Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To Thies and Back

October 11, 2009

Today we had a day off and it is our friend Elizabeth’s birthday, so Tamar and I decided to journey solo to Thies. We were both Senegalese public transport virgins so it was a little intimidating. Public transportation here in Senegal is something you have to see to believe. It’s crazy. In an attempt to kill two birds with one stone we both packed a bag full of stuff to take back to the center so we wouldn’t have to take everything back at once on Tuesday. Tamar got to my house around 9:30 and then we took a 30 minute walk/ death march in the Senegalese heat to the garage in order to get a sept-place.

Sept-place: A decrepit station wagon where 7 people are forced to sweat on each other while the driver peers through a cracked windshield. Driving may or may not be made easier by rear view mirrors.

At the garage we found the car going to Thies, paid the government mandated flat rate between the two cities, and then bargained for how much our baggage would cost. I really enjoyed bargaining and I had practiced my numbers in Wolof (prices in Wolof and ridiculous because after the CFA was devalued in 1994 the Senegalese never reassigned the numbers so you have to multiply by 5 and there are special words, etc, etc) so I could barter better and was feeling pretty good about myself. I think Tamar’s favorite moment of the day was when we were trying to get a cab in Thies and I was bartering with the cabbie by yelling across the busiest street in Thies. He wanted to charge me 600CFA and I was having none of that. Tamar was also incredibly lucky and while we were trying to get out of the Thies garage before we were run over or had something stolen the sept-place driver ran after us and gave Tamar some anti-itch she dropped. 10 seconds later a young boy came up and gave her a pen she dropped. We were stunned. PC always drills us about theft in public places and we were on our way out to avoid that so it was surprising to have things returned to us. Don’t worry, my guard is still up mom. It is exhilarating doing things by myself here though. My life is so tightly controlled (hey, my mom throws food from her side of the bowl at me to eat) that anytime I can do things for myself I feel like a champion and it’s a real high. In a few days I’m going to be pushed out of the PC nest and into the crushing masses of city life. Hopefully I’ll swim not sink.

The sept-place was a sweaty, sweaty place and I had the best/ worst seat in the car both ways depending on how you look at the situation. The back row, middle seat is supposedly the safest place to sit, but it is also the most disgusting since you’re cramped in the back on the person on either side of you is sweating profusely. On the way there I sat next to a really nice guy from Mauritania who was really impressed with our Wolof and was really nice, but on the way back I sat next to a giant who played his cell phone music obnoxiously loud and sweated all over me. Gross.

Regardless, the horrors of public transport were well worth, dropping stuff off at the center (it still represents an oasis of sanity and joy to me) and meeting up at Big Faim, a restaurant frequented by PCVs and other toubabs. Any place with wireless internet, AC, and a real menu is heaven on Earth. A lot of people showed up to celebrate Elizabeth’s birthday and it was really nice to see people in the middle of a village stay. The mood was festive and gossipy! My favorite!

At Big Faim, Tamar and I split a salad, only my second potential death in vegetables experience in Senegal, and it was beyond amazing although the corn and some other veggies definitely came out of a can. I usual French style, the salad had hard boiled eggs on it. I hate hard boiled eggs. I can’t let anything go to waste here so I put in in my mouth and it was delicious. I’ve also been noticing that my sister’s cooking has gotten a lot better. Has it actually gotten a lot better or will I know actually eat anything and like it? Yup, it’s the later because we had pasta boiled in oil with fish balls for dinner last night and I ate it up.

As usual being at home always has its own je ne sais quoi ridiculousness and tonight was no exception. My dad had already gotten my Africa cell phone number and I his as he’s the person I communicate through when I’m in Thies or will be late etc. Last night, my mom wanted my number and my younger sister was putting it in the phone for her. I made a joke that they were going to put me in as “Jeenaba Toubab,” and my sister burst out laughing because that’s what she had done. This flew my mom into a rage, obviously we have to have at least one per night, and said how she wanted me to be just Jeenaba. Problem: they named me after their oldest daughter who I’ve never met because she lives in Mauritania. My sister attempted to explain this and that the Senegalese Jeenaba had already claimed the top spot. After 15 minutes of arguing over what to call me everyone settled on “Jeenaba Amerik.” Then they wanted to know what I had put my mom in my phone as. Disclaimer: My mom’s name is some out of control, long Africa name which I can’t say let along spell so I put her in as “Yaay Ba” or “Mother Ba (our last name). This reduced everyone into fits of laughter.

Only two more nights left in the village! I can’t believe it.

There is currently something very noisy and possibly large walking around in my ceiling. Save me.

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