Flight and First Day

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Saturday 08/25/12
6:22 PST | SFO
Eight minutes till takeoff. I’m sleep-deprived and it still hasn’t hit me. Not really. I’m excited to meet people and experience Senegal!

The goodbye to my parents was too rushed. One hour early is NOT sufficient for large airports like SFO.

11:02 PST/14:02 EST | Somewhere over America
Took my first antimalarial pill. I hope that it makes me nauseous like it’s supposed to because I forgot to eat breakfast or bring food for my 6-hour layover and I just can’t bear to pay for overpriced crappy airport food.

Do not try dry-swallowing pills when you have cottonmouth. My peristalsis isn’t working and the pill is totally stuck in my throat now.

13:45 EST | JFK
I am so unimpressed by this airport. Where is the free wi-fi? Where are the clean bathrooms? They have about a hundred ipads but since the internet barely functions they’re just vertical, immovable touchscreens. Plus I’d been so dessicated from the previous flight that I was looking for some lotion testers but then was pulled aside by an Yves St Laurent lady who coerced me into allowing her to put on “baby pink” blush, lavender eyeshadow, and brrrrriiiight pink lip gloss. Now I look like a clown.

Even so, I can tell that I’ll miss climate-controlled America, and I wish I had a uke to keep me company since I can’t even get internet to upload this blog post.

I don’t think anyone from my program has arrived at the gate yet but I’m creepily checking everyone out just in case.

22:00 EST | Take-off from JFK
I’m absolutely exhausted and fall asleep during the safety talks but jolt awake when the plane starts moving. I press my face against the window for the last glimpses I’ll have of America for a year. There’s some wetness on my cheeks. Is it beginning to hit? At the gate, there were people wearing dress and speaking tongues that I hadn’t experienced before. I don’t know whether to be embarrassed that I miss people enough to weep (I’m usually stronger!) or happy that I’ve found relationships that are that meaningful.

One of the flight attendants has nearly impeccable English and français, accented only slightly by something Central African.

They’ve got pillows and blankets. I’m freezing. I’m going to try to sleep until it’s 8am over there.

10:00 UTC | DKR
ECSTASY when I look out of the window. It’s raining so hard. There’s a lightning storm. When they open the door to disembark, my emergency-exit seat is pummeled by rain, and eventually filled with it. The inside of the airport has lakes.

When we board our bus, we have to literally ford a river that has sprung up in the parking lot. It’s ankle-deep and going so fast that if you look down you get dizzy and lose your balance.

12:12 | Dakar
Our bus just hit the SUV in front of it. We began tipping but careened over a curb onto a side street. Kind of ridiculous since the streets are empty.

We started feeling like zoo animals in a bus. People were coming up. I saw three Talibe boys and three horse-drawn carts. The police come in a canvas-covered cart. Another bus tries to squeeze past our still bus. It loses its mirror. This still feels unreal.

We transfer to another bus. The roads are submerged in water. The people-watching is insane. We’re all aware that we’re gaping and taking pictures like tourists, but we’re beyond caring.

14:00 | Residence de la Citronelle, 03 etage 05 chambre
There are nine of us in a suite. The hotel has AC, which makes our rooms relatively nice, though I’m sleeping on a thin foam mattress on floor (no sheets or pillows provided).

At the CIEE center, we have lunch of a mound of small-grained rice with a side of some delicious sauce made with fish balls and sweet potatoes. We are allowed to send an e-mail to our folks letting them know that we’re okay.

After lunch, several of us venture off. The city is full of goats, on the street, on highway meridians. We learn that, like a shark, we must never stop moving or else we’ll die. Or at least have a bunch of car rapides and taxis solicit, honk, and pull over. Interestingly, though there are people soliciting us for products or services, I feel like I am harassed less often than in Berkeley.

First we go to a very American mall. If we just replaced the French signs on the walls to English, we’d be in America. Even most of the patrons are Westernized. The only unwestern place is the bathroom, which has completely run out of toilet paper. However, it does have a trash can (unlined) – the only trash can I’ve seen all day.

Next we go to a rocky/sandy beach by climbing down a squelchy, rocky, trash-full embankment. The beach is steep and the waves come up fast. Matt notices a dead pufferfish. We get very dirty.

17:30 | Hotel Room
A girl warns me that her doctor told her not to use the water for brushing her teeth (parasites). I feel like I am swimming with them now.

I’m so glad to have bought two quick-drying REI shirts. They make handwashing a breeze. Since I had accidentally packed all of my other permethrin-soaked shirts in another box, during my shower I rinsed off the one I’d been wearing all day and put it back on for nighttime.

The ecstasy has started to wear off. Now I am faced with actually living here, and feeling perpetually slightly dirty. But I’m not that shocked yet thanks to spending time in Taiwan. Even though Taiwan is relatively developed, it has a tropical climate and the smells, climate, and bathroom are all very familiar.


7 responses to “Flight and First Day

  1. A flooded airport, flooded streets, water everywhere… looks and sounds like quite an experience. Was there a recent monsoon or something? Or is this completely normal for Dakar? Also, what is Talibe?

    Looking forward to reading more!

    • No monsoon, this is just the “rainy season.” :P The storms are very monsoon-like, however. Talibe… :(. It’s a very complicated situation. I’ll probably make a whole post about it.

  2. Going to Study abroad in Senegal for my Junior Year, currently, a Freshman. I am reading your blog and have plenty of questions. Learning both Wolof and French at Columbia University, going to talk to the study abroad coordinators about the language and everything. Please contact me with the email that is attached to this comment. If you see its available on your end as a moderator !

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