Friday, November 1, 2013

The Warring Factions Mostly Fight Each Other, but Occasional Tourist Deaths are Inevitable: A Travel Guide to Dakar, Senegal

Dear Friends,

People of Ann Arbor, you've had over a year to make nice with our Japanese Sister City. Are you ready to bond with our newest metro-sibling, Dakar?

When the West African city became our Li'l Sis in 1997, the hose of cultural dialogue between Ann Arbor and Dakar gushed freely. Regrettably, that stream has slowed to a awkward trickle. Today, let's put our big American thumbs over the mouth of that hose and squirt some high-pressure blasts of intercontinental intercourse at each other!

People of Dakar, I offer you this month's Hard Taco song,  “Baobab Weep,” in honor of the mighty baobab trees that you probably had to cut down to make room for your own Sister Cities sign.  I'd also like to take this opportunity to share with my readers what I've learned about your enchanting little whistle-stop.

Dakar is a multicultural, diverse city full of vibrant arts and traditions!  From the bustling markets of Marche Sandaga to the bustling thieves' dens of the Ouakam district, the people of Dakar know their way around a good bustle. The vast Atlantic coastline offers a pristine haven to watch seabirds and hear a local storyteller make boring-ass allegories about them.

Dakar, Senegal - Quick Facts/Theories 
Population: 2,476,400
Languages: Wolof, but they talk to tourists in French
Emblem: A beggar being pickpocketed by a benevolent tsetse fly
Flower: The Phallic Mangrove
Nickname: Dakar Noir, the classic fragrance by Guy LaRoche
Motto:  “The police force are useless for your safety, but if you speak French, they are good for asking directions.”
Exports: Empty mosquito repellent bottles, gum arabic, Manchester United shirts, conflict diamonds, biodiversity, leprosy clinical trial volunteers
Municipal anthem: “Pluck all your koras (eyebrow hairs), strike all your balafons (sexy poses)"

Politics: Dakar is the capital of Senegal and the home of both the president and prime minister. For decades, both positions have been held by members of the Lâcheté (Cowardice) Party, one of the many holdovers from the French Occupation.

Food and Drink:
Malnourishment is rare, but hunger is common, owing to Dakar's position as the westernmost city in Africa. An easterly wind occasionally carries the distant smells of Chik-fil-A up from the Atlantic. Predictably, this leads to devastating city-wide epidemics of mouth-watering.

Tourists should avoid drinking tap water, except on a dare. While it is unlikely to contain virulent microorganisms, the Dakar water supply is often contaminated with dauntingly large macroorganisms. It is not uncommon to lift a full glass to the lips only to discover that its entire contents are two massive amoebas clanging together. 

Soccer, which they call "foot-ballsport," is the national pastime. They take it so seriously that most Senegalese foosball tables have a line of three plastic men faking knee injuries.

Dakar is home to the world-famous Steam Bar. The room is kept at just over 100 degrees Celsius. The bar, table, stools, chairs and glasses are all made of steam, and the drinks are pre-boiled. This is fortunate, because most mixed drinks contain at least one shot-glass of giant amoeba. 

Useful phrases for Americans in Dakar:

Bonjour, je représente une organisation appelée "Dickheads sans frontières."
Hello, I represent an organization called "Dickheads Without Borders."

Ça vous dérange si mon mari pose pour une photo à côté de votre disparité socio-économique?
Do you mind if my husband poses for a picture next to your socioeconomic disparity?

Votre hospitalité est renommée. Oui, j'aimerais un repas traditionnel des boulettes de poisson et de riz à la pointe du fusil.
Your hospitality is renowned. Yes, I would love a traditional meal of fish balls and rice at gunpoint.

Vos lamas vont mourir, mais vous devez envoyer Heifer International une note de remerciement.
I realize that llamas can’t survive in this climate, but it wouldn’t kill you to send Heifer International a thank you note.

Vous avez raison de dire que ce sont drones américains tête. Essayez de regarder occupé.
You are correct that those are U.S. drones overhead. Try to look busy.

Je suis désolé d'apprendre que la paix dernier Corp bénévole juste assis autour et fumé toute votre marijuana. 
Nous allons essayer de faire mieux.
I am sorry to hear that the last Peace Corp Volunteer just sat around and smoked all your weed. We will try to do better.

Pouvez-vous croire que les filles équipe de plongée de Pioneer a gagné de nouveau en 2006?
Can you believe the Pioneer Girls Swim and Dive team won nationals again in 2006?

Plus, a few time-tested pickup lines:

Vous ne serez pas attraper scrumpox parce que j'ai des herbes dans mon pantalon.
You will probably not catch scrumpox from me, for I just applied an herbal remedy in the bathroom. 

Vos yeux énormes me font penser à un bébé occupé suscité.
Your enormous eyes remind me of a bushbaby in heat.

Aucun de nous comme parler de navires négriers.
I couldn't help but notice that you seem very uncomfortable discussing the history of the slave trade here. 
That makes two of us!

Puis-je vous acheter une amibe taille de balles de golf et tonique?
Can I buy you a golf-ball sized amoeba and tonic?

Non, Cal Tech a été mon école de sauvegarde.
No, Cal Tech was my safety school.

With warmest regards,