Study abroad in Dakar – # 13

Yes, I’ve had a draft of this entry for a couple weeks now, and finally have gotten around to it. 

Dec. 27th:

With a few hundred American dollars, an American passport, a Senegalese visa, and no commitments until January 7th, I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to travel by myself. What I had been doing for the past few days was toiling on a final paper for Islam class, but by the 30th Sunday, I was free. My previous travel plans had fallen through at the last minute (this isn’t the place to discuss the details..). Traveling on your own; with no obligation to go to a specific place is something that’s thought about, hypothetically, but with no real idea. Think about it. If you have a couple hundred dollars and suddenly ‘have’ to go on a vacation, where would you go ? For an indecisive person like me, it’s not an easy choice.

At first thought, I wasn’t sure if I’d go anywhere. My dakar host mother was pretty persistent that I travel somewhere – ‘il faut sortir’ – (you must go out) and Dakar was already getting a bit lonely since it had been a couple days since my friends had left for their travels.

So, I had decided to give a look at possible airfares to some other capital cities (accra, conakry). Cheapest flight (round-trip): $ 750 to conakry. Ouch. In that case, i could find cheaper flights to Paris (at 400), but paris would have probably cost too much.

In that case, I traveled in Senegal: visiting Touba Diallow, Popenguine, and Saly (Saly was infested with tourists- I’ll explain later). It was the first time that I traveled alone extensively (outside of the USA) and it was a bit lonely, actually.

Other news, I found a movie theater in Dakar that is still in operation ! For reference, it’s right on Borgibea Ave, in Liberté III neighborhood. I’ve asked a few (maybe a dozen or more) people about movie theaters in Dakar and didn’t find out anything certain (that’s a theme my experience in Senegal). Some said that all of the theaters shut down within the past few years, others pointed me to places labeled on my map of Dakar (very handy to have, Baobab Center gave each student one when we arrived) , but they weren’t sure if they were still open. I’ve walked past a couple of the sites in the past, found them to be shut down, and figured the same fate for the rest of them.

The outside of the theater has that 1970s architecture to it (i’ll take a picture eventually) and has American b-list movies (Delta force 2 with chuck norris and rambo 2 are some ones that i remember), bollywood movies, and generic french action flicks. I went to the rambo 2 flick for the heck of it – it was only 300 CFA (about 65 US cents) and it was an experience. The theater was packed with the aroma of mary jane and the only lights inside the cinema were from lighters. The screen was blurry, didn’t have any subtitles, (the audio was in muffled french, but you don’t need it with rambo – actions truly speak louder than words). None of this bothered the audience: the theater looked to be about 50 percent full, of about 300 seats or so, and talked the entire time. After the novelty of such an experience worn off (it did after about 30 minutes) and I was expected to be home for dinner, I headed out of the theater.

Also, I’m getting jaded at the amount of Senegalese people that I have talked to that want to go to the USA (once they find out I’m American) and wonder if I can do anything to get them there. I haven’t thought of a good response besides saying that migrating and making a living in the USA is difficult (cultural barriers and learning English fluently; to name a few other obstacles, and to counter their misconception that one can make a good living easily there).  They counter that Sénégalese life is hard – I look around, and although I’m not in their circumstances, if I could be in their shoes, I wouldn’t disagree with that statement;  but I still come away with the sense that neither of us realize what moving from senegal to the USA would mean.

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