Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things to do...

Driving down the decrepit highway, I can feel my fists grip the wheel more tightly with each passing mile. There are no exits, no signs, no turnoffs, and I’m going in the wrong direction with just fifteen minutes before a meeting I’ve arranged with the man who will hopefully install the generator in my house. Kelly’s at the paint shop waiting for me. All around me, cars that look like they belong in a junkyard rattle past, their drivers speeding along with the confidence of someone who knows this road. Cracked windshield, a rear bumper made entirely of tape, a car veers off to the left and then back again to avoid some kids carrying loads of lumber across the highway. On either side of the road, a chaos of crumbling buildings and teaming masses of market-goers. I’m lost and getting loster.

This was 915am on a day in which Kelly and I had just three things to do: buy some paint for the house, meet the guy who will install our generator, and get a few household items. It’s the kind of agenda that could’ve been taken care of in 30 minutes at Wal Mart. But the day didn’t end until dark, and even then we didn’t get it all done. It was the perplexing obstacles that seemed to rise up in front of us at every turn that made it a West African day about town instead of a trip to the mall. Here are some highlights:

-The generator guy never actually showed up.

-A man offered Kelly and I a cage full of sparrows as we trekked by foot in the 100degree heat more than mile in search of a bank that wasn’t crippled by a power outage to pay cash for our paint.

-Kelly and I bounced down a crumbling Dakar street, dodging goats and children, to find Mauritanian fabric from a tiny shop in which we got amazingly friendly service from people who spoke only Wolof.

-Dust from the Sahara, blown down by the seasonal winds, covered every inch of our bodies and the windshield of our car before lunchtime.

-A completely unexpected rain storm flooded our neighborhood that evening, nearly cutting us off from getting home.

-The gas station in our neighborhood ran out of gas.

-We couldn’t find a curtain rod for less than $35, but were told we could have an ironworker handcraft a complete set for next to nothing.

- Guys with machine guns stood along the road every 50 meters or so, directing traffic.

In the end, we managed to get the paint (which cost $250 for just two small rooms), rescheduled the generator guy and got about half of the household good we needed. I’m told that’s about par for the course around here – schedule three things, but only do one or two.

As tiring as it was, it was fun. I think it beats a trip to Wal Mart anyday.


  1. Wow...I can't get over what kind of experience you two are going through! Loved reading this Richard!

    Hope you are feeling well Kelly!

  2. This is my favorite blog to read!!! I look forward to your postings everyday (no pressure!!) Keep up the great stories!!!

  3. Amazing! i can't wait to experience this when i come visit :)
    I guess it takes adjusting to live this way- hopefully you will end up loving it! You guys are amazing!

    PS- Hang in there Kel- hope you are both doing well.

  4. A vivid description of how the other half of humanity copes.

  5. Something to tell the grandchildren!