This past weekend, my friends and I went to Saint Louis/Ndar in the northern part of Senegal to escape the hustle and bustle of Dakar. Saint Louis is also where Younnouss Seye, the artist I am looking for as part of my research, was born.
I heard lots of good things about Ndar: a coastal city, built at the same time the French colonizers build New Orleans in the United States, similar architecture, beautiful views…
In order to get to Ndar (which is what you call Saint Louis in Wolof) from Dakar, there are a couple of transportation options. 1) You can take a bus called “Dakar dem dikk”; 2) You can take a smaller vehicle called a Set Plaas.
There are pros and cons to each option:
1) Dakar dem dikk
– Cheaper option; 3,000CFA, one-way
– Possibly air conditioned
– Leaves twice per day (7am & 3pm *ish*)
– If you do not get there SUPER early, you are not guaranteed a seat; no advanced ticket purchase available
– Stops in every city along the way to Ndar, which means it takes ~6 hours+ if there are no outstanding issues such as a breakdown (which is likely)
2) Set Plaas
– more expensive; 5,000CFA/person + possible surcharge for luggage/bags
– not air conditioned
– can leave as soon as 6 other people are going to the same place
– guaranteed a seat, but not a set time to leave because you’re waiting on other people to join the car.
– goes directly to the gaas (bus station) in Saint Louis with almost no stops in between (the exception is prayer time)
Since we were all going to the same place and there were 6 of us, we just paid for the 7th seat in the car and went ahead on our trip. It also gave us a *smidge* more room because only the middle seat had 3 people in it. The back had two people, and then someone sat in the front seat next to the driver.
Along the way, there were a few pauses because the driver had to show identification and explain where we were going. The highways in Senegal are not free and open for anyone to travel on; drivers have to collect special tickets, almost like toll roads or turnpikes in the U.S. But this system is much more informal, requiring person-to-person interaction between the driver and the police or ticket collectors along the way.
When we arrived at the gaas (bus station), our hosts for the Airbnb picked us up and drove us to the house we rented for the weekend.
Here are some photos to give an idea of how far out of town we all were:
Mosquito nets are a hardline requirement for sleeping in Senegal, especially as we near the rainy season.
This is the outdoor washing area for both dishes and clothes. The only sink in the house was in the bathroom.
Each of us spend a significant amount of time in this hammock. I wrote in my journal and read a lot.
The kitchen of the house. To the left is the gas stove, the only one we’ve seen in a residence since coming here. Last year, my homestay had a gas stove just like this, but this year all of our families do their cooking over a single burner attached to a propane tank. To use the stove pictured here, I had to turn on the propane and use matches to light the burners.
The house was solar powered and only had one outlet for charging electronics.
When we arrived, our host offered to take us to a “grocery” to get food for dinner; none of us had brought anything more than snacks from Dakar because there was no way to keep food cold. In addition, two people in our group are vegan and one is gluten free so I had to keep that in mind when buying ingredients. Below is the “grocery store” we went to in the village:
The next day, we phoned a local taxi to take us from the house to Saint Louis/Ndar, a 15-20km drive. First, we went to the fishing village across the bridge from the city center.
I should also point out, many people think that the architectural style in Saint Louis/Ndar mirrors the style of New Orleans or looks mostly like the photos below:
… but much of the Centre Ville (city center) look like the following photos:
…especially this one. Many of the buildings in the French architectural style are losing their structural integrity and you can see the bricks showing through the concrete facades. It’s a testament to how recently colonial powers were present in Senegal, but also how countries like France have actively neglected their responsibilities to pay reparations for the damage inflicted by colonialism and neocolonial ideology and practices.
My favorite part about the house we rented in Saint Louis/Ndar was the secluded-ness. We weren’t near the noise of the city center, and the ocean was a short walk away from the front door.
My next post will be more about my experience in my language classes and homestay, to give you a better idea of a day-in-my-life in Dakar.