Wooow….

So I should probably change the title of this blog since I am no longer in Dakar.

I returned to Canada nearly two months ago and feel blessed to have gotten a paid internship a couple of weeks after I returned. But I was told even from the interview stage that ‘this is not going to go anywhere’ so I’m keeping my eyes and ears open. And I’m open to wherever. So this just might not be the end of my blog series. Depending on where I go next (or even if I remain in Canada), I’ll figure out what I’ll do with the blog. In the meantime, perhaps I’ll do a few one-off posts about random things or about Toronto itself. I’ll leave this post with the take-away from a conversation I had with someone not too long ago:

“The more one travels and the more of the world ones sees, the more Canada’s position as the center of the world becomes more specious.”

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Plage de Ngor

Plage de Ngor

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Balla Gaye 2 vs Yekini

The annual Senegalese ‘King of the Arenas’ (Senegalese wrestling), held on Sunday, April 22, was a contest between Balla Gaye 2  (yes, the same one that beat Tyson in my other post about Senegalese wrestling) and Yekini (yes, he named himself after the popular Nigerian football player of the 90s). Yekini, being the reigning King of the Arena, and having won for the past fifteen years (or so I heard) was heavily favoured. Unfortunately, we can’t always win and Balla Gaye 2 emerged the winner to the dismay of all Yekini’s supporters. It was also rumoured that he would be retiring after this match – he was, after all, 35, a dinosaur as far as Senegalese wrestling was concerned. Interestingly, these wrestling matches are really only about bragging rights and popularity and BOTH wrestlers still get paid – the same amount! So while Yekini may have lost his bragging rights, he still won a whopping 100 million FCFA, a little under 200 thousand dollars.

At least he gets to retire well. But perhaps not so much. By the time he finishes paying off all his supporters and marabouts, trainers, family members, etc, it’ll be a wonder if he has anything left.

In other news, the French presidential elections held on April 22nd saw the two favorites (Sarkozy and Hollande) remaining as such as they would both go against each other on May 6th, the day of the run off. However, the biggest news was the ascent into third place of the extreme right party, headed by Marie Le Pen. Well then.

It’s Over!

The incumbent Senegalese President lost the elections on Sunday, March 25, 2012 to his opponent, Macky Sall.

The man just embarrased himself for nothing.

 

Elections in Senegals…Results?

Not quite!

But everyone let out a sigh of relief when the president had a news conference last evening to acknowledge the possibility of a second round of elections, that is, that he did not win the required 51% to avoid one.

But we have still yet to have an official announcement of the results. Apparently, the last elections in 2007 had even more voters yet the official results were announed at midnight. Why is it taking so long this time?!

Views from my Terrace

Not overly interesting, but…

The monstrous statue is the ‘African Renaissance’ monument (which I have yet to even visit, close as it is) and which I’ve posted pictures of before, I believe. And that’s all she’s gon write about that one. The phrase ‘African Renaissance’ brings back bad memories of this brother who, because I did not reciprocate his love for me, decided to completely verbally demoralize me. Anyway, that’s perhaps to be told another day.

The ball looking structures are ‘ballons’ (literally balloons), which is why my area of the neighbourhood is called ‘cite ballon’. My area is basically a village, comprised of military terrains and apart from the interspersed nice apartments, the few streets around me are relatively underdeveloped, which is what I find so endearing about them. There is even a pseudo banana plantation a few minutes from me! Anyway, I think the ballons were part of the military training grounds but now people basically live in them. Some are used as the living rooms of the compounds within which they’re located, while others are rented out as just another room.

There’s also an airport. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen airplanes fly as low as they do here, and I live minutes from an airport in Canada. Because of this, in my neighbourhood and the ones nearby, buildings can only be built up to a certain height. Anyway, it’s still quite safe and I have not heard about any accidents in recent memory so it’s all good.

HOW I MET A PIMP 2

BASICALLY, my man works with a travel agency which calls him every time they have a travelling business man or tourist who is coming to Dakar for a few days and would rather NOT be alone for those few days. So my man finds them entertainment, or lets be blunt, he finds them women who can meet for a few hours, for what he calls a ‘RENDEZ-VOUS’ at some club, restaurant or what have you and who get paid for their time. Payments start from a little over 10 000 FCFA (depending, I suppose, on the business man and on the services rendered), which is a little over $20 CAD. My man also quoted me some fees in the range of 40 to 50 000 FCFA, I guess that would probably be for sexual services, and depending on how often one worked during the week, one could make in the range of 100 to 150 000 FCFA ($200 to $300 CAD) but I would imagine these amounts would be if one worked EVERYNIGHT.

His commission is 20%.

Asked what kinds of women he uses, he mentions Nigerian (I trust my people), Moroccan, Ivorian, Cape Verdian and a couple others, all of which number (as far as he could recall) about eleven women. They range from 18 to about 25/26 years. I comment that I’m a little old for this business but he remarks that he thinks 26 is a good age, a mature age. Asked why such a paucity of Senegalese women, he offers that Senegalese women talk too much, that his business is of the ‘discreet sort’ and it requires women who can keep mum about their affairs – Senegalese women, he adds, will ruin his business by talking too much. One of his girls is even married (or has a boyfriend or something to that effect), and her partner is fine with her profession. Most of the girls have day jobs – the work is at night anyway, so they go after work and return home around 11pm, usually. It’s a good job, he reckons. You just make your money, and save it for the future – you can buy a house, or whatever you want.

But an 18 year old?! I digress…

Asked what kinds of services are rendered by the women, he notes that the men just want to have company: go to dinner, go dancing, talk, anything but be alone. Sometimes there is sex involved, he adds after I coax him – sometimes, but not all the time. The business men are of all sorts (Moroccan, American, French), and are interested in multi-lingual women like myself so I would be really great for this job. Never mind that my French is atrocious. Sometimes the men, the frequent flyer sorts, get used to a certain woman and ONLY want her. If the woman is not available, the men don’t bother.

“So would you like to work with me?”

I think he had been so confident that I would accept his offer that he didn’t think about the possibility of my refusal before revealing so much about his business to me. And despite the tendency of my face to betray me, I didn’t flinch when my man first told me about his business. I just gently nodded and asked him questions, exactly as someone who is genuinely interested in the job would. To be honest, I was thinking this would have been so interesting a thesis topic. I mean, I probably would have had to go on a rendez-vous in order to get the girls’ contacts and use them, but it would have been soo cool. Ahhhh…I don’t know why I keep finding thesis topics after I have written the damn thing. Anyway, this was also the reason for my response to his question:

“I will think about it.”

I finally made it to the salon. I won’t digress too much with this episode (did you think my Pimp story was over?! Not a chance!) but it turned out the promotion was only for one day (not until Sept. 4th as one of the employees had told me when I first went there) and that the cost was another $4 CAD. I had the exact promotion price in my pouch thingy so that’s what I gave them although I had more money in my boobs. There was NO WAY I would have gone there if indeed I had to pay as much as they were asking. But I felt a bit bad because the girl did do a good job on the hair – despite the hurting of my eardrums as a result of her conversation with her colleague (she was just too loud) and the fact that she started and finished another lady’s hair (a wash and set) in the process of doing mine – she spent some three hours on the hair and I was in the salon for at least four hours (she also had to eat in the process, which was fair enough). The price I paid is the normal ‘street’ price but salons charge at least 50% percent more I guess because they have to pay rent – or something.

So my man (shall we call him Fass Pimp? My neighbourhood is called FASS and he’s a Pimp so…) called me some four times in the salon, because he was waiting for me so that we could go see the house. As I think about this now (as I write this), I think he was waiting for me so that he could ‘show me’ to his clients, current or prospective, because of what would happen during our walk and because he was so persistent in calling. I was not only going to view a house, I myself was going to be viewed!

I arrived at the salon at around half past and left just before eight o’clock. I had also made plans to see a couple of friends who lived nearby at 8:15pm so I barely had time to leave the salon, go to my house, go again to see the house (a fifteen minute walk) and then meet the friends. But Fass Pimp took one of those out of the equation. As I left the salon on my way to the apartment (the salon is literally two minutes from the apartment), I saw him walking toward the direction of the salon (he had ‘dropped’ me off there earlier so he knew exactly where it was) so I decided, because of the lack of time, to just go with him to see the house then. On our way to the house we stopped at a jazz bar – now, the house is in the NGO offices area of Dakar so naturally there a number of bars, restaurants and the like. I was not sure why this guy was taking me on this detour – I had also told him I NEEDED to meet my friends (at this point, I had already messaged them to meet later at 8:30pm because 8:15pm was looking dubious) – but this goes to my earlier comment about him wanting to ‘show me’ to some clients. For when we arrived at the bar, he was looking around like he was looking for someone! I’m having a EUREKA! moment right now, peeps. What slowness! I kept wondering why this guy was looking for someone at that time of the night, on a Sunday night – the bar was absolutely empty – and given that I had TOLD the man I was in a haste and needed to meet my friends (at this point, it was already after eight pm and we had yet to arrive at the house). Needless to say, I was very much annoyed! And it was this annoyance that would save me later.

Aside: I’m just thinking if I were in Romania or one of those Eastern European nations with a ridiculously high rate of female trafficking, I would be SO SOLD right now. I would be…in friggin Moldova waiting to be put into a container heading for London! Shit……… I’m purging my own stupidity as I write this damn story. But I am CERTAIN God was with me that night. It is the only way I can explain why NOTHING happened to me even though I spent literally hours with this man, walking through the night with him to see a house while I myself was potentially on display!

But back to the story –

So we found no one at the bar and proceeded to the house. Of course, there was no one there! (I found out Monday when I went back to the house on my own, that no one had lived in that house for months, and possibly more than a year, and that the ENTIRE house was for rent, not just a room. I’m still reluctant to believe that he lied but I CANNOT believe how NOTHING was clicking for me that night, I mean, the lady didn’t braid the hair tightly or anything so I can’t really use that excuse for why my faculties seemed to have eroded and my brain cells seemed to have fried up). We waited for a few minutes, with my annoyance growing ever more. I had friends to meet, and at this point, I just wanted some food, or at least water. So I said I wanted to go. Told him we’ll try again another time, perhaps the next day before I left for the airport. And we proceeded to return.

On our way back, I asked him more questions about his profession, and some of the revelations I’ve noted above. He then asked me again, “Do you want to work with me?”

By this time, I had had some time to reflect upon the question in the salon and there was no way I could spin it to myself. It was prostitution – plain and simple. I mean, I could make myself a high class prostitute, but a prostitute nonetheless I would be. I then tried to justify it to myself, there are some women who have a way with men, and this would be such a good opportunity to learn the ways of men and to learn how to deal them, what they like, etc. Especially in my profession where, as you get to a certain level, almost all you see are men (I even see it in the conferences and seminars organized by my organization). I had also always been interested in ‘prostitution as a profession’ and this would be a way to understand it, learn about it, and even write about it! I mean, I hate academics but I like writing about academic things in a non-academic way. My interest is fuelled by the recognition that there are SOO many Nigerian prostitues (in and out of Nigeria) that it has led me to think that my country has a culture of prostitution, at least in the South (I will have to do this justice some other time but recent discussion with travellers about the insane amounts of Nigerian prostitutes in major European cities and a recent Al Jazeera article immediately come to mind). I would love to write about this someday and this would certainly contribute to that.

But then I thought, what would then be the point of all my education? And my parents? And friends? How to justify to my people? I would not be able to. I think this may be one of those things where perhaps you start with the best intentions and then, well, you end otherwise. And was it not Shakespeare that wrote in Hamlet, “Foul deeds will rise/Though all the earth o’erhelm them, to men’s eyes?” I only remember that quote because of one of my high school English teachers (of course he was a Brit!) who repeated it whenever possible. Everything comes to light, unfortunately.  I mean, imagine If I were to become someone important in the future (why not?), and this comes out, how would I even get myself out of it? Or even closer to the present, Imagine having a ‘rendez-vous’ and someone I know waltzs in? Like my boss, or one of my colleagues?!

So my answer this time to his question this time was, “No. It is not my job.” And I was so proud of myself! It was an exemplary  test of values and principles, I must admit, and though I almost failed, I ultimately passed.

But then Fass Pimp got some bad news. One of his girls who had a ‘rendez-vous’ that very night could not make it and the meeting was slated to occur in less than an hour. He started frantically making calls to look for girls. He called one girl and said she told him she was with someone already (having a ‘rendez-vous’). After a few minutes of brainstorming, he turned to me:

“Do you want to make 10 000 FCFA tonight?”

I guess this guy had not read my mind about wanting to be a high-class prostitute. $20 CAD for three hours does not a high-class prostitute make! I gently turned him down (Imagine! He asks me this even after he knew I had to meet my friends in a few minutes – I mean, they girls I was planning meeting are absolutely lovely girls so there was no way I was standing them up for $20. In fact, there was no way I was standing them for any amount less than a million dollars). He then continues to brainstorm which of his girls he could call, even making a few calls in the process. We walk on.

A few minutes after, we arrive at yet another restaurant/bar. He goes inside and tells me to wait outside, by the door. At this point, my annoyance was so palpable, I could have bottled it up and sold it. And it was already 8:25pm and I had very little intention of being late. I proceeded to walk up a bit. I actually wanted to keep going but I got to the next corner and got a little disoriented and did not know which road to take (we had taken the same road earlier but it was now dark and I was loathe to take the wrong road and have to walk all the way back again and be even more late) so I decided to wait for him at the corner. He came out of the bar and went across the street to the hotel we had gone to earlier in the day for another few minutes. At this point, I was just LIVID.

*Can anyone believe the audacity of this man to continue to waste so much of my time?! Reflecting on this now, he was ALREADY acting as if he owned me and my time, taking detour upon detour and refusing to yield to my impatience and calls for haste.*

Few minutes later, he came out and started to walk towards me. He got to where I was and I waited for him to lead (seeing as how I was lost, although the road he took was my first instinct). We walked on for another few minutes in a silence which he finally broke by asking in a slightly agitated tone, “Why didn’t you wait for me?! When I went into the restaurant, there was man in there and I told him about you and I told him to look at the door and when I went to the door, you weren’t there!”

You know, some people say there is no God. And then some say, he/she might exist but is rather apathetic. But I was just so HAPPY at that moment. So HAPPY because my GOD had SAVED my small-for-an-African-woman ass! So HAPPY because I had been blessed enough to have an instinct, blessed enough to get annoyed at foolishness, and blessed enough to walk down the street and not wait for this man at the door.

I didn’t even know how to respond to him at this point. I just walked on with him and a few minutes later, around 8:40pm, we reached my friends’ home. I parted with him then (thankfully, he didn’t linger long enough to meet my friends when they came to let me in) and just bewailed my own foolishness. This guy had absolutely manipulated my time and stolen my entire day! But I only had myself to blame. I went to my friends’ place, had some really good pseudo-suya (akin to bbq meat), and took the shortest cab ride of my entire life back (at my friends’ insistence and payment – I did say they were lovely girls!) lasting perhaps for thirty seconds – they live really close to me.

And then I slept my stupidity away.

But alas! Not all of it.

I would contact Fass Pimp the very next day to try to see about a studio apartment we had spoken about which was located a few buildings from mine. He would not show up for an hour (I left fifteen minutes after the appointed time – I had a flight to catch!), and would call incessantly when he did. He also found his way to my apartment door (I stupidly – told you I didn’t sleep it off! – told him which apartment building my apartment was in front of, he walked into my apartment building and found my apartment – he must have asked which one was the studio) just as I was rushing and trying to leave for the airport. He knocked and rang the bell incessantly – no where in our earlier convo had I told him to COME LOOK for me – but I feigned ignorance and didn’t open until the very moment I had to leave to take the taxi to the airport. But thankfully he had already left.

It was not until when I went back to the first house on my own (one week later on a Monday) and when I was told a different story than Fass Pimp that I effectively connected the dots.

Writing this has been cathartic for me and I hope it has been entertaining for you. I did end up writing a novella but it was in an attempt to do the story justice. I’ve only told one other person about it – a colleague – and she was in as much disbelief as I was.

It is also not my purpose here to judge or denounce prostitution. I know some women have to do it or at least think they do, for lack of other options, or perhaps lack of creativity in thinking of other options? But I do find it very interesting that some women do choose to do it, i.e. Fass Pimp’s women. I honestly outlined some reasons above as to why I fleetingly considered this profession. Anybody else have any other ideas? I might yet write about this someday, but hopefully under different circumstances.

**Unfortunately, there is yet another update to this story, but that will have to be left unwritten, at least, for now!**

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