Take Me To St. Louis
Saint-Louis Travel Blog› entry 17 of 37 › view all entries
Time to leave the village. I play some French heads-or-tails with a 100 CFA coin and some soccer - I mean, football - with the kids before heading out. We head back to the main compoud with all my gear and load up on the bus. It was really sad to give good-bye hugs and thank yous. My mom presented me with a gift of 'wah' - a snack of cous-cous and peanut butter mixed into a paste. Actaully pretty good, but she gave me a huge brick of it. I still don't know what I'm going to do with it.
The bus takes us to the CCDD - a development center funded by Tostan, an NGO. We get a lecture on the talibé (really interesting). The talibé are young boys, Koranic students, who study and live with thier Koranic teacher, called a marabou. However, the talibé are usually only visible to us when they are on the street begging for alms or food, a quota of which must be given back to the marabou as a form of payment for their schooling.
After the lecture, we headed to an actual dara (the Koranic schools). On a shaded mat sad about 50 talibé, all seeming to be talking loudly over each other. They were all reciting the Koran. Most boys who attend a dara do so at the age of 6. Usally, they have the entire Koran memorized my the age of 15 or so. That's when you get to graduate.
The marabou showed us the house that he, his two wives, and all his talibé live. He had his room, each wife has a room, and as custom goes, all the talibé sleep on the floor in one large room. The cool thing Tostan is doing is pairing up individual talibé with "mothers" - women to act as the mom away from home for the boys. It's a cool new dimension to bring back the community's obligation to the talibé, the lack of which many think has caused the evolvement of several corrupt marabou.
We eat a lunch of ceebu jen on the floor of the CCDD, and load up the bus to head towards St. Louis. About five minutes in, I'm really wishing I had used the bathroom. It gets worse and worse. I squirm for 2 hours in my seat until we finally stop at a hollowed out baobob tree Ken wants us to see. The tree is awesome, and some of the students even climb it. However, when you gotta go, time is of the essence. I snap a few photos, and then walk back about half a kilometer to the nearest gas station to find a restroom. (Yes, I walked. Though running would have fit in with the whole time is of the essence mantra, I think that was too much movement for my body to handle.)
Enough of that. I missed a cool photo opportunity. Oh, well. We continue on to St. Louis, the first captial and colonial center of Senegal. The main part of the city is on an island flanked on either side by the Senegal River and the Atlantic. The island is packed with old French-style colonial buildings, none of them kept in proper condition. It's really sad to see such beautiful architecture, so different from the other dwellings in the area, crumbling as you take photos of it. Ironically, crumbing walls make for some cool photos.
Our hotel is said to be the nicest hotel in St. Louis. And it is amazing. It's small, but really comfortable, overlooking the river. Exact opposite of our previous night's accomodations in the village. I room up with Frankie, someone I never expected to share a room with. But it's nice to have some change, and we got to talk with each other more about our tough homestay experiences.
We settle into our rooms, then head out to the hydrobase - where the first mail plane that carried messages between Africa and Europe landed. We all hop in the waves, and we all simultaneously are knocked over. The force of the waves were like none I had ever experienced before. It was impossible to stand upright in that ocean.
However, the pièce de resistance was the bus ride back to the hotel. As we pulled out, a bunch of young guys tried to hitch a ride by grabbing on the ladder mounted on the back of the bus used to attach cargo to the roof. Souleye, of course, tried yelling at them in Wolof to get off. Thinking they jumped down, he resumed his seat. Analee and David, at the rear of the bus, motioned to the men outside to hop back on. When we started giggling about it, Souleye popped up and yelled again. Analee complained why we couldn't let them ride along. Souleye's response was golden. He hollered back. "Insurance doesn't cover that."
Dinner was on this barge located across the street from the hotel, on the river. It gave us a gorgeous view of the sunset and of St. Louis' famous bridge. The bridge was built from leftover parts of the Eiffel Tower. The china and silverware didn't hurt either.
I ended the day with a hot shower. A HOT SHOWER! Oh, praise God for the miracle of hot water. I finally had a chance to undo the braids in my hair, get the permanent dirt marks from my flip-flops off my feet, and scrub all the gunk out of my pores from the past three weeks.
Needless to say, I sleep really, really well.