Published: July 2nd 2008April 20th 2008
Petit Jura pool!!
Luckily it was the off-season so I often had it all to myself :)
I'd originally planned to return to Dakar on Wednesday, but it was so relaxing in Saly Niakhniakhal I ended up staying until Friday. I was scheduled to fly to Malawi on Sunday morning, so by Friday I had no choice but to head back. I spent most of the last day swimming in the fabulous Petit Jura pool, then around 4pm caught a sept-place
from Mbour to Dakar. The city was ringed by its usual traffic jams so we didn’t get into town until around 8pm. I headed to a French-run restaurant in a neighborhood I’d never been to called “Fiesta” for dinner. It was pretty reasonably priced (keep in mind Senegal is generally surprisingly expensive) for the quality—I had an amazing beef carpaccio and then a salad with smoked fish for dinner. The live music was Rwandan! When I found that out I racked my brain for the few Kinyarwanda phrases I remembered from last year; as the musician walked by I called out Muraho!
(hello!) and he was thrilled. Then, he threw back Amacuru?
(How are you?) and I completely blanked for about three seconds until finally I blurted out Ni meza!
(Fine!) with a sigh of relief—I hadn't
let down my surrogate family back in the refugee camp after all
. The owner of the place was a really sweet French guy who ended up offering me a pichet of wine. I highly recommend this restaurant, it was one of the best meals I had in Dakar, though it’s not in a lively neighborhood.
Saturday I spent the day searching for some good olive oil and cheese to smuggle into Malawi with me—one of the less ugly consequences of French colonization is you can find reasonably priced French imports all over the place. I bought a $60 block of emmental cheese and three liters of olive oil at a toubab
shop in Les Almadies, one of the swanky neighborhoods adjacent to Yoff. Then I spent a couple of relaxing hours at the Pointe des Almadies, the westernmost point of Africa, where there’s a little agglomeration of beach restaurants and a little artisan market in a beautiful setting of sea spray crashing against boulders. One of the vendors there gave me a beautiful necklace with some kind of huge tooth as a bead (I'm wearing it in the photo). Then I ate at a great little outdoor joint,
right on the water, with plastic tables and chairs and ground completely covered in clam shells. Like most of the other patrons, I ordered a steaming plate of coquilles
(tiny little clams). A heaping tray of them—more than enough for two to share—cost $3. They come with nothing but a few slices of lemon, and they’re delicious.
After lunch I scoured the local market for a cheap suitcase I could fit all my acquisitions in—with my contraband and the fabric and clothes I'd received as gifts, there was no way my backpack was going to cut it. After packing everything up and saying goodbye to the cleaning ladies who work at Claudia, I headed to Jardin Thailandais, a really great Thai restaurant I had gone to with my Swiss friend Ellen way back during week 1—I know it seems odd but I really wanted one last Thai meal before heading back to nsima
land! I had hot and sour soup with shrimp ($6), and then green curry with beef ($12). Then I headed to the beach to hang out with Adia, where she gave me that pair of custom-made sandals beaded with the colors of the Senegalese flag I told you about last time. Eventually I tore myself away to try and get some sleep for the very, very
long journey ahead.
Sunday morning at 7am my brand new second hand guitar and I had a flight on Slok Air, a Gambian airline, from Dakar to Accra, Ghana—unfortunately it stopped just about everywhere in between so we didn’t arrive until around 3pm. After the Rwandair Express flight Eva and I took last year to Kigali (one word: propeller), I was a little unfazed about flying on African airlines I’d never heard of in ancient planes through countries with known aircraft maintenance issues, and I certainly didn’t have a problem with being the only toubabe
aboard. But when our plane made its first stop in Monrovia, Liberia, and I was taking in the view from my window seat, I can’t say I wasn’t fazed seeing one of the pilots peering into the left engine with a puzzled look on his face. A few minutes later, after the plane had emptied and refilled with new passengers, we took off again so I figured he must have been satisfied with whatever he saw in there. Either way I was too exhausted to be going through my usual take-off panic attack drama and I fell asleep. About an hour later we were landing in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I have to say, as we were descending over lush green countryside dotted with tiny villages, all along what looked to be a perfectly beautiful coastline, I was more than a little disappointed I wasn’t going to be able to get out of the plane there as I’d planned to do a month before. That’s definitely at the top of my list of places to go next time! Anyway, so we got to the airport—where the only other aircraft are military or little prop. planes marked with various UN agency logos—and I was peering out to take in as much of Sierra Leone as I would be able to for a long time—when I see the other
pilot standing by the wing and looking down the engine, scratching his head. Needless to say I was pretty paranoid after that but thankfully we made it without incident to Accra. There I had a 4-hour layover before I was able to get in line to check-in for my various Ethiopian Airlines flights to Lagos, Nigeria, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and finally, Lilongwe.
In Malawi I was finally hooked up with a replacement camera so photos relevant to the text will resume in the next blog!