Friday, 14 March 2008

Bush taxis, love letters, FIRE!!!, typhoid, and yet again grève

Well, it's been appallingy long since I last blogged. I do actually have a good excuse though...

So apparently I have typhoid. Though not the bad kind. I have felt exceedingly rough all week which is all the more sad because I leave Dakar for London in just 3 days time. I had such plans for my final week in Senegal - the theatre, drinks, fantastic lessons with my darling brats at school...alas no, it was not to be. I haven't been majorly ill, but ill enough not to have left my room all week. Still, I have some drugs now which should work, so I'm looking forward to my final weekend here with cautious optimism.

In other news, the last two weeks have been quite busy! I met two other volunteers - Megan and Sarah, and we now seem to have a bit of a volunteer posse which is good. Sarah is in fact from Warwick and here on her year out as she studies French. Apparently there's another girl here from Warwick too, so what with me and Helena (who plans to go there in September) as well, there seems to be a bit of a Warwick epidemic here in Senegal!

Last weekend, Helena, Megan and I ventured down the coast for a change of scenery and quite frankly, some decent beach time. All went well on the journey down. There's a system of bush taxis here that run to all the major towns in the country via Peugot 504s called 'sept places', which is actually quite efficient. Sure, the cars (which take the driver + 7 people, hence sept place) look like they're about to fall apart but the drivers we had on the way there and back were actually quite good. I did have to grip my seat a couple of times when they overtook lorries on a single carriageway though!

Anyway, we left Thursday and ended up in a place called Somone at a tiny hotel with an overexaggerated pool (more a paddling pool) called the Hotel Tamarin. All seemed well enough at first - the lady was incredibly friendly and showed us to a huge studio type apartment which had 2 double rooms, and a mini lounge-kitchenette, complete with fridge and TV. We were quite tired after the journey and had some dinner, then headed up to bed about 9pm. We sat in the lounge, and after contemplating playing cards decided to indulge in a bit of TV... this was where it all went wrong.

After plugging the set in and attempting to turn it on, a horrible hissing noise and smoke started emerging from the offending socket. After briefly standing there and murmuring expletives, it suddenly went whoosh and flames were dancing dangerously close to the oil painting hung above it. Being the brave soul I am, I grabbed my bag and legged it from the place, telling the others to do the same and began screaming "LE FEU! LE FEU!" running into the adjoining restaurant (much to the amusement of the diners). I'll never the forget the panic going through my mind at that point, along the lines of "oh fuck, we've gone and burnt down a hotel". Nonetheless, they got to the fire in time and nothing was damaged except for a nasty black smudge on the wall above the socket. For the next 24 hours that we stayed in Somone, everytime we passed the waiter from the hotel he would insist on mimicking me and screaming in a high pitched voice 'le feu, le feu!'. Screaming 'Fire!' in french just really doesn't seem to have the same urgency it does in english. Still, that was our adventure for the first night. They moved us into one room with an extra mattress on the floor (which was actually cheaper and suited us better) though it did take a while to calm down and for us to get to sleep.

The enxt day we paid up and went to another hotel down the road which we'd discovered through our morning stroll down the beach. The 'Africa Queen' was much more what I had in mind for our weekend of sun, sea and sand, and consisted of a lovely room with proper beds for 3 people, a proper shower with HOT water (oh how I'd missed it) and a TV that didn't explode - all good really. Though we couldn't check in til much later in the day, we were allowed to laze on the private beach at the front of the hotel hassle free (alone worth paying money for) and take advantage of the swimming pool, beach bar and restaurant. A good day!

On the Saturday, we headed to Saly, which is supposed to be the touristy area of the Petite Cote. Sure enough, it was exactly as expected - much like the resorts you find throughout the Med in Europe. However unfortunately, because of the Conference that is taking place in Dakar this week, all the nice/affordable hotels were full and we didn't have much luck haggling for a good room. By this point as well, my typhoid (though unknown as that to me at the time) was starting to kick in, and having thrown up the night before, I spent the day overcoming the most awful stomach cramps. Safe to say anyway, Saly wasn't working for us! We found a cab and headed down to Mbour, the town most southerly to Dakar on our route, and the plan was there to find a nice hotel and then be in the right place to catch a sept place back to dakar on the Sunday.

Unfortunately, knowing little of where exactly to be dropped and a taxi driver who seemed none to sure of the place either, we were dropped off by the fish market and left to our own devices to find a suitable place to stay. Armed with our bible (the Lonely Planet guidebook), which told of a lovely place with cheap rooms and a nice pool not too far from the market, we set off in search. We walked for what felt like an hour, with the hot sand burning our feet and little children running around us pointing and shouting 'toubab' (white person), yet finally turned up and what was without doubt a lovely hotel. It had African charm, a friendly management and a gorgeous looking pool. We thought we had made it. Unfortunately what we hadn't counted on was the hotel being full. More annoyingly so still, we realised it was full with the same people who had just packed up and left from our last hotel in Somone - such bad luck! It was late by now and not fancying spending more money on a hotel that we wouldn't have time to enjoy after finding it, we decided to head back to Dakar, where we all shared my bed for the night after indulging in a (relatively) expensive meal at a swanky place in town.

Sunday we did some haggling at the market but generally had a chilled out day - though it's a Muslim country, practically everything closes in Dakar on a Sunday, so there was little to do. The next day I rose bright and early, despite still feeling rough, and ventured to school at 8am sharp. What did find, there was yet again another strike, though this tim, for the whole week! Pissed off as I was at the time, thinking my last week here would be spent wasted, it's actually worked out quite well considering my being ill. Being off sick in my last week woiuld have looked quite bad, especially after taking the Friday off for a holiday at the weekend!

So that's it I think. Last week was pretty uneventful despite meeting the other volunteers and doing normal teaching. Though I did receive a love letter which was quite amusing. One of the guards at the place where Helena works felt the need to put pen to paper and declare his undying love for me despite only seeing me once and our exchange being limited to "merci" "de rien" after his opening the gate for me. How random Senegalese men are.

And now I await the weekend cautiously. I hope to go to Lac Rose tomorrow, and on Sunday intend to spend the day lazing by the pool at Casino Terrou Bi in town. We'll see though. I'm supposed to stay out of the sun with the antibiotics that I'm on, but I'm determined to arrive back in London on Tuesday with a decent tan! It may be my imagination but I feel like my bronzed arms are starting to look pale again!! We'll see anyway. Back home on Tuesday so will probably write again then.

1 comment:

Hayley said...

I'm sure you shouldn't be allowed to travel! Heeheeeeeee.

Don't burn down anything else.
Don't catch any more diseases.
Stop leading on foreign men.


Call me when you get back, I need to laugh over the phone rather than just on the internet, its not quite the same.

Serously though, I hope you feel lots better and enjoy your last week. America will be a cinch after this (quick, touch some wood).