The longest journey starts with a single step. This sounds much less banal if you combine it with the italian saying: "to make the step longer than the leg". When we stepped up to the Alitalia desk at Stuttgart airport, Marietou had made a suitcase that was heavier than our luggage allowance. Actually, she had made several suitcases that were heavier than our luggage allowance. Not to mention the box with the baby food, and the collapsible baby bed. The only item that met Alitalia's luggage regulations was the hand-baggage, which would have passed as a regular suitcase by IATA-standards. In Italy, Marietou would simply have discussed away 30 kilos, and passed the remaining 26 kilos to another passenger, but this was Germany. The lady at the counter grew less customer-friendly in about the same degree as the queue behind us grew longer, while I myself was fast approaching a nervous breakdown. In the end, we left the biggest suitcase with the friend who had taken us to the airport and asked her to send it to Dakar by air freight. The rest of the journey was a piece of cake, but it took me three of the six hours transfer time in Milan to return to a reasonable level of spouse-friendliness.
We arrived at Senghor airport, Dakar, around midnight. Marietou's sister Aminata had come to greet us, along with half a dozen assorted kids (including Fadel, Marietou’s first). To our great relief, our friend L, who is a big shot in the customs department, was there, too. He had helped us in the past to bypass any control whatsoever upon leaving the airport. Yet times are changing in Senegal, too. With the second round of presidential elections just a week away, and with the opposition candidate far ahead in the race, everybody wanted to make a show of being as correct as can be. So we, too, had to have our box of baby food (conspicuously labelled "Compaq") inspected before proceeding towards the exit.
Aminata had just rented an apartment of her own the week before. Since I have met my wife, her sister's marriage has been in trouble, and this time, she is decided to go away for good, taking the children from her first marriage with her. It was in her new apartment that we would stay this time, all our houses still being in the planning phase. The apartment was spacious, freshly painted, and completely empty but for three matresses on the floor and several boxes of kitchen utensils in the hall. We expertly distributed our luggage, giving the room immediately a more inhabited ambiance, uncollapsed the baby bed and put little Aminata to sleep, before collapsing ourselves on the said matresses.
As it turned out, the suitcase we had left behind contained all of my clothes. Here I was, in the heat of spring in Dakar, with nothing to wear but a pair of heavy blue jeans and a thick cotton shirt. The first thing we did the next day was buy a light, airy white kaftan and trousers, complementing it after a few days with a similar combination in green.
We had arrived on friday night, so we could not tend our various businesses for the next two days. Instead, we went to visit a few relatives and caught up on the local news. Two subjects were on everybody's mind: the presidential elections and the price of sheep for Tabaski. Tabaski was to be the next friday, immediately followed by the elections on sunday. The matter of the sheep was relatively easy. It was well known that this year, enough sheep had arrived from the hinterland, as far as neighbouring Mali, and it was only a question of nerves and not buying your sheep too early, when prices were still astronomical; but wait until thursday, and you would get a sizeable animal at a reasonable price. The elections were a much trickier subject. President Abdou Diouf (1) had been in office for twenty years, his party in power for forty years, and Diouf had alledgedly won the last few elections by non-democratic means. Diouf's contestant, Abdoulaye Wade (1) , had run for the office for twenty-four years, and this time was his first, and probably last chance to seize the power. The population was fed up with the old government, who had ruled the country into total poverty. And an independent press, especially the private radio stations, made manipulations much more difficult than on ealier occasions. In the first round, at the end of february, Wade had taken the biggest part of the vote, far ahead of Diouf, but had not gained the absolute majority. In the meantime, most of the other candidates had sided with Wade for the second round. On paper, Wade should take home a landslide victory. But no one expected Diouf to accept a defeat. He was believed to either manipulate the outcome of the elections (during the first round, a whole set of counterfeit voting cards had surfaced) or attempt a coup. When Djibo Ka, one of Wade's allies, switched sides four days before the elections, the tension became unbearable. We, too, were preparing to leave the capital and spend the hottest days away from Dakar. On thursday, we held an emergency meeting in the back office of a lebanese friend's cafe. The lebanese still control many important private business sectors in Senegal, and they were expecting the worst in case of civic unrest. Our friend from customs was at the meeting, too. As an official, he could not afford to be away when things got out of hand, and he was determined to sit it out, come what may. But there is hardly anyone worth knowing in Senegal whom he does not know, so we trusted him to manouvre his way to safety. He proposed to lodge our little family at a friend's place close to the airport, far away from the turbulent quarters where our big family lives, with the possibility to catch a plane on short notice. We ourselves had briefly considered going to Morocco for a few days, but had discarded that as too complicated, and opted for nearby Gambia instead. Transportation was a problem, though. The car we had sent to Dakar two months earlier was at the body shop, stripped to the little steel that was worth preserving. The mechanic had still to weld on a considerable quantity of reinforcements, before one could think of using that vehicle again. Public transport was at the verge of a complete breakdown, with the whole country going to see their families for Tabaski and getting back home for the election. With our nine month old Aminata, we needed something reasonably safe (make that comfortable, just for my convenience). In the end, L proposed to take us to the Club Aldiana, a swiss/german holyday resort some 80 km south of Dakar. That was conveniently far away from the most probable hotbeds of eventual riots, and one could trust the club's management to provide safe conduct for the tourists, should the need arise. We called the club to make a reservation as soon as we had got our lebanese friend's attention and cooperation for finding the number and making the call. D's attention span on that day was extremely limited. He was definitely scared shitless, and kept running back and forth between his office and the backroom, shuffling airplane tickets and wads of Western Union Money Transfer receipts, hardly letting anybody interrupt his flow of lamentations. "La vie est trop belle!" - Life is too beautiful, he kept repeating, "You don't know who eez your enimee! Let them destroy the shop, let them rob whatever they want, mais la vie est trop belle!"
After we had made the arrangements for surviving the elections, we could get down to daily business. We went to Ngaparou to inspect the building site for our holiday cottage. The lot had been walled off and bricks made for the construction, with only some 5% being trampled on by wandering lifestock. The plans for the cottage at Ngaparou, as well as those for our parent's house in Dakar, were discussed with Ibrahima, the architect. Aminata's apartment was equipped with the most urgent kitchen appliances, and every day a little caravan wandered between this apartment and her husband's house, which is just a few streets away. Aminata, her kids, the maid, the griot and ourselves kept carrying clothes, food and babys back and forth, to be cooked, changed, worn, washed or eaten in one place or the other.
We also changed and deposited the wad of french franks I had brought along. I am beginning to think that bank transactions are the most complicated procedures you can undertake in Dakar, or maybe Dakar is the town where these transactions are most complicated. As usual, we started the day late. Little Aminata had kept us awake, or we her, for the better part of the night. In the morning, I went to buy bread. Since I did not remember the wolof word for "two", I went twice and asked for "Benne mbourou" – one bread. Then I went again and bought milk powder. I did this mostly to show off my beautiful daughter, whom I carried on my shoulders, and who ecstatically greated every kid and every animal in the street. She grew especially frantic about horses, of which there were quite a few. Every time Aminata saw a horse, she would jump up and down on my shoulders to the point of nearly falling off, beating my head with her little hands. By the time we had finished breakfast, walked down to the main street, haggled with a taxidriver over the price and driven across town, the bank was about to close for the morning. We had just enough time to learn that we needed photographs in order to open an account. We hailed another cab and returned to the city center to have our photos taken. Two hours later, we started opening an account with the Société Générale de Banques au Sénégal. The woman who served us employed a whole hour – sixty minutes - to write down our personal data on the personal data sheet. Then she copied them to another sheet. Our personal situation did not help much, either. A senegalese woman, living in Germany, but with a permanent address in Dakar, and her definitely foreign husband, clad in a colourful african dress, clearly confused the poor clerk. Then we marched up to the cashier and showed off our bundle of crisp franc bills. The woman looked from one of us to the other to our money and back and told us that we could not change such a sum without paying a two percent fee. She would therefore recommend we change the money on the black market and come back with the CFA. Incidentally, a grocer from a nearby market happened to be in the bank foyer, and if we did not mind, she would ask him if he needed french francs. The guy was called over, and after listening to our problem, he dug deep in the bottomless pockets of his boubou, to pull out several enormous wads of CFA. We changed all that he had, deposited the money in our account and made an appointment with him for the next morning, to change the remaining millions. On the next day, we met him at a cafe, where we spent half an hour counting money under the table. As we walked to the bank, I covered the cellphone with a folded newspaper. If anybody had watched our under-the-counter transactions and was following us, he might be misled to think I was carrying a concealed weapon, while not attracting too much attention from bystanders.
We even managed to go to the beach one afternoon. From the fishermen’s village of Ngor, we crossed the bay in a pirogue to the little island vis-a-vis. In this place, a few tourists mingle with the many locals that spend a few leisurely hours there. A little terrace restaurant concurs for clients with the shacks that sell soft drinks and the women behind tiny barbecues, who sell roasted clams on a stick. The water looked inviting, crystal-clear, but the temperature drove most of the bathers out again after a short while. Not even Aminata wanted to stay in. So far, she had only known the bathtub and the overheated, pee-warm children’s pool in Waiblingen. Immersion in cold water was a new experience to her. And this was salt-water you couldn’t even drink! At the babies‘ swimming lesson, she usually ploughed through the pool like a carp, mouth wide open, and hardly left any water for the others.
As the sun went lower and the temperature declined, we took the last pirogue back to the mainland. We left the smaller kids and some money with the bigger kids and went looking for one of my fathers. The sharif of Ngor, El Hajj Mamadou Samb, had adopted me over a year ago, when we had bought a lot at Almahdie through him. Now we wanted to see him and clear a dispute about borders that had arisen. Ibrahima, our architect, had checked the lot and found little coincidence between the borderstones and the plan, at least where he found the borderstones at all. In order to straighten the matter out, he needed Samb as well as the engineer, who had marked the border and drawn up the plan in the first place. Getting hold of either was difficult enough, and both of them usually referred to the other for questions about the building site. The sharif lived on the far side of the village, so we passed through the narrow passageways between the wooden shacks, admiring the stunning beauty of the many metisse children that live here. At Samb’s house, we were greeted by some of his wives, who were sorry to say that he was not home.
Our suitcase did not arrive, either. It should have gone on the next Alitalia plane, but as that was the last flight before Tabaski, it was loadad with homecoming Senegalese and their respective excess baggage and could not take any extra luggage.
Around 11 pm on Thursday night, we finally set out to purchase our sheep for Tabaski. We, that was L, myself and a friend of L‘s, a supposed expert in the field of live meat. He sure was an expert carnivore, to judge from his perimeter. The first thing you noticed about him was his enormous belly, which he could easily have pushed in my face, had he wanted to. A pro wrestler’s neck and shoulders led the way to a head that could probably split wood. The overall impression was that of the evil guy’s bodyguard in an old James Bond movie. Remember Gerd Froebe as Goldfinger and his asian companion? Stir the two of them together, add 20% weight, subtract Froebe’s good humour, paint the end result coffee brown, and you get a fairly good idea of what Bigboss (that was his nickname) looked like. The fact that he had not eaten all day and therefore was in a nasty mood still enhanced the overall impression. Only later did I learn that he doubled indeed as L‘s bodyguard.
It took us thirty minutes to drive the 500 meters to the nearest sheep market. These markets had been improvised during the last two weeks wherever there were a few square meters of empty ground. Sheep had been tied to posts, scarcely fed and watered by their owners, inspected, patted and dragged around by prospective buyers. Only the fact that all of them were male, as Islam prescribes for the offering, had spared them certain other tests and examinations. The night before the holiday, the market was in full swing. I followed Bigboss through the crowd of Peul shepherds in their nomad attire, letting him do the shoving, inspecting and bargaining. We quickly settled on an impressive animal with a rather curious pattern. Its front half was black, the rear was white, and the two colours were neatly separated along a straight line that ran around ist waist (remember Domino’s gown from Thunderball?). The bargain was short but heartfelt, and at 90,000 CFA (about 140 US dollars), hands were shaken. The Peul followed us to our car, since L had warned me not to let the money be seen outside. There followed a brief discussion because I had french francs instead of CFA; not because the Peul did not know them, as L suggested, but because he knew the bank would pull off 2% when changing them to CFA. Bigboss and the Peul’s assistant had meanwhile dragged my sheep to a taxi, whose driver consented to carry it in his trunk. With myself and L in his car, Bigboss and the sheep in the taxi, we crossed Dakar and finally delivered the beast to our parent’s home. I insisted I spend the night there and let L go home, especially since he had to take Bigboss to Thies as well that night, but he would have none of that. "Marietou would never forgive me if you got lost in Grand Dakar overnight! You have a wife and kid to go home to! And I have to pass by the tailor’s anyway, to pick up the boubou for Bizou." It was midnight when we arrived in the center of Dakar. Most of the shops were closed, but at the tailor’s (Dakar’s best!), the holiday sale was on its peak. The windows were practically plundered, with only a left slipper on show. Inside the shop, customers were bustling, trying to pick up the clothes they had ordered to measure. Walfajri, a local newpaper, would later quote a tailor who had spent 72 hours on end at his sewing machine, going ahead on heavily sugared green tea. While L plunged into the crowd in the hope to get his daughter’s dress, Bigboss finally got himself a Chawarma at a nearby fast-food, thus ending his twelve-hour diet. I returned to the apartment by 1 am. L did not make it home that night. He got Bizou’s boubou at 6 o’clock in the morning.
Early the next morning, my nephew Sheikhou and me drove to Grand Dakar, where we were greeted by Mama Griot. She is a friend of mother’s and the best female griot I have seen so far – also the best fed. Dutifully, she praised myself, my family, and my upholding the family tradition of buying the biggest sheep in the neighbourhood, and equally dutifully, I handed her her tip. Then I dressed up. For the occasion, I had borrowed Papa’s best grand boubou, an affair of some ten meters of heavy white damast, richly embroidered and rigorously starched. In this attire, I went to the mosque, to listen to half an hour of preaching in Wolof, while I tried to keep my legs from falling asleep. Sitting still on the floor in the middle of a grand boubou turned out harder than I had imagined. Praying was no easier. Stand up, bend over, stand up again, kneel down, prostrate, sit up, prostrate, stand up again, while you struggle with a three-layered armour of starched cotton. What surprised me was that nobody seemed to take notice of the paleface who came to pray in Grand Dakar‘s central mosque. The Senegalese usually are much too civilized to stare at somebody in public. But Sheikhou suggested that the whole quarter, including himself, was dying of curiosity about what the toubab would do with his sheep. After the common prayer, the imam slaughtered his own sheep in front of the mosque. A signal was given, and with that, everybody else was allowed to slaughter theirs. We went back home, where in the meantime Babacar had started digging a whole in front of the house, at the side of the street, for what would remain of the animals by the end of the morning. Most of Dakar’s side streets are unpaved, without sidewalks. As the city is built on the dunes by the atlantic ocean, these streets are just stretches of sand, and cars getting stuck are a rather common sight. On Tabaski, the ubiquitous wholes pose an additional danger. At nightfall, a careless pedestrian could easily step in one of them, ending up to his hips in sheep dung and other delicacies usually found behind a slaughterhouse.
The nephews had dragged the sheep into the courtyard and tied up its legs. This animal was a far cry from the woolly cuties I had seen in Alto Adige, and I was glad there were a few strong men to hold it down and fix its head during the act. I am glad to say that in Dakar, the religious prescriptions about not letting the animals suffer are respected. The knife was brand new and extra sharp. I made sure the animal did not see the blade. With my left hand, I gently probed for the right place to cut, softly spoke "Bismillah - in the name of GOD", and with one decisive stroke, I cut right through the windpipe and one jugular vein, proceeding to the other vein and not stopping cutting before I was sure that the job was done well. The nephews were so impressed by my abilities, that I had to kill the family’s other two sheep as well. They were brought into the court one after the other (no animal may see another one being killed before it), and ten minutes later all was over. I confess I felt a little nausea afterwards. I washed off the blood, purified myself and retreated to a quiet room to offer an extra prayer, asking forgiveness for killing GOD’s creatures. A little meditation did me well. Tabaski is all about remembering Ibrahim/Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, so I dwelt a while on the thoughts of what may be killed in what circumstances. Reassured, I joined the others, who were meanwhile busy skinning and cleaning the carcasses. Soon, the women were preparing the meal.
The rest of the day was spent eating, drinking and generally relaxing, interrupted only by another trip to the mosque for friday prayer later in the afternoon. The girls did each others‘ hair, babies were passed from one lap to the next, and mère Ndaw’s stock of ice cream was mercilessly decimated.
The following day, we packed what was necessary for a four-day trip, along with all the documents we might need in the case of an emergency evacuation and headed south to Nianing. As we drove inward from the coast, the thermometer rose from 30° C at Dakar to 43° C on the coastal plain. After an hour’s drive, I half expected to see a sign indicating the last blade of grass this side of the indian ocean. For a while, the vegetation consisted mainly of thornbushes. Then the baobabs came in sight, first one at a time, until we arrived on a plateau covered to the horizon with these strange trees. In order to reduce evaporation in the desert climate, the baobab has only a few leaves that are so tiny they are barely visible. The seemingly bare, knotty branches remind one rather of roots. An old legend says that the baobab, mightiest of the trees, had become so proud that it provoked god’s anger, so god plucked it from the ground and stuck it back in upside down.
At 2.20 pm, we arrived at the club Aldiana. This one is run by germans for sure. After a week that we’ve had supper any time between 11 and 5 pm, and dinner any time before breakfast, here it took ten minutes of Marietou’s hardest bargaining to get some food, as supper time ends at 2.15. The staff really showed a weird attitude, and we gradually understood that they had taken us for a toubab and his holiday girlie, complete with illegal offspring. When it became clear that we were married, not just legally but honestly as well, and after I had embarassed management with a request for a prayer mat (which they couldn’t provide, but a clerk procured two extra beach towels the next day, which do the job, beach towels being a precious asset which is secured by a complicated voucher system), we were treated like family.
Keeping up to the club‘s rhythm was not easy, so we didn’t even try. There was archery from 8.00 to 8.30, step aerobic from 8.30 to 9.15, and so on, the whole day long. Occasionally, we would glance at the schedules on our way to the restaurant, otherwise we just acknowledged the part of the action that happened to be organized where we happened to hang around. I went out on a Hobie cat one day, and convinced Marietou to go parachute sailing the next, which was fun enough for us. Aminata sure enjoyed the boat ride, with mama flying behind us, high as a kite. The most enduring action we participated in was an excursion to a nearby peul village. The best thing about the club was the food. If you could make it on time, you could taste all the senegalese, italian and french cuisine you ever craved for. We usually had two or more main dishes of sea food, and I will unnerve my wife for years to come with the tales of all the desserts I resisted.
On the first day, we had met a lebanese couple with a girl just a little bit older than our Aminata, and we regularly shared a table at mealtime. As the evening of election day approached, they grew more favourable to Abdoulaye Wade by the hour, confirming whenever they weren’t asked how much the country needed sopi – change. Near midnight on sunday, the first results were broadcast: a clear victory for Wade. The club’s german staff was hardly aware of the situation. I had met a girl from my hometown, Regensburg, who worked on the animation team, she was absolutely clueless. Management had told them, that after the first round of the elections, the show was practically over. The local staff was enthusiastic. Only Leopold Senghor, the old waiter who shares his name and his hometown, Joal, with Senegal's first president, had reservations. Wade’s victory was so obvious that Diouf did the only sensible thing. Early on monday morning, even before the end results were known, he phoned Wade to congratulate him. Wade, on his turn, gave a signal of reconciliation by visiting Diouf’s mother on his return from Touba, where he had met his spiritual guide, Serigne Saliou Mbacke (that’s the uncle of Mame Mor Mbacke, who married our Fat’tall last january). With this, Senegal went down in history as the first african country (of the former french colonies) where a government was changed by democratic elections.
As history was proceeding on its path, we arranged our return to Dakar. Ibrahima came to pick us up the next day. Meanwhile, our suitcase had arrived at the airport. Our neighbour from Waiblingen had sent us the airway bill number by e-mail, which we had picked up at the corner cyber-center. You can find these all over Dakar. A few years ago, enterprising people started private phone-shops everywhere, substituting for non-existent public phone booths. A telephone and a counter would start a business. Some would stop at a second phone and counter, but many went on to offer fax, photocopying, and word processing. Hooking up their PC’s to the net was the logical next step. There is a little shop two minutes from Aminata’s apartment, where people are queuing in front of the two computers, often relying on the staff to do the actual typing. In downtown Dakar, you can find cybercafes with state-of-the-art equipment. When it comes to IT, the Senegalese have one big advantage: their attitude towards time. With enough of this at their hand, they can overcome all the difficulties that his monopoliness Bill Gates has put between us and the grey boxes on our desks.
All of this did not resolve the question of our suitcase. We had successfully located it in the freight department of Dakar airport, but getting it out was no picknick. With the new government in charge, even L had to stay in his office. In the end, we relied on the services of one of the local vultures, who filed for us whatever form was necessary for a (truly) modest tip. Another friend of ours, who works at the airport, would eventually retrieve the suitcase and take it to Aminata’s. I humbly confess, that, with all the nonchalance I move around with in Senegal, showing off my boubous and my french francs, I could not survive five minutes there on my own, without Marietou and her acquaintances.
On leaving the freight area, we ran into a friend from Germany, another Senegalese who – guess what – had come there to retrieve her excess baggage from air freight. We took a cafe touba from a street vendor together before returning to town.
After our holiday at the beach, we had two urgent matters to tend to: our parent’s house and our truck. Our parents had gone to Mecca for the pilgrimage, and tradition claimed we renovate their abode for their return, which was only two days away. The painter had begun his work, and we found the family huddled in the middle of the room among the displaced furniture. A sheet of 12 by 15 feet was covered by drying couscous, which had been hand-rolled the whole week through. I hardly recognized the place. What had been a dark, if well-kept dwelling was now resplendent in neat bright colours. New curtains covered the walls, and new furniture would soon make the place worthy of an Adya and Hajj.
L called us the next day for the truck, rather embarassed. The ship had arrived all right, and they were sure the truck was there somewhere, but they just couldn’t find it – could I maybe come over and help them look for it? After the usual preliminaries – several phone calls, meeting L in his office, several more phone calls, looking for a friend of his, not finding him, going there all the same, we toured the port of Dakar, looking for a once bright red Mercedes truck, loaded to the limit (and a bit over) with valuable goods you cannot find in Senegal, like italian tiles, german loos and american diapers. After some 30 minutes, we found it on one of the port’s many parking lots and went to inspect the damages. The extra locks I had put on the doors were missing – another investment lost. The separation between the driver’s cabin and the back of the truck, that I had spent a sunday afternoon putting in place, had been torn down. The thieves had turned the truck’s contents upside down, but had not found much they liked, thank god. Upon first inspection, a box of tumblers and most of the diapers were missing. The robbery was obviously the work of seamen on the ship, who could not carry away the bigger items.
Late in the afternoon, we went to pick up our parents at the airport – pilgrims‘ terminal. We had somehow lost track of all the delays of the pilgrims‘ return flights that had been announced on the radio since the day before, so L and myself went to the airport on chance. The third plane was supposed to land around 5 pm. The place outside the pilgrims‘ terminal was crowded with families waiting for their beloved ones. Admittance to the buildings was strictly prohibited. L found a colleague from customs who let him in and ordered me to wait by the car. For an hour or so, nothing happened at all. Then one or two people came out of the fenced-in area. After a while, a few more. Some thirty minutes later, a steady stream of people started to emerge from inside the terminal. The crowd outside grew impatient, and military prevented anyone from entering the premises. Finally, at 8.30, L escorted my parents-in-law outside. Meanwhile, Marietou and Aminata had arrived, along with some of the kids. Mama and Papa were surely exhausted, but the high spirit prevailed as they returned from the pilgrimage. We had not been a little afraid for them, especially for Papa. He had suffered a stroke two years before, and had gone on the pilgrimage only after consulting his doctor. But the idea of going to Mecca had given him unexpected forces. Several months before, he had begun to change his diet and to exercise. In fact, I had never seen him in such good shape, and good humour, as he stood before me at the airport, donning a beautiful boubou and a brand new golden silk fez. The women fell into each other’s arms, weeping with joy. Half an hour later, we arrived at home, where a sumptuous dinner had been prepared. Papa climbed immediately on the roof to catch up on all the prayers he had missed during travel. Mama meanwhile entertained the rest of the family with the tales of their arabian adventures. In Arafat, the crowd of pushing pilgrims behind her all but shoved her over the parapet, and only the intervention of a strong man saved her life.
I was sorry I could not stay with them, but I had to catch my plane home at midnight. From our parents‘ place, we drove back to Aminata’s, where meanwhile our suitcase had arrived (remember our suitcase? Our neighbour had sent it by air freight two weeks before). Most of its contents were transferred to another suitcase which I carried back home. Exceptionally, we made it to the airport on time. The hall was crowded with people that returned to their work after celebrating Tabaski with their families. I had probably less luggage than all the others, yet the lady at the counter was reluctant to check in my drum. The scene at passport control was most embarassing. As we Europeans are building our continent into a fortress, foreigners who try to enter it without valid documents are sent back to where they came from, at the expense of the airline that brought them there. As a consequence, the police control upon leaving Senegal is even stricter than the one that expects the immigrants on destination. With mixed feelings, I returned to the efficiency of European xenophoby, where italian border police insult the people that come there to work hard and pay taxes, the ones that prevent the collapse of the social security system, who pay into the state pension scheme and can never hope to attain the minimum number of years necessary to draw a single Lira from that scheme.
Now I am back home alone – the other home of my two homes, far from my family and my brother’s family, close to my family and my sister’s family, while my family is still with the family. Marietou and little Aminata have stayed behind for two more weeks, to spend some time with Mama and Papa, to help big Aminata, to prepare Fadel’s joining us here. Torn between two homes, two families, two places worlds apart, where I always long for the one I just left, I did the only sensible thing: I went home to Suedtirol for some backcountry skiing in Vinschgau.
All photos by the author except (1) Le nouvel Afrique-Asie.
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