My company has an office in Dakar, Senegal that just opened, and I am flying there to take photographs and shoot some video of the opening and presentations that are being made there. The crazy thing is, Katie’s best friend Donna, is getting married in South Africa the same week, so I am flying to Dakar, then straight to South Africa, and then, utilizing flying KLM, Katie and I are taking a long layover in Amsterdam to meet up with our friend Twan, who we met in Peru last November.
For those who have not graced the West African coast with their presence, it is beautiful. White sand beaches and palm trees, and the sun is so BRIGHT!
(Fishing village in Dakar, Senegal)
My flight was going smoothly, and I was congratulating myself on my more laid back approach to this trip (in general, I am all about getting there as quickly as possible, lining up all travel in a perfect time alignment as to not waste a single moment) when the plane tried to take-off, emitted some sort of odd air sounding blast, and then turned back around to the gate.
After the failed takeoff, there was an announcement: “We may have to try that again”. I’m paraphrasing, but that was basically it. As if what you want to hear in the cabin of the airplane when the plane is clearly malfunctioning, is the captain telling you we’re going to try taking off again with said malfunctioning airplane.
So the problem is a parking brake issue, that led to something else, so here I am sitting at the gate in JFK (they released us from the plane) waiting for the problem to be fixed. It is now almost 9 PM. I am never making it to Senegal.
I am in Senegal.
I make it to the hotel (the lovely le Meridien, right on the beach. The air outside the hotel smells like the sea, which is right behind the hotel.
I get to my room, and it is so HOT, I take off my clothes and hang out on my bed checking my email and whatever. Too much information? Wait for the next point. After a couple minutes, this African guy just walks into my room. No knock, just strolls on in. And then starts talking to me in French, saying something about ‘supervisor, supervisor’, and then, finally, leaves.
I finally get a shower, consume the last of my fruit snacks from my hiatus off the broken airplane, and join my colleague, Ashley, for a stroll down the beach. We end up hanging out on a cluster of large sofas by the pool, draped overhead with fabric, where we order drinks and discuss work.
(Photo of the pool lounge, stolen from le Meridien’s flickr account)
We meet up with everyone else for a work dinner that night at Teri Bou, a restaurant right on the water in Dakar. At night, you can see the lights of a Ferris wheel reflecting in the waves in the background. It is the most beautiful restaurant.
Ashley and the DG of IFPRI (pronounced if-pree)
The next day was off to work, heading to the Dakar office, to meet with the AV team hired for the event, and basically wherever else we were needed. The day passed quickly in a stupor of exhaustion, and soon the opening day arrived.
It was a crazy day, running around working with the sound guys trying to get everything set up. The event ended up starting late anyway, we got the sound working in the nick of time, and everything went more or less smoothly.
There was a cocktail party after the opening, and there I met a camera guy working for a media company in Dakar. His name was Raoul, and we ended up chatting about our aspirations of making films and in general our work experience. He told me he had traveled all around Africa, and had seen some crazy stuff. He said he was held at gunpoint in the Ivory Coast, and had been almost killed on two other occasions. We made plans for the following night.
(Skip day of editing videos and photos and stress of a slow internet connection, then panic of not getting everything uploaded in time. It was all uploaded in time.)
I met up with Raoul at a place in Dakar where we got some beer and watched the soccer (I mean football) game on TV. We met up with one of his friends, Mamadou, at a little place where we played pool for a while. I harbor an inner desire to be a killer pool player, but since I never play I am, therefore, no good and generally embarrass myself.
(Random restaurant in Dakar)
So basically we spent to whole night wandering around Dakar, getting back to my hotel around 3:30 AM, where we started chatting about our lives in Dakar and the US. 4 AM I get a call from the front desk asking where I am, my ride for the airport is here. I throw everything in my suitcase, say goodbye to Raoul, jump into the van for the airport, and am off to South Africa for Donna and Craig’s wedding.