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A lazy afternoon in the costal Tanzanian town of Bagamoyo unexpectedly turned into a religious experience like none other I have had before. Biking along on the outskirts of town we came across the old Catholic church (apparently the first in Eastern Africa and a springboard for the anti-slavery movement). Curious, we parked and ventured inside through one of the slightly ajar side doors. Inside we found:

A young man playing Celine Dion on an electric organ with a beat box background
A bright green-turquoise, yellow, and white color scheme
A nativity set tucked on a shelf under the stairs so that Joseph teetered right at eye level, threatening to jump off the shelf at any second
Two dusty cupboards with random pieces of old textiles
Innumerable benches that were only 6” in depth and with hollow backs so that if you slouched you would fall completely through to the floor behind
A brightly colored painting over the alter – clearly master artisans were not deemed necessary to call in – it seemed as if scaffolding had been set up and the town’s children were given paintbrushes and free reign
A dozen stained glass windows designed so that the center third could have built in wooden shutters
Algea coated bowls of holy water at each door

Check out the following photos for a visual:

Finally, after almost 7 months in Asia, (India, Nepal, and Vietnam) I am off to someplace new – a place with desert and rainforest, Wolof and French, relative calm but growing economic disparity.

Senegal.

Africa itself isn’t new to me. I have been to Egypt twice and my Sicilian friends in Siracusa would have considered the 6 months I spent in the southeastern corner of the island as more legitimately African then European.  But being in and below the Sahel, that is new to me and deliciously unlike anything I have encountered before.

The food, the aromas, the people… I have no idea what to even expect. I am trying to expect nothing, hoping that no expectations will allow me to absorb and figure out the place more quickly. Luckily I have friends here. Friends that can make up for the lack familiarity and make the place feel like home even before I have arrived.

Senegal – I have wanted to meet you for years. I am ready for something new, and you fit the bill to a tee. Hopefully we will get along just swimmingly.