I headed out bright and early the next morning. The border opens at 8 and the ferry crosses for the first time at 9, so I figured I hit it right around 9 and get right across since my passport was stamped from the day before. Silly meâ€¦
I get to the border and there is a guard at the gate. This is not unusual, but the 500um entrance fee he is asking for is. The Senegalese guy next to me just pays it, but I decided instead to tell him that I was in here yesterday and many times over the last two years and there is no such fee. He just grunts and stands there. I just stand in front of him and glare. After about five minutes he tells me that there isn’t really a fee, but he’s hungry and wants breakfast money. He asks me if I’m ok with giving him some money for breakfast. I tell him that it isn’t normal to pay to come in and I’m not giving him anything since he already lied to me. We then resume our standing for a bit.
Eventually he just sort of moves out of the way and I push by him. He decides not to push the issue. Amazingly the ferry hasn’t left yet. I’m quite pleased and start heading toward it when a guy with one of the guards starts hissing at me. I know what he wants and it would have been the smart thing to just walk on and make them come after me. (Since there’s about a 50% chance they wouldn’t have bothered.) But I’m dumb and so I went over to talk to them. It was the same guard I spent ten minutes discussing the fact I’d be coming through this morning with the night before. I explained it one more time and he let me go. Just in time for me to see the ferry pull out. Son of a bitch.
I go down to where people are loading pirogues to cross over and try to get in one. The guy first tries ignoring me and when I actually put my foot on the boat he tells me I can’t go. I ask why, but he just goes back to ignoring me. I really wanted to know some Wolof so I could call him nasty names. As it was, all I could do was more glaring. I went over to the bank and sulked for a bit over the bad start my day was off to.
Eventually though I made it across. The Senegalese police were no problem at all. I made it to the garage and into a car pretty quick. There was another half hour wait for the car to fill, but there were lots of beggar kids around who I entertain myself by carrying on one sided conversations in English with them. It’s sort of like talking to plants except the baffled looks make it much more entertaining.
||1750cfa + 250cfa
|Saint Louis Carefour
||Saint Louis Hotel de Poste
I rolled into Saint Louis about 13h and found the hotel and the pool at the Mermoz. I splashed around for a bit with the birthday girl and another volunteer before we headed back to our hotel on the island.
Once back at the hotel we found the Kaolack crew already checked in and waiting for us. I was pleased to get to see Leah again. I’ve not seen her since the Kaolack party (at the end of the Nikola-Kolba trip I never finished writing up). Our interactions have always been interesting because we share two unfortunate characteristics: neither of us knows exactly what we’re doing and both of us deal with that by pulling back and being quiet. It makes for lots of uncomfortable silences whenever we see each other.
I’d not eaten since my nyechna the night before, so I broke out the first of Kathleen’s presents: Apple Biskrem.
Biskrem are tasty cookies from Ãœlker in Turkey. There is a chocolate variety that is pretty easy to find in both Mauritania and Senegal. In the RIM though we have other rare and elusive varieties of krems. One of our big grocery stores recently got a shipment of apple at just about the same time that K told me that was what she wanted from Mauritania. There are fig as well, but I’ve not seen them since some serendipitously showed up at a shop as I was stuffing a Nalgene with sweets to send to Leah a couple months ago.
I stole some of the Biskrem, but I was still pretty hungry and so we went en masse to find some eats. Our restaurant of choice was closed so we opted for beer and waiting. I grabbed a sandwich from a street vendor since dumping beer into my empty stomach would have been less than bright. We sat around and I mostly listened to stories about people I didn’t know. A couple times the conversation would turn to parties I’d been to, but it was mostly gossip.
After an hour and three beers our restaurant was open so we got cleaned up and headed out. Beers generally run about 1000cfa apiece, so I had already spent 3000cfa ($6) or about double my daily budget in Nouakchott. Our restaurant was pretty nice and so I asked the waiter for the cheapest most filling thing. He apparently only get the cheap part since he came back with a few pieces of lettuce and some emaciated popcorn shrimp. Fortunately, I split a bottle of wine with K which, when combined with the previous beers, kept me from caring very much.
We went back to the bar that we were at before and met up with an Englishman and his friend. Mostly it was more talking. K and the Englishman set off on a discussion of development that was interesting, but decidedly not my cup of tea at that point. The truth of the matter is that lots of people were starving to death right at that moment and there’s pretty much nothing that can be done about it. Different development and aid programs are going to change things, but some people are going to die in any case, and any solution is both complex and time consuming. I try not to think about those people when trying to have a good time because though it is important, it is also horribly depressing.
After a bit and me wandering out for fresh air a couple of times I went and got my CDs. I’ve got a mix that started with the St. Paddy’s Day party and has been evolving since. The dance moment of the evening definitely belonged to K with her moving performance to that hallmark of the early 90’s: Sir Mix Alot’s Baby Got Back. It was amazingly entertaining and inspiring to the point that I even got up and danced a bit to Lil’ John’s Get Low even though I was with a bunch of relative strangers; an environment where I generally try not to make a fool of myself.
The rest of the evening is a bit fuzzy. I remember paying for four more beers (which is who it’s fuzzy) and heading back to the hotel. I managed to corner Leah in the bathroom and chat for a bit. Being slightly lit helped me with my whole lack of confrontation thing and we talked for a bit. She was a little miffed at the frivolity of our recent correspondence. I apologized and told her I’d been shooting for frivolous because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I yet again professed my cluelessness and got her to beat my head against the wall a bit. This was entertaining for me and I’m pretty sure confusing to her.
I went to bed cursing both my complete inability to be suave and her attractiveness which made the situation significantly more depressing.