Monday, April 8, 2013

Days You Just Can't Plan

Lunch with a man who randomly accosted us in the street? Six hours' worth of ataaya (strong sweet traditional tea) at his house afterward and a political discussion? Dinner with his family followed by a Senegalese dance party in his room? Oh and then go with him to the outdoor concert celebrating Senegal's independence that didn't start until about 11pm? Sounds like a day. It was definitely one of those days that you just cannot plan no matter how much you might hope for the unexpected. A group of 6 of us from my program had jumped on a "sept-place" (Peugeot with 7 spots for passengers) that morning bound north for St. Louis. At first we weren't sure if we were gonna make it to our destination as our driver sped out of the "gare" barely avoiding 3 collisions in the first minute of travel. Turns out he knew how to cut traffic lines by driving in all the wrong lanes or creating his own, so we did not get too stuck in traffic trying to leave Dakar.

Our group with Malik, his sister, and the English teacher
The man we met in the street, Malik, was definitely looking for some help in getting his jewelry business going but never asked us for money and his family was very welcoming. He called over a Senegalese English teacher to join in the conversation, and we taught each other tongue-twisters and played question games in Wolof and English quizzing each other. Placed beignet bets on the first women's lutting match shown on TV (lutte= Senegalese traditional wrestling). The fresh air of the concert was welcomed after all the tea-sitting, but with that fresh air came a couple frozen limbs. Turns out St. Louis is FREEZING at night with the coastal winds. Even so, we got to watch a few artists lip sync to prerecorded songs while shaking their dreadlocks all over the stage before we got too cold and retired at midnight to the hotel's huts in which we were spending the night.

Pirogues for fishing and transport
The following day was filled with wandering around the island of St. Louis on a self-guided tour-- pretty historical and definitely European architecture. Fueled by street food and "café touba" (kinda like a spice coffee) we saw a lot of the island, surprised by the plethora of unobserved children running around playing, begging, sitting. They had this week off for break, though it really made us think about how young Senegal's population is as a whole. The English practice sentences on the chalkboards of the vacated school we explored were very different from the type you would see in the States. One of the sentences was "Not once did he allow his wives to join the women associations." (Remember that polygamy is perfectly acceptable here.) After running into our friend Malik again, randomly, we decided to go to the rugby tournament we had heard about. This was one of those times when we sat down and thought to ourselves, "what are we doing here again?" The pitch was swarming with young boys, some racing around on broken-off palm fronds (looked like they were playing Quittage), some playing soccer, some being "organized" into rugby teams by a couple of adult men. The stands being empty except for us lasted about 2 minutes, at which point they were flooded with little boys shaking our hands and asking us for "cadeaux" (gifts). The rugby never really happened while we were there, though we saw some form of toss-the-ball-and-tackle-eachother.

Along the road near our first overnight spot
Our plans to spend the next night out of St. Louis at a remote campement called Zebrabar included buying cans of beans and corn, baguettes, and chocolate spread-- we heard that dinner at the campement was $12 a plate, an amount we certainly hadn't factored into our budget. To get there, we stuffed our supplies, bags, 10-liter jugs of water and the 8 of us into a normal 4-passanger car with the promise that we would meet up with the driver's brothers partway and switch into two cars for the rest of the journey. You knew our first chariot was a good one since we had struck up this bargain in a repair-lot where most of the cars had no wheels or had the hoods up getting fixed. We had a natural sun-roof, created by the rust of time for no extra charge and the natural air conditioning of only a couple windows. I was pretty excited when the doors actually stayed shut as we drove! Zebrabar reminded me of Jurassic Park, complete with safari vans painted with zebra stripes and a nice bar and restaurant with lookout tour. Right on an inlet, we had chosen this place for its kayaks-- free to overnight guests. We slept in a tent with 6 double beds packed inside, perfect for what we were looking for.

Sunrise view from the tower at Zebrabar
Saturday (the next morning), we got up early and climbed up the tower to watch the sunrise over the land and water. I was determined to get my kayaking in, and ended up going with my friend Ethan. Turns out that one of the kayaks was good for the water we were kayaking in, and one of them was not. By the time we were past the dock I knew I was in for a treat with my kayak, and between that and the homemade paddle I was using, I didn't stand a chance against getting soaked. Honestly, I don't know much about kayaks, but what I can say is that this one barreled instead of glided. On the way back I kept getting pushed around by the currents of the water, even against the direction of the wind. I still don't really know how this happened, but I would be paddling for all I was worth on one side and still be turning the wrong direction. There reached a few points when I was so tired of putting all I had into rowing that I would release the kayak to the will of the water (and promptly get turned around backwards). It was a pretty good image of how I have felt at a few points during this semester. But you get stronger for paddling against the currents. You can't simply make them go away, but life isn't about just making challenging situations disappear. God equips you in each case to continue moving forward even when you get turned around and feel like you are going nowhere. Amen to God knowing what He is about in our lives!

Oh and Zebrabar also had a slackline-- definitely not a feature I was expecting out of a campement in Senegal (even one run by a Swiss couple). So I was able to kayak, slackline, hike out to main roads, and journey across the country by "sept-place" all in the same day. I didn't mind it. ;)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Jodie. I enjoy your style!

    Aunt Leslie