Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Street Scam

Day 2 in Senegal- Taken advantage of

This evening i decided to go for a walk down by the beach to see if i could find a good break for surfing and found a decent break about a 1/4 mile from my friends house.  The waves were about knee high and there was a bodyboarder and a kneeboarder taking turns.  The rides weren't that long but it was doable.  I talked to a guy that worked at a bar in front of the break and he said there was a swell coming in and the break worked best at high tide (around 10 am tomorrow). 

I walked down the beach another 1/4 mile and just over a small hill from the last break was a larger sandy beach with about waist high sets breaking about 50 meters from some rocks.  with a different tide and larger sets it could be a long, fast hollow wave.  Nobody was on it, so maybe there was some other hidden danger i couldn't see. 

As i approached the beach a guy was walking past me and stopped me by asking what i thought of the waves.  Since surfing is my favorite topic and it gave me a chance to practice my french i decided to see what he had to say.  He agreed with the previous prediction of a coming swell and said he could show me a better break up the road.  As we walked i asked him questions about surfing since he said he surfed too but he had no ideas about the famous breaks by Ngor.  Since his english was pretty good (he was correcting my french in english) i asked him what he did for a living.  When he responded that he was a tour guide i knew that he was going to try to scam me.  But i decided to play along just to see what it was like to be scammed and because i he was easy to talk to and i could practice my french.  Back in the states people were paying $80 an hour for a french tutor, so this would be a bargain!
We walked up the the next rise along the beach and even though it provided a better viewpoint of the coast, there werent any better waves.  After talking about the monument and the other cool things you could see from that point, about 30 minutes after i met the guy he pulls a necklace out of his pocket and tells me he wants to give me a present.  I should have walked away again, but i wanted to see how this would play out.

After he had put it around my neck after my mild protests, i started to thank him for his time and walk away but he stopped me.  He said he was giving me this present because his wife just gave birth to his first son, named Mustafa, and he was going to have a big party for all his relatives and he wanted me to give him a gift.  I decided to give him 1000 CFAs and when i pulled the note out of my pocket he saw i had another bill in my pocket too.  He took the 1000 CFA note and rubbed it on my forehead, then his own and declared it was a way to bless me or pray for me.  He insisted it was his culture to bring good luck or blessings to have rub money on my forehead and his.  He then asked to see the other note so he could pray for it too.  I told him no and walked away, but he ran right after me and became more and more insistant in his need to bless my money and that i was offending him and his culture by not letting him see my money.  After him following me and becoming more aggressive and as we were out of sight from the road and others i decided to give in and see if he would do what i thought he would.  I handed him the 2000 CFA note and he rubbed it on my forehead, then his own, then put it in his pocket.  Exactly what i thought he would do. 

I asked for my money back but he said he needed it to buy couscous for all his family coming to the party.  As it was getting dark i walked away quickly back to the road and he finally left me alone. 
I knew what was going to happen based on what others had told me, but i wanted to try it out for myself and experience it firsthand.  I figured i only had 3000 CFAs to risk and it was a good french lesson as well as street scams.  Besides this event, which i willingly walked into, Dakar has been a great place so far.  The people are friendly, the food is good, and it looks like good waves are on the way.

1 comment:

  1. Just found your blog, looking forward to sharing in your adventures (and misadventures) this year. Take care!! (Some self defense classes might have benefited as well as scuba lessons)