Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Senegal: Part - I'm baaaack!

This one time in Senegal: Part I’m baaaack!

For those of you know me, you know I am good at many things, like exaggerating how many things I’m good at. You probably also know that my nearly non-existent sense of direction has gotten into trouble with burly German bus drivers and almost got me kicked out of Switzerland from a heinous bubble bath incident. Despite this fact, when I found out I would be returning to Senegal for the first time since my hilarious banterings of running around in blue shorts, I took it upon myself to subtly announce to the world how well I know the city of Dakar. Among my announcement methods were:

-       Shouting through a megaphone on Third Avenue
-       Posting flyers on the lockers in the gym
-       Texting random combinations of numbers on my phone

Needless to say, by the time we got to Dakar, every last one of my colleagues had a detailed run-down Mala exposure au Sénégal.

Because this trip involved two countries back-to-back and leaving the day after a full work week, the first day we had in Senegal was the only day in three weeks that did not involve travel and/or work for most of us. To revel in the limited freedom, we bargained down from the original asking price of the taxi drivers (five bazillion francs per person) to a more reasonable rate (500 francs per person), loaded up, and made our way over to a nice resort for lunch.

Two seconds after walking into the resort, I made the harrowing discovery that this was the exact same ex-pat-y venue I and my fellow classmates summarily told to go to hell four years ago. Two seconds after that, I made the even more harrowing discovery that I no longer give a sh*t about how ex-pat-y the place was – they serve lobster and éclairs! After selling my soul in the form of 1500+ calories, my colleagues I and went for a stroll by the beach to get pictures and make comments about how the Dutch members of our team are like four feet taller than the rest of us. Not wanting to squander any part of our one free day, we again loaded up and made our way to the western most tip of the city.

Two mostly unwanted beers later (add 400 calories), and we decided to head back to the hotel for the night. I plus the two others in my cab all speak French with a very solid command. Trust me, I can tell you all about basic insurance terms and drought models in said language – I’m really good at it. So after bargaining our price from seven-hundred bajallion francs per person down to 400 francs per person, the three of us settled in the car for our quick ride back to the hotel.

These are some characteristics that I knew about the ride between where we were and our hotel:

-       It is about 15 minutes
-       There is no giant statue of a family along the way
-       We do not pass the delicious evil resort where we had lunch

Yet at some point in the taxi, I noticed the following about our ride:

-       I've been in the taxi for 35 minutes
-       We passed a giant statue of a family along the way…twice
-       Hey! That’s where we had lunch! That place is delicious evil!

I suppose someone with any logical reasoning skills would tell their brain to make the connection, but if I had logical reasoning skills, there is no way the UN would hire me. (Kidding! Sort of.) Fortunately, one of my Amazonian-statured Dutch colleagues only works part time for the UN, and thus pointed out that we were in fact no where close to where we were supposed to go. The driver didn't take too kindly to this little revelation given that he had been expecting approximately 4000 times more than what we agreed to pay in cab fare. He was even less pleased when I and my two colleagues decided to pick up a fourth person we had never met, hand her the cab, and leave the car without paying anything at all. After all, the driver had just squandered 20 minutes of our precious non-working time au Senegal.

If there is one thing I cannot criticize about the UN, it's the diversity, especially in thought. While some of think that éclairs are only mildly delicious, some of think that éclairs are very delicious. It's this diversity that brings relevance to the often criticized set of institutions. Oh, also, we all reacted very differently to the situation. Here's a basic breakdown:

The Italian: Deny we ever got lost. If someone does find out we got lost, blame it Berlusconi, because in a way, it probably is his fault. Also, Berlusconi is just generally despicable. Then go watch the rest of your country vote for Berlusconi.

The Dutchwoman: Be very straightforward in what happened, this is a learning process that requires thorough evaluation to avoid any repeats in the future. Then complain about how low the roofs are of Senegalese taxis.

Me (the American): Aggrandize the entire adventure, make sure I was the hero of the story while vehemently denying any associated fault with the entire situation. Then get another evil éclair or two. Eating doesn't cause obesity, obesity causes obesity. That's what the NRA told me.

Needless to say, the story got out...because I told everyone. I prefer to look my unabashed announcements as a nice chuckle of a break between the following deep discussions about drought, rain, saving Africa, and how terrible Berlusconi is for the world. I'd also like to make a deep connection to the many life lessons this fine land of Senegal provided to me all of those years (like 4) back. Unfortunately, this trip au Sénégal really was just about work and a brief catch up session with Ngoné (her father died the week I was there, we saw each other at the funeral. Seriously.). Normally this lack of conclusion would be upsetting, but as Ngoné reminded me during my first round, "There is always another trip to Senegal waiting to happen." Indeed there must be. Those éclairs were really delicious. I should know how hard it is to find good éclairs. I'm really good at it.

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