Gentle readers, I have been taking a few days to get sorted back out after returning from Senegal, Africa. There are so many impressions of my short time there that I am still contemplating much of the experience. To be very honest, what I saw of Senegal was virtually nothing, and since my daughter had asked me for a period of vacation, that is what I tried to provide.
Initially, we stayed at a hotel near the Dakar airport, and after my experience in the airport, I was very pleased by the hotel, its accommodations, and the general impressions of our room. The following day, we went to the town of Saly, which is on the coast south of Dakar. The ride in the taxi gave me a chance to see a little of the city and countryside surrounding Dakar, and much of it was very beautiful.
In our hotel in Saly, we were basically in a smaller version of Europe placed on the coast of Africa. The majority of the other guests were French pensioners, and they spent their time by the pool, playing games organized by the hotel staff, and having drinks by the bar in fashionable Parisian outfits. What they thought of the two of us, I have no idea, but people were not really making any sort of effort to say hello. Just as well… my daughter and I were having a great time anyway. You can see from the pictures below the radical demarcation between where we were and what Senegal is really like.
What did make us friends, however, was the fact that my daughter speaks the local tribal language of Senegal, Wolof. Not only did staff members have dynamic conversations with her regarding our relationship, they also spoke with other staff members about her, because several staff members sought her out to have conversations with her. As a result, we were treated very well by the hotel staff, which was really nice. Taxi drivers and restauranteurs were kinder. Negotiations were easier.
After a day of relaxation, we travelled to Joal to spend the day with her host family. It was a pure pleasure to meet the people who have had such an impact on my daughter’s life, and I made sure to thank them for their willingness to have my daughter stay with them. They made a very special meal to honor me, and I was truly humbled by the care they showed me as a guest. It was a real treat!
After one more day at the resort, my daughter and I went back to the same hotel in Dakar, where she spent the night after getting me to the airport. The travel was long and somewhat grueling, since the first flight left at 2:00 AM, but when I arrived home at around noon the same day, a three-hour nap helped put me back to normal.
I know many folks were interested in the pictures that I might take while I was in Africa, but there is a cultural note here. Even though my camera is a modest one in the US, the value of it is still more than most people make in a year in Senegal. I already stood out as a foreigner, and there is a line of respecting the culture that I would not cross willingly, simply by showing off the fact that I was from a more affluent place. These people also believe that taking a photo is taking a part of the person in the photograph. In my short time in Africa, I was focused on my daughter and our time together, and taking pictures, which would have been nice, were not as important.