Friday, February 22, 2013


A little known affair known as the West African International Softball Tournament, pretty random I agree. Teams from all over are invited to show off their softball skills, or lack there of, cough cough Peace Corps, during a weekend tourney in Dakar. Expats unite!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Another Flat?!

Dear Cruel Cruel World,

I am currently en route to Thies where all the volunteers of Senegal have a two day conference, referred to as All Vol (All Volunteers). The night bus is not exactly the preferred mode of transportation (also not exactly forbidden, yet) according to Peace Corps staff; they say that it is dangerous to drive at night and we are at risk of having drivers whom are over-worked and may fall asleep at the wheel. But if you ask a volunteer who lives 10 hours away from the training center or capital they will tell you otherwise; it is half the price and you don’t waste a whole day, or sometimes even two, just trying to get to your location.
Now if all goes right the night bus would conveniently pass through the town of Mbour which is just about an hour outside of Thies. Mbour is also the largest garage (transit depot) near Alexx, a girl who I talk about a lot and if you have not gotten the hint my now she is one of my closest friends in Senegal, so we were going to meet at the Mbour garage Wednesday morning. This would land us in the same garage around the same time. Perfect right? Well that is only if both of our transports go as planned which I must add about never happens in Senegal and I am sure most parts of Africa in general.
When I bought my ticket for the night bus I was told to be at the gas station, doubling as the bus depot, at 3pm. I assumed this meant around 5:30pm and when I asked to confirm I assumed right. Oh Senegal. Everything went as well as a bus departure could go and we were on the road around 6pm. This was after I thought I bought a very expensive bean sandwich that included the works (lettuce, onions, and vinegar) but come to find out she threw meat chunks on it, I have had worse I guess.
Everyone on the bus was very nice, including one boy in particular who I refer to as my “sugar daddy” to Alexx in a text because he bought me bananas, water, Red Bull, and a can of pineapple! Thanks buddy! (He must be looking for a wife, well he better keep looking). I should have known things were going too smoothly because around 10:30pm I hear a pop and the bus starts filling up with smoke smelling like rubber. Flat tire. Dumb. Since I was just talking to Alexx earlier in the night about the adventures of transportation and how I actually find them rather exciting I figured this was just another adventure so it did not get me too down. I can’t remember ever getting a flat tire, in any sort of vehicle in the states, so I also thought it would be kind of fun to see how exactly changing one of these things worked (such a girl). My dad made it sound a lot easier than what I had witnessed but then again my Corolla was a little smaller than a bus and I am pretty sure it was also about 15 years newer; I can only assume technology also advanced in that time and made changing a tire more streamline than simply banging metal parts together.   
A couple of hours later we were back on the road and considering how many kilometers we were from the next largest town (that is the one thing you can count on in Senegal, kilometer markers, they are everywhere) we were making good time and I would still be at the garage at a descent time to meet Alexx.
The next couple of hours following the flat are spent trying to fall asleep. I have what is normally considered a great seat, it’s a window seat, but apparently this bus has no insulation and it’s actually quite chilly; I also wake up frequently to the random swerve to miss a pothole or obvious increase in speed to pass another vehicle of equal size, real safe.
Right when we least expected it we hear it again, another bang, this time happening around 3:15am. This one is louder and was followed by a little more swerving than the last time. C’est pas possible! It’s not possible! Another flat and the most ironic part was that we were actually prepared and had a spare but we had already used it on the first flat. This time one of the plastic bins containing peanut butter exploded and spilt all down one of the doors to the bus and part of the side, I kind of feel sorry for whomever was expecting to sell the peanut butter. Well I can assume at minimum this means that I am not going to make it to the garage at a descent time to meet Alexx; I sent her a text to call me when he woke up because I was in a bit of a pinch. I asked if there was another spare and much not to my surprise there was not. Let the waiting game begin.
I jumped off the bus to take a look at the new spectacle that is slowly putting me more and more behind and what do you know, not only did we have a flat but the tire actually ripped off a part of the paneling. Not sure how that happens but that is what I was told. Since we were obviously not going anywhere anytime soon I decided to call my mom and dad to say hi. Since I am only mildly patron in this country it was a short conversation due to my lack of phone credit. The only thing left to do was blog, which brings us where we are now. Women and men who lay across benches and are hunkered up against windows snoring surround me. A few of my male peers on the bus have decided to build a fire just off the road, which was a great idea considering how cold it is tonight. When I say cold I want to clarify that I am sure it is 65°F but since its around 87°F everyday this is quite the temperature drop, and we are in the middle of nowhere and its always much cooler in the bush than the city. 5:05am over and out.
I finally made it to Thies around 3:30pm. We ended up waiting for the second flat to get fixed until 9:30am, six hours on the side of the road is something that I wish to never repeat again. The worst part of that situation was that it was night and we were kind of in the middle of nowhere so there were especially no cars that were just passing by.
I was excited once we were on the road again because I was only about three hours out of my final destination and compared to what I had went through on the trip thus far it would be a piece of cake. Little did I realize that once a “night bus” is seen about during the day it becomes a taxi of sorts and will pick up and drop off just about anyone, anywhere. This can add a lot of extra time to a trip and in my specific circumstance a little more than two hours. I must say I was pretty cheerful the whole time considering the delays and misfortunes we were having but the second I could about taste how close I was I was getting very agitated at just about anything. It was clearly time for me to get off the bus.
Once I got off the bus I had one last leg in my adventure and that was to grab a taxi from the gas station near Mbour to get to Thies. There was a wait for the taxis to fill up (they are like minivans and hold a dozen people or so) and considering the lack of patience that I had I decided to find my own ride, after all it was only about a 45 minute car ride. I ended up finding two special education teachers willing to give me a ride. I got dropped off outside of their school in Thies, about two blocks from the training center where I was to report, for free. Perfect.
By the time I got to the training center there were already almost a hundred volunteers wondering around up to one thing or another and it felt good to finally put an end to my trip. I would not say that this experience jaded my perception of night transportation. I still believe that it is more affordable that the regular car transports that we normally take and if it is, especially not during rainy season, descent weather and your driver is well rested it can be a safe(ish) experience.

Take care all and talk to you soon.

Your Disgruntled Passenger

Friday, February 8, 2013

Field trip with the International School of Dakar

I am finally back at site after spending a week with the kids from the International School of Dakar (ISD) and Trevon and Alexx. I have to admit I was more than a little nervous to be surrounded by teenagers again, knowing what I know of American teenagers, but these kids were different.

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