Vicarious Tourism: Dakar*

Why is there an asterisk there? I’ll tell you why. I am a bad tourist. In my three days in Senegal I only really spent one of them actually in Dakar. Okay, part of one. The rest of the time I spent in the first-world fantasyland that is the Radisson Blu. I got a massage in their fancy spa. I drank cocktails and read at the bar next to the infinity pool. I ate imported American steak and dark chocolate mousse at their fancy restaurant. I checked out the mall next door and spent a good 20 minutes wandering around the grocery store in unabashed slack-jawed amazement. Sadly the cinema is still under construction or I would’ve seen a movie and stuffed my face with popcorn. I got my hair cut. I ordered room service. I bought things with a credit card. I updated my software.

I didn’t completely wimp out; I got a taxi tour of centre ville – SO  much nicer than Conakry, not a burning trash heap in sight – and passed a pleasant afternoon on l’ile de GorĂ©e, which looks the way a charming seaside village in the south of France would look if it were full of black people and in need of a fresh coat of paint. But the fact is that I didn’t go to Senegal so much to see Dakar as to escape from Guinea. The last couple of weeks have been exhausting, planning for and running a big workshop, and I needed to get away from the chaos of Conakry for a little while. I needed to relax, to recharge, to live easily, as one can do very well in a 5-star hotel if one is willing to pay for it. This was not a cheap vacation ($15 mojitos anyone?), but what is hardship and overtime pay for if not to finance an occasional break from hardship and overtime? Worth it.