“A Swedish friend suggested my husband apply for a job in Dakar. My son was already in school in Bangkok with us and I had started interior decorating. I was focussing on marketing accessories for table settings and collecting Chinese antiques,” she recounted. “After Bangkok, our plan was to return to Denmark and open up a store dealing in Asian antiques. Our container was even ready for the move back to Denmark,” she pointed out. Life is full of the unexpected. She did not make it back to Denmark and has been living in Senegal for over ten years.
I am chatting with Ann, my hostess in Dakar. I am there for a couple weeks. As usual, I get the itch to write when I am here. Senegal does that to me……. every single time. Ann continued to share her story. “We arrived in Dakar in 2002. I was happy because I was born not too far away, in Ghana, and was looking forward to being back in Africa and exploring the continent.”
I am heading down to Ziguinchor, southern Senegal, but all the flights and the ferries are booked. So I end up staying almost a week in Dakar, which gives me more time to hang out with Ann. We met through a mutual friend two years ago. At the time, I was living in Dakar, but we never had the chance to really get to know each other.
“After we arrived in Dakar, we settled in the Yoff neighborhood. The whole family played golf every weekend at the Meriden Hotel, now called the Golf Club La Pointe des Almadies de Dakar. We had a good group of friends then, playing golf every weekend,” she smiled. I could see the wonderful memories of those first months Dakar reflected in her facial expression.
Ann started golfing back when the family lived in Bangkok. She practiced at the golf range and was a natural: she got good at it quite fast. Golfing eventually became an important part of her life and still is. She formed the first ladies’ golf team for Senegal! Ann the Dane, Jenny the Austrian and Binetou, the Senegalese represented Senegal for the first time internationally. The All Africa Challenge Trophy (AACT) was their first event. It is a biannual tournament hosted in different African countries. She regularly participates in individual and team tournaments, such as the Peugeot Golf Tour in France. Ann is now well known in sporting circles in Senegal. Her mission is to make sure that Senegal is always represented at the AACT Tournaments.
Interestingly, the team always represents Senegal well in their stylish golf outfits, designed by Ann. Stylish golf outfits, I hear you say. There is another side to Ann. She has a background in fashion design from Denmark and Zimbabwe. She loves jewelry, in particular pearls. When she moved to Dakar, she got the idea to market pearls. She went to a trade fair in Bangkok, her old stomping ground, where she quickly learnt how to do her own pearl designs. “In the beginning, no one wore pearls in Dakar, except the foreigners. I became known as the pearl lady,” she smiled. Now when she attends events in the city and sees women wearing her pearls, it makes her proud. Ann views her jewelry business as a hobby and really wants to use it to support golf in Senegal.
People’s lives interest me, and Ann has led an interesting one. She was born in Ghana to a Ghanaian mother and a British father. She had a grand-uncle who had a Danish wife, Lizbeth. Ann was so attached to their daughter, Nina, that she accompanied the family on their diplomatic post to Tokyo. Ann was nineteen when she left Accra. A year later, political tensions started brewing and they dissolved the post in Tokyo. Instead of returning to Ghana, the family moved to Denmark. While in Denmark, Ann met a guy and they started dating. Then the family moved to Zimbabwe for a new diplomatic posting. Ann left him behind and moved with the family to take care of little Nina. His name was Flemming.
In Zimbabwe, Ann and Fleming kept in touch through letters. “In those days, we wrote letters and anxiously waited for the mailman to come knocking, ” she recalled. Ann kept herself busy in Zimbabwe. She bought a sewing machine and started designing her own clothes. She also walked the runway, from time to time. A year or so later, Ann returned to Denmark for a visit and Flemming proposed. They married and the couple moved up Silkeborg. She went to fashion design school and learnt Danish. Again, she was a natural and did well in the fashion world. They eventually moved to Thailand for Flemming’s job and then Senegal and so the story began…….