Delving A’dam, espying Eve

After a series of workshops at the University of Amsterdam, we retired to Café Van Zuylen for beer and soup, waiting out the Friday evening traffic before heading south on a three-hour drive done in 2 hrs 10″, thanks to my driver’s belief that speed radars don’t work at night.

Café Van Zuylen
Mobile photo, edited in-camera with Pixlr-o-matic

In the lower bar, I saw a familiar head — grey flattop, hangdog features — red party tie and sobre overcoat. I only put the name to the face a few hours later (Ronald Plasterk, former education minister), and later still, realized that he must have just come from the election for the Labour Party leadership, which he lost.


Freedom means the right to choose your own truth

I love following American politics. It’s so much more fun than in other countries. I think my fascination comes down to the exceptional degree of chutzpah shown by candidates and commentators, and the almost inevitable exposure of the mismatch between what they say and what they do. Once the flaw is exposed, it is fascinating to watch the public story unravel day by day. In the UK recently, we could enjoy the hilarious backsliding, lies and coverups by the Defence Minister; in contrast, such exposure occurs on an almost daily basis in the US during election period (which is in fact most of the year).

And with the death of one of the most insightful US political analysts, Hunter S. Thomson, I rely on The Daily Show for the most pleasurable way to follow US current affairs.

Last week, however, there was a particularly gob-smacking moment with a send-up interview with Republican Party Consultant and Strategist, Noelle Nickpour, on the subject of the place of science in the US.

Watch it and be afraid. Nickpour is actually serious about what she says!


Nickpour:  It’s very confusing for a child to be only taught evolution to go home to a household where their parents say, “Well, wait a minute … God created the Earth!”

Daily Show Interviewer Aasif Mandvi:  What is the point of teaching children facts if it’s just going to confuse them?

Nickpour:  It confuses the children when they go home.  We as Americans—we are paying tax dollars for our children to be educated. We need to offer them every theory that’s out there. It’s all about choice; it’s all about freedom.

Mandvi: It should be up to the American people to decide what’s true.

Nickpour:  Absolutely! Doesn’t it make common sense?

I feel like Donald Trump

My cellphone runs flat each day. The battery is fine; it wears out because I spend most of my waking hours with the phone pressed close to my ear. Callers always seem to be surrounded by fighting couples with screaming children, stuck in heavy traffic outside a mosque with a new 5000W PA from the Saudis … either that or it’s a sign of my aging that I can’t filter sounds any more.

Hey, why beat about the bush: I hate cellphones. I hated regular phones already. Why do I have to be always available? I already get annoyed by the salesperson who answers another customer on the phone when I’m in the midde of a purchase. Doesn’t the person who’s actually, physically in front of you trump the other who couldn’t be bothered to quit their office/house/bed?

But I’m digressing to soon.

Why do I bother to spend so much time on the phone if I hate it that much? Sales, baby! I’ve discovered (yet another) new talent: wheelin’ ‘n’ dealin’! Buy low, sell high. Or in our case, buy tax free, reduce by 20% for six months’ use, bite your nails and count the days, then reduce by another 10% and bam! Reel ’em in!

What the hell am I talking about?

We’re moving on.

We’re clearing out.



I made a little website to sell our excess stuff — how the hell did we end up with three couches? — and have had 10,000 hits and 1,000 follow-up calls. While I was talking to one “customer”, I had two other callers lined up and an SMS on the side. It has been completely crazy and a hell of a thing to manage, with people coming by at all hours with wads of cash (:D) and others getting annoyed that I’d already sold the cutting board with an inbuilt drawer with four knives … Please stop calling … it wasn’t so great (actually I barely used it; I thought it was crap).

But it’s all good.

We’re leaving this place.

It’s the last time.

I’d say it’s for the kids — #4 due in April! — but it’s for all of us, truth be told.

Tired of corruption, incompetence and religious intolerance.

Seeking independence, respect for others and for the community, streets that get cleaned, people who respect their environment, bicycles, and eating food without worrying about the after effects for the rest of the evening.

Sorry Senegal. The spirit of Teranga (hospitality) passed us by. We leave with a feeling on unrealized potential on your part and our own. We would have liked to have enjoyed you more, and we would have liked the many wonderful people we have met to be able to fulfill their dreams.

Unfortunately we were all ultimately ground down by the chicaneries and nepotism, the hands-off, scratch-my-back, close-one-eye, grease-my-palm, pay-your-dues, know-your-place, kiss-my-ass, can’t-lose-face attitude that permeates all activity in Senegal.

(… to be continued … when I get off the phone…)


The reaction anticipated in my previous post was swift and effective … actually it was glossy.

I had expected a different reaction — crude spray scribble, as had been done (by the PPK sprayers?) to the “NOUVEAU PARTI” graffiti, perhaps, or a riposte in words — but this whiteout is so … thorough and professional.


I wonder who did it.

I wonder too why the only PPK graffiti to be covered up, out of the dozens, if not hundreds, of examples around the city, are those I photographed and posted yesterday.

Is there a link?

Sssh! Do you think someone out there is actually reading what I write?

The son still rises

On the same day that the leader of the National Assembly, Macky Sall, was voted out of office, a rash of graffiti appeared around Dakar — just three cryptic letters: PPK.

Fortunately, one sprayer had had the time, or the couilles, to write out the meaning: Pourquoi pas Karim (why not Karim).

The son always rises 01

The Karim is President Wade’s son, currently head of the planning organization of the Islamic Conference (ANOCI) held in Dakar last March, and reckoned by many to be the heir to his father’s position as president. Of course, this being a democracy, the president cannot simply drop his son into his shoes. No, it isn’t simple … it requires Machiavellian cunning of the highest degree.

Take the case of Macky Sall: number 2 in the president’s party, loyal promoter of presidential projects, leader of the National Assembly … and one of the best placed persons to stand at the next presidential election. Thus he became to be seen primarily as a threat to the dynastic ambitions of the Wades. When Sall dared to call Karim Wade to the National Assembly to clarify the finances of ANOCI, he triggered a chain reaction lasting 12 months that led finally to his eviction as leader of the Assembly. The ANOCI finances remain as opaque as they ever were. In contrast, the law has been changed regarding the duration of the post of leader of the Assembly from five years to one year, with retroactive force. The result was that Sall was out of office as soon as the vote was passed last Sunday.

Get that — the national law has been changed in order to put the fix on one of your most faithful party members, and merely to advance the career of your son. But yes it was done democratically, voted by the party of both Wade and Sall, the party that dominates the Assembly as a result of the boycott of the legislative elections by opposition parties last year …

I can’t help marvelling at the mix of cunning and tragedy in this affair: for cunning, Wade could write a new chapter in Machiavelli’s The Prince; tragedy in that there is a sense of an inevitable convergence of chickens coming home to roost, some time soon.

The son always rises 02

P.S. As an editor, I was struck by the lack of a question mark after, “Pourquoi pas Karim”. Then I realized that it was not a question, but rather a defiant assertion. I’m curious to see if there will be a reaction in graffiti.