Monday, February 8, 2010

Dakar – Sunday

After all the excitement on Saturday, a friend from Saint-Louis showed up to Dakar to hang out, for lack of a better idea. Ollie wanted to go to the Village des Tortues with me. And honestly, if he hadn’t been there, I don’t think I would’ve felt comfortable going alone.

We showed up at the gare routiere to find a bus to take us there (there are buses that go along that route), but no one wanted to just send us along our way after pointing us in the right direction. We ended up hiring a tour guide, and he told us that it would be 15,000 Francs for the day, which is $30. That’s not a bad deal. Considering to hire a private care it would be about 30,000 Francs. At least that’s what they were asking before negotiations.

Before I continue, there are usually some stories that I’ll wait awhile before telling people, just because it is always a story about me getting myself in to a “situation” that may not be the best situation that I’ve ever been in. However, I can’t really just talk about the Turtles, because honestly, most of the day was the journey there, and Ollie and I being unsure if we were going to finish the day intact. Or even return to Dakar. So, here it is. And let me say something else, I never would have done this alone. If Ollie hadn’t been there, I would’ve walked away right at the beginning.

So, we get the guide, and it turns out we’re going to take public transportation all the way to the village. We hop in the first bus, and we’re waiting for it to go, and Ollie looks over to the sidewalk and see’s a security guard looking at the two toubabs in the car rapide, and he starts shaking is head. As if to say that this was our goodbye. I kind of panicked, and I wanted to go talk to the guard and ask him what he thought about the entire situation. So, I hopped out of the car, and dragged Ollie with me. Our guide wasn’t too happy with that, and then we began negotiating with another guy, cause I didn’t really feel comfortable with the whole situation, and was a little nervous. We ended up getting back in to the bus though and continued on our way. Then there was a police stop that probably took about 15 minutes. And both of us had forgotten to grab the copies of our passport. But luckily he just checked out the driver, and in a very scrutinizing manner. After a while, we got off that bus, and started walking. We walked about a half-mile before standing on the side of the road to wait for another bus. This was the second bus. Ollie got yelled at for sticking his arm out the window at one point. After the second bus, we got a car the rest of the way to the village.

Now, as I go over the story, it doesn’t sound that exciting, and sounds like we took a series of buses. No big deal, right? Well, often times, these buses break down. And when you start to get further away from the city center, this proves to be a bigger problem. Plus, I didn’t really trust our guide and was under the impression that he was going to just pull one over on us – which he did later. But the entire time, we weren’t really sure if we were going in the right direction or not. I got the name of a village, found it on t heap, and there was no problem.

In the car that we rented, we were driving on some back roads that were in very poor condition with massive potholes (yes, WAY worse than DH - believe it or not). At one point, we reach an intersection where we can go left or right. I knew exactly where we were cause I had looked at the map and knew we had to go left. But apparently neither the driver nor our guide knew that.

There was also a sign pointing to the village that I saw – and no one else apparently saw.

So, we waited to get directions from a guy on the side of the road, and turned left.

The village - The village was very cool. By cool, I mean: sweet, awesome, wicked, the bomb. The temperature was actually quite hot (~100F). It’s a place that serves as refuge for turtles that are endangered or neglected. When we were there, we had a guide show us around. The place is pretty small, and there was an entire section that was closed down because all the turtles had been rereleased back into the wild! YAY! Because there were just two of us, he told us to go climb in the turtle pens and pick them up and take our picture.


This is the big monster 100 kg turtle! He's the biggest one in the park.

YAY! Ollie and I holding turtles.

So, while we were only there for 30 minutes after a 1.5 hour journey of anxiety and uncertainty, it was very worth it. OH, the other thing I was nervous about was the fact that I had to go to the airport at midnight. I kept thinking – what if I don’t make it back in time??????? Luckily, we were back before it even got dark. And going back was much easier than arriving. We only took two buses to get back.

Now, for another installment of: Monica gets into an payment dispute with a guy with who she can barely communicate with.

So, when we were leaving, the guy told us 15,000. But we ended up spending less than that. But within the 15000 was 5000 for him, as payment for his services. So, I assumed that I was going to give him 5000. This is after we paid for his transportation all the way there and back. But because we didn’t spend the entire allotted 10,000 on buses, we have to give the rest to him. He didn’t make this clear at the beginning of the trip. So, I got very upset and tried to give him the 5000 and leave. But the guy completely ignores me and looks at Ollie and says, in English, “This is man-to-man.” That’s when I just about lost it. And of course, a crowd is gathering. And I keep saying “No. No. No.” But he keeps ignoring me. But I have the money in my pocket, so pissing me off isn’t going to help. Ollie, who speaks much better French than me, talked to the guy and figured it out, and apparently that’s the way it’s done. So, we gave him the extra money, I gave him the dirtiest glare I could muster and pushed all the gawkers out of my way in the hunt for a taxi. Then, to top it off, I walked up to the taxi and asked him how much he would charge to take us back to the hotel, and he says 3500! I looked at him and said “No, 1500.” He came down to 2500 pretty quickly, but I refused to pay a single franc over 1500. Then he came down to 2300, which I thought was lunatic. As I walked away he came down to 2000. But I just ignored him. We found a taxi that would take us for 1500. There was no way I was going to get ripped off by a taxi driver after Mustafa, our guide, completely pulled one over on us. If only I could speak more French, I would have put him in his place.

But, it was a good day otherwise, with a lot of mystery and suspense. Unfortunately, it was about my well-being. But like I told Ollie: it’s situations like these that always make for the best stories later on. Kinda like the time when I got into a spitting match with the Egyptian taxi driver, the time Beth, Geoff and I thought we were gonna get kidnapped and almost saw a guy lose his hand, the time I lost my passport in London (this was after and before a series of other events that would make any parents hair turn grey), or the time I got carsick and threw up 7 times in one day – setting a personal record.

So, this is the end of my travels. And as I’m writing this, the sun is chasing us west across the Atlantic. We have headwinds, so unfortunately the flight is 8 hours instead of 6. My first class of my last semester of undergrad starts in 3 hours, and I’ll just be landing in JFK. I’ll get back to MSP this afternoon, welcomed by my favorite roommate (who I miss). But then I’ll crash. Immediately.

I’ll try to remember to post before going to sleep though. Thanks for reading the past month! And if I think of anything that is related to Senegal or travels or anything else in the near future, I’ll post it, but I’ll be in Minnesota, so I don’t know if it’s really as fair. One thing I am looking forward to is: Applesauce and Pad Thai. But not at the same time. I’ve been thinking about those two, because of all my stomach problems, I start dreaming of food that I know I can digest without running to the bathroom.

Dakar – Saturday

After staying in on Thursday, I had planned on going around town maybe to the beach or something else on Friday. However, life happens. More specifically, I had some abdominal/intestional issues. I didn’t get much sleep because of severe pain that I had. I realize this might be too much information for people, but it was a big part of 36 hours for me. When I woke up I started taking pills to help my digestive system, but it was pretty bad. I had to take a lot of pills. So, most of Friday I spent wallowing in bed from the severe pain that had me doubled over and making runs for the bathroom while trying to attempt to stay hydrated. That night, I slept like a rock and didn’t have any problems. Alhamdoulilah.

Feeling energized on Saturday, I decided to go to the Ile de Gorée. It’s an island that’s a 10 or 15 minute ferry ride from the Dakar port. While I was going to get on the ferry, I found myself standing next to a man. His name is Mark, and he’s from Rhode Island. He was a very nice man and we ended up talking a bunch. He’s traveling around assessing international schools – if I remember correctly. Basically, I want his job. He was in Madagascar last week. While we were leaving the port, I really wanted to take pictures of all the container ships and the port because it reminded me of home, and it always makes me happy when I can go across the world and still see the cranes my dad works on and the container ships. But I decided to wait for the return trip.

So, there we were, putting a long in this ferry. Then all of a sudden everyone starts looking to the port side of the ship (that’s left for all you landlubbers). The ferry started slowing down and began the process of turning around. I looked and it appeared that someone had dropped something in the water, because there was something floating there. But then all these other boats start gathering around and the ferry gets closer. It wasn’t just something, it was an entire man, and he was floating with his face down in the water. My heart raced because I was afraid he was dead. I’ve never actually seen a dead body outside of a wake, and I was scared. There were a couple of little skiffs that hurried over to him, and they actually almost went over him because of the momentum, but luckily didn’t. And another man jumped from the ferry and swam over to him to get his face out of the water. The men on the skiff grabbed his arms and held him up while the swimmer tried to get him to start breathing. He started coughing out water. I’m assuming everything was alright after that because the ferry turned around and continued on. The rest of the ferry passed by much less eventful.

Ile de Gorée – The island is a picturesque little island. It’s absolutely dreamy. A little paradise away from the downtown city bustle of Dakar. Upon arrival, I said goodbye to Mark from Rhode Island and began my tour of the island. I decided that I would start with attempting to walk around the exterior and then explore the middle towards the end. I started walking down the street (there are no motorized vehicles of any sort on the island) and saw how beautiful it was and pulled out my camera to take a picture. But alas, this silly traveler forgot to put in the camera card after going to downtown Dakar a few days prior. I wanted to cry. I was absolutely devastated. My first instinct was to find a place on the island that could sell me a card. I didn’t care how expensive it was. But there was no place. So, the day that I would’ve taken a bazillion pictures, I have none. So, I made a point of savoring every minute detail. Which made it a special experience, I think. I spent a lot of time looking closely at the flowers, the houses, the signs, the art work, scenery. I sat down and listened closely to the sound of the ocean beating against the rock cliffs which slightly muffled the yells from children playing football (normal football, not American football). I enjoyed the sun and ate my snack I had bought from a vender on the mainland. So, I wandered alone being all pensive and thoughtful – if I was an English major, I would’ve written a poem. :)

So, I apologize about not being able to share the pictures with you. But, it’s a blessing in disguise, because now I’m forced to do that English-major thing, and use: *gasp* ADJECTIVES!

Walking around on the ile was very peaceful. The entire island is tranquil and moves at a slow rate. The locals sit at their shops practicing the flute with their artwork on display waiting for you to wander through their corner of shade under the baobab tree. The streets are cobblestone and even in the residential area, you can tell that they’re still waiting for a tourist to wander by in wonderment of these ancient colonial houses that are still standing. Where the ferry dock is, there is one little sandy beach the children play on. There are fishing boats tied up there as well, but it seems that little piece of the island belongs to the kids. On the back side of the island, it quickly wanders uphill to the heart of the artisans area. Finding a quiet place to sit by yourself is a bit of a challenge, but not impossible. I went and sat near (near, but not too close) to a cliff that overlooked Central Dakar and their very impressive skyline. It’s really hard to imagine that Saint-Louis and Central Dakar are really in the same country when you look closely. The sun was gracing my white shoulders in one of my last attempts to soak up as much sun as possible in preparation for the return to what I’ve described as: Il est très très très froid. Il y a beaucoup de neige et de glace. C’est pas bon. J’espere que je reste ici pour plus de temps. Je suis triste. But, I will admit, while I write the French down with all the proper words included, I think I’ve picked up some poor speaking habits since being here. But, to continue, I wadered all the way to the back side of the island where there was a large turret (gun still there but cemented interior) much like the one’s at home in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska. I just sat there, watching the water roll upon the rocks down below, occasionally gazing over to the fisherman in the boats with life painted across the side in the brightest colors.

After doing my solitary wander on the bluff, I decided to head back into the heart of the town, get an afternoon Nescafe and head back to Dakar. While I was walking down, I saw a woman who had earrings for sale. It was actually the first time in my 5 weeks that I saw earrings. And let me tell you – my mom LOVES earrings. Every time I leave the country, she always tells me to buy her earrings. So, I sat down and started talking with the woman. We talked about the earrings, and then I told her I had been in Saint-Louis. Turns out, she was from Saint-Louis, and her husband lives on the Island of Saint-Louis, she lives on the Island of Gorée, and I live on the Island of Unalaska. We talked about Senegal, French, and a bunch of other topics – the entire time in French. Then she told me something that made me very happy. I don’t know if it is true, but she told me that I speak like a Senegalese person. Which means I don’t have an extremely horrible American accent that no one can understand. I bought two pairs of earrings from her and continued on my walk. I went back to the mainland, and back to the hotel to take a nap. Until the evening.

That evening, I went to Point des Almadies. It’s the furthest western point on the entire continent of Africa. Just to watch the Sunset. This time, I remembered to put in my camera card !

The statue that no one likes. I talked to the taxi driver about it, and the reason is because (obviously) it was a lot of money that was spent that could have been spent on more productive things - like fixing roads.

Sunset. From Africa.

All the pretty shells.

Kids playing.

The light house. This was later in the evening after sun had gone behind the clouds.

**Disclaimer : If there are any bizarre spellings of words, capital letters in random places or weird spacings it is not my fault. For some reason, my computer automatically switched to spell checking in French, and I’m not suer how to get it to stop.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dakar: Finally going home

Hey, so I have some stories to share, from yesterday and today. But I'm getting ready to go to the airport and wrapping some things up in Dakar. I'll post tomorrow, when I'm in Minnesota. Promise. With beaucoup des photos! :D

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dakar: Day 2 - Nothing exciting, just an addendum

Originally, I was planning on going to the turtle village today, but it's the 4th of February. Which means that tomorrow is the 5th of February, which means that the application for Green Corps is due. I just decided last week to apply, when I got the reminder e-mail. I figure that it can't hurt, and it would be a great opportunity to do some student organizing, which I do have experience in. So I decided to stay in my room, and crunch out this application, get it done, and then maybe go to the two breast-like mountains to snap some photos, grab dinner, and come back. That's if I finish it in a reasonable time. SO, I'm planning on going to the Turtle Village tomorrow. If I do nothing else with my week, I must get to that place. Apparently, they even have sea turtles. That's what the book said. I've never seen a sea turtle. I absolutely have to go to this place, I am so excited. I'll be completely disappointed in myself if I drop the ball on this.

However, I do have a story. I completely forgot to include this in the blog yesterday, because I told Sam via skype. After I told someone, I kind of forgot that I had wanted to include it in my blog.

So, not to brag or anything (only a little bit), I have a pretty solid sense of direction. There was only once in Cairo when I got turned around, but that was because all the streets in the neighborhood we were in intersected at skewed angles, and for some reason, I was still in the mentality of a grid. But that was only once. So, when I got in the taxi yesterday, after my Nescafé and croissant, I told him Place d'Indépendence. He tried to jerk me around for 3500, but I got him down to 2000 for the ride. So, I get dropped off. Last week, I planned out a series of day trips for myself, and this was the Central Dakar excursion. All I had was the map and highlighted numbers with one-sentence descriptions of each place. But when I was dropped off, I had absolutely no sense of direction, I didn't know where the ocean was, where the port was, where the rest of the country was, etc. I had no idea if I was holding my map upside down, sideways or backwards. So, I went and found a place to sit down away from other people who wouldn't pester me trying to get money or sell stuff, and thought.

This might sound silly, but it actually worked. It was about 10 AM, so I thought, "Well, it's before noon, so ideally, the sun should still be in the East. We're pretty close to the equator, so that's not too farfetched." I looked for the sun and found it. So then I said, "Okay, if I put the sun on my right, that means my left is west, and ahead of me is north." Then, I oriented the map in my book so I was looking at it correctly and found the street I wanted on the map. I didn't see any street signs, which made it difficult, so I looked around until I got my bearings, and found what I thought would be the street that my first stop would be.

Then this woman came up to me and tries to sell me jewelery, but I told her that I already bought some necklaces. She tells me that she needs money to go to Touba for the big holiday. I told her that I had friends in Touba (which I do - some of the people I met in Saint-Louis went to Touba for the festival). And then I find out that she is from Saint-Louis so we talk for a few minutes. Then I ask her, for confirmation, if the road that I had determined was Av Hassan II was indeed that road. She said yes.

Point for Monica! I will never get lost! Needless to say, my sense of direction continues to be very solid.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dakar - Day 1

So, today I went on a little walking tour of Central Dakar. Today was the first day in Dakar. Well, I was here yesterday, but I slept most of the day, and decided to have a lazy day.

The sun was setting as we got closer to Dakar, so I snapped this pictures with the baobabs in the background.

The two hills are called the Mamelles. THe one of the right has a lighthouse, the one on the left, a giant and somewhat controversial statue that is supposed to represent African rennaissance, but it's been said to have Communist undertones, and is slightly sexist. These are not my words, this is just what I've read.

The second art gallery I went to. It was tucked back in a neighborhood. A guy started following me and pestering me, but then one of the guys that works here helped me fend him off. That was nice.

Of course I'm going to take a picture of the giant turtle wall hanging.

In the sand, the phrase: "Dakar Paris, 4 generations between the two." Or something like that. I think the entire exhibit was dedicated to the life spent between Dakar and Paris of a family.

This was in the third gallery I went to. I was absolutely blown away by this place, it was very impressive. It's completely dedicated to African art, and has pieces from all around the region.

The outside of the gallery. Even that was impressive!

Palais Presidentiel - I walked by and took a couple of photos.

So, I walked to a church, but it was closed. Then I decided to continue my walking tour and look for this museum. I wandered around in this neighborhood until I gave up. I think the map in lonely planet was wrong. After that, I decided that I would try to go to Ile de Goree, but when I hopped in the taxi and got there, I realized I needed to stop at an ATM, but had fogotten. I only had enough for the taxi home, so I just decided to go home. I'll try to go there later this weekend.
So, that was my walking tour. Tomorrow, I'm going to try and figure out how to get to the Village de Tortues!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Le desert!

Hello everyone! The last few days have been a bit busy. Friday was the last day of classes, my professor took me to the local museum and we went through the museum. It was very interesting to learn about the history of Senegal, and about colonialism. Friday night, everyone went out because it was my last night in Saint-Louis. In the morning, I had to wake up bright and early and head to the desert. It was a quick goodbye with my host-mother, as the others were sleeping. Below are pictures of the desert, and the trip there. We got back on Sunday afternoon, and I went to the hotel. Today, I'm heading to the big city, Dakar! Also, yesterday, I bought a whole bunch of souvenirs. With all of the stuff that I have, I will never forget my trip to Senegal in my entire life!

A cute baby goat at the village we stopped at for tea.

Tea at the village.

Driving on the beach. Our car scared the seagulls, and they flew off.

We had some tire issues, so we stopped in a small village to get some more air, and I followed this goat taking pictures of him. This was the most sassiest picture because he's looking right at me!

Some boys in the village who wanted me to take their picture so they could see it on the camera. Unfortunately I didn't have any candy to give them.

Our mode of transportation from Saint-Louis to the Mauritanian village.

Our 5-star Mauritania tent. No joke, it was sweet!

In the desert!

Sunset over the desert.
Alabaster, my camel. :)

Me and Alabaster after the camel ride!

Our surprisingly very nice toilet. This place was a lot nicer than I had originally expected it to be.
The sink, with a mirror! My host family didn't even have a mirror!


We stopped in another village, and i took a picture of the painting of the mouton with a penis painted on. I was surprised that the included that part.

That was the desert. Today, Monday, I'm heading down to Dakar for the week. And a week from today, I'll be on an airplane going home. I'm going to miss the first day of classes, but I'm not really worried, because I think I have a pretty good reason for missing class. Which reminds me, I need to email my professors letting them know. I promise to update more about last week and the concert. I dont have any pictures unfotunately, but it was a lot of fun!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 28

The Pont Faidherbe, as I’ve mentioned before, is the bridge that connects the Island to the Mainland. All is considered to be the city of Saint-Louis. The bridge is in pretty rough shape, and is under reconstruction right now. The bridge, however, is still operational despite its shoddy make-up. The first time I walked across the bridge, I was terrified, because as you’re walking, you notice that the boards that you’re walking on aren’t that great. Every now and then, you’ll come across a gap where half of one of the boards is gone, and you can see the swiftly moving river below. Other times the boards are spaced out awkwardly, and sometimes a little too much for comfort. And when big trucks drive across the bridge, or someone decides to jog past you, it starts shaking, and not in a good way.

The bridge isn’t my favorite part of the trip, however, it is always the most temperate. With a nice breeze coming down the river, it’s a great place to cool off. On several different occasions, while walking on the bridge, people going to opposite direction have actually reached out and grabbed me, which makes me very uncomfortable. A couple weeks ago, one of the religious men who wears brightly colored clothes who collects money from everyone in the market reached out, grabbed my arm while I was walking, and tried to get me to stop and give him money. He let go of me quickly, but walking was stopped. Yesterday, when I was walking home, a kid thought it would be a good idea to hit me on the back of my leg while I was walking past him in the opposite direction.

I’m a pretty speedy walker, and also on the bridge I often run into groups of squealing high school girls whooooooo wwwwaaaaaaalllllkkkkkkk sssssslllllllooooooooooowwweeeeeerrrrrrrrrr tttthhhhaaaannnnnn mmmmmyyyyyy tttttttuuuuuurrrrttttlllleeee, jaws. To make it worse: they travel in gaggles!

So, with oncoming hordes of people that are going the opposite direction, I have to weave through between them and high heels (which I’m surprised haven’t gotten stuck between the cracks yet) that move at the speed of molasses, all the while trying not piss anyone off, and not letting anyone steal something out of my backpack.

Yes, it’s fun.

Anyway, another interesting thing that was brought to my attention, by someone who is probably more of a feminist than myself, was the culture of women here. When she was talking, she said, “It’s so sad that these women will sit at home all day perfecting their beauty, but they have no education.” Most of the time, I guess I don’t really think about these sorts of things. Usually, I see how a different culture works and I don’t question it – well, except for the whole littering/garbage issue that I mentioned before. Most of the time, I just accept the way things are. My reasoning for this is because I think that if I do question it, then I may or may not be imposing “western values” on someone else’s culture, which is something that I would not want to do. So, usually, I just observe the way things are. Sure, I may believe that there is a better way to do something, but I don’t feel that I know enough about a culture to make that judgment call.

One of the things that our class learned about in Morocco was about the tensions between development and culture/religion. While many in the country wanted to develop, there was also some hesitation because they didn’t want to sacrifice their culture and religion and become like the rest of the western world. This is a very important issue, I think. Enough of an important issue that Jeffrey Sachs noted cultural issues as one of the impediments to development. It’s an interesting question/problem/issue that will probably result in very innovative answers. At least, that’s what I think.

But back to the beauty thing – yes, the girls here are very pretty, and they spend a lot of time with clothes and hair and makeup. I’m really impressed. I’m kind of the grungy toubab who wanders around the streets with a big red backpack. But then again, even at home in the states, I don’t spend that much time on fashion stuff. I’m the result of growing up in Dutch Harbor. Of which I’m very proud!

Anyway, that’s all for today, as promised, gaggling girls and terrifying bridge journeys!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 27 – Writer’s block… or just not enough coffee.

Within the last few days, I was chatting with Logan and he asked me, “Have you updated your blog yet?” I told him that I hadn’t, explaining that I had writers block. Well, to more exact, I didn’t have the inspiration to write, although I had a couple of ideas. One of which was an outrageously ridiculous open-love-letter to [drum roll] fruit! Another was talking about the screaming girls that pierce my ears when I haven’t had any delicious instant coffee (Sam knows I’m not kidding, after the term in the middle east, I appreciate instant coffee). There’s also a narrative similar to the taxi one about cross the Pont Faidherbe, the large bridge between the sor and l’ile (mainland and island).

I told Logan that I wasn’t really feeling motivated. However, if I tried to write, I would quickly distract my self with 3D Sudoku (which is sweet) or something else of equal interest. (Side note, Logan and I have been together for a year now. Yay! We celebrated last Friday with a phone call. There’s not much you can do while this far away.)

This morning, I was eating breakfast – I had time to enjoy two cups of delicious Nescafe, and I started thinking. I started thinking about the summer of 2007 when I worked for the newspaper full time. While I was getting paid 40 hrs a week, I don’t think that is what my time sheet looked like, if I had kept closer track. But the thing is that I loved writing for the newspaper, and it was a lot of fun for me every week to do that job. But the same thing happened while I was working for the paper that I described to Logan. Sometimes, I just couldn’t write. Whenever that happened, I always ended up going into town to go to PCR or Eagle to grab flyers and work on the community calendar. Thinking about that gave me the motivation to write.

So here I am…

Yasmine – Yasmine is the woman who comes and cleans the house everyday. I don’t think she speaks much French. I’m assuming mostly Wolof. Because when she speaks in French and I don’t hear her, I ask her to say it again (the way my introductory level French teacher taught me) and then she gets confused. For example, this morning, I bought some toilet paper at the little shop literally 15 ft away from the house. She noticed that I bought it, so she asked me what it was, but when she asked me, I think she asked me “What you bought, what is it in England?” Which explains my confusion. In reality, I only heard the word “acheter” or “to buy” and “Angleterre” or “England.” And then when she went to the bathroom and pointed at it, I figured it out. And I told her that it was the same in French and English – tissue.

I think Yasmine is really pretty. One time she asked me how old I was, and I told her, and then tried to ask her how old she was, but she either didn’t understand or didn’t want to answer. Not sure. I’m guessing somewhere between 18 and 25. She has a really young face which makes me think that she might be 19 or 20, but at the same time, she has a regular job. I’m not sure what the age of getting a job in Senegal is – especially as a daily house cleaner – which I’m assuming requires more maturity, perhaps? I’m going to assume that she is done with school, and has possibly been doing this for a while, so that’s what I think she might between 20 and 25. That’s my logic. She also has really nice boubous (the traditional dress) when she comes, before changing into her cleaning clothes. Which makes me assume that she has had time to save money over a period of time to buy nice clothes.

Anyway, there’s my fit of inspiration/motivation for today. Tomorrow, I promise to write about the bridge, with pictures of the treacherous gaps that try to gobble up your leg when too busy looking at the surroundings. (This is also a tease to come back tomorrow and read!)

Day 26 – My future… well, just the next week and a half.

To stir the excitement! Friday is the last day of classes, and then this weekend, we’re going to the desert to spend the night. I think the desert trip is on Saturday. We’ll come back to Saint-Louis on Sunday. Then, I’m planning on the usual beach trip on Sunday, spend the night at a hotel in town (because technically the homestay ends on Saturday) and then head down to Dakar on Monday. I’m really excited about getting to Dakar. I have the week planned out. I’m planning my sight-seeing/activities based on location. BUT, there is super exciting news. I actually almost screamed last night when I found this out.

But, just a little north of Dakar, there is a place called Village des Tortues, for people who already speak French, you know why I’m excited. For those who don’t. Tortues means turtles. YES! TURTLES! I am so excited. First off, let me explain. I LOVE TURTLES. I think they are the coolest frickin’ animal. I have a turtle at home, his name is Jaws, and I miss him a bunch. No, seriously, I do. I actually think about him more than I admit.

Anyway, more about this village. I’m just going to copy, verbatim from my book:

“On the route de Bayakh, just north of the village of Sangalkam, is the fascinating Village des Tortues. This ‘village’ is a sanctuary for more than 400 injured and neglected turtles. There are several species of land and seas turtles, but the main attractions are the giant African spurred tortoises (geochelone sulcata). This is the largest continental tortoise on earth, and the neatly kept reserve has got scores of them, ranging formt he newly hatched ones to a 92 kg giant. (Lonely Plant: The Gambia&Senegal 4 Ed, 2009, pp 180)”

I am so excited. I’m planning on spending all of Thursday there. This would be Feb 4, not this Thursday. I’m also going to bring extra sim cards, and so many batteries to make sure my camera doesn’t die. I am so excited about this. Honestly, this is probably going to be the highlight of my entire month.

Oh, of course, I’m going to go see other things: the giant lighthouse, a couple of big old mosques, the market, place d’independence, museums and art galleries, the beach, Ile de Goree (an island just of the coast, and key location during the colonial period) and possibly go scuba diving (depending on how expensive it is). I’m planning on exploring the entire area of Dakar, and if I have extra time, and enough funds, then I’m going to head to Lac Rose and check that out (a lake of some significance or importance or it’s just pretty, that I can’t seem to find in my guide book right now).

So, that is my plan for next week in Dakar, and then I leave early Monday morning (Feb 8), and get into MSP later that afternoon. The next two weeks are probably going to go by very quickly.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 25 – Let’s go save the world!

Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a great chance to catch up on a bunch of podcasts that I really enjoy listening to. One of my favorites, and probably the only one that I’m loyal to is NPR’s “Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me!” a show that recaps the week’s news, with a rotating panel of very hilarious individuals, and one guest star a week. One week they had Dick Durban on the show, just after he had failed to push a bill through the senate giving some sort of special recognition to the show. They have all sorts of actors, musicians, politicians, and more on there. It’s a great show, and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t heard it before.

Anyway, I’ve been catching up on all the shows since Halloween. Usually I’ll listen to one a day, or so. I finally got to the show that talked about the Climate Conference in Copenhagen. One of the things they said – in a joke, of course – was about how someone suggested a way to save the environment, that had all the liberals crying and screaming at the conference: Stop showering, and drink instant coffee.

This was particularly amusing to me, because it’s the case that the rest of the “undeveloped” world already does this. And I had a thought at that moment: if you ignore all the other factors of being developed and threats to the environment, and solely look at “showering” and “coffee preference” then it seems like a bit of a conundrum. If the goal is to have all the countries in the world at the same development level, then one would assume that would mean showering on a daily basis, like most people in the “developed” world, and drinking Starbucks. [And according to this EXTREMELY simplified model] leading to an even greater issue with the climate.

Of course, this is extremely simplified, and isn’t accurate at all. And I’m sure not too many people would be happy with me using “showering habits” and “coffee preferences” as key indicators to climate change. Don’t worry, I know how absurd it is too. It is more about the principal of the issue. I say this because of internal conflicts that everyone has, including myself, about the climate, personal responsibility, and the constant hopelessness that comes because it seems like one person can’t really make that big of a difference. While all of us mean the best, it’s a difficult and steep uphill battle. Sometimes you don’t want to take a shorter shower, and sometimes you’re eyes are bigger than your stomach and the food goes to waste. I realize that I’ve talked about this before, and came to the same conclusion, but it is something that continues to plague my attention while being here.

On a side note, today (Sunday) I’m going to the beach. After last week, we decided to make it a weekly event. We have this and next week. However, next weekend we’re supposed to be going to stay the night in the desert and go for a camel ride afterwards. I’m excited.

This is week 4 in Senegal, and I have this week in Saint-Louis, and the week after in Dakar, then back to negative-cold-as-hell degrees in Minnesota.

PS. My belly is back to normal. I bought some bananas and crackers.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 24 – le samedi

I apologize if this is too much information, but I promise, it is related to something that I think I’ve discovered about Senegalese culture. So, the last 4 or 5 days have been a little difficult for me. For two nights in a row, I was woken up in the middle night by horrible stomach cramps, and then darted to the bathroom. After those two nights, I went to the pharmacy and bought some immodium. So, I took two immodium in the morning and evening, which stopped my need of running to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Then, I was worried that I was dehydrated, so I started drinking water as much as I could – which led to an upset stomach that doesn’t really want any water.

The third night, I again wake up, but this time with the threat of needing to run to the bathroom to relieve my stomach. This entire time, I’ve been having trouble eating food, because while I’m hungry and I know I need to eat, every time my eat, it feels like my body is saying: “Nope, don’t think so. I don’t like this. Try again.”

The weird thing is that I’ve been craving certain foods. (I realize this sounds like I’m describing pregnancy – but I’m not.) I’ve been craving fruits and vegetables. The reason for this is because I never get any fruits or vegetables. For breakfast, I have a piece of bread with chocolate spread, and Nescafe. For lunch, rice and fish. It’s difficult to eat the fish because there are a bunch of little tiny bones that spar with the top of my mouth while eating. For dinner, usually noodles, potatoes, or beans with a piece of meat, and bread. Every now and then we’ll have steamed carrots or squash with lunch, but not very often.

I’m thinking that the reason that I’m having difficulty with my stomach lately is because I’m not getting enough fruits and vegetables. And finally my body is letting me know that it’s time to get some of that good stuff. So, that’s my goal for today – I’m going to buy some fruits and try to find some veggies. I know I’m going to get ripped off, but I don’t really care – as long as my digestive system gets out of this funk.

Yesterday (Friday), I didn’t go to class because I felt nauseas after eating. I started walking to school, but I turned around half-way because there was no way that I could concentrate. On Thursday, I had to leave class earlier because I was sitting there, sweating, and trying not to loose my cookies.

I also have a theory that perhaps all the pills I’m taking is making my stomach go haywire as well. So, now, the only thing I’m taking is malaria meds and once a day vitamin. And the two big things that I’m craving include: applesauce and gingerale.

Needless to say, it’s been a difficult several days. I’ve been trying to lay-low, but today, I think I need to get up, move around, and get my body working again.

Oh, and one more thing to show emphasize how screwy my body has been – I was also craving a sprite. For those who don’t know my eating habits, I drink soda maybe once a month, at best. But I’ve been craving sugar, and the carbonation makes my belly feel better. It’s the closest thing to gingerale that I could find here too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 21

Brief update: Today marks 3 weeks since I began my travels. I'm getting into the swing of things - unfortunately, my stomach and digestive system are getting out of the swing of things. I've had pretty bad stomach aches the last couple of days. Bad enough to wake me up in the middle of the night - 1 am, 4 am, 7 am... - and making it almost impossible to fall back asleep.

Anyway, the internet is a bit rough today, so nothing long. However, I did call Anne Hillman yesterday to chat for a few minutes, and then it turned into her interviewing me. :) So, of course, go to the wonderful KUCB website and check it out, as soon as she posts the story. Is it too cheesy if I give a major plug to KUCB? :D

Everyone knows that I'm super biased. That's all I have for now. I promise to write some more good stories tomorrow or saturday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 20: The attack of les moutons!

Le merdredi - Wednesday

I think I’ve shared this story with one or two people, or perhaps I already wrote about it, I can’t remember. If so, here it goes again.

There are goats EVERYWHERE! Goats, in French, is moutons. Sometimes I see tiny little baby moutons that are so cute, and I want to play with them. But to be safe, I googled “goats, fleas” and it’s an issue. So, I’ll refrain from playing with the moutons. However, I look at them all the time, and watch them. And it’s true, moutons really do eat anything. I always see them eating cardboard. Oh, and yesterday I saw the cutest thing. As I was walking to class, I saw a baby mouton trying to munch on a chain that was hanging off of a truck. Needless to say the little guy was not successful in satiating his hunger, but it was so cute!

One day during the first week that I was here, I came home after class, and there were some moutons on the little patio-type thingy outside of the house munching on the trimmings from the bushes. There was a mama moutons and a couple of babies munching away. And I walked up to the gate to open it and go inside, but all of a sudden, the babies ran behind the mama, and the mama started coming at me, very quickly. I PANICKED! I thought she was going to butt me with her little horns, and I was terrified, so I ran out into the street… and they ran away. Turns out, they were scared of me, and I had unwittingly corned them. I felt kind of like a fool afterwards, but luckily no one was around to see me. :)

Sometimes, when I’m walking through the neighborhood, a mouton will follow me. I’m always paranoid, and I turn around every couple of seconds to make sure that he’s not chasing me getting ready to attack me with his horns. But usually they get distracted with a piece of cardboard and go eat it. Thankfully.

And the sheep (chevres) here – when they “BAAAAA” – sound like death. It’s the most terrifying BAAA I’ve ever heard in my life. It scares me everytime, because I’m never expecting it. And those little (they’re actually bigger than the goats) buggers are always hiding behind vehicles where I can’t see them.

Another weird thing is that the moutons run around freely, but it’s the chevres that are tied up. Haven’t figured that one out yet.

Day 20 - The little things, again


So, there were some other things that I thought about , or just little things that I noticed that I would like to share.

Oh, but first – WATER UPDATE.

I guess, apparently, there was a problem with the plumbing, or a clog in the pipes or something to that effect. Because, Tuesday morning, the utility/water guys showed up, and when I returned that evening, THERE WAS WATER!!! There was even an amazing amount of pressure. I took the first normal shower since being at Sam’s House on Dec 30. There’s still no hot water, but I don’t care. And don’t worry, just because I have a shower now, doesn’t mean that I was super wasteful, afterall, the water was cold. So, I got wet, turned off the shower, soaped up, rinsed off, conditionered, and rinsed off. All very quickly – because, once again, the water was cold. :)

Taxi cabs and their horns – So, remember before how I mentioned that pedestrians get a courtesy honk before being run over. Well, it’s more complicated than that. This afternoon, I wasn’t really in the mood to walk home, plus I had a nasty stomach ache that made me feel nauseas which was really the main reason for not wanting to walk, so I took a taxi. While we were driving, I invented a game – guess what the driver is honking at. I was doing pretty well, until about half-way through the 7 min drive, when it seemed like he was just randomly honking. But this is how it went:

1. Honking at the pedestrians, telling them that he’s there and he’s going to run them over if they don’t move.

2. Oh, hello there fellow taxi driver! How is your day?

3. Why thank you sir for letting me through.

4. To the motorcycle on the bridge that wasn’t moving: WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!?!? CAN’T YOU SEE THAT YOU’RE IN THE WAY!?!?

5. Turning right: Excuse me, I’m turning right.

6. To pedestrian that he knew: Hello friend!

7. Honk – ME: Wait, why did he just honk there, I don’t see anything that he could’ve honked at. The goat maybe? But he didn’t honk at the last goat… hmm.. I’ll let that one slide.

8. Turning right: Excuse me, can you stop and let me through? – Followed by a “thank you” honk.

9. Honk: Hmm.. another random honk for no apparent reason.

10. Honk: Maybe his last taxi didn’t have a horn and he’s super excited about having a horn now, so he honks it all the time.

11. Honk: Okay.. maybe those honks really didn’t mean anything, and he just likes honking every 15 seconds to get attention.

12. Honk… honk… honk… That was a waste of time.

That was my internal thought process during the taxi cab ride. I have yet to figure out the true reason for the excessive honking. I don’t know if I will figure it out though.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Successful translation!

Day 18 – Le plage et au bar de l’hôtel

Yesterday, we were going to go to the pool and hang out for the day, but turns out it was 4000 francs (~$8) to go to the pool, so we just decided to go to the beach for free. We spent the day at the beach, occasionally pestered by locals who wanted to sell us stuff. But some legitimately just wanted to talk. However, there was one teenage boy who came and sat down next to us. We waited for him to leave, but after 20 minutes, he was laying on the sand, staring at the downstairs region of Caroline. After a few minutes of him sitting there, I was getting really annoyed with him. I feel that we had given him enough time to leave, but he hadn’t done so. Julie even told him to leave us alone, but he didn’t leave. So I looked at him, and asked if he spoke English, he didn’t say anything, so I said “français?” However, he didn’t really respond. So I started telling him to leave, very forcefully and vocally, I said, in very French “Ici non! La bas, la bas. Tu reste pas ici. La bas.” Which is: Here non. Over there, over there. You can’t rest here. Over there.” I told him he couldn’t look at Caroline, and to leave. This may sound insensitive, but I did it as rudely as possible. But I think that he was being very inconsiderate. He left. Thankfully. And he walked down the beach away from us which was even better.

So, the most exciting part of yesterday for me was at the bar. After going to the beach, the four of us decided to go to the l’hôtel, and get a drink. I decided to have a beer. Within the first couple of minutes of drinking the beer, a fly (un mouche) landed in my beer, and was swimming around. I picked out the fly, and continued drinking my beer, BUT (here’s the best part) I know a joke about flies landing in beer. AND I successfully translated it into French! And everyone laughed! The reason that this is so exciting for me, is because it really does mean that I am learning more French, and it also means that people can understand me when I’m speaking in French.

The person who told me the joke is Sam, my roommate, so I wanted to dedicate this to her. I think she’ll be very proud of me when she reads this and finds out that I told a joke in French! Here’s the joke (in English of course):

There’s an Englishman, a Scot, and an Irishman in a pub in the UK, and a fly lands in each of their beers. The Englishman pushes the beer away in disgust refusing to drink it. The scot, grabs the fly, tosses it, and continues drinking his beer, but the Irish man picks up the fly and yells: Spit it out! Give me back the beer!

I hope you’re laughing. Needless to say, I am très proud of myself!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Adversity creates environmentalism

Sunday – le dimanche

This is something that I’ve thought about for a long time. BY long time, I mean since last summer, and I think it’s something that both my environmental friends (Kate) and hippy friends (Jane) will appreciate. Sorry if I’m leaving other people out, but they’re the two that I can think of that read this blog regularly, and they’re the ones that would appreciate it the most. And my dad too, but he doesn’t read this, just because he’s been talking about carbon footprint stuff lately.

Anyway, to the story. Adversity creates environmentalism.

I explained last week about my shower situation. Well, it hasn’t changed, and Friday night, I took another bucked shower. (The more I think about it, the more I realize that I probably wouldn’t even waste my time with showers if it weren’t for my long hair.) This time, with my bucket shower, I only used HALF a bucket. Last time, I used a whole bucket. And these aren’t the standard 5 gallon buckets. This buckets is maybe 2 gallons, give or take. It’s not a standard bucket. But, the point is, is because I don’t have easy access to a shower, I now take bucket showers, which saves on so much water. And, in a desert, that’s really important. Plus, at this rate, I’m only taking two showers a week – instead of one every day. I use a little bit of water to brush my teeth and wash my face twice a day. So, that whole carbon footprint thing – I’m kicking ass and taking names right now!

The thing that really started me thinking about comes from what happened last summer at home. Another situation where a problem with the water changed bathing habits. We had a clog in our water pipe, so the presser was REALLY reduced, and it was a pain to take a shower. So, what we ended up doing is turning on the shower, rinsing, turn off the shower and let it build back up for a couple minutes. During this time, you would soap up. By the time you finished, the pressure would be built back up – but just enough so you could rinse off. Then do conditioner, and rinse off. Even though it was a pain in the ass, it was being environmentally friendly. I realize that this is a bigger issue on other parts of the country/world where there is an actual risk of water shortage, over the Aleutians which gets A LOT of rainfall every year. But, it’s still good to practice.

I’ll be honest, the sad part is that, I probably wouldn’t have conserved that much water last summer and now, which showering/bathing, if it hadn’t been for something else forcing me to do so. That’s a habit that I shouldn’t get into, I know. But it’s just something I’ve been thinking about.

Djoujd – BIRDS!

Saturday – le samedi

First, see pictures.

I’m not going to write too much about it, because the pictures are way cooler. We went to a wildlife refuge/thingy – the guy spoke French the entire time, so I only picked up part of what he was talking about – and went on a boat. We got to see alligators or crocs, one of the two, and very large lizards, and lots and lots of birds! When we first arrived, we saw pelicans in large groups swimming around, all diving at the same time, and coming up with fish. There was one time when one of the fish was extra lively and was tossed around in the flock a little bit before escaping back to the waters. But that was nothing! We went to their breeding ground – see pictures. Very Cool!

After that, we stopped a small village on our way back to Saint-Louis to have tea with a family, in which we discovered some very interesting things. These people are a different group, something that starts with a P. Most of the people in Saint-Louis, and the northern part of the country, are Wolof/speak Wolof. These are a different group of nomadic people who practice polygamy. We also learned that girls are married off between the ages of 12 and 15 to men who are twice their age. Usually, the men will go to neighboring villages to see the girls when they’re 6 or 7, and decided then, wait 6 years, then get married. Also, everyone sleeps under one roof, and there are curtains to “hide nighttime activities.” It was very interesting. During tea, our tour guide insisted on singing, and Emily even got up and started dancing, which everyone appreciated. There were also baby chickens running around peeping. I took pictures. :)

Even baby warthogs are cute! They're about the size of a baby kitten, but more insane. They would scurry around, and change directions any second. I was afraid to get too close, because I didn't want to mess with a mama warthog.

This guy got his lunch! Nom nom nom!


A bird. I took a lot of pictures of random birds. I'm not a bird person, so I don't know if it was a special bird or not. The tour guide probably said its name, but it was in french, and I didn't catch it.

ALLIGATOR!! (Or crocodile.. not sure. I'm pretty sure it's an alligator though) He was just sitting there, not doing anything.

The BAZILLION PELICANS!!! A bit stinky down wind, but very cool to see. The dark ones are the babies.

Last but not least, cute little baby peeping chickens! :D