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SENEGAL | Friday, 17 September 2004 | Views [415]

bonjour. my french is good enough to communicate and get around, bad enough that no one is thinking that i speak french. the best is when i get so flustered that my english turns bad too, that really throws the hordes of men specializing in torturing tourists with constant plugs for this store and that. and hey, i found other tourists.
they were at the restaurant i was at, two former peace corps volunteers who happened to see each other on the plane on the way here from D.C. both work in reconstructionish companies. both seem to be grasping onto those peace corps years with all they have got, continuously traveling the globe and growing farther and farther from having roots in any one place. they talk of trips to ghana, years in benin, the next month in togo. and they have been to east and south africa too, though not madagascar. both were most passionate about west africa. the kora player came over and began making a song about how lucky rhett was with two women at his side, then made up little ditties about both of us women based upon what we ordered. lisa was little more than annoyed, rhett cracked up. we went for beers (two beers for $.50!!!) and made tentative plans to visit the big club here run by west africa's most famous muscisian, youssou n' dour on friday.
on my next adventure i found the one building in dakar that knows it's address and shouts it into your face- the american embassy. i have never stepped foot into an embassy before. you have to show your passport and check your camera and cell phone, and go through about five metal detectors before you see anyone who speaks english. try to tell somebody in bad french that you want to check on how to get an absentee ballot to vote in nov. i dare you.
i have spent hour upon hour walking the city looking for addresses - the IFAN museum, the Gambian embassy to get a visa- and thought i was a complete idiot for not finding it only to discover the exact address, which i have walked past a hundred times, is a dilapitated building without any marking whatsoever. so i guess i will attempt to go to the Gambia without a visa....
even as i tried to watch the sunset from the edge of the city, a guard from a nearby building shoo'd me away after about one minute, tisking in french about private property and parking lot blah blah blah. i cannot think here, i cannot sit still for one moment's time. if i sit still, then i am a captive audience. if i try to walk slowly and soak it all in, i must be wanting to buy buy buy. Capitalism, what have you done to this world?
and yet today, i walked through sembedienne- a fishing village that i suppose would have to be qualified as slums. goats, cats (though i have only seen kittens here. i wonder...i have seen no cat on menus or roasting on spits...) and hundreds of people, millions of children. on the streets, behind doors. and to think i used to have a complex about being stared at. here was the ingenious use of scraps. i saw them welding together old scraps of metal into furniture. no safey gear- staring boldly into the flame. i saw the community of women gathering to do the wash of what looked like seven families. i saw women with babies tucked into their backs, children fighting and playing the same games that i see my nephews play- In the slums i was allowed to pause, to breathe, i was allowed to take up space, unlike the city center. even i could sit in the open market and just watch the people go by without more than three people asking me to buy their wares.
honestly, this is probably the toughest place i have been to. more so than marrakesh, more so than casablanca. there is a demand for my constant attention that fills my brain and makes it leak with heat filled puss. i can't wait to get out of dakar.i should be going tomorrow. i like it here, but it takes all the energy i have just to find food, water, and a few addresses a day, though i am a master of the post office! i hear the rest of senegal and the gambia will be me alone too. travel sites say that independent travelers are rare in these countries, especially women alone. fun fun fun. so write me. i will chat at you probably a little less next week, depending on the gambia, but i miss you, emily

Tags: dakar, emily predny, predny, senegal


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