We arrive at 5:30 a.m. and it is still dark and cool. Customs and baggage pickup take less than 10 minutes and out into the press of multitudes outside the airport. The press of persistent men refusing to accept, ”Nonnumeric”, men selling phone cards, exchanging $$, saying that they have known you all of your life. The exact same press as in any other country comprised of poor people trying to survive; this is an airport outside of the U.S., be it in Bulgaria, Botswana, or Brazil. People with little money but plenty of game, serving those who have much.
Makeda and the ABC guide M’Backe greet me. I quickly exchange some $$ (I love the street $$ exchange part of traveling) and off to the tiny hotel on the beach near the airport Cap Ouest in Yoff Village.
Then off to Dakar to get the phone and internet service. As we drive into town I notice HUNDREDS of men jogging, springing, doing bench presses and all sorts of physical raining along the miles of beach coast of Dakar. In Dakar every man is “in training” and thousands spend part of each day exercising at the beach, on the special gym equipment built into the sand. But Senegal continues to be plagued with diabetes and high blood pressure—a result of the high sugar, white rice and bread.
We pass a huge bronze-like statute of a man, woman and child. M’Backe does not know the name of it but refers to it as the African Family.
Makeda and I have lunch with a Senegalese couple with whom I have mutual friends. The husband, Douda, has gotten his Ph.D. from Harvard after spending over 6 years studying the malaria parasite. His wife Fran is an OB/GYN And works for Intra-Health. She is very familiar with the state of medical care services for women in general and pregnant women, new mothers and infants in particular. We discuss prenatal care in Senegal and the U.S., and the state of life for Black Americans with Obama while we enjoy yassa and ginger beer.
Back to the hotel to wait for Nikki Plaskett for dinner. But the ocean calls and I have to put my body in it. The waves are rough and the beach is rocky and there are no swimmers, only surfers out; plus it is winter and the water is COLD. I walk out until the water is waist high (on my tippy toes–cold water) practicing in my head the visualization that I use with my clients during birth; comparing contractions to building waves and he moment the contraction peaks as the time to soften yourself for the wave and pushing off from the bottom and going where the wave takes you……Yes, it works in reality body surfing! When I crawl out of the ocean’s grasp there is just enough time to get ready for dinner.
Arthur and his older son Ari Noble arrive to get me. I have known Arthur for about 5 years (I was the birth assistant at Ari’s birth) and I have never seen him so happy, relaxed and at peace. He and his wife Nikki and their 2 sons moved to Dakar from St. Croix in November for about 1 year. They are staying in a hotel that is being finished in the Yoff Village. We have dinner on the roof, watch the sun set and listen to the numerous mosques call followers to prayer. We discuss their decision to move here, their recent trip to St. Louis (I hear it has architecture similar to New Orleans), and how this time with the boys is so special. In fact Nikkie and her entire family will join us in Kafountine on Feb. 5th!
Back to the hotel and bed. The plane for Ziguinchor leaves at 8:00 a.m.
At 3:45 a.m. there is a knock on the door and it is Jessica Johnson.