My flight home was actually very good, and after landing in Madrid on time, and easyJet being nice, I was able to get on an earlier flight home and was back in my house in Hatch End by 11am Tuesday morning - not bad considering I'd only flown out of Dakar 11 hours earlier! Had I not been able to get on an earlier flight, I would have been stuck in Madrid airport for 5 hours and wouldn't have been home until the afternoon, so all in all, a very good run!
Home is pretty much how I left it. Though our extension is now quite far along and there's now a new kitchen roof under my bedroom window - slightly disorientating having not seen the work progress! I'm also feeling the weather pretty hard - when I left Dakar it was 35 degrees, and so the cold has been something of an unpleasant shock! Still, once I leave for Sydney on Sunday, I'll be pretty much guaranteed nice weather until July when I come back (bar New Zealand in April/May possibly), and so I shouldn't really complain.
My last weekend in Senegal was pretty good. Friday evening, Megan, Helena, Sarah and I saw a Belgian film at the French Institute in town - it wasn't cheerful (or possibly even very good), but it was still nice to go to the cinema. We got dinner afterwards at a lovely African restaurant called Chez Loutcha, who did a mean Yassa (my favourite Senegalese dish - chicken in onion and lemon sauce with rice), and then they went on to a bar and I went home, since I was still recovering from being housebound and ill all week.
Saturday we went on a mini day trip to Lac Rose, a lake about an hour and a half outside of Dakar famous for it's pink hue due to its salt content. SYTO (the organisation responsible for us over there) actually paid for it and took us there which was about the only good thing they've done for us since we've been there. It was a good thing too as if we'd paid for it ourselves I think we would have been quite annoyed - it was a bit of a disappointment, and anyone can see from the pictures that it wasn't very pink. And there was the usual horde of sellers prowling the shores of the lake attempting to force hideous pieces of artwork and jewellery on us, whilst trying to start conversations in the little English they knew - I've never been asked my name more aggressively. Nonetheless, it was still nice to go on an excursion with all the volunteers. We found a nice cafe to sit in for an hour and had a drink, before heading back into town. We travelled there in a sept place that SYTO had hired for the day (see previous entry for what this is!), and on the way back I managed to wangle a seat in the middle row which is far more preferable to the back row - a real squish! But other than that it wasn't a bad journey as long as I didn't watch the road too much - Senegalese drivers are, as mentioned before, MAD!
When we got back to town we went for another meal together and then went on to the nicest ice cream place in Dakar. Having not eaten properly all week from being ill, this made a pretty damn good end to the day!
Sunday, was supposed to me my final full day in Dakar and so me, Megan and Helena had planned to go to a fancy swimming pool/bar/restaurant/casino place along the coastal road into town, and pretty much just chill for the entire afternoon (obviously, topping up my tan for my pending return to the UK). Unfortunately there was a posh buffet going on that day and so it would have cost us about £20 to use the pool - not happening! We tried another couple of hotels in town and eventually found a good one that would let us use the pool for free if we ate in their restaurant - quite a good deal in the end. The food was good and we got at least an hour or so in the sun by the beautifully quiet pool, before the shadows from the neighbouring tower blocks put an end to our sunbathing time. Still, it was a nice afternoon in the end - Hotel Faidherbe recommended anyway!
We went on to Sandaga market in town just to browse, but I made the mistake of getting into a haggling war over a gift for Barney, and after deciding not to buy the item in question, still got stalked up and down the market. We took it in good humour but poor Megan got blamed for me not buying the item and one crazy old man decided that I was nice, and she was clearly a racist. And a 'sale blanche' to boot. Lovely. For some reason the Senegalese street hawks think that calling you racist if you ignore them/aren't interested in what they're selling, is the sure fire way to make you part with your money. Luckily we saw the funny side of it anyway.
My last day in Dakar, I rose bright and early to go to school for the last time, given that there had been a strike all of last week. I got there, just after 8am and yet again there was some kind of holiday and the school was closing. Apparently it was something to do with one of the Mouride brotherhoods(?) or something, but regardless, I reckon they just couldn't be bothered to open school properly for a couple of days before closing for 3 weeks on Wednesday for the Easter holidays! Nevertheless, I was able to see a few of my class who had turned up to school anyway, and gave them some gifts which they were really appreciative of. It did make me sad that I didn't get a proper final lesson with them though.
I went straight from school into Dakar to buy some last minute things and generally take some photos of town before leaving that evening. I failed miserably in this last respect and on going through my photos now at home, realised I have not one photo of Dakar street life - a poor effort. The problem is the people - they have really strong objections to having photos taken of them on the basis that you're going to take them home and make lots of money off them. Not true, obviously, but I think I just didn't want the abuse on my last day there. Or the demands for money. Knowing that I was going home made me feel more positive about my feelings on the city and I didn't want to ruin my rose-tinted perspective!
At lunch, I met Kat (a friend of a friend of Sarah's from Wales who was out there doing a photography project for 2 weeks) and Helena at La Veranda in town, a lovely little air conditioned(!) place that does good paninis. Was definitely a bit emotional saying goodbye afterwards - crazy considering I've only known my fellow 'toubabs' a few weeks! However I think there being so few of us made us out there made us feel like we were 'in it together', and so friendships were more intense.
Anyway, I got home mid-afternoon, and began the packing extravaganza that was squeezing everything into my rucksack. I came home with less definitely, considering a lot of what I'd brought out were gifts for people over there, but somehow without Caroline's help that I had the night before I left, packing was far more difficult! Still, I managed to get it all in (though lifting it was amusing) and after fairly relaxed goodbyes with Madame D and Alain, they hailed a cab for me and I went on to the airport. It felt quite surreal knowing I was going to be home pretty soon and I did feel a kind of sadness at leaving. Helena rang me in the cab as well which made me tear up a bit. Still, I know I'll go back one day.
Anyways, more soon, probably from Sydney/Cairns!