Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sistah - Let Me be Your Guide!

Recently we had our first visitor to Dakar -  Kelly - who is one of my aerobic instructors from the YMCA in Berkeley. 

Let me preface Kelly's visit by letting you first know that some point along the continuum of our family planning this adventure - I shared with Kelly I was not going to be attending her class for a year - for of course all the right reasons. Given Kelly's enthusiasm for travel around the world and recently having lived in Singapore for her work - she declared her support for our adventure AND intentions to the class one day that she is coming to visit me in Dakar. At that moment  (in her exuberance but my trepidation) I was far from comprehending what my life was going to be like before I could entertain visitors - and when she made her announcement - we had no tickets in hand, were waiting for the school confirmation, searching for a renter - and still finalizing many details.  Needless to say I was a bit taken a back but appreciate Kelly's perseverance to setting up and making her goals come alive and using her frequent flier miles to go places she's never been - so why not Dakar now ;+}. And of course we thank her to for bringing a small care package - M&M's, Peets Coffee, some books we ordered for the boys and a small backup drive with selected videos from P/A's friends Gaby and Joshua.

Kelly has stayed steady with keeping up on the blog and all the ins and outs of our getting settled and many times writing me personally with her intended plans - so after some time I was able to confirm with her we were in a good groove after 4 months and ready for her visit for the new year!

So what is the itinerary we develop to ensure a unique and memorable time with only 3 days in Dakar + 3 days in the Petite Cote.

Kelly stays at the Miramar for one night on Felix Faure in the center of the city next to our apartment in order to get an  'up front and personal' feel of living on my street.  From there I arrive in the lobby just in time to take Kelly over to see the Presidential Palace -  to see the guard and their mini guard parade inside the gates promptly at 8:00 a.m. and watch the traffic being stopped - not to mention all people remaining frozen in place who are in eyesight of any guard near the palace for no more than 5 minutes. We know this because at the moment we were just about to reposition ourselves we were stared by one of the guards to no longer move. From there a walk around to Erik Keyser and Royaltine to view and pick up pastries. From there a walk to and around Kermel market with our bonne to watch her negotiate and choose all the goods for dinner.

A quick visit to a local Senegalese Artist Exhibition near the market. And then to the  Casino supermarche because everyone finds it interesting to see what a local grocery store is like in another city and culture.

A nap for Kelly and later that evening a home cooked  Thieboudienne meal - national Senegalese dish of fish, rice and vegetables -  thanks to Esperance - eaten American style.

After a lack of sleep at Hotel Miramar the next morning (don't get the room above the bar) a decision to move off the path to a much more interesting hotel the next day -  Hotel Sokhamon - facing the ocean with pool and view of a mosque in the background. An easy walk between there and our place.  A bit of peace for Kelly and a super duper treat for Parker and Addison!  More swimming!

Somewhere in the schedule a trip to Pointe des Almadies by taxi to the westernmost point on the continent of Africa - kind of cool if you think about it.

Restaurants and an artisans market fill the space around the point.

From here we caught the bus line 47 - that zigs and zags and zigs and zags through what seems like **all** of Dakar.  It's actually an amazing way to see the city!!  And it ends up on the edges of Sandaga market. We wrapped up our day with a good schwarma at Le Bistrol since it was actually open but in the perfect spot between her hotel and our apartment. Somewhere in those 72 hours we fit in a taste of homemade bissap and a drink at The Institut Francais.

SUCCESS! - but the story is not over

As part of Kelly's time in Senegal she has booked a room at Sobo Bade on the Petite Cote and we have a place booked at Pierre de Lisse just 5 km south for a few days at the same time.  Okay - so it's time to make a decision - pay for a private taxi to get us all down there or do the sept-place. We're all pretty adventurous types so we agree - the sept-place it is. So Monday morning comes - we walk down to the street to leave and shockingly we discover there are no taxis.  The street is way to quiet for a Monday. We need the taxi to get us to the "Pompier" where you catch the sept-place. Well apparently Monday morning   - Il y a un "grève"  - Senegalese transport workers decided to go on strike on Monday (Jan 2) and Tuesday (Jan 3) to protest against high fuel prices, the high cost of car insurance and harassment by the police. We all look at each other and start to think about plan B.  Just our luck that a 'modern' looking taxi does roll down the street - we flag him down - explain to him what we need - he goes on about the cost of things - we offer him 25,000 CFA (our researched one way fee we confirmed was reasonable) - he continued to 'complain' - we walk away then of course he flags us back  - we're on our way - thanks to "Chauffeur Khadime" -  with full use of seatbelts and no broken windshield. One of the things we failed to do was actually ask him why he was driving  and willing to take passengers given other taxi drivers who work the taxi stand for the hotel were "on strike" and not taking passengers? Was he being a "scab" driver willing to cross the picket line? Or something else? I guess the next time we call on him we'll have to ask. The flip side of this "grève" - we were actually able to drive the 50K to our destination in just over 90 minutes because the roads were free of the buses, taxi's, sept-places and car rapides.  So one of the things Manning talked about he would notice on his journey to M'boro is always a broken down car on the side of the road. Fortunately we were not totally broken down - just a flat.  And Khadime had a spare. Short wait -  but can now report we are part of the statistic!!

Kelly is a heroine - she went the extra mile to go back a bit and try to find Khadime's hubcap which had lost its way. And I think this photo below says it all!

Thankfully Khadime was wise enough after he changed the tire to stop off at a gas station to check the air. While we were in the car - we found ourselves engulfed by young African boys staring at us in the backseat. It's hard not to be amused by them. They have a look that is so happy and inquisitive.  They did not appear to have tomato cans with them (a blog post to come) yet they were not shy about trying to collect a coin or two. We stayed away from the money giveaway and showed them the photos of themselves on the camera. That only generated more funny faces, which they had plenty of ;+}

After this we were on our way to our final destinations. Successfully being dropped off - saying a bientot to Kelly - and each of us starting our few days respite from Dakar.  Coming soon- blog installment - on Pierre de Lisse!

Okay so we are not an official tour company but if we were - we'd be happy with the feedback - and this is what Kelly's said after she returned home - "Yes!  A grand success!  I'll have stories to tell class this Sunday.  Thank you and the family for being great tour guides and travel mates! What a wonderful trip!  Perfect for what I wanted and more!  I am happy you moved here and gave me the idea to finally come.  It is by far my favorite country of the 7 I have been in Africa. Senegal me manques already!"

Let me add that Kelly when she went to Sobo Bade - learned some new African Dance techniques - I can't wait to get to her class and see what moves shes got!! 

Thanks Kelly for the extra photos!

Bruce and Rob - we're ready for you!!

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