Sarah's Notes - Bears Arrive in Senegal
May 29, 2008
SALY, Senegal - Cal director of operations Sarah Holsinger will be blogging daily from Africa.
Due to the late arrival at the hotel in Senegal, there will be no photo gallery posted today. Galleries are expected to resume on Friday, May 30.
Greetings from Senegal! It's 2:30 a.m. (7:30 p.m. in California), and we arrived at our hotel in Senegal about an hour ago. We had a fun-filled day of traveling that began this morning at 7 a.m. We had breakfast and then headed on our way to the Tunis airport, which was a 2 1/2-hour bus ride. When we arrived at the airport, we had our bags wrapped (security precautions) for the flight to Dakar.
Our flight left Tunisia around noon, and 2 1/2 hours later we were back in the Paris airport. We only had about an hour and a half until our next flight left, so everyone used this time to grab some lunch and stock up on snacks for our 5 1/2-hour haul to Senegal.
We were on a large plane going to Dakar. We were joined by Algeria's National men's soccer team, which was traveling to play Senegal in the first round of World Cup qualifying. They explained to our players that it takes two years (if they qualify) to get to the World Cup. The language barrier between our team and theirs was challenging. Other than chatting with the soccer players most of us caught up on some zzzzzz's.
We arrived in Dakar around 8:10 p.m. and loaded buses that took us to the main terminal where we went through customs. Rama's father, a high-ranking government official, met us at customs, collected all of our passports, and escorted us to baggage claim, bypassing customs all together.
We were all pretty much in shock that he had this type of power, but clearly he was the man in charge at the Dakar airport. After we collected all our baggage, Mr. N'diaye, yet again, worked his magic and walked us out to our bus, skipping the last security station that you would normally have to go through to get out of the airport.
As soon as we stepped outside, you could immediately tell that this country is very different from Tunisia. Hundreds of people were hanging out in the middle of the road, and there was limited traffic control. While we were loading our bus, we met Rama's mother and our tour guide Oussmane. Rama's parents were so sweet and clearly very excited to see Rama and meet her second family. Her mother and father don't speak English, so there were just a lot of hugs and pictures in place of conversation.
We left the airport on a 55-passenger charter bus. There was hardly any room for our luggage in the bottom compartment, so the entire back of the bus was filled with our bags. We stopped about 10 minutes down the road at a fast food mini market. They had pizza, burgers and fried and grilled chicken. We all went with pizza. We also bought about 60 bottles of water to get us through the next few days. We have to be even more careful in Senegal about not drinking the water and avoiding any fruits and vegetables without a peel.
After dinner, we began our two-hour bus ride to our hotel in Saly. By this time, we are all exhausted because it's 11 p.m. here but 1a.m. in Tunisia, which we were all accustomed to. The bus was silent and almost everyone was asleep. I stayed awake briefly to check out what little I could see outside. The road to Saly is just 2 lanes, and the streets are filled with vendors selling fruits and vegetables. I couldn't believe the amount of people still outside at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night. I asked Oussmane, our tour guide, how late the markets stay open, and he said most stay open until 1 or 2 a.m., but some are open 24 hours a day. There were women walking the streets carrying baskets and fruit on top of their heads. The traffic is terrible on this street, and it's no surprise if the car in front of you stops traffic to get out and make a purchase.
After finally getting to sleep, I woke to what sounded like we were driving on an unpaved road. This however was not the case. We blew a tire on our bus. We quickly pulled off to the side of the road and all kind of chuckled because this was just the classic ending to what was already the never-ending day. We were only about 20 minutes from our hotel but on a dark road with nothing in sight. Our bus driver and Oussmane worked for about an hour on the tire but realized we were going to need to get a new bus. When our new bus finally arrived, we transferred all of our luggage over and continued on our way.
We checked into our hotel, which is a really nice resort made up of African huts. The huts are spread out over a nicely landscaped piece of land and sit right on the Atlantic Ocean. I'm very excited to see what Senegal looks like in the daylight.
We leave tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. to go on a safari at the Reserve de Bandia Animal Reserve and then off to a clinic at a nearby grammar school.
Best wishes from all of us here in Africa. Go Bears!
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