Expectations and Disappointments

The first week was baptism by fire! My imagined romantic getaway; warm beach, sipping coconut juice and dancing to Senegalese music (one of the reasons I chose Senegal to rendezvous with my beloved), turned out to be everything but what I expected!
Because my partner’s luggage didn’t arrive with him, we decided to stay near the airport instead of going to Dakar (an hour away). Very quickly we discovered we’re in an urban desert with no services. The new airport started operating in 2018 but the infrastructure around it hasn’t caught up yet. I arrived on a Friday night. The next couple of days, everything was closed. I mean EVERYTHING! We were lucky to find one restaurant open. Really? In a predominantly Muslim country the weekend is Saturday and Sunday? Lesson: Never take anything for granted.
We don’t speak French. No one around speaks English, accepts credit cards and our phones don’t work. “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” We needed cash. No cash machines. Totally dependent on Google Translate and our Airbnb host, we found 3 people who can exchange Euros, “sorry, no dollars”. So when we finally found a guy in the back of a grocery store willing to change dollars to CFAs (the local currency), we couldn’t argue about the bad exchange rate he offered us.
It’s finally Monday! Got a local SIM card which turned my phone from a brick to a personal assistant, for a while.
After 4 days in this hellhole, I had enough. We’re leaving for Dakar, luggage or not. The universe must’ve been listening! That morning, we received the long awaited message: “your luggage is here” (posting a public complaint on the airline’s Facebook page might have helped). Not missing a beat, we headed to the airport to pick up the luggage, planning to take the bus to Dakar afterwards. Nope! The bus drivers are on strike. No buses to Dakar or anywhere else for that matter. Our taxi driver took us to the train station, but not without charging us almost double the agreed upon price.
We’re finally going to the city with access to services, other travelers, new exciting adventures and, we picked a hotel that accepts credit cards!
Apart from our nice room, Dakar was a big disappointment! I always like to walk around when I land in a new place to familiarize myself with the surroundings. In Dakar, that meant dodging open sewage, trash, potholes, animal droppings, beggars and scammers. It’s a typical hot and dusty mega metropolis complete with traffic jams, noise and air pollution (no catalytic converters here). To add insult to injury, my SIM card kept cutting off randomly and the phone company was no help. Last straw: we both fell sick with diarrhea. As soon as we felt better, we were hell bent on leaving Dakar. Since we ended up staying longer than expected because of our illness, we were happy we chose a hotel that accepted credit cards. Not! On our check out day, the internet was down so the credit card machine didn’t work. It was the weekend so no service personnel can come fix it until Monday (I told you, we’re not in Kansas anymore). Luckily there was an ATM within walking distance and we were able to check out, finally. Senegal, so far, never failed to disappoint.
In my despair, I looked to my source of strength: inwards!
I started unpacking my emotional layers.
First: Guilt! dragging my partner, who’s not a traveler, to a place where he doesn’t know anyone, doesn’t speak the language, nothing is familiar, nothing works as expected, no luggage… I was frustrated on his behalf. I was also worried this experience would make him hate my beloved home continent; Africa.
Second: my expectations kept getting thwarted, every step of the way leading to frustration, blame, short temper, agitation…etc.
“I know better!”, I thought to myself “I teach that stuff. Let me drink my own medicine!”
First order of business: Talk!
When I shared my feelings with my beloved, he reminded me of our explicit agreement: “we don’t take responsibility for the other person’s experience” (a tenet in all my relationships). We’re both free responsible loving consenting adults and we trust each other. He emphasized that he’s in Senegal by his own free will and I’m not responsible for his experience. Phew! Huge load off my back!
Second order of business: drop the expectations! Live in the moment. Deal with what’s present.
The most irritating problem was my phone not working reliably. We depend on it in many ways. 2 engineers can definitely figure this out. We set to work; troubleshooting, trying different phones…etc until Voila! I finally found the magic setting and it worked reliably from that point on. Huge relief!
Free from the burden of expectations, living in the present moment with my beloved and a working phone, Senegal transformed into one of the most rewarding, exciting and enriching travel experiences. We did, eventually, get to hang out on a warm beach! Stay tuned…

#senegal #africa #westafrica #dakar #traveladventure #expectations #disappointment #livinginthemoment #travelstories #travellife #ttavelmishaps #nature #naturephotography #hereandnow

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