Published: April 30th 2012February 2nd 2012 heya readers...just posting the last 2 blogs that went unposted.
well worth it...
the excursion...if only to meet this girl. who, at 11, seemed to be running the entire family compound of A. :) leadership unquestionable.
but first some UPDATES (blog follows):
Alhamdoulilah! for Senegal's peaceful elections - and now see what's up with Youssou!
And please now put your focus and thoughts to Mali, not the coup, but rather to the insurgence of Tuareg rebels, allegedly paired with al-Qaeda fighters who have taken over northern Mali. I walked those towns and met those people and think of them now struggling for their survival, freedom and decency under the rule of the rebels and fighters. I'm trying to get a piece written on the refugees in Bamako, wish me luck, and keep updated:
(though unfortunately, this tells you nothing of the life of refugees, and those still stuck on the inside...)
Interesting comparison of Senegal and Mali right now:
http://allafrica.com/stories/201204060996.html Chasing Abdoulaye...
as a westerner, you must slow down in Senegal...otherwise, Senegal will slow you down for you.
as a former personality type double-A from new york city, i had a certain mild resistance shifting from a life of punctuality and certainty to a reality of round about and possibility.
gearshifting was palm-oiled by gently learned and relearned lessons of flat tires, flat-out lies, infinite promises of 'ca arrive', a very accountable Allah, power outages, water outages, and patience shortages.
having already had a cumulative 36 months to slow to Senegal's pace and spirit in relativity comfortable circumstances, a mighty-sized excursion
on this fourth sojourn in 2012 showed me the beauty in having mastered the art of patience, nonchalantness and whimsy (or at least master the disguise thereof)...and i was rewarded with several entertaining, amusing, time and money saving, enriching and adventurous moments. pilgrimage:
our excursion was more like a pilgrimage. from Dakar to the northeast of Senegal...uncharted territory for me. and apparently, hard to charter to.
but we forged ahead, as we were chasing Abdoulaye.
Abdoulaye is a dear friend of mine who spends most of his time in Dakar with thought and central processing unit speed more akin to that of a European not on vacation. he welcomed us out to his native village in northeast Senegal...sooo badly wanting us to see where he was from, share his life, and experience rural, semi-desert village life. unable to settle his exuberance, we agreed. earnestly.
lots of time staring into the distance...and at empty roads
Abdoulaye started off out of Dakar 2 days before us, and instructed us to take the "direct" car from Dakar to his village of Ore Diallanndiaye...a car which goes through the night and takes about 12 hours. night travel with potholes the size of pigs and donkeys standing in them?
12 straight hours? we thought his suggestion was proposterous.
when oh when
will i learn to listen to the locals...?
fortunately or unfortunately, our pilgrimage was particularly laboring due to Senegal's lessons in round about and possibility being quite defined this time - less through abstract concepts of time, space, Allah and ca arrive
s...and much, much more in being evident through practical measurable occurrences: -greves
(general strikes on all modes of transpo to complain about the price of gasoline) -the Grand Magals and Grand Gamous
(which may sound like Tolkien ogres but are two major annual holidays for two separate brotherhoods which involve long pilgrimages)
-the birth of the prophet Mohammed, and
-the pre-presidential election tension and demonstrations...which, though all fairly organized and non-injurous, a few dead so far. [update, the official international news count is 6 dead...though the in-country report said 15...hm...]
knowing water was on the horizon, after days of sub-saharan desert...
these very concrete occurrences resulted in very few collective cars, or absolutely no collective cars, going to and fro normally frequented destinations. it also bred lots of additional swindlers and swindles. and so i was forced to tiptoe past my western certainty and punctuality not only into the Senegalese foray of round about and possibility, but even further...into several choses noirs.
oui, even by Senegalese standards we were doing things noir. noir un:
pretending to happily, and patiently lingering in the dusty, dirty overrun main transportation garage in Dakar waiting for a collective car to St. Louis...we were told "no cars", then "some cars", then we were kicked out of a possible car for an argument over keeping a bookbag at my feet, then we ended up lounging nonchalantly against a car that could be 3rd
in line...in ch'Allah.
we waited next to this locked car with no driver in sight, along with a friendly local hoping to score the front seat. then lumbers over a man with a long thorax and whispers Wolof words with our front seat friend, C...after which C. informs us that this man has a collective car to go to St.
chasing K ak G
sand was chasing us. and invading us. everywhere. this is sand blurring the air, not an unsteady hand.
Louis. we just need to follow him.
so we did...
through heaps of idle-engined minibuses, cars, taxis, the public toilet (that is, a space between the parking rows where all seem to piss) and its adjacent vendors cooking up full meals.
we scurried down two back streets,
across a major highway,
through a major gas station,
down one more city block,
and then got shoved into the back of a 'black and yellow'...that is, a completely normal, mint condition, 4-seater taxi.
not quite succumbing to good fortune, i asked how this taxi chaffeur came about to having an empty one...C. translated that this man had just driven a toubab down from St. Louis and wants to fill his car for the ride back....and of course can't show up at the main garage as competition. sounds reasonable enough.
C. also informs us, as if we had not caught on my now, that this is noir. taxi noir. noir deux:
arrive St. Louis, darkness.
while the campground was 3x as much as the book had told us, we were its only paying clientele and the spunky
slept out on the sand, with access to only the most important hut...the kitchen hut!
French bottle-capped-ear-pierced chic overseeing the place put several off-limit items at our disposal: that is, 2 frying pans, 1 cooking pan, a stove, and the offer to use her kitchen if we didn't tell anyone. as traveling and hungry vegetarians, we had no reservation making ourselves comfortable in among the off-limits. kitchen ninjas. noir trois:
we set off for another day of traveling...today's destination on the pilgrimage was Podor, a riverfront, forted town with a romantic trading history in the northernmost part of Senegal.
Podor rests directly on the Senegalese River which forms the border here between Senegal and Mauratania
(and later downstream also between Mali...or is that upstream? as two dams have now altered the course of the river and i forget what is what).
a few days prior to our arrival in Podor, two people were killed here during the demonstrations against the current president. shivers down the spine from this knowledge were tempered by shivers of having caught my first glimpse of the illustrious river on the walk into town...
i love water. especially romantic bodies thus there of. (i once drove two straight days to reach the Mississippi. then when we
looking out at Mauritania across from our terrace...small pirogues ferry back and forth with wares...
finally go there, me and my East Coast friend were so excited, we both forgot to actually get out and touch it. doof.)...but i wouldn't forget this time to sweep my hand through such waters...
from the dusty car pit, we magically were led by a local to a mediterranean auberge. i softened at the pastel colors, worn wooden furniture and four-polster bed...but before i could konk out...the sweetie says he is ready for a swim...menno!
...i had been still taking it all in, our voyage, the fact we made it to Podor, seeing the glimmering Senegal River and the banks of Mauritania before me... sooo, a swim?
[background: i have dreamt for years of just passing quietly into the no man's land of Mauritania somehow....for getting an official visa in and holding an american passport there is not a good idea...no, i had decided, Mauritania is not a place i am willing to risk a trip to. i can catch camels and sand elsewhere...but...]
...under whimsy roadtrip intoxication
, off went G and i down to the riverfront...and going beyond the simple swirl of a hand in this legendary river, all of me jumps in...!
with all the talk of how the dam would affect ecology, did they consider how happy toubabs would be to finally happen upon one of the newly created tributaries?...not to mention happy irrigated farmers!
...a setting sun across my chilled back, a moderately strong current on my laterals, and Mauritanie set square in front of me...(i didn't dare think about what was under me...manitees, or crocs
...without anyone knowing where we were, away we swam...from the banks of Senegal onto the banks of Mauritania!
we arrived sans goggles, sans papers and san permission...a bit nuts coming from someone who is in an on-going, upright struggle with the immigration office here in Deutschland!...
...on shore, G seemed to be more amused with the successful olympic crossing rather than the feat of international trespassing, but i touched my hands and head to the ground. Alhamdoulilah. Mauritania.
i will forever smile every time i think of having swum, illegally, into another country.
(maybe if i just swam the river Oder that borders Poland, Germany's immigration case managers may go easier on me...) (Part 2 coming...)