August 05, 2004

Senegal, day two


I am eager to prove my worth at work so I get up at 7am, force my eyelids open, get dressed and leave the house, thirsty and hungry. On the way there, I encounter loads of people talking and chilling out in the street. I realize that my pointy-toed shoes are ill-equipped for the lack of sidewalk ( this is not entirely true, there were sidewalks once, but “the wind and the rain have undone it again, and you never would know that there once was a “sidewalk” in “Dakar”—my apologies to the writer). I try my best not to walk in the stagnant pools of water and make a firm promise to go to work in sandals with my work shoes under my arm.

I meet my boss who shows me around the office. When he introduces me to the kitchen, I reach for a cup and drink and drink and drink some more. He briefs me on how bargaining works here (basically, cut every price offered by two and just expect to pay more than a person speaking Wolof-this motivates me to learn Wolof). He gives me the first two days off, stating that if my house is not in order; I won’t feel good at work. He “lends” me Frank’s driving services so that I can go shopping. The electricity goes off but the computers stay on thanks to a back up generator which beeps about every 20 seconds. Again, Frank tells me that power outages are not common here.

We head to the food store through the main place, where my main concern is not avoiding the holes in the road but the cars and the people hoping that a rich white girl will buy whatever it is they are selling. Frank seems to know all the important people in the street (the guards, the water purification guy, the parking attendants) and it is essential that he greets them all for a full 5 minutes. The trip to and from the shopping center takes about 2 hours (it is only located 10 minutes from my house). When I finally get home even more starving and thirsty than this morning, I eat like a mad woman, drink and eat again. I discover that if you leave the gas on too long before igniting the plate on the stove, the hair on your forehead gets singed.

When I feel sufficiently fed, I undertake the tedious task of scrubbing my place from top to bottom. I will spare you the details but imagine if you will, me, on my knees with disinfectant and various sponges, scrubbing clockwise, scrubbing anti-clockwise, scrubbing horizontally, vertically, top to bottom and left to right. I sleep well that night.

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