Feeling like cowboys in Senegal #travelwithkids

We woke up on our fifth morning under the African sun of Senegal, feeling totally relaxed and ready for another day of adventures. It was going to be a lazy day today and we were really looking forward to that. We also still had the spider in the toilet problem, so we hurried to get ready and headed for the restaurant toilets to place a number two. There is only a limit to what you can help yourself with by using the shower instead of the toilet.


After breakfast and a leisurely swim in the pool, we headed off to the local town for some shopping. Now brace yourselves, ladies. The shopping street is nothing to what we are used to. There are fresh fruits and vegetable stores. Also stands selling clothes donated by people from Europe. Yes, selling those clothes which you put in the dumpster. Anyway… It is also possible to be checking out a store but having nobody there tending to the store. Just come back later. We trust you won’t steal anything.


Anyway, all good fun because the main aim of today’s shopping was to find material and fabric to have dresses made. Each purchase is also a skill of tried and tested negotiation. Luckily our travel guides could drive a hard deal and get us the best price.

Having your clothes tailor made in Africa is really a fresh take on holiday dressing. If you’d rather not spend another holiday season turning to the same obvious pieces buried deep in your closet, then carefully choosing your fabric and describing exactly what you want definitely beats the trusted, overdone little black dress. I was surprised how this small tailor business managed to deliver a suitable party-ready alternative outfit for me and my children, plus the other children of our party by the very next day. Outfits that feel fresh yet aren’t completely over the top!


After shopping, we headed to a little café down by the river where we got some refreshments and enjoyed an aperitif before having lunch. Our guide took the baby off to wash his feet in the water, allowing me a few minutes of down time to relax with my gin & tonic and exchange some adult talk with my fellow travellers.


We had lunch with a local family which is a brilliant way to jump-start any kid’s imagination. This family also lived down by the river, in a community of several families together, reigned by the big old mama of the clan. Us women were required to go into the kitchen, which was nothing but a square room in a cement concrete building, no glass in the windows. Yet there was electricity wiring across the wall connecting to a very modern looking refrigerator. We later learned that this clan was family of the wife of the owner of our charm hotel, the Souimanga Lodge. Makes sense.


We wore a sarong wrap and dished up rice, then covered this with sauce and watched how big, old mama wisely distributed the chicken meat evenly between the seven large silver platters. Then we carried out the platters balanced on our heads, whilst the men were relaxing down by the river and the children were playing. The baby had immediately been adopted in the black community. I had my duties to see to and the baby was being fully entertained with all the other tiny littles.


We ate with our hands. Our right hand, to be exact. Before sitting down to eat, two buckets were brought out. One with soapy water and one with just clear water. After each washing our hands, we sat down and ate. You were supposed to squish the food together into a ball and then pop it into your mouth. After dinner, hands were washed again in the same buckets of water as before dinner.


Then there was the after dinner party dancing. If you’re wondering why you can’t see my eldest son in these pictures, it’s probably because he was hiding behind a tree. He really didn’t want to participate in the dancing. We all joined in of course, but with our typical European reserve. Never would we dream of letting ourselves go and dance like true African queens. But such fun to see how free those people express themselves. I’m slightly jealous not to have the same enthusiasm and not give a flying fudge what people might think.

After lunch, we headed back to our Lodge for some down time by the pool. By now I was sick and tired of having a gigantic spider in my toilet, so I complained again to our travel guides and shoved a picture of the big beast under their nose. So two of them came to get the animal. I repeat, it took two men to come and get the damn thing. They were also intrigued to know where we went to toilet if we were refusing to enter the toilet in our room. My eldest son Winston told them with certain reserve: “We go somewhere else.” That was that, our honour was saved.


So two of our travel guides entered the toilet. One armed with two cans of insect killing spray and one armed with a broom. It took them ten minutes to chase and kill the damn spider. But they finally got it and brushed him carefully outside. I did notice how they didn’t want to pick it up. So I thought smugly to myself I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like spiders. I thanked our guides for their heroic work in saving a single mom and her three littles from such a horrid monster. At which one of the guides looked at me, smiled and said : “Now you can stop using the shower.” We had been outsmarted.


That evening we headed out to yet another remote little village by horse and cart. You have to see the picture of what “horse ‘n cart” actually means in Senegal. It is literally a piece of wood with wheels attached being pulled by a meagre horse.


We arrived in a village where people live in huts, and small houses. Sand roads and basic necessities. We watched how a local show-off climbed up high in a coconut tree and chopped down a bunch of coconuts with his machette. The kids were unhappy because in chopping down those coconuts, a birds nest got thrown out of the coconut tree and little birds were killed in the fall.


By now, I had fallen in love with the warmth, with the friendliness of the people, with the simplicity of life, with no stress and beauty all around. There was no way I wanted to come back to cold gray Europe where deadlines and obligations await each hour of the day. I found this trip to be my golden ticket to opening myself to new horizons and new ways of feeling and thinking. And at the same time I was hoping this experience would entertain and encourage my kids’ future paths.



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