Last night not long after I trudged my way home through the flooded streets of Dakar, my new friend Serge, the only other LDS person here my age, texted me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a little bit of sightseeing today. Since I didn’t have any plans and I’ve been wanting to see more of Dakar, I of course accepted. He wanted to go to one of two islands, l’île de Ngor or l’île de la Madeleine. I chose the first because the other is only a nature reserve, and I really wanted to see more of the culture and people of Dakar.
We decided to meet at 11 AM in one of the northern sections of the city… and that meant that I had to get on the public transportation for the first time since my arrival. It’s kind of intimidating. I’ll do a post on that at a later time, but trust me when I say that transportation doesn’t work here the same way as it does in the States or in Europe. Man, I really miss normal public transportation – and believe me, I never thought that I’d ever say that! I talked to my landlady about how to navigate my way around, and she had one of the men who is working on her house take me down to the main drag. He waved down a car rapide, told the guy in the back where I needed to get off, and up I climbed into one of the most compact and packed van that I have ever seen. I don’t want to get too sidetracked on the adventure of taking a car rapide, because y’all have been asking for pictures. And today I finally had the chance to take some. (Yes, Trésor, je te vise!)
After I arrived at our meeting spot, Serge and I made our way through the winding “streets” of the quartier Ngor. They’re actually teeny, tiny dirt alleys filled with goats, little kids running around kicking balls and playing games, men sitting around talking, and women doing the laundry. And today, because of all the flooding that happened last night, the alleys were muddy and speckled with puddles. We finally made it to the beach (which is quite pretty), bought a 500 FCFA ($1) ticket to cross the little channel, and climbed into a huge dug-out canoe-type boat, and the adventure began.
As you can see from the satellite image below, l’île de Ngor is quite tiny. Serge and I walked around it in about an hour. Again we found skinny little alleys between homes and shops, and several artisans had their wares out next to the walls in hopes of attracting interested buyers. One lady, Mama Binbin saw Serge and me right away (we kind of stand out… being white and all), and tried to get us to buy some of the necklaces and bracelets that she’d made. We declined and began making our way to the other side of the island. We climbed on the rocks, chased a few colorful crabs, met several other vendors (one came right out on the rocks to talk to us – can we say determined??), and got slightly wet from the spray of the water. One outcropping of rock had a bunch of benches for people to sit and watch the ocean, but they weren’t your typical benches. No, no. Their legs were extremely long, and their seats were really wobbly. Evidently when they were first installed, the legs extended far into the ground for stability, and they looked proportional to the rest of the bench. But land around the legs had eroded away, leaving the stilt-like legs showing. Both Serge and I crawled up on them, and I have to admit, I felt like a four year-old whose legs are too short to touch the ground.
We went back to one of the beaches that looked back over the channel to Dakar and had lunch. It was pretty good, and the view was excellent. There was a nice breeze, the water was clear and then turned several different shades of turquoise, and kids, teenagers, and young adults were out in the water splashing around. Serge and I had a really nice conversation; it turns out that we know a lot of the same people in Paris and southern France. His brother served in the France Toulouse Mission, and our missions overlapped by just a few months. Among other sellers, Mama Binbin plopped right down across from us and put out her necklaces (we’d seen her in several different places on the island when we were exploring… there are only so many places you can go). Serge helped me negotiate the price down on one that had red- and black-painted beads made out of baobab wood. Yeah, red and black – my two favorite colors. That was the first one she pulled out. Auspicious beginning for her, wouldn’t you say?
Our outing lasted about 5 hours – it was great to see a different part of the area, and it was especially nice to make a new friend. Serge will be leaving to go back to Switzerland the second week of October, so he wants to go to a different place every Saturday before he leaves. We’re planning to go to le Lac Rose next Saturday, so hopefully things will work out that we can go. But as far as l’île de Ngor is concerned, I’d definitely go back at least one other time!