Me: Salam aleekum.
Taxi Driver: Malekum Salam.
(conversation around destination and taxi price ensues, in (my) patchy Wolof)
Taxi Driver: How long have you been here?
(a trickle of sweat slips down my back)
Me: Two months. Ñaari wer.…Two months, and a bit.
Taxi Driver: You are Senegalese now.
Me (to myself): It’s time I write something about Senegal now.
(replaces sunglasses back on nose after getting settled in taxi).
Dakar is located on the Western-most point of Africa, on a peninsula called Cap-Vert which is across from the islands of Cape Verde, not to be confused, please.
In many ways I feel we are far West from much of what goes on in Sub-Saharan Africa. But then again…what would I know. I’ve never been anywhere else except Abidjan on a one week work trip spent at the office, port and in a fancy hotel. I can only imagine, and listen to what others have to say. Supposedly – so the people say – elsewhere the beaches are not as abundant, the food less good, the people less friendly. Here, life is good here, real good. I’d say I’m smitten with Senegal (it slides off the tongue nice).. but I’m more like really jiving with it.
It doesn’t matter how short or long the work day, I come home satisfied. Perhaps it’s the lengthy greetings and taking many minutes with each person to ask them about their family and everyone’s well-being, I enjoy it. I’m satisfied to be in the warmth
and sun and to never worry about its lack when I’m inside with papers and computers. We have excess sun and heat here. Here, take some, there is plenty to share.
The dust is plenty too. The colours so near the Sahara, faded. The colours the women wear in the bright African textiles – bright. The music, Mbalax, a different lilt. Hard to describe. My current anthem ft. Akon (who is of Senegalese origins, by the way) – see if you like it.
Plenty. Life is slower, this is true, I like to think it’s more deliberate and less rushed. Nothing works anyways if you rush here. Doubly true if you get angry about the lack of rush. I find it’s hard to get angry when you’re warm and well fed, but hey, some people are persistent. Granted, in some ways, hustle is sought after. Ask Taha. Then again, if you’re OK to mosey along at your own deliberate pace then Senegal is happy to mosey alongside you.
Sooner or later, you’ll get hungry after all your mosing and nosing about. Personally, I’m addicted to the mangos. Ripe, golden flesh – I enjoy quality time with mangos in private so as to allow the juice to properly drip down my chin. Very attractive.
Other meals, these must be enjoyed with people. Key ingredients: abundant rice, seafood, vegetables, onion sauce, spicy sauce. Add generous helpings of conversation on many topics followed by a sprinkle of Ataya, traditional green-tea-mint infused with kilograms of sugar. Delicious. The Senegalese are talkers. We chat about everything, while drinking tea, while finding shade, while working, while hailing taxis, while negotiating.
Big cars, small cars drive next to horse-drawn buggies. The horses hooves slip and look for traction where there is none on the smooth asphalt. You turn one way, you see the coast. An airplane above. You turn the other way, you see the ocean. High in the air, above the water, falcons circle. Below, colourful fishermen’s boats brave the many breaking waves. Everywhere I look, there it is. Goats bleat. Motorcycles zoom by. Horns honk.
Plans change, energy moves. Ocean, dust, air, spirit and the burning sun…perched on the edge of black Africa.