Friday, July 16, 2010
More Senegal - sorry for the delay, thanks for your patience!
When I wake again, it's to the sounds of people yelling excitedly. I get out of bed and look out my window. Across from the house, on the other side of a parking lot and a couple of dumpsters, is a wide, dusty soccer field. Spectators sit on a concrete barrier watching two teams play, red dust following the players everywhere they go. I look at my watch - it is 9:30am. I cross the hall to the bathroom with my towel and toiletries. There is no shower curtain in the tub, and only cold water comes from a fixture that looks like an old fashioned phone receiver, and rests in the tub on a handle. I squat in the tub and hold the receiver above my head, and cold water runs over me. The toilet has no tank attached to it, a bucket sits next to it for flushing. After a brief shower I towel off and dress, and go back into my room; I am the only one awake in the house.
Last night I barely put my bags down when it was suddenly time to leave the house again, though it was already close to midnight. "We were waiting for you," E says to me. "Okay, um, let me just rinse my armpits and wash my face," I said.
We split into two groups, K and A in Mustafah's car; E, S and I in a cab with Malal. I haven't eaten yet, so we stop at a late night restaurant on the corner of a dusty street that serves kebab sandwiches and canned bissap, a drink I'd read about in my guidebook that's made from hibiscus flowers and sugar. I don't have West African Francs yet, so E spots me some cash. I devour the kebab, and pass the bissap around for E and S to taste. The cab takes us down darkened streets to a club called Just 4U that has a small stage and outdoor seating. Mustafah and Malal collect our cover charges and pay the man at the entrance, and we make our way to an open table. The instant I walk into the club I feel underdressed; all around me women are wearing outrageous clothing, their hair and faces done up, their feet delicately held by impossibly chic sandals. On stage there's a singer, a man playing electric guitar, and two drummers - one playing a djembe, the other playing a tama whose notes grow higher when the percussionist squeezes it under his arm. He plays it rapid fire, his fingers moving like bees. A small group has gathered around the stage to dance. Someone is wearing a t-shirt with the words "Fuck Pink" in sparkling letters, and on the wall behind the bar is a larger than life, painted portrait of Stevie Wonder; mouth agape, dark glasses, hair in beads.
Malal orders a Gazelle beer for me, and then asks me how it tastes - he doesn't drink. It's not the best beer I've ever had, but I like the label, and it's bottled in Dakar. E and S have been here for a couple days, and are used to the time change. They get up and start dancing near our table, drawing stares. K and A arrived earlier today from Poland, and though they are travel weary, they join in the fray. I'm in a daze, I sit with Malal and Mustafah and take in my surroundings. "I'm in Africa," I tell myself. I scan the club and feel a presence above me, look up, and realize I'm sitting directly beneath a palm tree. It's late December, and I'm wearing a skirt and t-shirt.
Back at the house I realize that my legs are covered in tiny red pinprick dots. "You were bitten by mosquitoes," Malal tells me. "Really?" I ask, idiotically. I hadn't felt anything, and these don't look like mosquito bites to me - they are small, flat, and red. In the morning they have become raised, and I'm thankful for the malaria pills that were prescribed to me by the male nurse at the travel clinic at Northwestern Hospital, where I received inoculations against polio, yellow fever, and typhoid.