I am sitting in a hotel lobby waiting for my ride to the Dakar airport. I've been here for an enjoyable week of training on disaster management. It sounds odd to say that. But the training was good and the weather is perfect.
Being here makes me realize what a backwater my current post is. This place is a real city with real amenities. A decent airport! Good roads with bridges! Tunnels! Working traffic lights and lanes that drivers pay attention to! Taxis! No moto-taxis! Grocery stores! Bakeries! Restaurants galore! Tree-lined streets and neighborhoods! Funny what you notice when you come to a place that is so close yet so far. I marvelled at seeing real trash trucks on the road here. Though they certainly also have real city problems to go along with all of these nice things, I would definitely come back here to visit and/or work. Lovely.
On Friday a group of us went out to Goree Island, one of Senegal's, if not West Africa's, most famous sites. It's just a quick 10-minute ferry ride from downtown (on a real ferry boat!) Three things struck me. First, the place is incongruously beautiful. I was not prepared to marvel at lovely cobblestoned streets and old buildings. There are old colonial houses that I would have killed to get in and film to add to my housing idea book. Two, the place is a total tourist site for Senegalese. Never mind its history, the place was crawling with school kids and other folks who were just there to have fun, mostly on the beach. Three, they do a shitty job telling the story of what really went on on this island. The restored Maison des Esclaves was not as imposing as the slave houses on Ghana's Cape Coast, and our 'guide' was a tired, old fat man who really shouldn't be giving presentations. He annoyed the crap out of me. First, though Senegalese, he was trying too hard to sound American and ended up slurring his words together so that the sound was familiar to our ears but it was all almost incomprehensible. And he sounded like he was mouthing the words to a recording. I was tempted to see if he had a battery pack in his back. If I could have yanked them out to stop his presentation on the slave house I would have.