Friday, January 21, 2005

The Spirit Of Saint-Louis

The old colonial city of Saint-Louis was the capital of French West Africa until around 1900, and of Senegal until around 1960. Then there was benign neglect, which means that now it is a town of genteelly shabby nineteenth century buildings and balconies. It's on an island in the middle of the Senegal River, and my hotel is at the northern end, looking out to the Atlantic over the horizon with its memories of times past.

Eid is the one day in the Moslem year when everything shuts down, so I am glad to be here on my day off. Even the internet places are closed, so the hotel owner is letting me use his. Fortunately the ATM was open (praise be to Allah), and now I am filthy rich, having withdrawn about 600 dollars in CFA, which is the currency for about seven of the countries I'll be in.

I'll be needing that money here in Senegal, since prices are really high. Dinner costs ten bucks and my hotel room is 30 dollars a night, which would have been less a couple of years ago when the dollar was at 750, but now that it's south of 500...

Anyhow, I'm pleased to report that even at its most chaotic Senegal is a friendly chaos, and the Senegalese are well known for their honesty and non-violence. They're also known, by the way, for their devotion to all things French and for their love of partying.

And I'm also pleased to report that from here on out there should be much fewer schedule pressures. Tomorrow I should have a leisurely trip to south of Dakar.

But for right now I'm going back to my lounge chair out by the water.

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