Sunday, March 28, 2010


When the doors of the plane were opened last night and I walked down the stairs leading away from the plane Dakar's hot, dusty, and dirty air slapped me right across the face. I had prepared myself for reverse culture shock. I thought it was going to be much harder to return to the Western world and see the excess in which we lead our daily lives, but let's just say I fell right back into the lap of luxury without any problems. It made sense that people should line up to wait through customs, that strange men in the airport wouldn't ask me to marry them, and that taxi drivers asked if I wanted a ride instead of hissing at me. The brisk spring air also felt amazing and clean, which was a surprise since I had been steeling myself to be freezing the entire trip. (I will admit to one I've lived in Africa for 7 months faux pas - I have so refused to thrown non-biodegradable trash on the ground here in Senegal, but orange peels or banana peels or the like can definitely go into a bush. Matt bought some roasted chestnuts on the streets which we ate as we walked. Suddenly Matt turns to me with a look of shock and horror on his face and demands to know what I'm doing. I had been shelling the nuts and throwing them on the ground. Oops!)

The shock of Dakar wasn't that it's dirty or hot or that people were already yelling and screaming and attempting to push their way to the front of the line, it was that I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that Rome and Dakar exist on the same planet. When I first arrived in Africa it was shocking to see the poverty and the pollution, but it has become the norm, the world I'm currently living in. Jumping on a plane and sitting through my own personal hell for a few hours, I hate flying, transported me to a completely different universe. It's amazing that two places coexist on the same planet and know almost completely nothing about each other.

That being said... the trip was amazing. I currently need to go on a massive diet, which Senegal will only be too happy to provide me with as the hot season is right around the corner, because of all the meat, cheese, pasta, and daily donuts I consumed. Not to mention all the wine. It was awesome. While we did plan the majority of our days around eating and what we were going to eat, Matt and I did manage to take in some of Rome's sites. Rome is not like Paris or London in the way that it has a great subway system, too many ancient ruins block the tunneling efforts, so we got lost all the time and had an epic journey on a bus that took us all around the city until we realized where we were trying to go was right next to where we were.

One epic expedition of Rome, on which we did not get lost, was when we took a really cool Segway tour through the city. For all the people who are reading this and took marketing at UM with me - Segways are awesome. After a brief training session, Matt, myself and a group of other people went on a guided tour of the city on Segways. It was really fun except for the fact that the Rome marathon happened to be the same day and completely shut down the city. At one point, we had no choice but to actually cross the marathon. I don't speak Italian, but I'm pretty sure we weren't called nice names. All the same it was a great way to see the city and it was really fun.

Other Trip Highlights:
1. Drinking tap water out of the hotel's bathroom sink
2. Daily hot showers with new towels
3. Not seeing the sun for the vast majority of 9 days/ not sweating
4. Inhaling every edible item in sight - I can't count the number of caprese salad's or meat and cheese platters we had
5. Blending in with the crowd
6. Not having to fight about getting change for a large bill (probably my biggest pet peeve about Senegal. there is no change in this country)
7. Shopping
8. Going wine tasting and then out to an amazing restaurant
9. Watching Matt carry two gigantic suitcases all the way up the Spanish Steps only to discover that there's an elevator
10. Remembering the world outside of Senegal and seeing Matt

The trip was great and now I'm back in Dakar for a few days before going home to Thies. I already have several voice mails from work partners so I'm excited to have things to get back to.

Finally, shout out to Sarah! Happy 13th birthday. I hope it's a great one!


  1. Alyssa,

    It is great to having you back and blogging. Sounds like a wonderful trip and I am glad that Matt would rather work hard than take a wimpy elevator.


  2. Segways! Did you ramp it up to its top speed of 13 mphs? Or give a presentation on how they are the transportation of the future? Glad to hear you guys had a great trip!


  3. Your back! sounds like you had a great time... you deserved a break. Your lack of posting while in Rome allowed me to catch up(read: I spent 2 hours reading your blog rather than preparing for the four tests I have this week, thanks for the semi-legit procrastination tool :)

    P.S. Segways are awesome. The engineering department here has some and my coworkers and I always borrow then for "official business" and play tag in the courtyard.

  4. P.P.S. I feel totally awesome right now for knowing exactly where you guys are in that picture by the angle of the coliseum in the background. Yeah I'm that cool.

  5. Hope the transition back into Senagalese life is smooth and easy. Glad to hear you had a great time in Rome. Sounds fun!

  6. From La Dolce Vita to big Dakar mosquitos..UGH
    Welcome back to real life:D Love the the picture!

  7. Alyssa, So glad to hear from you again. What a great picture of you and Matt. It is amazing that two countries could be so different. It must be like living seventy years ago, and then being back in the present. Now you know why Ma is so dense about the new technology! Love Ma