Dakar Travel Blog

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First symptom - a lack of change. There are not enought small bills here of CFA (francs or "cayfah"). It is impossible to buy things with bills larger than 5,000 CFA, and this is even worse for us foreigners who have just changed money at the bank where only large bills are given in exchange for our large US dollars. I just want a bottle of water or a mango (both only about 300 CFA) but only have a 10,000 CFA bill. Prime opportunities for us to get ripped off and swindled. (It's already happened to a few of us when trying to pay for taxis.)

Second symptom - ordering food in a local language. We went to this somewhat Western-ized patisserie for lunch the other day, thinking that ordering food would be less painful. Chris, one of the guys with us, really wanted a dish pictured on the menu, but didn't know it's name. He pointed to it and asked the waitress. She rattled off a description and asked how many eggs he wanted. Chris said he wanted two. Two egss were brought to him along with our other orders. "That's it?" he asked, staring at the two over easy eggs in amazement. "That was not the piocture." He ate them, and we encouraged him to order something else so he wouldn't starve.  After trying to find our waitress for about 30 minutes, I finally saw her emerge from the kitchen with a large plate piled high with bread. "There she is; man, and she's carrying a tower of toast." She walked away from us; we continued our conversation. Suddenly, a plate of 14 pieces of toast is set in front of Chris. That's it. Two eggs and fourteen pieces of toast. We laughed so hard until we all had tears in our eyes.

Third symptom - children. Usually, I adore kids. The children at my house saved me when I couldn't bring myself to speak French with the adults. However, I arrive home one day. My little cousin tells me that I am no longer her friend. I ask her why over and over, getting no kind of concrete response. Finally, I gather it's because my brother took me to the beach without her the other day and she's jealous. Also, it may have been a result of another incident. I had pulled out my camera to bring the beach pictures to my brother so he could copy them to his computer. The kids see the camera and start grabbing it, pulling it, pushing me over to get a view of the screen. The same cousin finally demands for it, pulling at it. I have no choice but to raise my voice and explain to her in crappy French why she can't handle it. ("My camera is very expensive. You must be gentle around it.") Overhearing, the grandmother in the house tells me just to hit the children when they misbehave. Yeah. Can't do that. I mumble that I am not comfortable so and walk away to hide in my room until the buzz of the camera dies down.

Fourth symptom - FedEx. Basically, there are no set physical addresses here. Mail is sent to a "boite postale" at the post office. This poses a problem when my mom sends me a package with the valuble contents of a bath towel and pillowcase, as large packets can't fit in the post office box and go directly to FedEx offices downtown. So I spent hours talking to local staff, e-mailing FedEx, and making expensive international phone calls. (Three days later, I finally got the golden package. I now consider showering with a towel a wonderful luxury.)

Fifth symptom - ironing. So, the doctor said it's very important to get your clothes ironed after letting them hang outside to dry in order to kill this bug/parasite that lays its eggs on wet surfaces. My laundry is returned, obviously not ironed. Yet, four days later, I return to see some of the women ironing their towels. Ironing their towels only. Not clothes. I think I don't have the strength and will just risk getting a weird rash from wearing clean clothes.


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