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Isle de Goree: Boring/Academic Side that Nisrine Needs to Write About

SENEGAL | Saturday, 28 June 2014 | Views [287]

 The bus took us to the ferry landing. Before I left the bus, I just stared out the window and thought “really? I need to walk through all these people with my bulging bag (we left one bag at the hotel, so we were all carrying everything we needed for a day and a night and then some in our backpacks) without getting separated from the group?”

But, somehow, I did. We pushed through the crowd and ended up in a mostly empty area. Then we needed to leave it. I thought that had been a mistake until I realized that we no longer had the coffee and tea boxes. We'd taken that detour so those things could end up on the ferry. Then back to pushign through the crowd we went.

I was handed a ticket that I needed to show a few feet later, and again on the ferry. I managed not to lose it in the in-between step. And then we went up a flight of stairs to a much quieter area to wait.

The woman sitting in front of me in the waiting area started a conversation with me. Her name was Lina or Lila, and she had a yonger brother and a shop on the Isle of Goree. We had a nice micro-conversation. It wasn't until the ferry landed and women started frantically approaching us and telling us “I'm Maria. Come visit my shop later. It's right there. Don't forget me!” that I realized what, exactly, she wanted.

We went to the hotel to check in, and then off to the “House of Slaves.” In popular belief if not necessarily history, large numbers* of Africans passed through Goree island before being sent to the Americas as slaves.

We showed up in the middle of a talk by someone from the museum. There was already a large crowd standing around him and fidgeting a fair bit, so I think it had been going on for a while. We were kind of far away, and we'd come in in the middle, and it was hot (and humid. Really hot and humid) so it was hard to concentrate on what he was saying.

When he was done, we walked around for a bit mostly on our own. There were the rooms where people had stayed, (they didn't look like much. It was a really old building, and there weren't much more than shapes of the rooms.) We also saw “The Door of No Return,” the door through which they would walk to leave Africa forever. It was heart-braking how beautiful it was.

Last Sight of Africa

After that was over, we went to a lecture on the history of Senegal. The air conditioning wasn't working (I've gotten to the point where I'm more delighted when it does work than disappointed when it doesn't. Which is a much healthier response, though I'm kind of shocked that I can do that.) The lecture was a quiet battle between being slightly cooler, championed by the Professor, who kept opening windows, and the ability to actually hear, represented by Nisrine, who kept closing them. You could always hear the ocean and the children screaming outside, but it was quieter with the windows closed.

Waves, lectures going on in French... it was just like being back in college! Except that my lake is much quieter (the only time it was that noisy was right after it melted and the waves were tossing ice onto the shore like it was sand) and Wisconsin is much cooler than Senegal. Oh, and despite being Spanish, my French teacher doesn't roll her rs nearly as much as the Senegalese do.

We followed Nisrine and Oussama to the restaurant they recommended for lunch. Lunch was expensive- around 4,800 Senegalese francs, or nearly $10. Not an outrageous amount, but a lot more than I was expecting a rather mediocre pasta at a restaurant to be. All restaurans were around that range.

During lunch (we all ordered spaghetti, despite the other options available) a cat came by and settled at our table. (This was before the food even arrived.) I took off my shoe and pet it with my foot. Which was really tiring, so I stopped. Then the cat gave me a reproachful look, so I went back to petting it.

After our food arrived, we realized how dumb a cat it was. Natasha and I were feeding it, and it probably would have starved otherwise. We're pretty sure it had no sense of smell. If it was not watching us directly when we dropped the food to ground, it would miss it. It seemed inordinately fond of bread (I would use small pieces to pick up the meat and drop it down to the ground below) but could not stand cheese. (I don't entirely blame it. It was the same “looks like mozzarella, but isn't” that they used on the pizzas.)

The arrival of the bill marked the first time that any of us had to deal with Senegalese francs. Four people had nothing but really large bills, and two of us didn't have francs. As the math major, the task of dealing with large numbers fell to me. So we sorted out who owed each person everything, how much change they were receiving back, and paid.

The change came back, I started passing it out, and I realized that we were short. Very significantly short. So we double-checked everything and realized that although every student had put in the right amount of money, Nisrine had left without paying. So we waited around for her to get back. When she did, it was to tell us that we needed to go back for another lecture. When we complained that she hadn't paid, she said her bill had been at the other table (with Oussama and the professor.) We'd just been charged an extra meal for the fun of it.

So we called over a waitress, showed her the bill, and essentially told her “there were only six of us. Do you really think we ordered seven meals.” So she went back to try and find change while Oussama and Nisrine grew increasingly frustrated.

Finally, the money came back. After checking to make sure it was the right amount this time, we left. Once back in the classroom, we could give it back to more or less the right people. (Erika owed Cynthia 100, and Natasha owed Cynthia 200.) And we got another lecture (this one on slavery in Senegal) and another Nisrine/Professor battle.

We were served tea or coffee during this lecture. I considered not accepting it to prove a point, but it was the kind of point we would have all needed to have coordinated beforehand for it to have any meaning. (Seriously, though, we could have done without coffee or tea.) Nathan spent about half the lecture trying to get Erika's attention to pass the spoon. She must have been really absorbed in the lecture, because the rest of us noticed long before he did.

When we finished the second lecture (we got small booklets of information about the museum-thing that we were in. They had a hand-written message attached to each of our names) we went back to the hotel to rest before we set off later on a tour of the island.

* Historians estimate around 26,000 future-slaves passed through Goree island. The fact that this is considered a small number when you consider the slave trade as a whole is disturbing. Source: Wikipedia.

Tags: lectures, money, ocean, slaves, tea

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