together, and a Spanish-speaking contingent has arrived to direct proceedings. It’s raining outside, so the bright lights and warmth are attracting passers-by like bees to a...

Pin it Forward UK

My obsession with pinterest began quietly. It was intrigue at first; a couple of people I knew were using it, so I asked one of them to invite me. What I found was a site like no other, one which didn’t require endless hours of reading, but which was simply as many pretty pictures as I could wish for. I didn’t even think about linking it to my other online exploits at first, although if you visit often you will notice that I have had pinterest buttons on here for some time now. No, originally, it was just a little corner of the web for me to escape to at the end of a busy day, a place where I could simply dream. I have always made collages and scrapbooked, so pinterest seemed like a natural online progression. I think my first board was one simply called ‘Lovely things’ – and it remains one of my favourites. As soon as I began to discover wonderful travel photos on there, I set up a board called Travel– which is a jumbled but rather gorgeous board with everything I love about travel: quotes, travel inspiration, photos of evocative items, and of course some of the places I’ve been. To prevent it from getting totally confused, I also have a board called My Someday Places, which is my visual bucket list. If possible, pinterest has increased my wanderlust – I can easily while away an hour just pinning and sighing: ‘oh, I need to go there!’ I was, I thought, a fairly anonymous pinterest user. Loyal, yes, blogger, yes, but really just...

How to Achieve Your Goals

I know that this is not 100% travel-related, but for me a fair amount of my life goals are also travel goals! And if you forgive me this slight tangent, I  hope that some of the things I have learnt about setting and achieving goals will help you on your path in life, whatever it might be. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” – Brian Littrell   I am currently at my parents’ house, visiting my family for a few days before I start my new job. My old bedroom is still full of my stuff – the kind of stuff that I don’t need with any urgency, but which I nevertheless I want to keep. Old art projects, photo albums, books, a few childhood teddies, that kind of thing. And with complete selflessness, my parents have allowed me to keep it like that for the last six years, rather than turning it into a minimalist guest room. Anyhow, as I was looking for something the other night, I came across my book of life goals. It is an A4 notebook, with a pretty butterfly cover. These details matter, I promise. I hadn’t forgotten about it completely, but it certainly hadn’t been at the forefront of my mind. As I leafed through the pages –  begun in 2008 – I felt time folding up on itself, and suddenly, I was that girl of 20, wondering what to do with her life, standing in Paperchase in front of the notebooks and deciding on one in which to make a plan. Inside were...
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