April 03, 2005

Leaving Dakar

I took off from Dakar Yoff Airport (officially known as Aeroport Leopold Sedar Senghor) at 1:30 AM on April 1st (read the night through). I was considerably tired and am indeed very grateful to my friends who took me to the airport, despite the ungodly hour.

I barely had to wait to register my luggage, but it was very interesting to see that prior to registration all luggage was opened by airport security. I had to answer questions about whether I had accepted luggage or mail from strangers. I thought hard and decided that the friend who had asked me to mail an envelope from New York was no stranger, and answered no to the question with great sincerity.

Then I had to pass through immigration which involved producing my passport. That was the scary one, given that I’d been illegal in Senegal for 2 months before going out to Mauritania and back in, thus making me the proud holder of a tourist visa for the end of my stay. I was afraid that an over zealous bureaucrat would see through the trick and detain me or worse, claim some baksheesh I could not afford ! So I walked up to the booth, showed off all the Woloff I had and got the customs officer to stare at me and my radiant smile much more than at my passport, which he stamped without even looking.

I then proceeded to getting a hot chocolate at the bar in the waiting room, where I engaged in an animated conversation with a travelling Ivorian and Algerian about African politics. We finally were called in to the shuttle to embark, and once again I was stopped because I was missing some sticker on my boarding pass or something. They checked my hand luggage for the 5th time and finally let me take the shuttle which would drive all the passengers eager to go to the US to the plane. We got off on the tarmac and walked the stairs up to the plane. I was at last seated in a gorgeous South African Airways Boeing 747.

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