Main menu:

Site search

Feeds

Categories

July 2014
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archive

Senegal – Day 1

100_6233.JPGAfter close to 24 hours of travel (most of it spent in Atlanta, admittedly) I got to Dakar around 5am this morning, local time. Now it’s about 9pm local time, we’ve just heard the call to prayer, and I’m waiting for a pizza. It has been an exhausting day.

At the airport I quickly realized how screwed I was not to speak French or Wolof, to have no one meeting me at the airport, and on top of that not to have any local currency (at a time when all the banks are closed, in a place where none of the ATMs work). I asked one of the airport attendants for advice, and he passed me along to his English (well, really a mix of English, French, and Spanish, but we were able to communicate) speaking cousin, who works as a tour guide and was hanging out outside the airport hoping to pick up new clients. The cousin’s name was Bouba, he seemed like a nice guy, and not seeing many other options I hired him as my tour guide. He quickly hooked me up with a black market money changer and a taxi to my hotel, and offered to come back and show me around the city after I had had a chance to sleep.

We had an interesting afternoon together. First we walked around the city together, seeing what he considered the top sights… the president’s residence, the prime minister’s office, a couple of monuments. Then we went to the beach, and Bouba asked if I minded attending his drum lesson with him. A friend of his meets him every day to teach him to drum, and in return he teaches his friend English. I had a pleasant hour hanging out on the beach with them, watching them drum, watching the people on the beach, taking photos. Unfortunately I didn’t wear a hat or sunscreen, and I am quite pink now.

Then we went shopping. Yesterday was my mom’s birthday and I wanted to get her something nice, and I keep hearing about how great the shopping is in Dakar. This is where things got a little scary. First Bouba took me to a clothing factory (owned by a friend of his, but he insisted that because I would be buying from the man who made the clothes everything would be much cheaper than at a regular market.) Talk about hard sell! The owner kept pushing items on me, and it was a very dark and confined shop without much air circulation. I was starting to feel unwell after all that sun and I just wanted to leave, but of course we had to haggle over the price. I’m very pleased with what I bought, and I think I paid a fair (not cheap!) price, but it took much longer than I would have liked.

My real scare and scam came when I left Bouba in the taxi for a moment to stop at an ATM. The ATM itself was no trouble – they keep guards next to them so no one will bother you there – but I stopped at a street vendor on my way back to the taxi to buy a shirt that caught my eye that I thought Matt would like. Buying the shirt itself was fine, but I quickly gathered a crowd of vendors around me. They seemed very friendly, all wanting to shake my hand and welcome me to Senegal. One man put a small package in my hand and said he was celebrating the birth of his daughter and giving away gifts as the birth sacrifice. I peeked in the package and it was a pair of gold earrings! I tried to give them back, but he acted offended and he assured me it was a gift, “just put it in your pocket” he said “it is yours.” I thanked him and tried to leave, but he and several of his friends blocked my way. They explained to me, mostly in French, but with enough English thrown in that I eventually got the picture, that now that I had accepted a birth gift for his daughter I was a god mother and that I must now be in charge of buying the rice for the naming ceremony that would happen tomorrow. Again, I tried to give the earrings back, but he got angry with me, and since I was completely surrounded by men larger than I was who were insisting I pay for a bag of rice, and Bouba and the taxi were out of sight around a corner, I thought my best option was to pay them off. Of course we had to haggle over how much a “bag of rice” costs. (I refused his kind offer to take all my money and remove the amount he thought right!) I ended up paying about $20 for a pair of obviously fake gold earrings in what was clearly a practiced scam. I feel like such a gullible tourist.

Bouba wanted to take me out to hear Senegalese music tonight, but I was so exhausted and shaken after all this that I begged off, and instead I’m sitting in the hotel bar, enjoying the free wi-fi and watching soccer and golf with all the French tourists. In the morning I’m going to museum at Gorée Island.

See all my Dakar photos here.

Comments

Comment from Janice
Time: August 12, 2007, 11:28 pm

I hope your time there improves, the touts are always so hard to avoid. I look forward to reading and seeing more about your trip. I am feeling nostalgic for Africa.
Take care, be firm and learn “No Thank you” in the native tongue. :-)

Write a comment