Senegal has by far surpassed my expectations - which to be honest, were nil - that said, come to Senegal! It is a dynamic country balancing between West African, French, and Arab roots. The population speaks French and Wolof, is primarily Muslim, very tall, loves music, football, and food.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Cheick, the head of security for West Africa for the company Google contracts with. Typically he is not a driver but due to the security mix up the night before, he was assigned to my case. Cheick is awesome - super smart, fun insightful and honest. Normally drivers stay in the car and wait for clients, but as I don't like people waiting for me, Cheick has become a partner in adventure, tour guide and friend.
Sunday we spent the day exploring the site including a gorgeous mosque in a fishing village, a small island with cobble stone streets and fantastic beaches, and shared a delicious fish grilled on the beach. Monday I met up with the the two Googlers in Senegal, finally in the flesh - Tidjane and Ayite - who are stunning people, great hosts and fantastic dancers (as proven last night :)
This week has been spent balancing engaging in office debates, working, and exploring Dakar. It is a vibrant city with tantalizing french-african food, music streaming from every sidewalk, poorly preserved but captivating French colonial buildings, perfect running weather and beautiful beaches.
The streets of Dakar host anything from mercedes to horse and cart. Each corner has a fruit stand, someone selling mobile phone pre-paid scratch cards, and often a big Senegalese man wearing a t-shirt with an English saying on it unaware of it's means. The best I have heard of yet is a huge 6ft 4 guy sporting the saying "Grandma's don't always look this good."
Today was a bank holiday so less working. I took a ferry to Goree Island to visit the slavery museum and old french town - I was accompanied by a PeaceCorp worker Jackie and her mom, who I met through a friend earlier on in the week. Upon my return to the mainland, Cheick met me. I asked for some traditional Senegalese food. Cheick quickly made some calls and we ended up at a house in a bustling neighborhood. His mom, two aunts and cousins greeted us at the door, and fed us some delicious fish and rice. His mom works at the airport but is a seamstress on the side. Before I left, she showed me her items prepared for the market, had me try them on. As a parting guilt, she gave me an outfit despite my pleas to pay. Then Cheick and I headed to the beach and his best friend's house to play music, sing and drink tea - amazing.
Tomorrow, post work, I am headed to a southern island with Tidjane, his wife, Ayite and girlfriend for two days to relax, go kayaking and visit some villages. We will be about 30 minutes from Gambia which is an anglophone country completely incased by Senegal - I might have to stop by. Regardless, given my company, it will be an amazing weekend.
Yep, I could live here. I need to learn French.