Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Journey home to Africa 2012 - Dakar Day 3 (pt 1)

This is the story of 3 DNA traced descendants of Guinea Bissau who meet as strangers in America for a 10-day journey to Africa to visit their ancestral homeland. Our return marks an historic event for the country of Guinea Bissau. We also wanted to do something for the people as Guinea Bissau is the 4th poorest country in the world. So we put together a project called "It Takes A Village". We could not have imagined the joy that we would bring to the remote little village of Djati, Guinea Bissau.
We have arrived in Africa!!

Sat 2/18
Dakar, Senegal
Day 3

Dakar Senegal
After flying for 7 long hours we finally arrived at the Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport in Dakar Senegal. And believe me when I tell you, this has got to be the World’s Worst Airport! This was truly not what I expected from a big city airport. We arrived in the pre dawn hours on Saturday Feb18 and just trying to get out of the baggage area to the sidewalk outside was a chore.

The airport is small, dirty and crowded (plus there were mosquitoes flying around). We were immediately bombarded by a bevy of boisterous self-proclaimed "porters" who grabbed our bags and put them onto carts without our permission and then began to walk away. Even after we were finally united with our Senegalese hosts, these "porters" were still hanging on to our luggage and demanding to be paid. I mean we hadn't even gone 50 feet!

Once outside there was no fewer than a small army of hawkers, vagrants, drifters, taxi drivers and God knows who else. We were finally able to "buy our way out" and retrieve our baggage for a price way too high for the 50 ft they transported our luggage. Also being unfamiliar with the money system didn't help. Anyway we were truly happy to be with our hosts and followed them out to our waiting transport.

But this wasn't the end. On the way to our awaiting taxis our hosts were involved in verbal altercations with no less than 3 or 4 other taxi drivers. Our bags were snatched away on several occasions, put into one taxi and then after heated words removed from that taxi and put into another.

Randii and I were put into a taxi with some of our bags, the door slammed shut (while another taxi driver was hanging on our window yelling something and trying to get in) and we were driven away. Willie was in another taxi which we followed. It all happened so fast and in a language we didn't speak. At one point our driver veered off onto a dark street (by the way there are virtually NO stop lights in Dakar - we saw just one stop sign on route to our hotel (and the driver whizzed right past it) I thought for sure we were being kidnapped!!

About 10 minutes later we all arrived safely at the beautiful Radisson Blu Hotel.
In a later discussion with our hosts, I learned that Africans love to haggle and barter (it's part of their charm) and that the "heated discussion" ensued because our 2 "reserved" taxis had jumped the line and that seated in the front seat next to the taxi driver who veered off the road was one of our Senegalese hosts. Thank goodness!!

I suggest, if at all possible, have someone meet you at the airport - or if that's not possible "be prepared!" Haggling over fares with stubborn taxi drivers can be draining. Remember you aren't in the US anymore and try hard to stay calm and friendly. An aggressive attitude gets you absolutely nowhere in Senegal. Our hosts did all of our fare  negotiations while we were there but the maximum you should pay for a ride anywhere in town is about $7.

Hotel Video
See part 2 for today's activities

No comments: