Friday, December 5, 2008

Travel Blogging V: Senegal

Dateline: Dakar, Senegal. Seen from the ship Dakar looks modern and upscale for a third world capital. When you get closer, it isn’t so impressive. When there are potholes in the sidewalks by the President’s Palace, as there are here in Dakar, you know you are deep in the third world.

What is really a downer is the number of people on the street with not much to do, just hanging out. The unemployment rate is said to be nearly 50% and the GDP per capita is lower than that of Haiti. I think most of the unemployed were on the street this afternoon.

The populace is mostly Moslem but the prevailing ethos isn’t Arab, it is definitely African. In other words, it is colorful instead of drab. We saw the national folkloric ballet this evening and the costumes were too revealing for a classical Islamic society, although relatively modest by Western standards. That is, women’s bare shoulders, midriffs and legs were on display.

We were taken to see “the world’s largest French-speaking university” which is in Dakar. It has roughly 50,000 students. No one there has heard of landscaping; weeds are a meter tall in places while goats and sheep graze in others, and there are smoking fire pits too. You would think in a country with 50% unemployment they’d hire a few souls to keep the grounds tidy, you’d be wrong of course. We concluded we wouldn’t visit on the faculty there.

Now we are off across the Atlantic to Brazil, a three day crossing to Fortaleza.