The First Free Day (make that Frantic)

Dakar Travel Blog

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Today's goal: laundry. I just needed to get my underclothes washed on my own. Task number one: ask how laundry is done. The answer is two large basins, one for the soapy water and the other for the clean water. She asks me: do you have soap? No? Go buy some. Task number two: find laundry detergent. This leads me around town at around nine o'clock on a Sunday morning in search of anything soapy. I head over to the Shell gas station and find some indivudal packs of powder detergent - the checkout guy, David, is eager to help me practice my Wolof. I buy the soap and return home, washing my clothes by hand, squatting down next to the two wash basins. It's quite fun to get your arms all wet and splash around in water for a while. The only problem is that you become a magnet for mosquitos.

I finish washing my undergarments and lay them over various objects in my room to dry - the table, waterbottles, and my chair. However, I quickly realize that the dripping clothes create massive puddles of water all over the floor. Task number three: find a towel. I already learned from my frustrating first night in the homestay that I would have to provide my own bath towel, a.k.a. - go buy one. Since I couldn't find a decent sized towel anywhere, I have been forced to used one of my t-shirts to dry myself when I take showers.

After talking with one of my aunts/maids for about twenty minutes as she repeated the same concept over and over, and I still did not understand what she was trying to tell me, I finally got the jist. Go buy a small towel for now at the gas station, and she would buy me a large one at the end of the day. David is enthused to see me return so soon. I find a long rectangular towel/mat and ask him how much it costs. We end up talking in very elementary Wolof and French phrases. He is happy to show me an English-Wolof phrasebook they have for sale.

Anyway, I return and lay out my wet things on the towel, turn on the ceiling fan, and pray to God things dry by the end of the day.

After lunch, my homestay brother reminds me that we are going to the beach in the afternoon. So I grab my sunglasses, sunscreen, and Demon Deacon cap before following him out the door. Needless to say, I forgot my bathing suit.

Getting to the beach was half the fun. This was my first time in a cheap local transportation called the "car rapide." Car rapides are basically old looking buses painted either in straight white or in crazy bright colors that pack in people like sardines for the cheap price of 200 CFA (about 50 cents) to any destination you so choose. Add together the tightness of a Tokyo train at rush hour and people hangin off the trolley cars in San Francisco, and you've basically got a car rapide. The driver is aided by a "conductor" who is stationed at the rear of the bus (where people enter and exit) screaming at people to pay him their fare and knocking the coins he collects on the metal side of the bus to indicate to the driver that it is time to put on the gas or pull over because someone wants to get out.

Be prepared to really get to know the people sitting around you. Not beside you. AROUND you. The aisle between the two rows of double seats have a folding seat that bridges the gap between them. I was sitting on one of those seats. There was a person to the left of me, to the right of me, to the front of me, behind me, and of course, at each corner in between. Factor in the blasting radio, the conductor crawling over people, and us passing fares and change back and forth to him, and you've got no time to stare out the window.

After my descention out of the car rapide, I figured that my brother had brought me to some sort of landfill. Garbage was everywhere and it seemed that we had been dropped off in the middle of Dakar's slums. We headed towards them, winding through a maze of alleys that suddenly got more and more beautiful. The alley maze opened to a public beach where we stood in line to catch a speed boat, painted in the similar bright colors of the car rapide, to an island across the water. Jumping of the cramped speedboat (thing similar situation to car rapide), we attacked another maze of walls. Gorgeous flowers began to grow over the walls, and minature entraceways to beach residences and inns began to emerge. We finally arrived.

Getting comfortable under a rented umbrella, we ate fruit, talked about young Senegalse people, the sights around us, etc. I also spend a lot of time translating many an English phrase for my brother, mostly song titles and lyrics.

I wish I had brought my swimsuit along, the water felt awesome on my feet after a long, hot day. I also felt bad having to make my brother swim alone. However, after our beach time, we hiked over some of the cliffy rocks jetting further out into the ocean where we happened to met some of his friends.

All in all, not a bad first day "libre" with the homestay family. I still feel awkward and sort of unwelcomed by most of the women in the house, but at least my brother and some of the children are patient with me. The prospect of going back to school tomorrow, however, is still something I anticipate.

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