Travel beings joy, challenges and jet lag – not necessarily in that order. It also brings chance encounters that can change the course of traveling plans. In late December, I was patiently queuing at the Praia airport at silly o’clock in the morning, waiting to check in for my flight to Dakar. I noticed a small woman – from the back – holding her American passport. My immediate thought was this was the first evidence I had seen of an American presence in a country known in Europe for package holidays to Sal or Boa Vista. Not long after, a man who had just joined the queue asked me if I spoke English, which amused me as I was holding my British passport in my hand. As I turned around, I looked at the man and declared “I think I know you!” I had just run into Henna and Steve Fuller, Area Coordinator of the Missouri branch of the TCC. Happily, they recognized me as well.
After a rather bumpy flight, we arrived at the chaotic Dakar airport. Soon we were joined in the immigration queue by a tall blond man who was traveling on his own and seemed interested in our conversations. Olaf, the Fullers and I discussed varying accommodation plans, and although we made our way to separate hotels, we agreed to meet up later that day to check out Île de Gorée, one of colonial France’s slave ports.
On the island, conversation quickly turned to travel adventures. Olaf, whose work brings him to Latin America, Africa and Europe, was returning from Brazil to the U.K, via Cape Verde, Sénégal, and the Canaries. The Fullers and I recognized this as typical TCC-type travel behavior, or at least clear evidence of someone who has a love of travel. Indeed, we discovered a potential new TCC member in London-based Olaf, who cheerfully informed us that he too keeps track of his travel destinations and that upon landing in Sénégal he had just achieved his 100th United Nations country.
The Fullers were also kind enough to extend an invitation to accompany them to a restaurant/bar/club in Theis, a provincial town about 70 km from Dakar, where a Sénégalese-American couple they knew were performing local music. As my original plans that evening were to finish a presentation for a group of British insurance executives, it took me about one nanosecond to accept this much more interesting opportunity. Olaf smiled in approval, but was scheduled to fly out later that evening, so he returned to the Dakar airport and his onward journey.
Our now three-strong group endured Friday evening traffic through roadworks and general vehicle chaos in the never-ending Dakar suburbs, arriving more than three hours later. But we agreed it was worth it, as we were escorted to the table of honor and treated to authentic Sénégalese hospitality and entertainment. At silly o’clock in the morning, I returned to Dakar, with the reverse journey taking less than an hour. I eventually made my way back to the U.K. via The Gambia, that other popular West African package holiday destination (at least for the British).
This brief but pleasant chance encounter was an excellent reminder of the unexpected joys of travel, as well as the opportunity to introduce the TCC to others. Bons voyages to all travelers in 2012.
Donna Marsh, Area Coordinator, TCC UK and Ireland