An Email from Dakar

Hi there. I’m laying fully dressed in my bed at the Hotel King Faud Palace. And you can push any thoughts of this being anything in the same universe as the Westin Palace in Madrid. This is a tacky medium aged hotel that smells a little dank and has seen its better days. 

Arriving in Dakar last night was interesting. My assistant had arranged for a car to collect me from the airport. The flight left DC at 6pm and and 7 hours later we landed at 5am local time. It’s dark, the airport is decrepit, they hassle you about your visas and then you’re spat out of the airport unsure what the heck is going on as you channel through guard railings and taxi drivers leap over the barriers to try and get your business. 

I looked for my driver but he was not to be found so back into the airport I went to change money so I could (gulp) take a taxi. Minutes later, crammed into what was probably one of the illegal taxis, a little lada with music blaring, my suitcase and backpack on my lap, we start driving and all I can see is dilapidated buildings everywhere. I start thinking about Senegalese pirates and wonder how this will all end up. I make an executive decision to turn my data on and (big exhale) google maps tell me we’re five mins from the hotel. 30,000 Senegalese francs later ($60) I step into the lobby. I know I’ve been ripped off but I don’t mind. I’m here now. 

This trip should be okay. I’m accompanying one of my favorite board members. The other Foundation folks who are here are also very nice. The meeting we’re attending is the African Higher Education Summit which has attracted many senior UN and government folks. Tomorrow for example, I’m attending a talk being given by Koffi Annan. 

That said, I just jumped over to TripIt to see what time my flight leaves on Thursday night. Other than our March board meeting, I don’t have any travel again until early May when I head to Malawi for a retreat with 10 senior leaders of peer organizations and partners. We were told the other day to bring ear plugs because of the noise the wild hippos make at night. We’re staying in “luxury” tents and I’m told it’s fairly common to have stray elephants walk through the camp. 

That would be cool. 


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