Thursday, January 6, 2011

Senegal 2

We left Dakar with great joy and approached the delta of Saloom River, loaded with water and food. We were picked up by a Spanish girl and her Senegal boyfriend who were traveling for Gambia. They had registered their car in the Gambia because of the laws in Senegal and now they had to go to Gambia every 40 days with the car. They left us in a village called Toubakuta next to the Saloom River. The delta is a vast region of water with many islands and tiny isles. In order to go around we needed a boat. We thought that hiring a fisherman for 5-10 euro will be cheaper, but actually the fishermen wanted more money than the excursions taken from the camping sites. We met a Frenchman who was a manager of an eco camping on one of the islands. He offered us to sleep there for 40 euro per man with included boat trip. We explained that we are hitchhiking and sleep in a tent and refused his offer. We decided to go with a walk around the river. Just as we were leaving the man came to us and told us that he has some clients for the island and we can go with them for free. We offered to pay for the gas, but he said that it’s not a problem. We were very flattered by the kindness of this Frenchman, who didn’t even tell us his name, nor did we meet him any more. We traveled for 30 minutes to the island and when we arrived the driver of the boat told us, that we can sleep in his house. It was wonderful- a huge, clean river, woods on all sides and beautiful birds. The island was very wild, with couple of villages on the shore- straw huts and solar panels. It was inside a national park and it was forbidden to throw garbage or kill animals. We wandered around the inland, looking for birds and monkeys. During the day, when the heat was unbearable we were hiding in the shadow of a baobab.

the island

there is no school on the island, but there are a lot of kids

On the next day in the night we went back to the main land with the same boat and the same driver. He insisted that we stay at his house in the village. He had two wives-one on the island and one on the main land. The second one was only 32 years old and already had 6 kids. The kids in Senegal are so many. Every man has at least one wife with 5-6 kids, sometimes 2-3 wives with 5-6 kids each. The women usually don’t work and the man has to feed sometimes more than 15 people. Maybe that’s one of the reasons for the hard life here. The salaries are not much lower than the ones in Bulgaria, but every salary would be insufficient for a family like that. The people are thinking that the more kids they have, the richer they are going to be, when they get old. They consider kids something like a workforce and make them work from young age. The girls at 3-4 already know how to cook and to look after babies. Nobody is looking after the kids- they were self-dependent. Nobody is playing with them, nobody is teaching them anything. If a child started crying for some reason (for example because it hit itself to blood) it risks to be spanked to be made to shut up. That’s why nobody is crying, even the babies.

the house of our hospitable boat driver in Toubakuta

After Toubakuta we moved on to the next village in Central Senegal, where we had to meet with Jenny- a volunteer from the Peace Corps. Jenny was living in a clay house with a straw roof inside the barren land- no electricity or running water, with a big family - a man whom she called “father” and three wives whom she called “mothers” and lots of kids- “brothers and sisters”. We were also given Senegalese names- Lora was named Aisa and Evgeni – Ibu. We had two peaceful days in the village. Every day we had to bring water from the well and in the evening the kids were drumming on the water tubes and dancing African dances. One of the days we watched a fierce wrestling. Both at the dances and the wrestling’s there was someone with a stick bringing order in the crowd.
The Americans from the Peace Corps are almost everywhere. In Senegal there were 160 volunteers, whose main job is to help local people, promote America and provide first hand information to the American Government. Jenny was very cool and we learned a lot of things about the people here, because she was talking the native language.

typical Senegalese restaurants- just some benches around a wooden table on the street- here we're eating beans sandwich

We managed to cook some Bulgarian dishes- lentils and potatoes with vegetables. Finally, something different from rice and fish! In Senegal they have 4-5 national dishes all of them with rice and fish (sometimes with other meats) and Senegalese people refuse to eat anything else. They had no salads and the vegetables were used only as decoration to the rice. They put a whole potato and a carrot in the center of the rice for the whole family. People here are quite conservative - there are rules for everything and they don’t want to accept new things. For example - men cannot bring water from the well, cook or wash clothes. The homosexuals were illegal. If you declare that you are gay you can go to jail for 8 years and you loose the right to be burried.

Jennie's family
kids playing on improvised jembes and dancing

Baobab fruit- bui or "monkey bread" as they call it

the market in Keur Sauce
hard work...

Dry fish- often eaten when there's no money for oil and cooking

Bringing water from the 30m deep well isn't an easy job
Every evening all the women from the village gather around the well with buckets and basins

Woods for cooking

Jennie's "father"

On 23.12 we decided to make ourselves a Christmas gift- safari in the game reserve Bandia. It wasn’t a natural one - animals were brought from all around Africa. But they live free and we had the pleasure to have close encounter with rhinos, crocodiles, giraffes and antelopes..

shitting gazelle

old turtle

The Christmas Eve was a little lonely – only the two of us on the rooftop of the house in Dakar with 3 kinds of salad and a glass of wine. We were thinking about our friends and families that were so far away, about traditional Bulgarian dishes and Christmas cookies, about snow and pine trees. There was no electricity, but we had the starts in the night sky and the moon all for us.

Kaolack is one of the most dirty towns in Senegal. To Kaolack we drove with a Senegalese man, who had lived 15 years in Paris and came back in his home town to clean out the garbage. We wished him luck with this hard job.

We went back to Dakar because of the meeting with Osman’s father at the police, but as we expected we were once again told “tomorrow”. On the next they we went back, determined to stay there until we get our money back. We spent lots of time and money for transportation. From the place where we were staying- Yambul to the police station on the other side of Dakar we needed 3 hours squeezed in busses and 2-3 euro in each direction. When we were once again told that the money was not in the bank and to come again tomorrow we said that we will strike in front of the police station until this problem is solved. The chief took the things in his hands and went himself to Osmans house in the afternoon. After whole day waiting at the police station, we got our money back (around 250 euro) which was unbelievable. The policeman gave us the money himself and we didn’t even see Osman’s family. We showed Senegalese people not to mess with Bulgarians. The justice won and made our Christmas better. That was the first time we received any money from the police! Maybe on Christmas miracles were really happening! We thank to all for the support! We thank to the chief of gendarmerie and to Johan, who helped us and took us in his house during all this time. We wish to meet more good people and more positive thoughts for a better world! Merry Christmas to all!