getting comfortable

It took me a while to relax. You can actually defuse the street life (well, there is that one guy who spits at me still) by smiling and indulging them a little. I have resorted to babbling in english and that helps. But generally, if you throw an arm around them and take them out for a beer they revert to their natural senegalese hospitable selves. You've also got to pay cab fares and buy lunches -- but why not.

But those are the ones that are chasing you. If you have reason to approach a senegalese, then they all turn out to be interested and charming. I had some advice in Paris before I left: "Don't trust anyone who approaches you, but you can trust anyone you approach" and it's absolutely right. I've met a couple of folks that have helped me sort out the Dakar online guide, and a particularly nice French guy and his sister.

I guess you also get used to the reality of the desperate poverty here -- a recent phenomenon they say. Everyone is trying to sell something indiscriminately -- from peanuts, to flowers, to fluorescent lamps and cutting shears. They swarm over the streets or wait on the roadside. Beggars are everywhere and the kids are only about six or so. I have seen this before, but I've never been quite the object of such desperation before.

Taking time, talking with them, and indulging in their elaborate rituals of making tea brings Dakar into focus.