Hi Jacque, Welcome to Dakar!
And I bet you don’t have the wildest-ass guess who I am!
Six in the morning and I’m standing outside Senegal’s main airport, Dakar International, with my bags at my feet and an ache in my head. Its been seven hours and two Tylenol PM’s since I left Washington DC in a mad rush to make this flight. I am still kinda shocked at the mileage of this week.
Monday was a DC workday before I caught an evening flight to California. There I pitched Geekcorps to HP on Tuesday for a $1.2 million. Yes, HP as in Hewlett Packard, and yes, I was nervous as hell. Not only was this my first pitch for Geekcorps, in mid-pitch production, I had to switch from Geekcorps technology edge, where I am strong, to IESC’s financial edge, where I am was clueless.
A mad scramble and slide change later, I am doing my song and dance to not only an HP VP, but also key players in the information and communication technology development world. In other words, well beyond my knowledge base. Luckily, my Ph.D. level bullshitese kicked in and whaddya know, we won the grant!
Now I didn’t know that standing there curbside at Dakar International. All I knew then was that my head hurt and body ached from 17 hours of flying but only 16 hours of sleep since Monday. That and I was in West Africa! Woohoo!
Somehow, living off pure adrenaline from that thrill, I waited patiently for the hotel bus. The bus that took an hour to pick me up and then gave me a long and winding drive into Dakar. Dropping me off at the Teranga Sofitel Dakar, I noticed there was a little hub-bub in the lobby.
Wandering in past the ceremonial guards and real armed guards, I was soon face to face with the President of France. Yes, Jacque Chirac, himself, was headed my way on a hand-shaking marathon with all the staff and courtiers in the lobby. Not one to miss my chance, I planted myself in his path and let the photographers and security flow around me like an advancing tide till there he was.
Out my hand went and out of my mouth came: ‘If I may, its nice to meet you, Mr. President.’ With a look of ‘who the hell are you’ he shook my hand and asked who the hell I was. ‘Me? I am here with Geekcoprs, a division of IESC, a USAID contractor in Senegal.’ Yeah, I bet he understood that! Quickly, he moved from me to the register book, signing his name before disappearing out the front door.
Only when I turned to the registration desk and got a standing ovation, did I fully comprehend the magnitude of my actions. The staff was in awe that I would hit him up for small talk, me, some random American. Hey, but ya gotta do it if its there!