Returning Home: A Place I Have Never Been
My trip to Senegal was amazing! I’ve always wanted to go to Africa. I have this desperate need to know where I am from. Not necessarily my Haitian roots because my parents made sure I knew it, but the roots of ancestors from long ago. At first, I didn’t have a specific area that I wanted to go to, I just knew that I had to make it on the soil and everything else would fall in place.
When I first landed at the Dakar, Senegal airport, I was tied as hell! My legs wanted to touch land so bad I couldn’t even begin to tell you. I am not meant to be on a plane for a long period of time. I want to give a special shout out to Delta Airline (it was a wonderful flight there.) When I arrived at my destination, that’s; when my brain kicked in. That’s when I remembered that I was on the continent of Africa. I was home. I can not begin to tell you the feeling you get when you’ve returned home to a place you have never been. It’s like everything, the air, the water, the sounds, the soil all of it says welcome home. I was literally fighting back tears of nostalgia.
As we move into me getting my bags, I realize how little French I knew, and how little my creole was going to help me. The first test of my French speaking skills was in customs, the customs agent had a little attitude because I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Point is, I ended up calling my friend so she could speak to this person and give him the information he wanted to know. Nevertheless, I made it through customs, got my bags and was outside waiting for my friend to pick me up. I was totally psyched when I saw my friends! A familiar face.
Now, I don’t want anyone to think that you must speak French, or Wolof (the main language that is spoken), but you should try to immerse yourself in the culture. Although my French wasn’t strong, I totally tried my best and the natives were extremely nice and helpful. They didn’t make me feel bad, they gave me words when I was stuck, and they totally tried to understand me as I butchered the language.
The day I landed was when the adventure began. My friend picked me up, with her uncle and off to Senegal we were. Her uncle being a Senegal native knew a lot of its history, so we were well informed on the history of the places we were visiting. The first day I saw the Mosque of the Divinity and walked along it’s beach where boats are made, and fish are brought to shore, The African Renaissance Monument, I visited the Université cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), and had drinks and dessert at one of Senegal’s Five Star Hotels Dakars Terrou-BI Hotel Casino and Marina. My friend and I stayed with her family and a mutual friend’s family during the duration of our trip.
On the second day of my trip I was so grateful that it was peaceful. I was feeling a bit run down. At this point, my jet lag and lack of sleep was catching up with me in the form of a cold. I hadn’t slept well and I was so tired when I did finally get up. So on this day, I slept a lot during the day. Not to say that we did not go out and explore the beautiful city of Dakar, but most of the day was spent inside. The hosting family threw a party for us on this day. Which was great! It gave us an opportunity to rest and still have fun! The party was a great opportunity for like minded women to get together and let their hair down. Accompanied by old school vs new school music, great food, and wonderful conversations. This was a really great way to commemorate day two in Senegal.
Much like day one, day three was another jam packed day. The first thing I had the opportunity to see was Lake Retba (Lac Rose), also known as The Pink Lake of Senegal. Much to my surprise the lake was actually PINK!! - Due to its high salt content, the water has the perfect living conditions for a certain kind of micro-algae called dunaliella salina. The presence of these organisms is what gives the lake its pink hue. It was really cool! I really wanted to go into the lake, but I was told that I would need to lather up with Shea Butter for that to happen. The water is so salty that it would cause damage to my skin. Another thing that was really cool was the salt dunes! Because the lake has such a high salt content, the salt is extracted by the locals and placed into sand dunes on the shore.
After our time at the lake, we felt it fitting to find food. Around the area of the lake there are several restaurants where you can choose to eat. The next destination was: The Factory. The Factory is the major area in Dakar where all street vendors get their merchandises from. All goods from hand carved figurines to handmade purses and wallets can be found at The Factory. Of course I couldn’t leave there without buying a couple of souvenirs. The last destination of the day was one of the many fabric stores that are in Dakar. The fabric store we went to had been a favorite of one my friends and she said it was a must! And of course, I couldn’t leave without buying a couple dresses. And once the day was over, my friends and I continued on and experienced some Dakar nightlife.
Day five was an early one. This was the day that we went to the island of Gorée. My experience on Gorée Island was a good one, but not the best. Gorée island is a small island is off the coast of Senegal. It was once one of the largest slave-trading centers. There were tons of things to be seen on the island and so much history to be learned. It was very easy to find a tour guide once you reached the island. I was not able to see the main tourist attraction which was “The House of Slaves Museum” where the “The Door of no Return" was held. Because I didn’t get to see the “House of Slaves Museum” this guarantees my return to Senegal. During this evening of this day, I had the privilege to both attend and participate in a poetry reading. The poems that were read were written by the Poet Rumi. The poem that I read for the crowd can be found on my Instagram page.
The sixth day was a really good one. I got my hair twisted; and of course if I’m in Senegal, it was only right that I get some Senegalese twists. Like all braiding experiences, it’s a long process by the time I was done, I was tired and hungry. However, it did end up faster than I thought it would be. They had multiple people working on my hair at one time so it was quicker than normal. After my hair had been laid down, my friends and I of course went on a day cruise. The cruise was operated by Optimum Pixel in Dakar- Senegal. This was one of the best cruise experiences that I’ve had in awhile. The captain and first mate of the boat where awesome. They kept us informed on the history of the objects that we were passing. They kept us thoroughly entertained and even let us take a turn at steering the boat. The water view of the beautiful city of Dakar wasn’t enough, the music was a great mix of everything and kept you wanting to move. I even took the names of some artists for my own music library.
Before I end this post I have to thank the people who made this trip what it was. I of course don’t put names in any of my posts (besides my own), but I still want to thank the families that took me and my friends in.They took us in and made us feel like we were part of the family. I never once felt un-welcomed at any house I slept in and I am so grateful. I am grateful for my friends’ uncle, who played the tour guide and was so excited show us Senegal. This was an amazing trip and I am nothing but excited to go back and see more of the many countries on the African continent.