View from my Apartment
Around lunch i started to get hungry so i decided to go to the local supermarket to buy some bleach, bread, and vegetables- but i couldn’t find the huge Casino supermarket downtown. After walking for 30 mins and ignoring all the people who wanted me as their friend to buy something from them, a man named Ali asked if i was a guest at the hotel where he worked. It was a different approach and i figured if he thought i was a guest at the hotel he wouldn’t try to take advantage of me. He mentioned his African garb was required as a worker at the hotel and i complimented him on his appearance as it was nice and he offered to help me find the market.
Instead of taking me to the Casino supermarket he took me to a huge outdoor market downtown. Ali, my guide, said it was one of the largest ones around and was more than a square kilometer in size. He asked what i wanted to buy and we set off in search of bleach. After visiting 4 or 5 stalls on the main road, we headed of into the darker and narrower allies, until we were walking behind the stalls and buildings. Even these little places didn’t have bleach. I was getting worried as this was getting more precarious and Ali was talking mostly Wolof to the people in the shops so I couldn’t understand what was going on.
Eventually Ali guided me back onto the main road of the market in front of a large textile factory, which according to Ali, belonged to his father. Ali led me into the building and it was packed with people, fabric, and sewing machines. On each floor of the five-floor building were rooms full of young men and their sewing machines. They sewed all kinds of local clothing and more western attire as well. They made bags, blankets, towels- everything you could think of. I don’t think it was sweatshop, but in Africa it was hot and everyone was sweating (but keeping their work clean). In the middle of the tour one of the shopkeepers from the open-air market showed up with a bottle of bleach and said it cost 4000 CFAs (about $8 for a 1 little bottle). I countered by saying that i had seen it in the stores for 2000 CFAs, but Ali said he would settle it at 3000 CFAs- a compromise. I went along with it as the guy had to run to the nearby Casino supermarket and track us down to get it to me (that must have been their conversation in Wolof, Ali would steer me away to his shop and his buddy would run to the store and they would meet up at the factory- I must have SUCKER written all over me).
Ali then began his sales pitch to get me to buy several of his shirts at a great price he would negotiate for me. He wouldn't tell me how much the shirts cost until i found one that i liked and then he stated they cost 15,000 CFAs ($30) each, and i should buy several. We negotiated some and i stuck firm at 5000 CFAs, which he finally accepted. He kept pressuring me to get more, but i reassured him that i would be back since he had showed me his great factory and i would be living here for a year. He probably didnt believe i would be back because most of the people around here (i found out later in the day) get the same shirts for about 2000 CFAs.
Later that afternoon i fought my way through traffic to Les Almadies to go surfing for the first time in Africa. I stopped at the first break that had people on it and struggled to catch some waves, but it was dominated by lightweight kids on bodyboards who managed to float above the coral to get on the wave. Eventually i shifted over to a spot right in front of the bar on the beach to where a couple surfers were catching some overhead waves. I quickly discovered that you had to take are hard right as soon as the wave broke because you were 50 feet from the rocks. And that was just the visible danger- i caught one wave and bailed I thought a safe distance from the rocks but was pushed into some rocks just under the surface and found some sea urchins who embedded a couple quills in my hand. I still surfed until dark.
I hope i figure this place out soon.