Thursday, January 26, 2012

Grèves and grèves

We have now entered into the second day of a transport strike here in Dakar, which means that the streets are quite empty again.  Sophie (a student who is staying with my host aunt) and I took advantage of the peaceful streets to go for a run last night, which was great!  We got a lot of strange looks though because it is quite unheard of for women to go running here in the city.  My host brother remarked that “Senegalese women don’t run because they are all overweight and when they finally decide to exercise they are already 200 kilos and it is too late.”  I don’t really know what he was talking about.  They certainly don’t run but are also not all overweight.  Perhaps I will ask him to elaborate on his statement later.

 On the other hand, the strike also means that it is increasingly difficult for our professors to get to class (slightly problematic).  After chatting with my host mom about the transport strike I learned a bit more about the motivations behind the strike.  Apparently gas here in Senegal is far more expensive than it is in neighboring countries and the government takes a big chunk of what you end up paying for a litre of gas.  Being a taxi driver is also a tricky job to have.  Most taxi drivers do not own their own taxis.  The way it works is that there is a person who owns the taxi and contracts another person to drive it.  Each day the driver has to pay the owner something like 10,000 CFA (the equivalent of 20 USD).  Sometimes, the driver might not even make that in a day considering he (and I use he because they are essentially all men) has to pay for his own gas (1000 CFA/litre) and is responsible for all of the repairs that are needed for the taxi.  Profits are hard to come by for taxi drivers, and so that is one of the many reasons that there is a transport strike at the moment.

Anyways, the title of this post reflects the fact that there are many grèves in abundance here in Dakar.  The word grève actually has two meanings in French.  One of them is strike.  The other, as we learned in African lit after reading one of Senghor’s poems, is a word for shoreline.  Dakar, being a peninsula, has incredible amounts of shoreline.  So, I can categorize my stay here thus far as being full of both gèves—strikes and shoreline!

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