On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Gorée Island, Senegal
During a 2-month extension of the Environmental Impact Statement phase of the Senegal River Basin Project, wife Thu joined with Footloose Forester and packed her things for a new adventure. We were lucky enough to get a place to stay in a private house on Gorée Island, about three miles east by ferry boat from the capital city of Dakar, Senegal. You can find our rented house with Google Earth at N 14◦ 40′ 04.67″ and W 17◦ 23′ 55.16″.
It was possible each workday to return to Gorée during the long lunch “hour”, because the ferry service was reliable. Usually, however, he settled for taking along a snack and using his lunch hour (more like two hours) to explore the city or do some limited shopping. Most shop keepers closed their doors during the heat of mid-day but opened later and stayed into the early evening hours.
The sheltered bay that formed a semi-circle near the Port of Dakar was the anchor home of a Russian fishing fleet. Their fleet consisted of 4-6 boats, one or two of which were factory ships that could process the catch and remain on station until the freezers were full. It was said that the fleet remained there for over two years, but that individual crew members could return home once every six months. We passed by them in the ferry so often and so close that we were sometimes able to recognize a few faces. When they had free time, some of the Russian fishermen (and a few fisher gals) would come to Gorée to swim in the placid bay adjacent to where the ferry docked.
We also liked to bask on the beach there, mostly on Sunday mornings when there was no office work to be done. Come to think of it, Thu spent enough time in the blazing sun in those days that she came back to the USA with her hair sun-bleached auburn red.
Gorée Island, about 3 miles off the coast of Dakar
(the stick pin shows the location of our rented apartment)
It was during one of those leisurely basks on the beach on a Sunday morning that Thu became a folk hero to the people of Gorée. As we lay there chatting, two young Senegalese pre-teens got into a scrap with each other. Fists flew but only a few of the blows landed. In any case, a swaggering Marine in his military trousers and combat boots came along and pulled the kids apart. Then he started to beat on both of the boys. When Thu saw that, she jumped up and immediately pulled him off. Then she got into his face. As he lay there trying to decide whether his Bengal Tiger wife was going to be able to resolve the dispute herself and without help, a few sweaty thoughts crossed his mind. The first was….if he hits her, then the Footloose Forester hits him, then the next was… if the Footloose Forester hits him, then the Footloose Forester goes to the hospital. As it turned out, the tough-guy Marine backed down from her stand-tall determination and went slinking off in the other direction.
A few years later when we were assigned in Cape Verde, out in the Atlantic about 350 miles west of Senegal, we decided to visit Gorée during a layover for flight connections in Dakar, a main airline hub for much of West Africa. We passed through Dakar often enough and knew we could manage the ferry trip to Gorée. As we debarked from the ferry, a woman who lived in a house directly in line with the ferry dock, came out of her house and came up to us. She spoke to Thu in French, saying something like, “Thank you, Madame for helping my boy.” One of those boys fighting on the beach that day was her son, and she never forgot that it was Madame Thu who saved him from a beating by a surly Marine.
About the author
Geez Dick. Either you journaled every day of your life or you have an amazing memory for details. This is great!
Tom, Truth be told I never kept a diary or journal but always intended to write some sort of seminal chronicles as my version of memoirs. Indeed, Afghanistan to Zambia is the title of those memoirs.
Thanks again for your interest. Nothing succeeds like success and I know that failure can become discouraging.