What is the chance of meeting a Catastrophe Analyst at our hotel who can tell us our chance of getting shot while visiting Casamance in southern
What are the odds of the most famous person in
What is the probability of being puked upon by a complete stranger?
Mark, the Catastrophe Analyst, started us on our musings. His job at home in
So when a guy like Mark tell us it's OK to visit Casamance, where separatists have been waging a bloody if low-grade 20-year battle to form their own country (a battle that includes spearing off a few tourists in the mid 90s), well - we believe him. Surely he did the math before his own visit, and the odds came up in his favor.
So we ignore the US State Department warning to stay out of Casamance and take a bush taxi to
Ziguinchor, Casamance's main town, is a sleepy, palm-lined place. Donkeys pull carts along dusty roads. Grazing goats meander the streets and have to be shooed off the runway before the daily plane from
We arrange a boat tour of the area - "boat" being a euphemism for the small wooden vessel that pulls up. When Samba - the skipper - and all 10 of us tourists get in, it lists to the left and dips low in the water. We try not to think about the water streaming in from two little holes on each side, and motor off through the mangrove swamp to the
Despite its Hitchcockian name, the island is a lovely place that burns bright with color. Pink flamingos, blue kingfishers, yellow-beaked pelicans, charcoal herons, white ibises, and many more species roost along the salty
The next place we visit -
So imagine our surprise when we walk down the street in Mindelo (
We couldn't say much to each other directly, since we don't speak Criolo or French and Cesaria doesn't speak English. Everything had to be translated by Peter, Cesaria's 87-year-old uncle, a dapper gentleman in white linen trousers, as sharp-dressed as they come, except for his unzipped fly.
Cesaria asked why we had come to
At the end of our visit, Cesaria let us take photos (after telling Peter to zip up first), and then she invited us back. We are starstruck! We feel love and warmth toward all
Our feeling evaporates the first time we ride on a ferry between
That accomplished with only minor bruising, we enter another scrum to board the ferry. This one is more violent, with heavy clobbering and people screaming at each other about jumping the queue.
But it soon becomes clear why one needs to board at the head of the pack. Whether we sit on the upper deck versus the lower deck, or on the perimeter benches versus the ones in the middle, will become of utmost importance during the next hour, especially once we see our fate coming in the form of yellow plastic bags, which our fellow passengers are now pulling out of their pockets and holding close to their mouths.
Wish we could report it was the sea that was heaving as we chugged out of port, but it remained glassy. The
The air is punctured by sounds of SPLAT, BURP, and GAG and by acidic smells. Though we have good seats, we receive a windbourne hit.
Later that afternoon, as we rinse our shorts and shirts in the hotel shower, we make plans to call Mark and recommend a new opportunity in the field of Catastrophe Analysis.
Aug 2 - 12, 2003