Au centre ville
Maria said she is very proud of us for doing so well today, and I am too.
We took a cab from the fleet (my Wolof name sounds like: Mah-dee-em-Joo) to La Place d’Independance, a big oval of streets and shops in the downtown area of Dakar, with the goal of getting me a Senegalese bank account at Citibank. Perhaps some backstory is necessary:
I closed my Chase checking account and opened a Citibank account in Elmhurst before I left because I need to pay my student loans in dollars while I’m earning CFA francs. The idea was to open an account in the US and one in Senegal, and move the necessary funds between the two via the Internet without conversion fees. So easy, right? Yes, too easy.
We finally get to the citibank downtown Dakar after one of the sweatiest and most intense taxi ride of my life. The intensity was due to traffic, but not your average trying-to-merge-on-to-90/94-from-290 traffic. It does take longer to creep along 90 or 94 or 290 to your exit, and on this road in Dakar there is movement. Motorcycles and scooters are zooming up the middle of the two lanes of stopped cars and there are people siting walking all over. In fact, there are people walking up to your taxi window trying to sell you the most random shit ever: bath towels, flip-flips, hangers, coffee makers, little boy polo shirts, ironing boards, brooms and dustpans. Um, like, where did you get this stuff? “Non, merci” over and over again because you would die if you put your window up all the way. I do need hangers and I kinda wanted that steamer, but I can’t imagine bartering through a cab window. And I’m not so good at bartering, as we learned with the phone thing.
Aaaaand I’m rambling. So we get to La Place d’Independance, pay the 3000 francs, and work our way through the crowded streets to the citibank sign. On the way, I meet Yoyo, who I will tell you about after. It’s a real hassle getting into citibank. The first doors we go through are guarded by a man wanted to search our purses, but doesn’t speak English (which of course is totally fair and understandable but we were very confused and hesitant because UMm WHY are you trying to take the bag I am guarding with my entire body on this packed sidewalk?!) Luckily another man in a nice collared shirt and dress pants who works for Citibank and who does speak English explains that our purses must be searched before we can enter those doors. Okay, fine. We go in only turn right around because a very tall guard tells us we must go through the other entrance to open an account. Oh, okay. We find the English-speaking guy in a collared shirt and dress pants again, and he takes us to the other entrance around the corner, inside, up the teeniest-tiniest elevator I’ve ever seen -let alone been in- [Seriously, this thing was like 4ft x 3ft and the three of us not big people had to squish to fit.], through a gate that we had to trade our licences for admittance, and up to a woman behind a large crescent-shaped desk. This nice woman then proceeds to tell us that the only clients permitted to this Citibank are companies. In other words, they do not work with particulars. In other other words, I cannot open an account unless I am doing so for an entire enterprise. So I’ll have to take my monthly $900 somewhere else.
What do I do now? I’m not entirely sure. If I can use the app to deposit my checks into my original Citibank account, that would be fabulous. But I have a feeling it won’t work with currency difference. Hm, well, I have until December to figure it out.
Wow, this is going to be a long post. Let’s talk about Yoyo. I met him on the super crowed street while on the way to Citibank. He showed me the art inside the folder he was carrying with him: images of Senegalese life made from the wings of dead (not killed) butterflies. That, along with his super excellent English skills, had me -and thus also Maria- following him along the street to his shop exhibition. Maria was not impressed at first, but I was getting good vibes right away. She warmed up to him, I think. As we walked down the streets filled with people and stuff and cars and more people and kinda different stuff, Yoyo was our private tour guide: “This is the Moroccan side street”, “This building was constructed in the 1940s; it’s very old”. He is filled with all kinds of information about Senegal, and probably other things too, and talked the whole way to big doorway that opened up to many smaller rooms. The room farthest back was filled with handmade Senegalese art: sand paintings, glass paintings, fabrics, statues. I talked to Samba who said that we are like family so he’ll give me a good price. I didn’t have much money -definitely not as much as he was asking- so I told him I would come back. Maria ended up buying a fabric and I used all of my cash (5000 francs) to buy one of Yoyo’s pieces. I felt that was who I ought to buy from since he brought us there and talked to us and all. Overall I thought it was great! We worked on our bartering skills (it was easy for me since I honestly only had 5000 francs) and made some cool friends. Samba gave me his number, but since asked me if I had a husband I will probably hold off on that one. I made sure to get Yoyo’s business card, and I will probably text him one of these days. He’s super cool, super nice, super knowledgable, and super not-trying-to-touch-me. He said he would take us to one of the many music festivals since Senegal is the music capital of West Africa. He also does tours of the southern part of Senegal, where he is from. That could just perfect, since, as Yoyo said, “Dakar is not Senegal.” We shall see with this Ebola thang and my not making a lot of money thang and all.
Oh! And then Maria bought us ice cream and I will pay her back when I get to the ATM near my apartment. And then we took a scary taxi ride home where we almost hit the car in front of us and almost got hit by a truck because he tried to pass the car in front of us at not a good time.
Whew! I’m sure the grammar of this post gets worse as it goes but I only proofread when I think of it as I go, so just deal with it!
I’m off to read middle school science book, yay!
The first major battle of the war
Today will officially be known as The Battle of September 2nd. Somehow three of the Enemy infiltrated my fortress. That’s right, I woke up just before 5 this morning because three mosquitoes were INSIDE my princess-esque netting. In other words, I had managed to trap them in with me. My feet and legs were itching like mad. I had to get up, turn the light on, and commence battle. A lot of blood was shed from both sides. I killed all three invaders, but left little spots of my own blood on the white netting where I squished them. I also got three or four others that were awaiting the return of the trespassers. I checked the grounds for any survivors; upon finding none, the battle was over. And I went back to sleep.
Though I won this round, I did suffer some casualties - my left big toe, both butt cheeks, both sides of my right ankle, and more. I’m praying for full recoveries.Why didn’t I buy the proper big spray or hydrocortisone?!?!
The War continues…