Honk If You Love Me

Oh baby, I so feel loved here!

hey taxi!
No, I’m fine, really.
how much for the girl?
Sahara taxi service
Do you ever feel famous? Like a movie star walking down the street? Every day in Dakar I feel like that. I feel like I am Tom Cruise and everyone wants to meet me. Why’s that you ask? Well it’s the taxi drivers.

When the local taxi drivers see me, a white guy or toubob, walking along the road they have a fit. What is a rich man like me doing walking, and not in their taxi paying a foolishly high price for a ride?

They honk from, oh, about three miles away, and keep honking as they approach, even pulling of the road in front of me, still honking, as if I didn’t see them already. See them I should too.

Worse than any gay club I’ve wandered through, the Senegalese taxi drivers hunger for eye contact with me. They search my face as they approach, ignoring road and right of way, just to see where my eyes look. If I dare look in their direction, not directly at them mind you, they squeal into a frenzy of honks and brakes.

This of course, I should take like a free drink or a bad line, and be oh so willing to hop into their cab. When I seemingly walk past, the taxi drivers enter a whole other level of hysteria, even jumping out and opening doors for me, in case I didn’t get the hint.

And this happens every time I walk down a street.

Now wait till I walk down the road with my luggage when I check out and head to the local cyber cafe. You know that will send them into spastic epileptic seizures: a white guy with luggage walking to the airport!

Lets Get Ethnic Then

And my guayabera equals your boubou any day

all here
Swank, we are
Its Friday in Senegal and than means its time to go ethnic, in clothing that is. Friday is the day that Muslims here are called to the mosque to pray so they break out their finest boubou to show respect. Catching wind of this, I broke out my own ethnicity and wore a guayabera to work today.

It was interesting seeing how everyone switched effortlessly from Western attire to their traditional clothes, they use the term ‘ethnic’ instead of traditional, and yet acted the same. For me, the change was jarring. One day I am talking to man in a suit and tie, the next day he is in a boubou.

Still, rolling with the local culture, when everyone went to the mosque to pray at 1pm, I headed to my own church, the beach, and prayed to my god, the sun. It is a great Friday afternoon tradition if you ask me, one that I would love to bring Stateside – Friday afternoons off to celebrate life.

I’ll take mine on the beach, with a beer, thank you very much!

The Edge of Africa, Trashed

Is that your Evian I see, blow into this lee?

beauty, eh?
Beautiful from afar
now look close
Ugly up close
Today I went for a run around Ngor and ran out to Pointe des Almadies, the western-most point in Africa. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe a Key West scene or maybe a dull marker like the equator in Kenya. It was a whole different story in Senegal.

The western-most point has a Club Med on one side, a private house on the other, and a little group of bars and trinket and food stalls in between. Behind that is what looks like a fish hatchery or maybe a hold for the catch, though the coast is way too rocky for ships to come in. Rocky and trashy.

As Pointe des Almadies sticks out into the Atlantic and the cold Canary Current coming down from the north, it catches all manner of trash and debris on its shores. Ever wonder where a plastic bottle tossed into the Parisian Seine River goes? Wonder no more, I’ve seen them, all of them.

Its views like this that amaze me, how we humans can produce and discard so much indestructible trash. I can only imagine the head shaking archeologists a thousand years from now will do when they hit this layer in the world’s sediments. Out they will pull plastic bottles, flip-flops, and probably a perfectly edible Twinkie. Great.

Lord help them if they stumble on an American land fill. They’ll be able to figure out the minutiae of our lifestyles from all the trash we discard. Everything we do comes in multiple layers of shrink-wrap and extra packaging. Packaging that’s plastic-based and will last a thousand years in a landfill and then another thousand in some future museum.

This is the record of our daily activities we are leaving on the planet – plastic bottles.

Another Birthday Abroad

And I’ll work if I want to

work - work - work
Waddya mean I can’t leave?
Nat Geo
On the cover of Nat Geo!
Looking at the clock I see its 10pm here, 5pm in Washington, DC, and I am about to run out of time at the cyber cafe and battery power on my laptop. This would be a good thing since I’m still working on Geekcorps stuff, after a full day at the Geekcorps Senegal office. So another 12-hour day ends for me, just in time for dinner and a shower before bed. Oh, did I mention this is my birthday?

Or well it kinda is and kinda isn’t. See, I don’t really count birthdays if they don’t happen in the USA. Or I don’t count them officially, and in that way I can keep my youthful twenty-nine look. As Nicole pointed out last year, I grow old unconventionally. With birthdays in Bali, Indonesia, Sydney, Australia, La Paz, Bolivia, Moscow, Russia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Lake Victoria, Tanzania, and Dakar, Senegal, I have a long way to go before my American birthdays pass twenty-nine.

If I keep up this travel lifestyle, I might never pass twenty-nine, which is fine by me. I like going to warm countries in February anyway. Though oddly, I’ve been cold every day in Dakar. Right on the beach and with low humidity, the breeze is cool and when in the shade, chilling. Chilling if, like me, you expected it to be baking hot and only brought deep summer wear. Foolish me to forget my Artic wear in the Sahel.

I asked around here for the local tradition on birthdays, and unlike Russia where I am expected to throw the party, or the USA where all your friends throw you one, here birthdays are a subdued affair. Not wanting to be a burden on the Geekcorps staff here, who all seem subdued to begin with, I kept my birthday mum. I think I’ll make a birthday party Saturday night when I go to Mali where there are a bunch of Geek volunteers.

Tonight, after yet another long day working on a job I love, its gonna be all about trading at dinner and hitting the sack early. Yeah, I know, not my usual party-boy self, but then again, I am dozing in Dakar.

Senegalese Sprinting Society

Not quite Olympic speed, but don’t start slaking yet

cute, h?
Pick one, any one
the quick one
Can you say ‘longitude’?
Ever wonder how to attract the attention of kids in Africa? Well I can tell you exactly how to captivate an entire mob of kids in Senegal: run by with a GPS and a digital camera. Now you can just run by and they’ll call and maybe run with you for a bit, but if you have toys, preferably cool toys, you now have an instant fan base.

Today, trying to shake off the lethargy of another long day sitting at the computer, I went for a four mile run out to Pointe des Almadies and back. On my way, I passed a group of kids playing. Stopping to play with them, I was a hit.

First we had the limited name exchange, complete with the class mimic who would shout every thing I said. Then there was the hand-holder who held onto either palm the second it came in his reach. Next we had the question kid, who I’m sure was doing the ‘What’s this? What’s that?’ in French. Last but not least, the leader, who was cool in approach and quick in ideas.

His first was a race to the end of the road, which I won handily, even with a little kid acting ballast, tugging at my shirt from behind. Next it was a Q & A session in pantomime with the GPS a very big hit. Holding it at a quick run, they watched the little guy on the screen run, making his digital path to match their real one. While I use it to make sure I really run the distance I need to train, they were happy to use it to draw shapes on the screen.

Shapes that were instantly forgotten when I whipped out the digital camera. Its images, instantly recognized, captivated the entire scrum of kids. Only a second race could get them to disengage. Back to the end of the road we ran, again, with my speed easily surpassing theirs. Still, the sprit did engage them, for when I finally left a few started to race.

Soon, I bet, we shall see new leaders in field an track, leaders from Ngor, banded together in a Senegalese sprinting society, started by yours truly one late afternoon in February, 2005.