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January 24, Sunday, was our day of departure but there was time for some shopping and picture taking. Jammed onto the eastern end of Soumbedioune is the Village Artisanal, a crowded warren of artisan handicrafts and textiles and furniture and more. The area is a major tourist attraction, and deserves to be. It is better organized than it first appears, and so old a tourist trap it should not be called that. Sleek, huge buses full of Europeans pull into a dirt area just barely big enough, and the bargaining begins.
 

At the Village Artisanal I bought a family of small hippos carved out of ebony and a boubou to try to improve my appearance. Judy helped us bargain, and Eleanor tried out her French with the vendors. She had learned quickly from Judy-a look of disbelief, a counter claim that the price is too high, throwing up one's arms in dismay, turning to walk away-to the consternation and amusement of the vendors. As for me, I paid the asking prices on those hippos.

Soon we were all packed up and Thierno drove us up to the airport and the Ambassadors Lounge, where we had a fairly long wait. Our passports were returned, now with a second stamp,


in faded red ink.
Judy Smith, Sherm, Eleanor, Alison, Sherman, Dane Smith

Out the window I shoot one last shot downward of Africa, possibly that new neighborhood on the north side of Cap Vert, Parcelles Assainis.

Air Afrique was fashionably late arriving at Kennedy Airport, but we sent Sherm over to TWA anyway. Our luggage was slow so I went ahead and took the bus to United. The bus was late in coming. It was very hot and crowded on the bus, and the road was under construction and very congested, so it was extremely slow inching to terminal 6. I knew we'd missed our flights. I went up to the counter to see how merciful United would be and to wait for Alison.

To my surprise she came bounding up demanding to know where I'd been; she'd searched the terminal for me. Evidently, she got the luggage and a faster bus, and her bus had passed mine in the hyper-mega-congestion of ground transport purgatory. United was merciful; we got a good flight. We debated what might have happened to Sherm Junior at TWA and how to manage possible problems for him.

When we got off our flight at SFO, there was Sherm! He had missed his flight and asked TWA for mercy. They gave him a voucher for a soon-to-leave Delta flight, which had many available seats because the Delta terminal is an almost incomprehensible maze of reconstruction without adequate signs. Eleanor, at least, made her connection back to Pittsburgh.

Alison's turn: What a wonderful trip! Senegal matched my every expectation; and our dining room table is piled with beautiful fabrics, necklaces, the sacred warthog carved from blond horn, wooden hippos, two boubous, plastic-bag puppet, glass paintings, postcards, etc., which I can't bear to put away yet. [Written January 28, still true July 25, 1999.] Each one speaks of a vivid memory, whether Judy bargaining energetically at the artists' market, Dane leading our explorations on safari, the poignant island of Gorée, the women's shelter, the recycling center, the community center, the comforting meals on your lovely patio and back yard, that interesting luncheon on Wednesday with distinguished guests, and my special discovery of the evocative hundreds of baobab trees on the way out to the countryside and back -- how much we packed into those seven days! Thank you so much, both of you, for making our visit so full of memorable activities and interactions with people. I know it takes time to set these things up, and you fit us generously into your busy lives. I know for Sherm and Eleanor, who haven't had any equivalent experience in non-European countries, this was a whole new way to live and explore.

Eleanor: It made all the difference in the world staying with people who were so knowledgeable and obviously respected and liked in the country. The "insider" knowledge and access let us have a unique look into not just what Senegal is like for a tourist, but what its people think and how the culture and life of the city and country as a whole are changing. It was hard to finally send off all the presents that I bought for people; some of them I wanted to keep! My next project is to figure out which of my friends I can convince to join the foreign service.

Note: Sherm Jr.'s excellent email thank you has been lost. Also, several pictures were lost when a camera was lost.

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