Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Search of a Radio

With Kelly “patienter”-ing in Maine , and me about to move into a palatial villa with no furniture or television, I figure I need some form of entertainment to while away the lonely evenings. A radio, of course, would do the trick.

So today before work, I decided I would buy one. My first stop was Armena, a clean and well-equipped and intensely air conditioned store near the office that tends to draw the expat community. The gentleman, a Lebanese entrepreneur, guides me over to a glass-encased display of two radios. The cheapest one is 25,000 CFA, or $50, and has no obvious redeeming qualities to justify such an exorbitant price.

“That’s a bit expensive, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes, but this radio provides you a choice of using batteries if the power goes out.”

“Oh, right. That’s cool. Let me think about it.”

I think about it while driving off to the next spot, a little shop in Ouakam village a couple of miles up the road that I had seen a few days before. The sign reads “Electromenager” – basically a place to buy electronic devices, so that’s promising.

I park the car in the dirt near where the brilliantly clad village women are selling the morning catch of dorado and thiof that the men have just brought in. It would be hard to find a more freshly caught catch of fish, but by the smell of it, it has already ripened considerably in the powerful morning sun.

I walk into the “Electromenager” convinced I’ll find a broad selection of moderately priced radios. But all I find a man sleeping in a room that contains nothing but chairs. He wakes up.
“Do you sell radios?”

Hmmm. No.”

“Do you know where I can find one?”

“The hairdresser, just down the street that way,” he says, pointing down a crumbling road opposite his shop.

I jump in the car and head toward the hairdresser, wondering why a hairdresser might sell radios. Maybe he misunderstood me. Or I misunderstood him. It doesn’t matter because I don’t get far. A giant pile of sand had been dumped by a truck into the middle of this narrow street, blocking all traffic except for people and goats.

I do a three-point turn and head back toward the office, convinced I will not find a reasonably priced radio this morning. I’ll ask Babakar.

As I approach the office, however, I spot a young man with a table by the side of the road, a small detail amidst the chaos of Cheik Anta Diop Street . He has radios. I pull over. In Dakar , unlike New York , you can pretty much park anywhere.

“How much for your radio?”

“Lu?” he says inquisitively.

“Er.. What does this cost?”

“Five thousand CFA,” he says in perfect English. It has the choice of using batteries too. Luxurious at this price.

I’ll have my BBC and my flashlight after sundown.

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