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Published: July 10th 2010
Editor's note: I decided not to write this entry since it's not my first time experiencing the often overwhelming welcome to the continent. I have apparently forgotten that things that happen here are not normal. It all seems so familiar and ordinary to me (yes, I'm aware that this means that there is probably something very wrong with me). Instead, I offer up my mom's account of our first few days of Africa. If you want to read about my first week in Africa and see how far I've come since then, you can read it here
After finally arriving at the Dakar Airport, we had to maneuver our way though the throngs of other travels. We waited in an endless line to get our passports checked when a parade of mothers and babies cut in front of us. I’m told that is customary so Kate and I decided that we would rent an African baby on our next trip through the airport. A cranky French man tried to cut in front of me (WRONG MOVE) because the teacher came out in me and in English I told
him to back off. He may not have understood my language but my body language and pointing finger made it obvious what I was saying. Luckily the crowd supported me.
Now comes the fun part! We were greeted with a massive crowd outside of the airport (3:30am to be exact) and we needed to find our driver. By sheer luck, Pape, our driver, was standing in front with a sign with Kate’s name on it. The parking lot was filled with rather assertive men and boys trying to get you to take their taxi or buy bananas. Kate was conversing with Pape, and I was eyeballing all of the dilapidated, so-called taxis. I spotted an exceptionally demolished specimen in front and made a mental note to walk past it quickly but that
happened to be Pape’s vehicle. Yikes! Welcome to Dakar!
We spent our two days in Dakar visiting Kate’s host family and “sightseeing.” My pedometer was smoking by the time we ended each day. The hotel was in walking distance of the African Renaissance Monument. It was very impressive and overflowing with African pride. We schlepped up a hill to see the lighthouse and were given a private tour by the lighthouse keeper. I happened to drop my camera over the cement ledge by accident, but luckily a rock stopped it and a nice gentleman got it for me.
Kate’s host family was very inviting, and we ate with them twice. I may never look at rice and fish the same way again. Kate said get used to it because that’s all that’s on the menu once we
get out into the village. I wonder how many points a few spoonfuls of that meal equaled. Weight Watchers never looked so good!
A host family member took us to the market so that she could negotiate the best price for us. Talk about sensory overload. The market was jam-packed with people and booths that sold mainly fabric and sewing supplies. We each bought six meters of fabric to have an outfit made once we get to the village.
That night there was a power cut in Dakar and we spent the evening by candle light. It actually was a positive experience. I read and chatted with Kate while the mosquitoes chewed on her and not me. [Editor’s note: Somehow she
plaque at the Monument
Youth of Africa and the Diaspora,
If one day your steps bring you to the foot of this Monument,
Think of those who sacrificed their liberty or their life for the African Renaissance
has managed to get only ONE bite. I, on the other hand, am being eaten alive by these damn mosquitoes. I guess that just means I’m sweeter.] Dakar has regular power cuts so it was no big deal.
Tuesday was a horrific day for me. Kate insisted that we take a sept-place to Kaolack, and me being the ultimate rookie said 'Sure!’ Oh boy, I had no idea what was in store for me. Pape drove us to the bus station which was a lot filled with junk station wagons and a bazillion people. To me it was terrifying because it had the appearance of a junkyard with people swarming around trying to sell you anything from bananas to transistor radios. My heart was beating in my throat and I was sweating profusely as Kate and Pape
negotiated our ride and baggage. We wound up landing a 1970 woodie station wagon with a shattered but still in place windshield. Sept means seven so there were seven, actually eight because there was a baby, adults plus the driver crammed in and ready to roll. We headed out for a 3.5 hour trek to Kaolack. The driver’s door kept flying open while we were cruising down the pothole-laden highway, and he simply reached out and slammed it shut. No big deal! The vehicle sounded better going at a faster speed because it drowned out the clanging, chugging sounds. He had to stop once and look under the hood for only God knows what. He slammed the hood and off we went.
The decent road suddenly ended and we had to drive on both sides of the road to avoid massive potholes. Kate spent her time talking with the
lady next to her about the medications that her daughter had sent her from the US. They were over the counter medicines and Kate explained to her what they were and when and how to use them. I spent my time trying to ignore my cramped, aching legs and butt and thinking positive thoughts.
Our trip finally ended and the driver dropped us off across the street from our hotel. We got a nice room with a huge bed and a private bathroom. Most people would say what’s the big deal about that, but you have to experience Africa to understand why I was thrilled. We paid 2,500cfa extra for air conditioning but with power cuts it wasn’t that great. They cranked up a generator so that we could have the comfort of a fan.
No trip to Kaolack would be complete without a trip to the second largest covered market in Africa. We only walked around the outside of it but that was enough for one day with the sept-place experience earlier. We’ll go inside the market on our return trip to Kaolack.
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