If there’s a phrase in Wolof for “fall-out girl,” that’s probably what the Senegalese on this street are calling me.
Somehow I managed to nearly pass out at the grocery shop a block from my hotel, ended up on the floor there and had to be helped back to my hotel.
Obviously I didn’t see this coming or I would have avoided it. Sure, it’s wicked hot here, but until today I considered myself pretty used to the heat from Houston. (It’s not like the United States, a man at the hotel tells me. This is Senegal.)
I stayed in my hotel room until late this morning because something I ate didn’t agree with me (I’ll consider it my traveler’s initiation), and left me feeling a bit weak. But after eating a few crackers, I felt good enough for a walk. Just a short walk, I told myself.
That short walk turned into a longer one once I realized no one was on the streets because it was Sunday. How lovely to stroll without being harassed! I also met a university student (It’s easy to talk to strangers because nearly everyone I pass introduces themselves to me) who wanted to show me around. He was more polite and less demanding than most of the men who approach me, and so we walked together up La Corniche – the road with the ocean view I wrote about yesterday – and stopped at a beach.
The law student eagerly answered my questions: Are the beaches free? (Yes.) What’s that big building? (It belongs to the army.) Is that policeman guarding the president‘s beach house? (No, that’s the backside of his residence they’re protecting.) And I answered some of his: Are those mosquito bites on your arms? (He was pointing to my moles. No, that’s my normal skin.) Is that pen from the United States? (Yes.) Can I have it? (Sure.)
Walking along with a local, I felt more comfortable taking photos. It’s prudent to ask permission here first, which is why I hadn’t taken many shots until today. Here’s a few of the marvelous view (click on Flickr on the right of the homepage to see more):
When I finally started walking back to the hotel, I was feeling a bit light-headed. I figured I’d stop at the shop near my hotel for water and a Cola; the sugar would do me well.
But just as I was about to pay, it hit me: I was about to faint. I knelt to the floor, not wanting to hit my head as I fell, and tried to sip the soda.
“Are you ok?” another customer asked me. I wasn’t, but I didn’t know the word for “pass out” in French.
“C’est ma tete. Je vais tomber,” (It’s my head. I’m going to fall) was the best I could do.
Still seeing stars, I handed the soda to the man and laid my head back on the floor. “L’hopital?” several people asked. No, it would pass, I said.
I knew I needed to get back to the hotel, lay in the air conditioning and I’d be fine. But I couldn’t stand up without knowing I’d faint. (Background: I’ve only fainted twice in my life. The first time was during my semester in Cameroon when I had malaria. The second was in Vermont, when I stayed in a hot tub for too long.)
Eventually, a man half carried me back to my hotel, where I rested my head on the couch in the lobby until I could make the trip upstairs with the help of a bellhop.
Now, after an hour or so of sleep, I’m sitting up in my bed, enjoying the AC and eating a cup of yogurt. The guy who works the front desk just called to see if I am ok.
I’m fine, really I am. But I learned my lesson: No walking around in Senegal’s mid-day heat, particularly on an empty stomach.