Sunday, August 26, 2007

More Misadventures as GRITS navigates West Africa...

Hello from Dakar, Senegal! Sorry it has taken me so long to provide an update...I do have a lot of free time, but somehow it flies by so fast. I had a pretty interesting last night in Burkina Faso before I left to come here.

Myself, and two other volunteers decided to go out and have dinner and drinks in downtown Ouagadougou. Now, ask anyone and they will tell you that Ouaga is one of the safest capitals in West Africa. The evening goes by without incident, save for a few street sellers being a little more than persistent. We finish dinner and head out to the road to catch a cab. One cab stops, and as usual because we are foreigners, we get quoted some obscene price, so we say no thanks and move on to the next cab. We finally agree on a price, and hop in. Now, I will admit that I wasn't being all that attentive...but as we are sitting there I am texting away on my cell phone. A hand reaches into the window. Now, logically I should have been surprised by this fact...but in typical Stephanie fashion...i was completely oblivious. I thought, "why is that guy reaching in here? Is the other taxi driver pissed that we didn't go with him?" Hahaha...well, I learned pretty quickly why this hand was in the car. Yup, this little street urchin wanted my cell phone. I send my text message, and as the cab pulls away I realize that it isn't just my hand on my cell phone...but his too! He starts running by the car, and we engage in a tug-of-war of sorts over my cell. I have two hands on it, he has one. Jerk, jerk, jerk...I let out an "Eek!" type scream--like if you saw a roach on the wall or something. Everyone in the car is unaware of what's going on. After several tugs back and forth, and my child-like screech, I win the cell phone! HAHA...VICTORIOUS! I wanted to go back and confront the guy, but the taxi just kept going...and little did I know that not only was my fun-filled night not over, but that the taxi had an important role to play.

We round the corner, only to be flagged down by two women on the street. My first reaction is, "hell no...no room." Well, as it turns out this poor woman is actually in labor! Yes, my friends, when they go into labor they calmly stand outside and hail a cab. We all got out and offered her the cab, but the driver insisted that we come along. He promised it would only take a few minutes to drop her off. I am sitting in the backseat scared to death that her water is going to break on me or something. She seems so calm, even while knowing that her birth would be performed withou anesthesia (hah...epidural? What?) and in a room furnished with 2 buckets (if she is lucky). As we speed along I look her way and see that she has her head buried in her mother's shoulder, and she is whimpering. To break the tension, I ask them whether it is a boy or a girl...they don't know. "Do you have any names picked out," I ask. No...they haven't thought that far ahead. Well, I say, don't worry...if it's a girl you can call it Stephanie and if it is a boy it can be Stephane. Problem solved. They both giggle, and I see the tension wipe from the girl's face...for just a second. We pull up, she gets out, we wish her the best, and we're off. Crisis averted, and no need to deliver a baby in a taxi. Whew!

It was an interesting night, to say the least...and if anyone asks you what really happened. I slammed the robber with the door, kicked him in the groin and rode away laughing. I then proceeded to deliver a baby in the taxi, and in my honor they named it Stephanie. Now...start that rumor mill!

Now, here I am in Senegal in the middle of my dental work. By the time I am done I will have a brand new tooth (not a gold one unfortunately...I tried). Senegal is pretty great...it's crowded, busy, and modern...and most importantly has sushi, imported beer, and ice cream. Truly, I couldn't ask for more. I have even been keeping up on my running. I met a member of the Senegal National Junior Track Team, and she offered to run with me...so that has been quite an experience. I warned her ahead of time that, "white people can't jump...or run...especially this white person." So, if she is happy going at a pace that I am certain she could crawl at...then I would be happy to run with her. Luckily, she obliged...and being that she is a sprinter and only does the 200m and 400m races, I actually outrun her at times. Now THAT is a boost to the ego.

I have another week and a half here as they make the crown, and ensure that the infection has entirely gone away. Most people would think that I am living in the lap of luxury--and don't get me wrong, I am enjoying myself!--but I will be honest with you folks...as cheesy as it sounds...I miss my village, I miss my friends, and I miss my cat. Home is where the heart is...and never before has that rung as true for me. Burkina Faso may not have the food, the beaches, the beer, and the ice cream, but in the past 11 months it has become a sort of home to me. So, I am looking forward to finishing here and heading back.

For those of you that are reading this twice, or are just bored, here is a little present. I finally, with all the time I have here, have been able to edit my first little video. My neighbors were cementing their courtyard so that they could dry rice...so all the surrounding neighbor women got together and helped...it was really amazing...watch and see:

video

The countdown continues to "Stephanie's Tour d'Etats Unis"...2 months! DON'T FORGET...hop on to my marathon fundraising page to make a donation to the Children's IBD Center of Mt. Sinai (Click Here: Steph's Fundraising Page). $5, $10, $20, $100...whatever! It all pushes me closer to my goal of raising $2500...so pop out those wallets and get to donatin'!!!! Support me as I raise money and train to run in the 2007 ING NYC Marathon!

I hope you are all well, safe, and dry--for those of you in the Midwest. I am thinking of all of you. Stay Close!

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