Video Killed the Radio Star

Trip Start Mar 05, 2006
Trip End Mar 12, 2006

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Over cold cokes at a little restaurant in town we discussed plans with Jimmy for a tour tomorrow. Some serious number crunching was required as Donna's bank card had never worked in Dakar and we were forced to cash traveller's cheques leaving us with very limited CFA (local currency) for two nights hotel, our tour, food, and transportation to the border of the Gambia. We eventually paid Jimmy with a combination of CFA and USD and headed for a hotel.

For a totally out of the way town, the hotel we settled on was quite nice and blessedly cheap. It also included breakfast, a definite bonus. It was good to get away from the touts on the street. They're not very good touts having failed to master the art of bugging people just enough to get them to give in and buy stuff. Instead, they bug you every second you're outside of your safe hotel enclosure until you want to grab the machete they're trying to sell you and use it on the them and the ten other touts surrounding you. We tried ignoring them, polite no thank yous, and firm no thank yous. Nothing worked, so we retreated to our hotel. We didn't have any money to spend on souvenirs anyway.

Some observations about Senegalese life: many of the people speak French, but not all. You have to go to school to learn French, but everyone learns their tribal language at home. In this part of the country, the tribal language is Wolof. Donna and I speak French. Abysmal French that comes out German half the time without us even noticing it. It's really rather funny and makes me wonder how the language part of my brain works. I have no problem expressing myself in a random combination of French and German, but please don't try to confine me to one language. Hopefully our language skills will improve as the trip progresses.

The people in this town are also all quite tall and lean. Like really really tall. I don't know if that's the Wolof or Senegal, but it's true. They're also really dark, almost ebony. It's amazingly beautiful and makes me realize how much American blacks must be...watered down, I guess. I really don't want to offend anyone here, but I don't know how to express it. However, the middle-aged women are all short and plump. I don't understand this transformation. Perhaps it has something to do with better nutrition for the younger generation.

The middle aged people also wear traditional clothes. Men, the long flowing robes over pants, women, bright colorful loose fitting tops over skirts. They also tie their children to their backs. Apparently having an ample behind is a culturally developed trait. It looks like the kids would fall out, but obviously they don't. The younger women wear tight jeans, shorter skirts, belly-baring shirts, halter tops. They could almost step out of Queens, while the younger men wear sportswear-type clothing, or at least more western style clothing.

There are no chickens here. Apparently not for three months due to the avian flu scare. I originally ordered chicken for dinner tonight, but was told there was none. We have seen three roosters and one chicken. Anyone who's travelled to the third world can tell you how uncommon that is. Three roosters is hardly enough to wake everyone up at 5 am. The livestock they do have, however, looks great. Lean, but well cared for. Good looking sheep, goats, pigs. Healthy donkeys and horses. No bones sticking out in the wrong places, though I can't imagine what they eat, it all looks so barren to me. The animals run free and I'm not sure how you tell your goat from your neighbor's goat, but there must be a system.

Another observation is the use of horses and donkeys (very cute donkeys, I might add) No one has vehicles, none of the scooters so common in South East Asia, but there are lots of horses and donkeys pulling flat topped carts. The donkeys being smaller, most people load their goods on the carts and walk beside them. The vehicles that do exist, don't zip around. Driving is quite sane here, and overall the country feels very laid back.

After a restful afternoon of naps and swimming we headed for dinner at the hotel around seven. I ordered beef, Donna pork, which is retrospect might not have been the best idea as they are Muslim and don't eat pork, but it was on the menu. Dinner took forever, we assume because they had to go out to town to buy the meat. We were the only people at the restaurant. About an hour after we ordered, the waitress came and asked how I wanted my meat cooked. I don't know how to say medium well in French, but we managed to communicate "not red." The servings were huge, we couldn't eat it all, but it was very good. There was also bread, a very yeasty yummy French baguette.

We fell asleep under our mosquito nets listening to the 70s and 80s music which had been playing in the street all day. "Video killed the radio star..."
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