Donn’s Africa Adventure, column 2

10 08 2010

Post 2: Koalack, Senegal Aug. 5 5:51pm central time, 10:48 Koalack time

I last posted in Brussels, a lot has happened since then and I’ll try and bring you up to date but first, more of Donn’s flu. (Sorry to disappoint you) I ended waking up in pretty shoddy shape for world traveling. Well I was in pretty bad shape, Kathy was miserable and called in sick, but somehow we got stuff packed up and I headed off to the airport, but much later than I was comfortable with.

It was going to be tight time-wise. I fly a lot and I pretty well have the getting to the airport procedure pretty well fine-tuned and I was worried. However I made good time and felt like I would be able to get checked in on time. I got the car parked and was on the shuttle toward the airport when I double-checked my flights. WHOOPS, I was in the Continental parking heading for the wrong gate because I was flying out on United and BACK on Continental. Oh-man, this wasn’t going to work out at all, maybe this trip just wasn’t meant to be.

It took a little talking but I got the shuttle driver to take me back to my car, I buzz over to the other parking lot and to my great relief immediately a shuttle buss comes by and then we actually head right for the terminal, maybe I would make it yet. We pull up to the terminal and the shuttle driver, who had very limited English confused me and I didn’t get off at the right stop, but I did figure it out by the next stop and jumped off and took off back to the United check-in. It felt like a mission by now to get to the check-in gate, all this work to make this happen, working through the flu to get things done, a trip half-way around the world, and I screw it up by missing the flight??

I come around the curve and, shoot, there is a HUGE line at check-in! That did it, it was over, I missed my flight. Then the last guy in line pointed to the next row and said that was the row for check-in and that they were all on a flight that had been cancelled. Really?? I’m instantly up to the people I need to talk to who were doing things pretty casually, at least until I showed them my flight information! Boy did they start jumping, “oh my, that flight is already boarding,” “whereare you going?” “Dakar? Where is Dakar?” “Don’t you need a Visa to get into Senegal?” “No?” “I think you need a Visa.” “Hurry, hurry, his flights leaving, we need to get his bag out there” ”No, you don’t need a Visa, I need to see your passport and then you’re good to go” “Run to the gate, they’re finished boarding” “Run, run”…….I ran. And I slipped in on last call to take my seat. It was a miracle but I actually made it.

Then I realized what I had missed, I was really, really counting on a SERIOUS restroom break before I braved the flight and it never happened! Here’s Donn with the bladder of a gopher and fighting flu symptoms on a flight to Chicago not having done anything since the farm, OH MAN??? With what I was just sure I knew was coming I REALLY didn’t want to tackle it in an airplanes lavatory. And I REALLY had to fart, and I just couldn’t risk it. You can’t trust farts in this condition, they can be……..deceivious, the little buggers. That whole flight, thankfully short and smooth, was done with clinched teeth and other body parts.

Enough about Donn’s ineptness and body functions…… OFF to Africa!!!!
The flight to Chicago was fine, (just a little tense for me), from Chicago to Brussels was fine, but boring. (Really big plane, one could stack quite a few bales in a load) The gate at Brussels was when I knew I was entering another world! There was 287 people waiting to board and they were the wildest mix one could imagine, I thought I even heard a goat bleating, but probably not.

(It really brought back memories of our flight to Alaska from Salt Lake City, as soon as you walked up to the loading gate one knew he was in an entirely different social class. In the Alaska case I fit in with those rednecks pretty smoothly, I think I was in my own element there, but in this bunch I stood out like a fat, white, beacon.) (I’ve been here 3 days now and everywhere I go there is a bunch of children circling me and jabbering and pointing, at least when they’re not begging, I’m not sure if it’s because I’m white, or because I’m fat, or just because I’m ugly).

The seat next to me was occupied by a lady from Senegal who spoke no English, but before the flight was over we were showing each other pictures of our grandkids!
As the plane came down to land in Dakar, Senegal’s capitol and former capitol of North Africa, the area below us was really decrepit and I thought at the time that we were coming in over the poor part of town. I figured out pretty quick that what I saw was the norm, not the exception!

At the airport there was no taxiing up to the terminal dock. They pushed a ladder up to the door and we walked down the stairs to a waiting bus, as we did so I turned around and took a picture of the plane and steps. THAT WAS A MISTAKE!! Guards were running and hollering and pointing at me and I knew I had screwed up big-time, I seriously worried that I might be shot.

I had my butt chewed all the way to the terminal, I don’t have a clue what a single
word they said was but I’ve had my butt chewed enough to know when it’s being chewed out, and this was a hum-dinger!

Then they herded the whole planeload of us into the terminal and lined us up in rows with guards posted between the rows. It took me over an hour to work through the line to customs and NOBODY in power was friendly. I was starting to feel real anxiety about my checked luggage.

This is a farmer-to-farmer business trip and I expect to be out on farms so I threw in my trusty side-kicks, my pliers, screwdriver, and POCKETKNIFE. I wasn’t sure how this trigger-happy bunch would appreciate me bringing a knife into their country! I get up to the feller doing the customs and his English is almost as bad as my French. He chewed me out for not having my forms filled out right (at least that’s what I THINK he was chewing on me about) then he wanted to know where I was going. I told him I didn’t know. (He didn’t like that answer). Finally he just throws his arms up in the air and passes me on through. Sometimes it’s good to be inept.

By the luggage dispersal I’m surrounded by beggars and leaches wanting to carry my bag and haul me away and I can’t figure out who my contact is. I don’t know what he looks like, finally I take my luggage outside and in another group of people see a paper with my name on it.

That was a welcome beacon.

Yaguemar Diop is the official over here in Senegal who is my contact, host, and interpreter. I’ve been thinking that his English is not good but the more I get to know him now I think I’ve figured out that MY English is not good! I use a lot of slang and I growl a lot and I pretty well have him messed up but I’m slowly getting him broke in. By the time I leave I’ll have his English ALL screwed up for the next one. (The same thing happened when we hosted Viola, the German foreign exchange student).

The other member of our party is a personable young man named Khassim (Hasim) Diallo (Jalo). He kind of reminds me of my boys, easy-going, friendly, confident, AND he always has his iPod plugged in like Tyler. He’s officially our driver but I notice that he won’t even let me cross the street without protecting me.

The ride to the hotel was quite an eye-opening experience. I’ve often asked the cabbies in DC how in the world they can maneuver in that wild traffic and I have been told many times that compared to their homeland DC traffic is easy. I never quite believed that until this past Tuesday. Dakar has millions of people in it, a crumbling infrastructure, and NO traffic lights. It’s a madhouse on the roads!

Everybody going every direction, constant honking and hollering out the window, yet everyone gets along and makes things work. In America road-rage would kill us all off the first day! I do want to tell you that this kid Khassim can DRIVE. I never really thought about seat belts as a tool while traveling but just a safety precaution. Here it’s been 3 days of seatbelts holding me in my seat while he makes our pickup do things it wasn’t made to do!

I’m going to have to end this one now. It’s one o’clock in the morning here. We’re heading out to the village tomorrow morning. We were supposed to do it today but the chief was out of the village and he wanted to be there when I come! (Makes me feel important)
More later, I should get us caught up with the next posting…
Donn

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2 responses

10 08 2010
Tweets that mention Donn’s Africa Adventure, column 2 | KS Farmers Union -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lauren DeMott, Kansas Farmers Union. Kansas Farmers Union said: Donn’s Africa Adventure, column 2: http://wp.me/pWPp6-4l […]

11 08 2010
coopgeek

Hi Donn,

Lauren tipped me off to your blog, and I actually met Lisa a few years ago at another ACE conference.

By some coincidence, I’m a newbie in Africa on NCBA business too. I’m over in Mozambique, where customs consisted of my deciding to walk through the “nothing to declare” aisle, and an x-ray of my luggage by a very bored agent. I’m not 100% sure they even looked at my visa that I worked so hard to get. No, wait…I just checked and it’s stamped. He must have checked it. But my point is I’ve had more trouble getting into Canada. Sorry you got the other end of the stick, although it makes for good blogging.

Anyhow, my blog is at http://www.cunaverse.com. Happy travels, and thanks for your work in F2F.

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