Exploring. Sort of.
Saint-Louis Travel Blog› entry 18 of 37 › view all entries
We wake up to meet on the roof of the hotel to get assigned to our drop-off locations. Similar to our introduction to downtown Dakar. Of course, like getting picked last for gym class, the uneven number of students means that I get to awkwardly add my name to a group of people that already agreed to work together. At least I get Amanda and Frankie. They don't mind.
We get to find a "congregation des soeurs," or a the former site of a convent located near the old cathedral. Apparently, another group discovered that the service every Sunday has 200 members strong. Behind the church, we find a small doorway open with a sign next to it. We enter the convent house to find a large concrete basketball court surrounded by classrooms, the walls brightly colored. A bell and a couple of statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are hidden on platforms above our heads.
Amanda quickly makes friends with one of the teachers there. Now, the church runs the convent as a school for children of all ages. He opens up a classroom for us to see, packed with desks one brought over from France. He tells us there are about 50 children per class; there are only 12 teachers on staff.
Amanda, always knowing how to engage in a great conversation in French, talks to one of the maids cleaning on the balcony surrounding the main yard (basketball court). She tells us to come upstairs, leading us into a nice sitting/dining room. She turns on the fan and tells us to wait. The three of us have no idea what's going on or what's going to happen next. Soon, an elder French nun enters. She seems like a typical cute, old lady.
Frankie and I let Amanda do the talking. She pulls out some brochures for us and shows us some photobooks of pictures of the school - the children, ceremonies in the cathedral, Christmas plays, the various work of several of the nuns who live there still. She told us that sister from the Congo and India live there, and she even notes how funny it is that some Muslim children attend the school. She points at a picture of some of them dressed like nuns and priests (ie - their teachers) during a celebration party, chuckling a little bit as she explains.
After leaving the convent school, we run into some of the other groups. Some head back, while another group of us head across a bridge to a fishing village. The moment you leave the island, the architecture changes completely. The fishing villages is packed with people, run down homes, and dirty walls and streets. You see fishing nets, bright blue, stretched out on the ground. Piles of smoked fish and stingrays are as high as the homes themselves.
Never before have I been called 'toubab' so many times in my life. Little kids, especially. They point and tug at their mother's skirts. "Toubab! Toubab!" We stick out like a sore thumb and it feels really weird. We heads towards the beach. More like a landfill. Garbage is everywhere. We have to trudge through it to get to some semblance of sand.
We return to the hotel for lunch, then load up again for a boat ride through a near by national park known for its many birds. Like on a water safari, we head out onto a brightly colored speedboat, and drift by an island of all kinds of beautiful birds. Pelicans opened up their wings wide, almost like they were showing them off just for us. Jumping fish flew out of the water like dolphins, silvery and shining in the sun.
We disembark on a private beach - not like the packed hydrobase - and everyone gets in the water. I felt sick when leaving the hotel and didn't bring my swinsuit. I totally regret it know. I end up just wading in the water and drawing in the sand with a long stick.
Oh, well. After dinner, I rest in the room and watch weird French movies. They were really different, but good. I need to rent some when I get home. Mostly everyone else goes out to a club or bar. I'm just not in the mood. Instead, I relax and wish that I could have explored more of the island. St. Louis is definitely on the list of places to return to if I have the time.