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O Fim duma Viagem

Last Day in Dakar

SENEGAL | Sunday, 29 June 2014 | Views [416] | Comments [1]

 Our final lecture in Senegal was so hard to listen to. To begin with, the speaker was quiet. And there was construction going on outside. It was the same building we'd been in for the last two lectures, but suddenly, there was construction. And right at the beginning, which is one of the most useful bits to catch, people started wanting coffee cups and regular cups and the hot water container and juices passed around. Being closest to many of those things, there were a lot of hand gestures and whispered comments to me. So I missed the beginning of the lecture and never got fully engaged after that. 

It was OK. Natasha spent the lecture trying to remember the alphabet in 1337. As long as she doesn't need to write anything to Jacques and sign it xoxo, she should be fine, since the only letters she forgot were j, q, and x.

It also turned into a conversation between the lecturer and the professor. And, again, the professor started talking about how there was a church and right across from that was a mosque. And there were no problems. And the rest of us were sitting there wondering what point he was trying to make, because none of us thought that was unusual.

I'm looking forward to resuming classes in Rabat. Even politics will seem easy after this, because the instructor won't roll his rs or act uninterested in my questions and responses. And if I'm not prepared by having done the reading, I'll have no one to blame but myself.

After that, we went to do some more shopping. Apparently the experience yesterday hadn't been traumatizing enough and Oussama and Nisrine wanted to make sure we really remembered Senegal.

I once again had only euros. There was a time when I had Senegalese francs, but then I bought two meals and that cleanly wiped out all of my change. I didn't need anything particular from Senegal, so I was content to just look. The storekeeprs weren't content to allow me that.

Natasha and Megan wanted to buy some dolls from Senegal. So when we entered the building (it a marketplace, but not an open-air one) and some people moved to a stall, I pointed to some dolls.

“Don't point, don't point,” Natasha said.

Sure enough, immediately someone showed up with some drums that had been right above the dolls and tried to interest me in buying them.

“Name your price.”

“I don't want them...”

“You should haggle just for the fun of it,” Cynthia suggested.

OK. “One euro.”

“Ha ha ha ha ha. No, but really, what's your price.”

Then some people went to look at other items, and he left to deal with people who actually wanted them. I moved on to a different stall.

I was admiring a bracelet when someone came over and promised me a “great price.” Since I found them pretty and wouldn't mind owning them (unlike a drum) I asked how much for two of them. (“You buy two? It's cheaper.” Not actually the way anything ever works, but having backups for bracelets isn't the worst idea.) After at least a dozen times of saying “Only the bracelets. Only these two. No, I do not want another necklace that says 'Senegal.' No, I do not want a wooden bus. Just the bracelets,” he finally told me the price. Oussama was nearby and asked if I wanted help. I agreed, since once again my attempts at a low starting price were deemed as merely laughable.

Our shopping experience was pretty good. The people were relatively friendly, though obviously they were always trying to sell us things at the highest they could get away with it. A few stalls up things got more vicious, with vendors exclaiming things like “you're cutting off my head!” and “I won't be able to eat.”

“Where are you from?” One of the vendors asked me after I'd bought the bracelets. “United States?”

“Which country? New York? Chicago?”


“Ah. That's a great country.”'

Oussama was by this point helping the students with the soon-to-be-headless salespeople, so I tried to fulfill a similar role with Nathan. I didn't use the “franchement, mon ami” line that Oussama was fond of, but I did say “he's a student, like me. He doesn't have much money.” (Despite this being the same stall that I'd bought my bracelets from, the vendor wasn't the same who had sold them to me, and wasn't aware that I'd already bought something from there until I'd told him.) He also did not understand “25 hundred” meant “2,500,” so I guess that's not a way of describing larger numbers they use in Senegal.

Nathan eventually got the man to agree to 2,500 for two rattly ball things. But he didn't have change, so he gave the man 5,000 to break, and got back 1,500. After a bit more discussion, he picked up two of the kind of bracelets I'd bought, handed the man back the 1,500, and they both agreed to call it even.

Later, Natasha would bargain a woman down to 7,000 for a drum. The woman saw her 10,000 and offered to get change. She took the bill and, with Natasha's hand still on it, confirmed “8,000?” Natasha did not let go until she'd reverted back to 7,000.

By this point, I was running low on euros too. I hid in a corner for a little bit so I could count how much I had without having someone pounce on me. 2.6 euros. That should be enough to get one of the wooden elephants I was admiring.

I told them that I only had 2 euros. Really wanted an elephant, but only had 2 euros. It wasn't quite enough, so I eventually admitted to having 2.5 euros and pulled out my wallet to get the smaller change out. (I'd put the 2 euros in a separate pocket so that if they'd agreed to that I could have given it to them without revealing I'd lied when I said I only had 2.) Along with the 50 cent piece and the ten cent piece, a 10 dirham piece fell out.

The man perked up. “What is that?”

“It's a dirham. Moroccan money. If you want I could give you 20 dirham for the elephant...”

He did not want that. At all. We settled on 2.60.

After all of the shopping was done, we went back to the hotel until we left for the airport. During lunch we confirmed the time we needed to leave for the airport the next day. 3:30. Erika complained that it was barely worth going to sleep. Might as well just stay out all night. But none of us were terribly comfortable with the idea of trying to find and get to and from a nightclub in Dakar.

Nathan: “All of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is on Youtube.”

That sounded like a plan. Since Cynthia, Megan, and I had the suite, we definitely had enough room to watch it. The one catch was dinner. If we'd stuck with our old default of 8:30, we would not be done with dinner until at least 11, which would be frustrating. Nisrine told us that we could order dinner in advance, and bring it to our room. We ordered it for 7:30, figuring then it might be done by 8. Then we split up and went to our rooms for a quiet afternoon.

At 7:38, when we were thinking “just in case they did actually get it ready in time, should we consider going down to the restaurant?” there was a knock on the door. It was Nathan, telling us the food was ready and right outside our door. So I went to get Natasha and Erika, and then we enjoyed our dinner.

We enjoyed it in the coolest room we had ordered a meal since arriving at Senegal. They brought baskets of bread, which we hadn't been sure they would. (During some of the meals we'd had to cover ourselves, we'd discussed ordering water and eating the bread. When they started to get annoyed at us and tell us “seriously, though, you need to order something,” splitting one chocolate moose between all of us, then paying and leaving. Besides, bread was the only thing we could eat during the hour and a half it took us to get real food.) It was the stalest bread we'd had there, probably because they'd figured we couldn't complain or ask for more.

And then we settled in to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was the first time that either Megan or Cynthia had seen it. They didn't even make it through the credits before they started asking “what is this movie?” (My sister was bitten by a moose.) The volume was a little low, but it was OK, because Nathan could do plausible imitations of the best lines.

During the scene where Lancelot rescues what he thinks is a princess, the video froze. We rewound it far enough to see Lancelot attack a very deserving wall plant again, but it froze at the same point. We couldn't skip over either. So we went to a different version and gave it time to buffer while we went downstairs to order chocolate mousse, asking it to be delivered to room 502. (Not 506, Nathan's room, where they wanted to deliver it. Probably where they'd tried to deliver dinner, which is why he'd been the one to tell us it arrived.)

Within 5 minutes, we had our chocolate mousse. I was shocked that they could do things that quickly in this hotel.

We finished the movie (Cynthia and Megan: “What? What? What just happened? What? Why? What?”) and then decided we might as well try to catch as much sleep as we could in the next four hours. Almost exactly 120 hours after arriving in the hotel in Dakar from the airport, we would be leaving to make the reverse journey. I once again wished that time was noon instead.

At least we were going back to Morocco.

Tags: haggling, lecture, monty python, shopping



More than Holy Grail, the last time I checked the entire Flying Circus series was on youtube.

The notion of different countries within the United States (New York, Chicago, etc) is an interesting way to look at it, and somewhat accurate; separate political institutions, different and occasionally contradictory laws, and most important separate sense of culture and regional identity.

Really enjoying hearing about your trip and all the places you're going to, I'm envious.

  Jacob Jun 30, 2014 12:47 AM

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