Saturday, May 20, 2006

It can’t get no worse

Blood thundering, echoing through my ears. Sweat pouring off my face. Heaving, rasping breaths.

And we’ve only been climbing this “mountain” for 10 minutes.

I reason with myself. Everyone else seems to be fine. I can’t need a break. If I ask to stop, everyone will know how out of shape I am.

I chug down more sun-boiled water.

Rose: Shall we take a moment?

Naomi: [Be cool. Be cool.] Oh dear God, yes. I think I’m dying.

We stop, and our entourage of ten-year-old guides waits patiently for us to recover. It’s not yet 9 am, and the heat is already breaking us. It’s our second day in Dindafalou, and we’re heading up one of the nearby mountains to see some caves and the source of the waterfall. We’d heard about the hike from our new friend Ricard (his nickname), who we’d picked up in the village the night before.

Naomi and Rose: What do people do in Dindafalou on a Saturday night?

Ricard: Dindafalou? This village on the Guinean border? In the middle of the bush? With no electricity? Or roads?

Downtown Dindafalou

Naomi and Rose: Right. That’s the one. Where’re are the cool kids hanging out tonight?

Ricard: [Oh lord. How do I always get stuck with these crazy white people?] Well… You should probably just hope that someone invites you to their house. [Damn. Now it’s hanging out there. Stupid Senegalese hospitality.] Soooo… would you like to come over for Senegalese tea tonight?

Naomi and Rose: Yeah, sounds great!

Ricard, who also worked at our campement, turned out to be a font of knowledge and suggestions. Not unlike most of the other people we met along our way, who also had plenty of ideas of where we should go, and how we should get there. But Ricard’s information was different, in that it was all true.

To wit:
Rose’s taxi driver in Dakar: You’re going to Mali! That’s where I’m from! The road there is fantastic, and there are cars that go all the time!

Road to Mali: He’s lying. I don’t exist.

Everyone we asked besides Ricard: The market in Dindafalou starts first thing in the morning, by about 8 am.

Ricard: It doesn’t get going until around 1 pm, when all the out of town vendors arrive.

Market at 8 am: What? You’re here? No, I’m up, I’m up. I swear, I wasn’t sleeping. I’m just… Can you come back in a few hours?

And thus we found ourselves following his suggestion of hiking up the mountain in the morning, before it got “too hot.”

We’d picked up our guides in our usual way. We started walking (in the wrong) direction, and stopped the first friendly face we saw to ask.

Naomi: Which way do we go to get up the mountain?

Little boy: [Points back the way we came, in the direction of the rocky mountain.]

Naomi: Right. So… That way?

Little boy: [Nods]

Naomi: You wanna come with?

Little me: You want me to come with you?

Naomi: You know… if you want to….

Little boy: [shrug]

And then two of his friends materialized to keep him company, and we were off. And up.

I guess I expected a hill. You know, maybe a bit steep in parts. With a few good spots to enjoy the pretty view.

Dindafalou view

What we got was essentially vertical rock climbing. Any steeper and we’d have needed crampons. During our second break, I asked an ill-advised question: Is this the same hill you climb to get to Guinea?

Because, after talking the night before to Ricard, we’d determined that we’d probably be walking to Guinea. We’d always considered it a possibility, and despite the unexpected presence of real mountains and the soul-melting heat, we still thought we could handle 30 km in a single day. Word was, you climbed the first hill, had a long, flat walk, and then climbed a second hill right before the end. Seemed doable.

Little kid: No, you don’t have to climb this hill to get to Guinea.

Naomi: Phew!

Little kid: You climb that one [points]. It’s bigger.

At this point, I began to doubt our walking to Guinea plan. How would I survive a hill bigger and steeper than this one, while carrying my backpack, and my share of the many liters of water we’d need?

I silenced my doubts (though not my pounding pulse or hacking gasps for air) and kept climbing.

Rose: So we’ll just ask around the market. Someone’s got to have a car or truck and be driving back towards Mali.

Naomi: Absolutely. And that way, we’ll probably get there tonight, and have a whole extra day in Guinea.

Rose: It’s not that we couldn’t have walked.

Naomi: Oh, we totally could have.

Rose: It’s just that it’s so hot. And carrying all that water!

Naomi: We’re still totally hardcore.

Rose: The hardest.

Naomi: So….

Rose: What if we bribe the Senegalese border guard to just give you a new stamp in your passport?

Naomi: The blind one?

Rose: Yeah. He won’t care. And then we’ll go to the National Park near Kedougou, and who cares that we didn’t *actually* leave the country.

Naomi: Right. What were we going to do in Guinea anyway?

Rose: Plus, we can always tell everyone we were there. What do they know?

It was hot. Really hot. There were cars going to Kedougou. But nothing going to Mali. There were rumors that cars might possibly go to Mali from nearby Segou. We might just have to wait a few days until one passed. Or a week.

We’d had lunch (bread, avocado, mango) and cooled off with a drink of refreshingly tepid bottled water (ahhh!), and it was decision time.

Were we going to go backwards? Back to Kedougou (and the amazing steak frites dinner)? Or were we going to brave forward? Cross the frontier?

Suddenly Ricard—friendly, knowledgeable, bald, Ricard—appeared at our side.

“How’s it going?”

We spilled our fears, our hopes, our dreams of reaching Mali, and the obstacles in our way. Could we make it to Guinea? Would someone carry our stuff?

And Ricard, a man of few words, but who made them count, took charge. We would spend the night at his house, and leave at 4 am with Muxtar, our newly-hired guide. There would be a bicycle waiting at the top of the first mountain, and Muxtar would use that to carry our backpacks and water across the 30+ km. We’d buy bread and sardines and 15 litres of water and spend the hottest part of the afternoon in a village at the base of the final mountain (if we were good walkers). We could be in Mali by 10 pm or earlier. If we walked slowly, we’d spend the night in the village, and climb the mountain the following morning.

Rose: Okay, sure, the mountain was tough this morning. But we didn’t ACTUALLY have heart attacks.

Naomi: And it was over in 45 minutes. Plus, it’ll still be dark at 4 am, so it won’t be so hot.

Rose: The flat part won’t be a problem at all. So just two little mountains at the beginning and end.

Naomi: We can so do this. .

Rose: Totally.

And that, my friends, THAT is how I ended up climbing up the rocky face of a small mountain in the pre-dawn, our path lit by the moon and Rose and my headlamps. And though the brutal heat of the sun was hours away, it was already hot and humid, and I was already covered in a greasy layer of sweat.

And here’s where I’ll finally get back to my original point, which is that, if I had never run a marathon, I would never have believed that I could climb two mountains and walk 30 or so kilometers. I wouldn’t have entertained the possibility, and I would have found some other way to leave the country. But post-marathon-Naomi? Scoffs at physical pain. 30 kilometers? Is that all, she says?

You know what? Despite those niggling early morning doubts, the truth is that 2 little mountains and 30 km really is entirely doable. What I didn’t know then was that Ricard, reliable, informative, Ricard, had employed a wee bit of… understatement.

The first “mountain” was small. The second was… well, to be blunt, enormous. Our first clue came when the sun rose, and Muxtar pointed to the giant mountain range looming far ahead.


Muxtar: That’s the mountain we need to climb to get to Guinea.

Rose: He’s joking.

Naomi: I don’t know why you think that.

Rose: Ricard said nothing about such a big mountain. Ricard never lies.

Naomi: Oh…. Kay.

On we marched toward the mountain that loomed ever larger with each step.

Muxtar: Actually, we have to climb 3 mountains.

Rose: That’s not true.

Naomi: Why would he lie?

Rose: Why would my taxi driver tell me there were cars to Mali? Everybody lies.

Naomi: So… Right.

It turned out that Muxtar wasn’t telling the truth about there being three mountains to climb.

There were four.

And when he told us later that we’d have to walk a bit farther from the peak to arrive at Mali, that wasn’t true either.

It was two hours of scrambling into and out of dry riverbeds, up steep hills (the kind I thought passed for “mountains” in West Africa, until I was confronted with the real thing), downhill for a moment, and then up even more steep hills.

As Rose began to question whether Mali even existed, I began to argue with Muxtar about the remaining hills.

“We only need to go up, and then down, and then up, and then down, and then up one final time,” he reassured me.

“But you said that half an hour ago, and we’ve already gone up and down twice since then. So this has to be the last hill.” I reasoned, very logically, and not at all petulantly, as if I could argue away the existence of the three hills that remained between us and our destination. It was nearly 10 pm. Muxtar, who was still carrying all our stuff, just smiled patiently, and said, “It’s not far. We’re almost there.”

This is an awful lot of whining for what was, in reality, a beautiful hike. We passed through tiny villages, and admired the sunrise (and the sunset). We stopped in one village and offered a man 40 cents for some mangoes from his tree. He started picking, and before we understood what was happening, Muxtar was piling more than twenty mangoes into the already outlandish load he was leading on his bicycle.

We spent a couple hours resting (in a sweaty, sore, heap) in a village at the base of a mountain, where they shared their lunch and their tea, and cheerfully wished us well on the rest of our journey.

And, at first as a distraction against fatigue and the heat, and later because it was so entertaining, (and as a distraction against the exhaustion and pain) Rose and I told each other story after story from our lives and those of our friends.

Rose: Everything you’ve ever heard about boarding school is true…

Naomi: … just as she was about to get deported…

And when we finally arrived in Mali near 10 pm, a mere 18 hours after we’d left Dindafalou, we were tired. We were upset that people had so understated the mountain and the subsequent 10 km. But we weren’t broken.


Random boy from village: Hello! [Knock, knock, knock] Grand! Hello!


Rose: There’s nobody there.

Muxtar: There’s nobody there.


We knew of one hotel in the village of Mali. It was called the Auberge Indigo, and a Peace Corps volunteer we’d met in the village before climbing the last mountain had told us about it.

It’s right by the entrance to the village, she’d assured us.

Of course, she’d also told us that from the peak of the mountain, it’d be an hour’s flat walk to Mali. Everybody lies.

When we finally arrived in the village, we asked for help finding the hotel. 30 minutes of (hilly) walking later, we’d finally arrived at the Auberge. There was a light on inside, but the gate was locked.

Muxtar: There’s nobody there.

Naomi: [BANG. SOB. BANG.] Hello?

Rose: Where else can we stay tonight?

Muxtar: I know a place.

It was a block or so from where we’d been when we arrived and asked for directions to the Auberge. It was also pitch black and deserted.

Rose: And here I was wondering how tonight could get worse.

Muxtar: There’s nobody there.

Rose: Where else can we stay tonight?

Muxtar: I know a place.

We started walking again. It was now after 11 pm.

Rose: All I want is a bed and a place where I can wash off all this sweat.

Naomi: I caution you against getting your hopes up.

And here is where deliverance appeared, in the form of two boys on a motorcycle. They stopped to talk to Muxtar.

Rose: I’m going to ask them for a place to stay.

She meant at their house. Amazingly, however, there was a guesthouse. A weird, almost complete hotel/apartment/villa with tiled, fitted bathrooms, (including large tubs and bidets, in a place with no running water) and built-in light fixtures (in a place with no electricity). There was also a giant, king size bed, with a real, toubab mattress. And while Rose broke down in the bathroom, I settled the details with our well-meaning, but slightly clueless hosts, who wanted to know if we’d be ready to go sightseeing at 7 in the morning, and if maybe we wanted to look at the other rooms before deciding which one to sleep in. (Rose: JUST LEAVE! NOW!)

And we finally settled into bed, hysterically, desperately laughing at our exhaustion, at the employee from the Auberge Indigo who had chased us down right before we found our new hotel, and who wanted us to follow him 45 minutes in the OTHER direction back to his hotel (“But I’m here now! I went out to get some bread! But I’m here!”) and at how much we wished we were back home in Senegal.

But then I stopped laughing. “We can’t just leave here and go back to Senegal tomorrow,” I told Rose. “We have to stay here, and we have to have fun. This trip can’t just be about having an awful time. We’ve come so far to get here. Things have to get better now.”

To be continued…

Sunday, May 14, 2006

It's Getting Better All the Time

There was a moment, as I climbed straight up the rocky face of a small mountain, two hours before the sun would rise, carrying a plastic bag with seven loaves of bread, behind Rose with her backpack, who was behind our guide, Muxtar, with my backpack and 15 liters of water on his head, that I regretted ever having run a marathon.

Bear with me here. This makes sense. Eventually.

We were in the farthest, southeastern corner of Senegal, on route to a brief jaunt to Guinea. I needed to get out of the country so I could come back in and get a new stamp on my passport—and therefore another three months to live here on a tourist visa. Rose was there because… Well because naïve as we were, we thought a brief jaunt to Guinea sounded like the makings of a rocking good time.

Universe: Did you miss me?
Naomi: Do you really want me to answer that?

“It’s supposed to be beautiful over there.” Rose told me when we were planning this trip. “Hills and forests. There’s a National Park with lions! And the Bassari people!”

We pulled out my Lonely Planet and read about southeastern Senegal.

Lonely Planet: It’s beautiful there! Hills and forests! And a National Park with lions! And the Bassari people!

Naomi: And Guinea-Conakry is right there, so we can just head over to Maliville, get a stamp in the passport and I’m golden.

Lonely Planet: And Guinea-Conakry is right there. Maliville is the closest town. (This one woman hiked and biked between Senegal and Mali (it took her 13 hours) and she had a great time!)

Rose: We can walk to Guinea! And it looks like it’s only 30 km. That’s doable, right?

Naomi: Totally. How did it take that woman 13 hours to do 30km on a bike? We could do that in half the time and still not rush.

Rose: Absolutely.

Universe: It’s not even fun when you make it this easy.

Naomi: Did you hear something?

Rose: Hmm? They have good indigo cloth in Mali!

Naomi: Ooh!

And so, with a brief stop at the Guinean embassy to pick up a visa, we were off at 9 pm on Thursday night. We planned to take a 7-place to Tambakounda through the night and then take a second one to Kedagou, our first destination. 7-places, also called Bush Taxis, are ancient Peugot station wagons with seats for 7 plus a driver. They are fairly cheap, go everywhere, and go direct to their destination, just as soon as it fills up.

Rose: We need a car to Tambakounda.

Senegalese 7-place drivers: That’s interesting.

Rose: Is there a car going to Tambakounda?

Senegalese 7-place drivers: Not tonight! Want to go to Banjul instead? Or how about St. Louis?

Rose and Naomi: Right. So we’ll just go home for a bit and try this again tomorrow. Actually, this is a GREAT plan. We totally MEANT to leave tomorrow morning at 4 am.

And so at 4 am on Friday morning, we were off. For real. Nothing could stop us now.

Peugot Station Wagon: [cough] Actually… [sputter] I’m really sorry, but [cou-sputter] I’m not feeling very well.

At 9:30 am on Friday morning, our car broke down. It was already brutally hot (or so we naively thought. Much hotter days were coming) so we ambled over to the shade of a near tree, and admired the gigantic gash I had ripped in my pants while climbing out of the way back where we were crammed with a typically enormous Senegalese dame "of a certain age," and her four-year-old son (grandson? Nephew? Who knows).

The driver and two of the male passengers were fussing under the hood, and after about 45 minutes they called us back over, and we all pushed the car while the driver pumped the gas and turned the ignition until eventually the engine turned over, and we were off.

Peugot Station Wagon: I think I can, I know I can. I think I can, I know I can. I think I can, I… oh god. Ooh. [splurgh.] I don’t think I can.

An hour later, we broke down again, about 100 m outside of some tiny village.

Naomi: I’ve always wanted to see a water tower created with the cooperation between Senegal and Japan!

Rose: What luck! For there in front of us is a water town created under cooperation between Senegal and Japan!

We pushed the car to the village, and the driver started fussing with the engine again. And then he flagged down a bus, negotiated a fare for all his passengers, handed us our bags, and send us on our way.

Naomi: I’ve always wanted to be crammed into a bus with an extra bench jammed into my knees with people packed in like sardines on my way to Tambakounda!

Rose: What luck! For here we are, crammed into a bus with a furnace-exhaust breeze washing over us, stuck on a bus stopping every 5 km, crammed in with a bazillion people on our way to Tambakounda!

But arrive in Tambakounda we eventually did, and our 7-place to Kedogou left soon after, and we were there before nightfall. We checked into a lovely hut at an inexpensive campement, where we had a phenomenal dinner of steak frites and tomato-avocado salad. And when Rose sighed cutely at the proprietor that she really wanted a mango for dessert, someone hopped on his bike and went and got us one.

Rose and Naomi: Okay, so today didn’t start off great, but it’ll only get better from here on out.

Universe: Define “better.”

Naomi: I swear I heard something. Did you hear that?

Rose: What? Check out this thing about a waterfall in Dindafalou. It’s right on the border with Guinea so it’s totally on our way. We can spend the night there, hang out at the waterfall, and hit the market in the morning, and then continue on to Guinea the next day.

Naomi: Ooh! Sounds great.

And so we hit the road again at 7:30 the next morning, found out where we’d need to go to get our exit stamps from Senegal — a village on the way to Dindafalou — and went back to the bus station.

There was a bus going to Dindafalou, but after sitting in it for a half hour or so, they admitted that it certainly wouldn’t fill up and head out until late in the afternoon. Or maybe not until the next day, when people would be going to Dindafalou for the market.

Rose: Hmm…

Naomi: Maybe we should see if we can get a taxi to take us?

Rose: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. We can always come back here, the bus isn’t going anywhere.

Taximan: Sure. I’ll drive to Dindafalou with y’all. For one meeeeeeeeeellion dollars! Hahahahah!

Other taximen: Hahahaha!

Rose: Seriously, what’s your best price?

Taximan : Hahahahaha.

Other taximen: Hahahahaha!

Rose and Naomi: New plan. We go find the road to Dindafalou and see if we can find any cars going out there.

Taximan: It’s over that way. Hahahahaha!

Other Taximen: Hahahahahaa!

Universe: Oh this is just painful. Go on then.

Naomi: Hmm? Did you say something Rose?

Rose: No, but this family is going to Dindafalou in this 4x4 and they say we can have a ride.

We’d been sitting under a tree for an hour or so on the road towards Dindafalou, with a couple other people looking for rides in that direction. We were directly across from the Peace Corps headquarters, where we’d gotten a decidedly chilly reception from the dude hanging out there. But the magoes we bought from woman who wandered by a bit later washed the bad taste of that encounter out of our mouths. And then we were back on the road.

Well, road might be a generous term. As we bounced over a narrow, rocky trail that wound around trees, through dry riverbeds, and back up the steep riverbank, we understood what the taximen in their ancient little cars were laughing about. And then we looked at each other.

Rose: How the hell does the bus get through this trail?

Naomi: There must be another road. Right?

Guy in 4x4: Nope!

Rose and Naomi: Thank god we’re not on that bus!

Nearly three hours later, after a (unduly long) stop to get our exit stamps from a blind (or possibly illiterate) border official, we’d finally traveled the 35 km to Dindafalou. Our 4x4 dropped us right off at the village campement and we checked into our second cute little hut.

And after getting ripped off for a greasy omellete for lunch, we picked up a random village kid who offered to show us the way to the waterfall. Where for the first time in two days, in the forest-y shade and splashing around with 50 or so village kids in the cool pool of water at the base of the waterfall, we felt cool and not sweaty.

Rose: This is amazing.

Naomi: Right here, this spot. Pure joy.

Naomi and Rose: And this place is so beautiful.

Dindafalou Cascade

To be continued….

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

He's Got Game

On the way over to the party, Jenna (an exchange student from San Diego who has been in Senegal since August) and I joke about how she is going to behave. She is dressed like a man, and she is looking forward to playing up the role.

“Oh, la belle gazelle! Do you ever get that one? I HATE that one?” she laughs.
“Yes! Yesterday! I just heard that one for the first time yesterday!”

She is going to try out all the lines we’ve been getting, incessantly, from Senegalese men since we got here. Preferably on all the ones skimpily (cross-)dressed as women.

“Except,” I say, after we’ve gone through all the best possibilities, “they might like it. They’ll probably think it’s great and end up wanting to take you home to meet their families.”

And, snickering, we walk into the party, where the music is already blasting, and there are scores of young Senegalese Catholics in seriously improbable outfits celebrating Mardi Gras.

I am there with Suzanne and three other toubabs—Jenna, and Katherine and Drew, who are students from Georgetown. We mostly stay together—it was only a few weeks after I’d gotten here, and I didn’t really know that many people—dancing, and laughing over the most ridiculous costumes.

And then.

“Okay, who is that guy who is just STANDING there? He’s totally staring at me.” I use the playful tone from before. The “god don’t you hate how aggressive the Senegalese men are” tone. But my eyes have been drawn in his direction more than a few times since I noticed him looking. Amid the crowd of silly dancing and sillier costumes, he’s standing still. Observing, with gorgeous eyes and a hint of a smile.

“Him?” Jenna looks over. “Isn’t that Théo? Suzanne’s brother? He’s not usually like that. I don’t know what’s up.”

“Oh wait. I met him before. It’s probably nothing then.” I look over, make eye contact and smile. He smiles back. And then stops watching me.

And later, Jenna says, “You’re right, now he’s staring at me.”

“You see what I mean? It’s a little weird right?” Right. He wasn’t watching me. He was watching people.

The costume contest/parade begins and the whole party flocks to find a good spot to watch. I pull over a chair to stand on, but plenty of other people have had the same idea, and it’s hard to see. Most of the entrants are guys, and they play up to the heckling and the cat calls, sashaying down the makeshift runway with artificially padded hips. There’s a mock kiss between a mock couple and the crowd squeals. It’s loud and hilarious, and would be even more so if I had any idea who these guys were. As it is, I can’t decide between the guy dressed as a conservative granny (complete with hair net) or the guy dressed in a micromini that he easily pulls off better than I would.

The voting is done by applause, and I have no idea who we’re voting for, or who ends up winning.

Somehow, I always know where Théo is, and somehow it’s always just a little out of speaking range.

The contest finished, the dancing starts again. I find Suzanne, Jenna, Katherine, and Drew. A girl wanders over. I’d joked with her when we were paying our admission (“Are you going to dance?” “Hell yeah, I’m going to dance.” “Show me your moves.” “After you.” “I’ll see you inside”). We dance together for a few counts, and she laughs. “You dance really well.” And she wanders off.

And then Théo is there, dancing with us, saying hi to Suzanne and Jenna. I wait for him to say hi to me. He doesn’t. I turn a little and dance in his direction. He smiles. A little kid comes over during an Mbalax song, which is a particular type of Latin/Senegalese music made popular by Youssou N’Dour. It goes with a very bizarre Senegalese dance that involves some sort of cross between the Charleston, the twist, and the running man. The little kid shows off some of his mbalax skills, and I copy him a little (as best as I can in the long Senegalese pagne I’m wearing as my costume). Théo seems amused.

Around midnight, the music stops and the party is over. Everyone swarms towards the exit en masse, and I’m certain that now Théo will talk to me. I nonchalantly walk towards the exit. Outside, I realize that Théo has walked off, and now I’ve also lost sight of Suzanne and the others. I find Suzanne a moment later, but Théo is nowhere to be seen.


When people asked me why I was single, which they asked A LOT, I told them that it was because I didn’t want a boyfriend. That if I’d had a boyfriend or a husband in the States, I probably would never have come to Senegal. That I’m here to work and to learn and not to date.

A lot of people accepted that answer, although it did set me up for my share of, “how can you learn all about Senegalese culture if you refuse to experience EVERYTHING about Senegalese culture?”

Sometimes they’d ask me if it was because I didn’t want to date a black person. I told them that wasn’t it, although I would prefer to date a Jewish person. That was something people understood: everyone is very religious here and they tend not to date across religious lines (although it happens).

If all else failed, I could usually put an end to the conversation with: “I’m not saying that I would never date someone here. But I’m not looking for anyone.”

Most of it was true, and some of it was convenient. Mostly I was saying, to whoever I was talking to, that I didn’t want to date them, and most of them got it without my having to be more explicit. A couple times, I tried lying and telling people I was married, but I wasn’t any good at that, and people could always tell.


A few weeks after Mardi Gras pass, and I mostly put Théo out of my mind. I know that I’m going to see him at Easter, which Suzanne has invited me to share with her family. If I’m honest, I know that I’m looking forward to it. But I’ve never really even spoken to him. And I remind myself that—even if it felt like the not-talking at Mardi Gras was very calculated or at least very shy—there’s sometimes a much simpler reason for not talking. And the fact that I haven’t seen him since? Tends to support the “he’s not that into you” theory.

Anyway, I’m not looking for a boyfriend.

Except that one day Suzanne comes back from her day off and says that Théo asked about me.

I knew it.


And then it was Easter.

I could tell you all about the little flirtations and the continued not-talking and the smiling from far away and about how he drew it out until the last possible second, when I was leaving at the crack of dawn the next morning. When I was finally convinced that I’d completely imagined the whole thing, and that I’d managed to pick the one guy in Senegal who had no interest in dating me. (You’ll excuse the frustrated exaggeration of a girl with a crush.)

But the important part is that, all of a sudden, the smiling continued, and he wasn’t far away. The not-talking stopped, and a few other things started.

And I'm not going to lie (I was never any good at that anyway). It's an awful lot of fun.