St Louis, Senegal
The Pulse of Saint-Louis“Nanga def?” I am asked.
“Mangi fi” I learn to respond.
Pape, my driver, teaches me this everyday Wolof greeting enroute from Dakar to Saint-Louis in the fog of jet lag.
I’m in Senegal, West Africa, and everything around me is completely different – the colors, the sounds, the smells. After a four hour slog, feeling very tired and dehydrated, we arrive in Saint-Louis, a 2km long island situated in the mouth of the Senegal River, close to the Atlantic Ocean.
When I set out to explore, instinct leads me directly to Guet Ndar, the real pulse of this city where the bustle of everyday life takes place. Cars, minivans, horse carts, bicycles, children, adults, dogs and goats compete for space in the single-laned street. Down the side alleys, kids play all kinds of games – soccer with balls made of cloth scraps, jump rope, foosball, and tire rolling. Women cook various dishes, wash laundry, and herd goats that meander aimlessly, while men chat and pray.
I turn right towards the ocean where children are gathered in a circle attending the Ecole Koranique (Koran school). Men are also busy repairing nets and building new pirogues. (wooden boats).
On the river side, it's all about fishing. The scene is intense and I know I could spend hours watching the frenetic activity, but I decide to save it for another day - the jet lag is starting to really kick in.