Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mission: Possible!

After commuting by foot or taxi over the last 3 months - I was presented with an opportunity that would challenge me to finally ride one of the local buses. There are 3 types that careen through the city - small white mini buses, colorful car rapides (deserving of it's own post) and the blue buses - which are known as the Dakar Demm Dikk.

Demm Dikk. means "to and fro" in Wolof. Quite the motto - in that it lives up to getting  you "to and fro" but beyond that there is no commitment to when the "to" is and when the "fro" is. It is impossible for this system to offer up any kind of reliable time schedule due to the nature of the traffic and people jammed city streets.  My destination - La Pouponniere. I had actually been here on one prior visit - but I went with a friend who picked me up and she had a "driver" take us so I really wasn't paying attention to how we were getting there. And now that I think about it - we came along the Corniche which is the road along the Ocean - and the trip on the bus took a totally different route.

I have to admit I wasn't ready to go it alone - so Manning who had a previous engagement using this mode of transport was willing to take the first ride with me so I could eliminate the intimidating angst I had about taking the bus.

I was told that to get to this place we needed to go we could catch either the bus #6, #7, #12 and #23 - as they all go along the same route to start.  In this case - options are good!!  Not knowing where to even get on this bus our Bonne (Esperance - yes we have a new delightful one who deserves her own blog post soon) - walked with us to what was a very distinctive bus shelter to start - where it was clear a number of line pass.  We started our journey sometime after  9:30. Our bus  started off rather spacious and empty - since we think we were at one of the starting points for the line and also because it was past the morning 'rush' - but who knows what that really is here.

In each bus there is a man in a cage who basically is the toll taker. It costs 150 CFA to ride the bus which in comparison to a taxi is a steal.  The taxi would roughly cost 1,200 to La Pouponniere.  Eventually when the bus does get packed and you can't reach the toll taker -  I've learned that you can actually pass your money (if you don't need change) through the crowd and they will make sure he gets it along with your 'paid' Demm Dikk ticket in return.

It did not take too long for the bus to start getting full with bodies - I'm thinking the 
38 Geary or 30 Stockton or even the 30X when I lived in San Francisco when it was over-capacity. Yep Yep - lots of people packed in a bus - I'm in my comfort zone.

Here are a few views along the way...

Life here --> sidewalks constantly packed with vendors - stall after stall after stall, which is why so many people  have to walk on the streets. Add to that the  jammed streets with cars, buses and taxis!! - it's so hard to absorb sometimes. It never shuts down. A thought that just came to mind - a **constant sidewalk sale** that **never ends**.

So we are on the bus - not knowing the route and I was told to be sure to get off at the Casino-SAHM (whatever the heck that was). Fortunately someone must have known enough English and overheard Manning and I talking and at one point - the woman says to get off  "maintenant" - NOW.  Okay so we do that without really knowing what we were doing and come out to this scene below. It's this mish mash transfer spot where people are catching all kinds of transports - the white buses, the care rapides and the Demm Dikk. What you can't see behind the buses - is the Casino SuperMarche - which was the landmark reference but we did not get that until now. So between the Casino and the Total Gas station we were left pondering - now where - in terms of finding La Pouponniere.

Manning as you can see in the background is surveying the area and yes in the foreground is a pile of trash. Sadly there is alot of that strewn about **everywhere**. On first thought it would seem so obvious and easy to resolve if  there were trashcans systematically placed on every corner - but I just actually do not get why this one thing is that difficult to implement.  It's truly beyond my comprehension but I digress. At this point I have not explained La Pouponniere - so I will just add for the moment that it is  not only an orphanage  run by an order of Franciscan missionary sisters, but supports young women who are themselves in a two-year education program, alternating between assisting in looking after the babies and classes such as tailoring and cooking. Ultimately the goal being - for the young woman to obtain a level of French literacy and on the job training - in order to increase their chances and opportunities to obtain employment in the service sector at a hotel or restaurant or as a nanny or bonne. 

From afar - Manning catches a glimpse of a cross - 'a sign' - I suppose - so we figure - let's head in that direction - we cross this main road - and walk just a bit when I start to recognize the surroundings from the first trip. And in a split second after that I turn my head and - I see the entrance.  WOW - we made it!

So - my mission, should I decide to accept it - which I have - is to teach English to a select group of 6 young woman who are staying on for a 3rd year.

Now, hows that for an assignment!


  1. That's so great! I love to follow your adventure!
    Happy holiday!
    Thinking of you!

    1. Just testing out the reply feature now on the blog. Thanks Emma for posting. You know we would not be here without you paving the way for P/A. We'll cherish you as the Maternelle teacher forever!!

  2. Between you and Manning, you're doing some great work! Please keep us posted regarding progress in teaching the young women. The experience promises to be a challenge.

    1. Dwight - you are right in some hindsight as I reply to all postings. While a challenge also a reward. Promise to update you all on what has been achieved with these girls.

  3. oh gosh Hilary you really are on an Adventure! :)

    1. Just now using the reply feature - yes it's been more than adventure. I'm going to have to find synonyms for that! Thanks for keeping up on the posts.

  4. Wow...everyone is a winner in that assignment! I'm so happy that you and Manning are all settled in.

    Andrea Salgues

    1. Andrea - just using the reply feature on the blog now. We owe everyone an update - it's been a fascinating journey to help people - when we are not 'teachers' or in Manning's case - experiencing all kinds of technical issues that would not occur back in the US. But it's all been rewarding an the recipients are delighted with what we've done thus far! We owe an update to all on this.