Monday, October 21, 2013

Running and serving in Senegal (part 2): we are game!

9 days in Senegal, one third of the say has passed already, time flies. Along with the numerous... flies and feared mosquitoes in this oppressive heat and humidity. But the spirit of the team is high especially after a few have recovered from various fevers, headaches and/or diarrhea. As usual, our Indian contingent is resisting the best to any food poisoning but they are not the only ones. On Saturday night, I even risked a Salade Gourmande (green salad, medium-cooked liver and poached egg) and I'm glad to report I'm still fine two days later, phew! Not quite the rustic conditions we encountered in Ethiopia 4 years ago.

On the running side, nothing extravagant since my last post. I kept running most of the mornings on that 5K loop in our upper class neighborhood and logged 68 miles (109 kilometers) since I arrived in Dakar last Sunday. I've been gaining a bit of speed showing some heat acclimation but I still have hard time sustaining low 7 minutes/mile pace on my 10-mile runs. Even when I start at sunrise and the temperature is "only" 80F...

This Sunday, we had a group excursion in the morning and left the hotel by 7am so I was left with the afternoon as a slot to run and it was really really hot. I ventured outside our neighborhood and ran 10 miles on the West Corniche (La Corniche Ouest) down to the luxurious Radisson Blue hotel and attached mall, passing the embassy of Indonesia and United Arab Emirates, a military base and the beach we had cleaned up the previous weekend. Nice views of the Ocean on one side, and quite some smoking car traffic on the other, yet a good and wide sidewalk most of the way.
I wanted to climb to the top of the Dakar lighthouse hill but it seems the road is closed to traffic. I did climb the other hill of Dakar however, at the top of which is built the controversial monument commemorating the African Renaissance.
Let's come back to the Corporate Service Corps (CSC) experience because, even if the pictures don't really convey this, we do work quite hard on our projects. For one thing, our client is a very hard working and serial entrepreneur and it's an honor to assist him in his amazing challenge of helping Senegal grow through the development of young Senegalese. Our assignment requires that we meet and work with these "Coders4Africa", most of them being only available to us in the evening, after their day job. It reminds me of the Silicon Valley spirit, except that there is no money available here to transform ideas into gold... let's see what we can figure out in 3 weeks to make that happen...!
We learned a lot already about what success means in the local culture, about what "having enough" means in particular, something that our "developed" countries should get back to rather than creating such insane debts by always wanting more. I must say it is still quite challenging to not impose our own assumptions of financial success or finance-driven analytics.

After getting back to the hotel around 10 pm on Friday evening, we were able to take our weekend off and get two very special excursions to keep discovering Senegal and Africa.

The first, a must when in Dakar, a place that most of the Nations' heads have visited to pay their respect to the African continent was Ile de Gorée on Saturday. We took the ferry from the Dakar harbor to cross the 3.5 km separating the island from the Senegalese capital. What a unique place to relate to the immense cruelty which got 20 million slaves "shipped" to America over three centuries, 6 million of them dying during the cross-Atlantic journey. First, the number seems so surreal, larger than the population of many countries. But, to me, the fact that this practice lasted for 3 centuries (300 years!), at a time we knew about the great civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks or Romans, or others further East, at a time we even had our own Renaissance or industrialization era, it's good that the greatest leaders have been visiting this place to pay their and our tribute to the African continent and people. With a special intention to my Mom who has actively supported this movement, here is a plaque from the founder of Aide à Toute Détresse - ATD Quart-Monde:
After this humbling visit to the launch pad of slavery, we changed backgrounds and, in reference to the title of this post, went for a safari, almost a game although we did shoot animals only with our harmless cameras. At the Bandia Reserve (government-owned land but operated by a Lebanese family like many successful businesses in Senegal).
I was able to upload quite a few pictures onto my Picasa album and invite you for a tour of a few key representatives of the African wildlife: giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, ostriches, monkeys, giant turtles and various birds.

The album counts 500 pictures by now, so here are a few direct pointers to specific sections:
  1. Beach cleaning (Sunday October 13)
  2. Team building (Sunday October 13)
  3. Kick-off @ ITA (Monday October 14)
  4. Tabaski (Wednesday October 16)
  5. All-hands with Coders4Africa (Friday October 18)
  6. Ile de Gorée (Saturday October 19)
  7. Safari @ Bandia (Sunday October 20)
  8. Western Corniche run (Sunday October 20)
And I've also added a few comments and notes on some of the pictures to guide your tour, enjoy Senegal's legendary Teranga, the Wolof word for the art of hospitality!

This week, we are focusing on meeting the coders, learning about their expectations and challenges, teaching them some business sense and tips to create their business plan and think of ways and recommendations to make Coders4Africa even more successful.

#ibmcsc senegal

1 comment:

Cecile Poyet said...

What an amazing and inspiring post. Thank you for sharing Jean!