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!