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Dakar daybreak.   

Posted by wallacehartley - May 22, 2014 - 11:59am

Through large floor-to-ceiling windows, between air conditioning units and bright, flashing signs I am watching the day begin outside the terminal building.
This is daybreak in Dakar, Senegal.
Close in front of me television screens display public service messages about the symptomatic identification of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, and offer tips on how to prevent its contagion. Be-gloved and be-goggled figures protectively suited as if to withstand nuclear radiation check the blood pressure, inject and then apparently bury skinny black men possessed in life with the vigour of cold porridge and then none at all.
Black hands are meticulously washed and disinfected afterwards.
Forming and firming in the ever increasing daylight outside, the tailfins and fuselages of a mixup of  parked aircraft of various colours and sizes are the foreground to a low hill rising up across the airport apron that forms a small, central part of the horizon against a steel-grey sky.
The hill is a mass of boxy, cement block buildings, most of which resemble what I imagine Senegalese city dwellings to be; flat roofed and low, closely spaced and totally jumbled together. Many appear to have no windows, just gaping unglazed holes.
Some boxes are painted white, a pastel-pale yellow or even a pale rose-pink, but most are the flat, nondescript, universal grey of unfinished cement blocks.
Red-and-white banded masts and towers are numerously dotted all around the scenario, all carry floodlights or some type of communications gear, and flash a red beacon light at their tip.
Away to the right and further away, closer to the horizon, a taller hillock is undeveloped, save for a flattened top under a mantle of communications installations, a-bristle with antennae, radomes and parabolic dishes, and a flashing lighthouse.
A spiral scar from the base to the summit indicate the existence of a narrow road.
The sky is now fully lit, the time 0645. The various lights and floodlights still flash, blink and blaze away.
Slightly to the left of the concrete-block encrusted hill, another slightly taller hill sports a gigantic statue of a man, woman and child. They are all straining forward from a pose on legs positioned not unlike as if in the second warrior pose on a yoga mat, but the man's muscled left shoulder is the seat for the small child, and his trailing right arm embraces and supports the woman, and together they struggle and strain as if into some desperately desired but invisible future place. The bronze edges are beginning to shimmer in the morning light, and I find out from an airport official that the installation is called African Renaissance, is about five years old, and has something to do with the former President. 
I make a mental note to visit there if,  should I pass this way again, I am able to get out of the terminal building; perhaps to  hunt or place a geocache there.
I pay twenty dollars for two cups of weak coffee and a slightly stale, cling-wrapped hamburger containing  fortunately very little of the unidentifiable meat that formed its heart, together with a single slice of waxy cheese and little else within a spongy, tough-skinned bun.
My hands itch from the multiple mosquito bites that were part of the price I paid for a few hours sleep on the concrete floor of the tatty transit lounge, my outdoor jacket hood pulled up and over the upturned collar, protecting most of my face and neck from the bloodsuckers, but not all. With my backpack as a pillow I dealt with roughly three of what should have been a seven and a half hour layover.
An umpteenth viewing on my tablet of one of the seasons of Downtown Abbey passed away others  that weren't engaged in aimless wanderings around the terminal building.
I was woken by a Senegalese immigration official yelling, the same one who had taken my passport on arrival just after midnightLoudly and in a heavy French accent he was waking me from the corridor outside.
I quickly got to my feet stretching and yawning. The official was expressing his approval of my ability to sleep anywhere, and I made sure to deny that I was a soldier. I did not deny that I had once been.
In his hand was my passport, and slowly I followed it and him around a chaotic terminal building, steadily filling up with brightly berobed travelers bearing neon-green bundles of tightly wrapped plastic, not  unlike gigantic dim-sums. We squeezed past queues of people at check in counters and security scanners, spreadeagled figures sprawled asleep and snoring on uncomfortable steel chairs, and beautifully tall and elegantly dressed African women wrestling recalcitrant oval-wheeled luggage trolleys and nose-picking, uncooperative children, all at the same time.
A short wait here and another there, the depositing of my luggage on a conveyor, and in far less time than it would have taken for me to complete the process on my own I found myself having been formally checked in and sitting waiting to board,  the immigration official having snapped off a vague semblance of a sharp salute to an bareheaded, unshaven and crumpled civilian in creased civilian clothes, after finally handing over my passport and boarding pass.
I thought of giving him the pack of chocolate biscuits I was carrying, bought after midnight for quite a sum in the duty-free store, but I decided to stick with my original plan of enjoying them with tea later today in my hotel room in Abidjan.
I chose to rather shake his hand and flick off a strange non-salute in return. Briskly, he marched off, apparently satisfied. 
A tailfin emblazoned with a silhouette of Africa in black on a yellow background moved across my view outside from right to left, the flight to Lome in Togo that had boarded a little earlier.
Passengers bound for a Conakry pass through the boarding gate I am still hoping to move through myself sometime today, and outside the sun begins to bake the slightly dusty blue of the eight a.m.sky.
It's now two hours past take-off time, and outside there is no sign yet of an aircraft to board. I remind myself to gladly wait for a small regional African airline to properly resolve a technical problem with an aircraft rather than fly on time in a cobbled together aeroplane. I am told that the aircrew had to take a mandatory rest period and that boarding will be in another few hours.
In the distance the three bronze figures strain silently ever forward. 
Three kittens of uniform size and almost unform colouring weave gauntly between the parked luggage and crossed ankles of the many waiting, a silent and stealthy formation hunting for scraps and survival.
In my passport is an entry stamp into Senegal, but no exit stamp and I wonder if this could perhaps form the basis for a long, tiresome questioning session at some slightly hostile immigration desk somewhere sometime in the future. I wonder if I will remember this morning then as vividly as I see it now, this early morning today?
The sun is beginning to really turn it up on the earth outside, whilst the floodlights and red beacons randomly switch off, scattered and one by one, until finally the lighthouse itself shuts. Three massive floodlights continue to burn through the day as I sit waiting, with mosquito's,  on a perforated stainless steel chair in the waiting lounge of the airport in Dakar, with you, your body and your splendor in my thoughts and on my mind.

7 comments on this journal entry.

Beanie Avatar

Location: under the jellicle moon

Posted: May 27, 2014 - 7:32am

Magnificent.  Hope you get a decent night's sleep soon.
I get around
haresfur Avatar

Location: The Golden Triangle

Posted: May 23, 2014 - 4:49pm

Shine On.
Coaxial Avatar

Location: 543 miles west of Paradis,1491 miles east of Paradise

Posted: May 22, 2014 - 8:38pm

Well written sir.{#Cheers}Hope you get to your hotel soon.
Living with passion
Alexandra Avatar

Location: PNW

Posted: May 22, 2014 - 3:07pm

I eat pints
ScottFromWyoming Avatar

Location: Powell

Posted: May 22, 2014 - 2:58pm


Antigone Avatar

Location: A house, in a Virginian Valley

Posted: May 22, 2014 - 12:54pm

We're all riders on this train
ScottN Avatar

Location: Half inch above the K/T boundary

Posted: May 22, 2014 - 12:30pm

That lack of an exit stamp may indeed be problematic if you transit DKR again.
Nice story.  I travel to West Africa frequently...a dozen times to Ghana and Togo in the past three years. Other trips to East Africa....
TIA (This Is Africa) is what we call experiences such as yours. Perhaps what you call it too?
Oh, the Ebola is no joke.  Or Dengue Fever.  Or having your malaria meds not work. And on.  Africa—-Sad, shocking, and rewarding too (for me anyway) and always impressive (word used literally).

Good luck to you and good fortune be with you on the rest of the trip. {#Good-vibes}

Edit: I neglected to see you live in S.A.  Yes, General Mayhem frequently rules North of you...and maybe in your home as well! (does in mine).