Monday, July 9, 2012


Hil -  Love your blog.
We wanna come and visit!
Big hug,
Bruce and Rob
And so they did....

This post is a little overdue yet has remained on my mind for a while. Back in February our  friends Rob and Bruce came to visit.   Knowing we were here – it paved the way for them to cobble together a West African tour and include a hop to Dakar.   Being as clever as they are with using their frequent flyer miles and hotel points – they were able to make all their hops except between Accra/Ghana and Dakar but the airlines would not let them make the payment from the US.  They had to show up in person in Africa to do that.  So how do you do that in 24 hours in order to pay for the flight between the two cities without being in Africa so your reservations are not cancelled?  You send an urgent e-mail message to your friends in Dakar and ask them to figure out how to get to the agencies office and pay in cash.  Well lucky us – we live very close to the office and were able to go in to try and take care of business for them.  With all the details in hand and CFA  - we got lucky we think with an agent who understood the situation. However, it’s a Friday when we go in and she tells us to come back on Monday – the systems are not working.  We try to explain that the reservation will get cancelled if we don’t get it at least extended.  Thankfully this was one agent who was willing to ‘go behind the scenes’ of the reservation system to make the adjustment. Monday came – we returned – and paid - Mission Accomplished.   You really have to have a lot of patience and perseverance – and be ‘okay’ with the ‘processes’  as they just work differently in Dakar – adopting and adapting (and laughing about it too) is the key to living here. 

A little history on Bruce, Manning and Rob - Bruce and Manning  have known each since high school.  And Rob and Bruce have been together for more than 10 years.  I’m paraphrasing here but when Parker and Addison ask their "Uncles"  Rob and Bruce “How are you able to remember how old we are all the time”. Bruce’s response is “We Know”.  And if you do the math right – we were in San Francisco the weekend of Rob and Bruce’s  marriage commitment ceremony bash.  Let’s just say that when we learned we were having twins – we told Bruce and Rob – we can’t afford to attend any more of your parties – if each party resulted in producing twins – we’d be in big trouble!! 

We’ve got the schedule down – a trip to Kermel with Esperance,  Point des Almadies – the western  most point of Africa,  Bus 47 that zigs and zag through Dakar carefully placing you in the heart of Sandaga,  a visit for some food and music at the French Institut,  Goree Island, and noshing at some nice restaurants plus a dip at the Raddison Blu pool. 

We  enjoy a first nights dinner with them in the hood sans enfants.   We chose a restaurant called Tuekeluer around the corner from us.  However we can’t eat anywhere until we check with Rob’s trusty Lonely Planet-West Africa Guide. It’s his bible!!  To ease all of our minds about any restaurant I offer up the Dakar Woman’s Guide as a backup – kind of like getting the thumbs up from Roger and Ebbert.  It’s gotta be good if they both agree.  The restaurant as described in the DWG guide – with it’s creative French cuisine  and international  flair  coupled with great conversation, bottles of wine with good friends *in Africa* - made for a memorable evening. 

Where were Parker and Addison in all this – off on a 3 day class overnight field trip visiting a variety of spots outside of Dakar.  We only wish the school had more plans for more overnights.

The next day’s activities would be a trip to Marche Kermel with Esperance our bonne – so they could get a feel for the food shopping experience that takes place.

While I wasn't there as I had to pick up P/A from their trip  - I was told that Rob and Bruce had as much fun watching the men watch Esperance - as they did watching her select the fish.  As she wanders back home to prepare dinner - Manning leads Rob and Bruce over to the French Institut for a tasty lunch. And we rendezvous with P and A. They’re back. 

You can't leave Senegal without a few CD's! 

So here we are again but enjoying the national dish of Senegal – Thiebodienne  - cooked by Esperance.  Oh yeah – more wine carefully transported from California.With Rob and Bruce – it’s all about dining and every other activity on the itinerary is just filler in between meals (joking,  joking). 
One of the best parts of the evening was the exchange between P/A and Bruce. You see Bruce is a real business man and everything he does has to make sound financial sense and be a good deal. And much of what goes on in Senegal is alot of bargaining but you never know sometimes if what you are getting is a good deal. Take a listen... 

One of Rob’s top items was to be sure we carved out a day to make it over to Goree Island.   Having learned the first time – speaking English or French on board and being remotely friendly to the “Femmes d’Affairs” is like a neon light over your head - “Tourist, Tourist”.  Our key secret to making it successfully off the boat and onto the island without being told "Come to my shop"  – speak German.  Repeat after me “Guten Tag, Vie Gates, Danke Gut”. Keep repeating until a new "client" is targeted! 

We embarked and decided to bypass a guide and walk around ourselves working our way to the Slave House – always a moving and a solemn experience. Looking through "The Door of No Return".

Unlike our first visit – we happened to be there when a man stepped out of his office and began to speak.  Everyone who was within the Slave House – stopped to listen.  It  was clear he worked there.  This man apparently had important information to share but sadly he was fast and furious with his French. It was clear that those who understood were captivated with the information he was dispelling.

After his speech was over – a round of applause and then people shuffled out and the doors shut behind us.  It closes from 12:30 – 3:00. Time for lunch and The Lonely Planet tucked away in Robs satchel. But wait, we stop him just after he has retrieved it and insist it’s our turn to take them to lunch.  They have been extremely generous up to this point and now it was our turn.   Not because we can’t afford a meal on the high end per person but because it’s time to eat real Senegalese food -  Yassa Poulet or Poisson for less than 2,500 CFA.  And the best way to experience it is in a shaky shack, where one gets to sit nearest the kitchen, watch the flies buzzing –  and be serenaded by a Kora player.  This player asks us our names (like they all do I've discovered) and before we know it Bruce and I are a couple as he plucked his strings and sang  “Bruuuucceee and Boundaw” (that being my Senegalese name).  

In the midst of all this and our conversations I found myself slipping and calling Rob – Bruce or Bruce – Rob – as though they were twins I could not tell apart.  Thankfully we’ve all known each other for so long all Bruce had to say to me was  “Just call us Brob”

After lunch further exploration of the island lead us into Friday Prayers at the Mosque.

And before we knew it - it was time to catch the ferry back.

Somewhere in the madness of our time with "Brob", they always know a way to a kids heart - ice cream at P/A's favorite neighbor shop - Mango Glace. But as you can see Rob and Bruce look like kids themselves here.

And a dip in the pool. It helps when you stay at a hotel in which you have tons of frequent flyer miles so your lodging is free and so is the pool. And when you are the guest and not a 'paying client' - if service personnel ask - always remember you're in room 325!!

In the mix of activities we also fit in a trip to Village Des Arts. The "village" is  comprised of several artists' studios and a gallery space.  It was founded in 1998 and prior to it's conversion was used as the living quarters for the Chinese workers who built the  L.S Senghor soccer stadium next door.  It now houses about 50 artists, painters, sculptors, photographers, potters and iron workers. When you go you never know which artists will be there but it's a delightful opportunity to meet the artists and see their work in progress. It's actually quite a tranquil place. But I suppose it depends on who you ask.

On this day for Parker it was "pas agreable". We're not sure what got into him but he became "a boy possessed" and had a tantrum that could have and likely was heard by many in the surrounding space.  It got so bad at one point - and I don't recall Manning's handling of Parker's behavior - but Bruce's observation went something like -  "I've known Manning for a long long time. I don't ever recall him getting mad. This must be bad!".  In reality this is not so much a place for 10 year old boys to enjoy - in my humble opinion. Bringing a soccer ball as there is some space to kick it around or a book to read "might" have helped pass the time here for them. Warning to parents!!

During this same time however Addison was preparing his pockets for the CFA's he was about to collect. Now we're talking. A way to earn some money.  He was acting as the translator for Rob and Bruce who were interested in some Senegalese art.  And Addison was doing his best to interpret a number of the artist's interpretation of their art. And of course Bruce being the business thinker that he is - is sure to mention to Addison - the UN could always use a translators !  Lots of little seeds being planted about future professions by the Uncles.


Unfortunately in the end the one piece of art they were attracted to had that little red dot on it - SOLD.  It usually ends up that way.  So what do you do if you've run out of time on your trip now - you go back to rue Felix Faure to the "Art African" shop and go for a mancala game board of African origin - the "valise" size. And bargain hard!  You have to bring something home from abroad to put on your coffee table!

Final stop before leaving Dakar  and the next leg of your West African tour - Le N'Gor.  Flag Beer and Seafood.

And despite your one lost bag  by the airlines (never to be recovered) of your dirty clothes and our hiking boots (which we realize after arriving last August that sandals are the only shoes you need here). It was our pleasure to be your guide and give you the red carpet treatment!! 

I'm still keeping my out out for that one person wearing your white button down shirt, khaki pants and Manning's size 13 boots ;+}

An African trip you will always remember.

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