Friday, February 17, 2006


It’s very tempting to continue telling stories of my confusion and general patheticness. There are, and will be for some time, plenty to tell. Tonight, for instance, I took a car rapide (actually, what I took was an “al hamda”, which is short for “Al Hamdulilay” which means something like “Thank God” in Arabic, and is painted on the front of a certain kind of bus here) from downtown to my neighborhood. In theory. And in fact, it left me off very near my apartment. Except I promptly started walking in the wrong direction.

But let’s not focus on that for a moment.

Or on the fact that the electricity just went out. Apparently that happens around here. It happened yesterday afternoon, but the power came back on before it got dark. But now it’s almost 8 pm, so it’s on the dark side. Oh well. The battery on my laptop is fully charged, I have my trusty head lamp, and it’s not like I was watching TV (there are two TV’s in my landlady’s house, but I don’t have one in here.)

Shall we focus on the guy who appeared at my screen door while I was on the cell phone with Michelle about a half hour ago, with what appeared to be very important business? I hadn’t met him before, but he was gesturing impatiently, and told me to come find him as soon as I got off the phone. (Awa, one of the maids, just came to light a candle for me. Yay Awa.)

So I finish my call with Michelle, and go into the house, where Karim (the guy left his name and cell phone number for me, so that I could call him if it was too much trouble to go find him at the house, two feet away) was eagerly waiting. To convince me to go out with him to Magic Land this weekend, where there will be a concert or something.

Maybe you want to ask my name first? (Actually, he did ask my name first. Formalities dispensed with, he proceeded directly to business.) Ahh Senegalese men. Charming.

I feel like I should clarify a few things. David commented that things seem very laid back here. They are and they aren’t. The bank closed at noon, but it was Saturday, and most banks in the US aren’t open late on Saturdays either. The taxi driver came back later that day for his money, but he was trying to avoid getting paid in dollars. He’d taken me to an ATM and two closed banks (it was 6 am) on the way from the airport, so he’d seen me trying to get cash. Most importantly though, he knew where I lived and he knew my landlady, so he was pretty sure he’d get paid.

People are extremely friendly, and there is a strong culture of hospitality. Greetings are very important, and everyone asks how you’re doing and how your day was. And if they know you, they ask how your family is doing and how their days are going.

But it’s also a big bustling city. People are trying to make a living, and that means trying to sell you something (at whatever price they can convince you to pay) and that also means getting somewhere else (so the roads and sidewalks are crowded with cars, bikes, merchants, and pedestrians).

Hey, the electricity came back on. 20 minutes, total. Not bad.

Another point to clarify—there are in fact numerous employees that live and work here. But, as far as I can tell, that is not the norm. My landlady is, quite clearly, loaded. And I’ve read, although I don’t know for sure that it applies here, that in developing countries, it is seen as almost a social obligation to hire people if you have the means. People need jobs.

In general, though, the story of today is that things are going well. I’m meeting people and making friends, which is a key first step to getting situated in a new place. And I talked to my landlady about staying in this apartment more long term, which she was very amenable to. I also came across a second option: today I joined a Wolof class with three Norwegians, two of whom are moving into an apartment not far from here. They move in on March 1st, and they will have 5 rooms (not sure how that breaks down into kitchen, living room etc), which they said meant there was definitely room for me to share the apartment.

Meanwhile, Scooter, you are hearby banned from making any comments about “working” or “journalism” or “how do you expect to support yourself young lady.” I’ve only been here for five days. I’m working on it.

Actually, today I had a frustrating email. I had pitched a story to a small magazine in Pennsylvania, for a story I wanted to do before I left. I pitched it in early January, and I intended to follow up and get it all taken care of before I left. But then I got busy and distracted getting ready to move here, and I didn’t hear back, so I let it go. Today, the editor wrote back saying she’d love for me to do the story. Which is going to be a bit more difficult to accomplish from Dakar. Right.

Meanwhile, life will no doubt become more interesting again tomorrow, as I head out of town to interview someone for the article I’m writing for my alumni magazine. It involves going to a bus station (such as they are here), which means negotiating a fair price from a taxi driver, and then finding the correct bus (actually, more like a van) and then getting off in the right place. But I have a cell phone, and if anything goes awry, I can always call the guy I’m meeting and ask for help. Very professionally, of course. (Yeah, I threw “professional” out the window about five days ago. I’ll go back and get it in a month or so.)


Blogger Rae said...

He actually asked how you were going to support yourself?? Geez. Life is all about taking risks and things always work out. Carpe diem!!

Your adventures sound like so much fun! Can you find a race for me to try to convince Brent for us to run so we can fly over for another RBF meetup????

4:09 PM  

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