September 20, 2004

Near death experiences

On Thursday and Friday I went on a business trip to Thies (about one hour East of Dakar in light traffic and a billion hours back in heavy traffic). After two months in Dakar, Thies felt like paradise on earth. The landscape was painfully twisted grey trees, green grass and forests, donkeys scratching their backs against abandoned phone lines, farmers bringing their harvest to town in a horse and buggy and lots and lots of space. Needless to say, I was tempted to shirk my duties and live in a hut there.

The ride back was considerably less pleasant due to the heavy traffic. This is no ordinary traffic. African traffic includes vendors swatting to your windows to sell you popcorn, chickens crossing the road to get to the other side (har har har), buses cracking at the seams with people, large trucks with wobbly wheels that are about to fly off and taxi cabs that act like they've never taken a driving class in their life. I must have projected far more confidence that I felt because my supervisor dropped himself off at his house and let me handle the thick of the traffic back to the city center. I trembled, my legs were tense, I sweat like a pig in roast, I prayed, I wept and I stalled (the battery was flat so this necessitated people pushing the SUV out of incoming traffic--twice). Upon returning home, I felt so shaken that I promptly called a friend to ask for the nearest Malaria clinic. Surely my general feeling of unease had to be due to Malaria and not my wussiness?

I want to thank Allah and the great God above for sparing my life. I will never drive in Dakar again.

I joined a running group with Senegalese and expat friends on Saturday. The Senegalese have the reputation of being quite athletic. I will testify to this: the running was very hard and the hot weather was not a deterrent to the group. While I did not come in last, I did get overheated and my face became the hue of a ripe tomato. I did manage to stop at regular intervals to put my head between my legs to prevent hyperventilation. I also had the good fortune of having people enquire at regular intervals to see how I was doing. I think they were afraid I would die on them and they'd have to carry me back. That would certainly put a damper on the afternoon. Well, the sun may have gotten to my brain but I am planning to run again next week.

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