Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Try A Few Times And Then You'll Succeed

Let's continue off where we left off. After Thies and Keur Moussa, we were off for St-Louis. Before leaving though, we went to a small market where I discovered the art of bargaining. Bargaining is not what I expected. It wasn't hard, but it was stressful. They always made you feel bad. But I was proud of myself when I got some good purchases. Also, I asked my boyfriend to bargain for me when I was too freaked out. Once, I asked a vendor why they weren't able to give a fixed price and he asked me where the fun is in that. At that moment I discovered that this stressful yet amusing way of trading was a social experience where you got to talk to people. Isn't that a great excuse to talk to someone!

Anyways, after a long bus ride filled with sleep (I slept all the time on the bus) we finally arrived at St-Louis where we went to a small restaurant where we ate something else than fish that sadly made our stomachs mad. We spent our afternoon walking around the small colonial island and discovering more about the past. I really liked this city, mostly because it had a history where women were quite important. Indeed, there were groups of half African, half Portuguese women who were basically ran the place because of the lack of men. I sadly don't remember more, but if it might interest you, you can go check out the Signares on the Interweb.

We then spent a night in a hotel that seemed nice at first but at second thought was kind of creepy. A's room was infiltrated that night and she sadly got her bag stolen which really sucks at least no one got hurt. After our beauty sleep, we were on the road again. This time, we were going to the desert of Lompoul. It was mind blowing! First, we met up with some locals who talked to us about their tree plantation project to protect the villages from becoming total desert. After taking a truck ride through the site, we were off on a 3 hours walk to our camping ground... in the desert. For the first hour and a half, we went through the bush, but then we went up this hill and there it was: the endless sand and camels in the distance. It was incredible. In the evening, I paced through the infinite dunes with a friend. It was so big yet I felt almost claustrophobic. It was the weirdest feeling. I think this was one of the highlights of my trip. The next day we went to Lompoul on camels. It was a blast! We got to spend the afternoon in a secluded part of the village where we cooked and harvested onions with the women under a beautiful tree. After a good but slightly sandy meal, we met the chief who told us all about his village and his misogynistic values. It was interesting to discover different mentalities, but very irritating too. Later, we arrived in Mbour where we stayed in a resort-like hotel. It was nice because we got to relax for the first time since the beginning of the trip, but I also felt like a snob for being in such an environment.

On April 4th was Independence day and there was lots of celebration. We, on the other hand, were off to a secluded yet touristic place: Lake Retba, a pink lake (purple depending on the weather). It was very quiet but our route their wasn't. Our driver accidentally went through the national parade and people started hitting our bus and yelling at us. I felt awful. We finally got out and it was cool to be by the water and hang out. We hung out a long time there though because our bus conked out on us. So we had to wait for two smaller buses to pick us up. Meanwhile, we were in the middle of nowhere and we had nothing to do. It was fun at first because I joked around with my friends, but after a while it got very tiring. My friends and I waited a total of 5 hours before arriving back to the hotel. I was happy to be back especially because I had been to that hotel before at the beginning of our trip.

On our final day, we went to the island of Gorée. It was a beautiful island, but I didn't want to stay too long. The beautiful colors of the island hid a dark past that saddened me. Gorée used to be a slavery island when the Portuguese colonized. This visit opened my eyes on the dehumanizing lives people had to live in for over 500 years. It was sad for the people who were slaves, but it was sad to know how ignorant the white people were and how there were able to live with this cruelty on there conscience.

The next day, we went to the beach for the last time before heading back to Canada and back to what seemed to be reality. This trip was so amazing. It made me feel so uplifted and happy about myself. On the other hand, I was also made me realize the harsh conditions of the world and how we are so unbelievably lucky. This conclusion might sound cheesy to you but it's the truth. Traveling made me learn more than I ever learned in school. That's why I want to travel as much as possible.

PS: I forgot to mention I went to an animal reserve. I don't know when we went but I did go and it was awesome!

My friend was bargaining with this man that reminded me of my dad. Not only his appearance but with his body language too. It was quite funny. I had to buy a necklace from him.

All of the above: St-Louis


Parc Djoudj

Lake Retba (the white foam is mostly salt!)


Monday, April 22, 2013

If You Want Something In Life, Ask.

I finally started recovering from my trip. It was really harsh coming back and going to school, but it was all worth it! It was indeed the best trip I ever went on. Not only was it nice to get away from my parents and be with my friends, but it taught me so many things and made me feel overall much better than I have been in the last year or so.

Our trip was separated into two parts. Today, I'm going to tell you all about the first part (the first few days). The trip started off pretty rough 'cause we traveled for 19 hours which included 8 hours of waiting at Charles-de-Gaulle. Ugh...That was long! But when we arrived in Dakar I finally realized why it was worth the "torture". The first thing I noticed when I stepped out of the plane was the smell. It was a strong smell alright. It wasn't gross or anything, but it wasn't charming either. It was the scent of sea water, humidity and fish. Delicious, don't you think?

I got used to it very quickly. Or let's just say I was too busy being impressed by this new place I was in. We were in the bus on the way to our hotel and I couldn't believe what I was getting into. The buildings were all demolished, there was trash all over and poor people all over. I was shocked and scared and amazed all at once. I had never seen something quite like this before. I later grew to find it very normal. We even came back to the hotel at the end of the trip and the neighborhood seemed much "richer" and safer than everything we had seen.

The next day, we were already off visiting Dakar. Le phare des mamelles, la mosquée des mamelles, la statue de la renaissance, etc. It was all very beautiful and fascinating. We spent one last night there before leaving for our next destination: Thies and Keur Moussa. Some of my best memories were there. The first day we went to a catholic monastery. It was absolutely gorgeous and peaceful. We walked around and got to eat grapefruit out of the tree. They were surprisingly very sweet. Later that day we met up with the students of a vocational school and we visited a rug museum and a small market which was nice, because I got to discover more about Senegalese handcraft art and about the general culture by talking to the youngsters. After that we went to our hostile and some scouts joined us to do a show. In reality it wasn't really a show, it was a group activity including singing and dancing. That day filled my heart up with so much joy. You couldn't imagine how happy I was.

The next day, we went back to the vocational school. We spent half the day planting trees and painting a building. It wasn't charity work or anything, it was more a way to connect more with the people there. In the afternoon, we danced and played sports and danced once more. They played drums while we learned some new footsteps. I am proud to say that many people said I moved like an African woman and was a great dancer. I felt so honored! To be honest, I just loved the integration of dance in their everyday lives. They danced all the time. It wasn't considered a performance art, but more of a way of letting out your emotions and feeling rejoiced. It made me realized how important this activity was in my life. Therefore, I will probably study dance when I finish high school. A. and I even got some kind of a grant to join the Montreal Contemporary Dance School. Anyways, this trip really opened my eyes on how much of a passion dance is to me. And thus, I finish part one.

Before I leave here are two quotes some guys told me at the school. It's as if they were meant for me.

"If you want something in life ask or else nothing will ever happen."

"Nothing is impossible. You just have to try a few times before you succeed."