Don’t Knock the Blobs

May 23, 21012 re May 23, 2011                            Dakar, Senegal

Today, I spoke to my dear friend, Jana Shih, who recently returned from 2 years of living and working abroad in Senegal. As we began to commiserate about the readjustments to life back home we couldn’t help but reminisce about where we were exactly a year ago at this time. A trip of epic proportions, Jana and I spent 1 month together traveling up and down the coast of West Africa (from Senegal through the Gambia and down to Guinea Bissau and back) and having a set of adventures that only the combination of  2 social work students of Iranian and Chinese descent could have in West Africa.

 

A recount of a few of our adventures:

  • Taking a 24-hour plane ride, with stops in 6 different countries, just to cross the African continent from east to west (that’s Africa for you). During one leg of this trip, a passenger began hallucinating and crying to Jesus, stripped off all her clothes and in the chaos of it all,my blanket was used by horrified men to cover her revealed body parts. Bizarro.

 

  • Getting kidnapped by a taxi driver when Jana decided to jump out of the car because the driver refused to honor thenegotiated of our trip. When he sped off with my feet dangling out of the taxi, Jana had to run down the street to rescue me with a mob of Senegalese men behind her that she rounded up in 2.2 seconds. French swear words such as “el es fu” are forever etched in my brain as a result.

 

  • Encountering an African man on stilts at at he very elite Radisson Blu pink party in Dakar. Enough said.

 

  • Getting our visa stamps for the Gambia (a tiny country located smack dab in the middle of Senegal) at a beauty parlor on the border.

 

  • Sustaining ourselves on a diet of peanuts and West African beer.

 

  • Posing as two rich housewives on the prowl for prime real estate on the Senegalese coastline. We even went as far as to get housing specs in French because, “our husbands speak French.”

  • Being asked by a Senegalese man in a remote area of southern Senegal if Beverly Hills 90210 is really the way American women are.

 

  • Learning that in Wolof (one of the regional dialects of Senegal) any country outside of Africa is simply called Tubabadu  (two-bob-a-due). That is, other than the middle east which is referred to as Arabadu.

 

  • Getting stuck in the middle of the Gambia after our set plas (old Russian station wagon serving as public transport) driver abandoned us at the border in 90 degree heat with cows, goats, chickens hundreds of people and military personnel. We quickly utilized our mastered hustling skills and paid a tiny boat owner to row us from one side of the river to the other.

 

  •  Buying a mosquito net that trapped mosquitoes inside of the net instead of keeping them out. We are still perplexed about this one.

 

 

  • Turning a public ferry ride back from the archipelagos of Guinea Bissau into a booze cruise with the Guinea Bissaun contingency of theater of the oppressed. Karaoke to Rihanna among other pop songs were performed.

 

  • And finally more laughs then I have ever had in my life, the sun, beach and ….BLOBBING!!!!  I’ll leave it to Jana to explain the art….

 

Learning from the Master: The Art of Blobbing

by: Jana Shih                 June 10, 2012

Roxana has many talents but perhaps one of her most notorious is her ability to lie down anywhere and stay there for hours on end as long as the sun is above her.  No matter where she is -on a beach, in a backyard, (on a crowded passenger boat where she is blocking the path of everyone with her bed made out of life jackets)- she can always find a way to plop herself down horizontally and not move.  Roxana doesn’t just enjoy lying in the sun, she is addicted to it and besides dancing to 80’s music, it may just be her favorite thing to do. Ever. Put Roxana with in a few miles radius of a beach and you better get out of her way.  Our friend, Todd, who has been on quite a few vacations with her (and quite a few beach destinations)  has a name for “vacation mode” Roxana –  “the Blob.”

Don’t get me wrong, “Travel mode” Roxana has done and seen amazing things on her trip around the world. I could not imagine anyone making more out of her trip than she. She has truly appreciated and lived every single moment of it and has had more “authentic cultural experiences” than the model Peace Corps Volunteer.  However, that’s not to say that if you were to give her a choice between a great hike up a mountain or a beach, she wouldn’t always pick the latter- and West Africa’s got a lot of the latter.

Rox came to Senegal with her best vacation hat on, and I, having lived here for 8 months was waiting with open arms, excited for the opportunity to travel without “seeing or doing things.”  Although we ended up having a few, we weren’t looking for that “real African village” experience [Rox had spent the past 3 months doing that and that sounds like work to] and lucky for us, the beach happens to be the main attraction along the coast of West Africa.

Having never been on vacation with Roxy and aware of my dangerous coastal location, I was quite intimidated by the reputation that preceded her.  What was “the blob” like? Does it move? Does it talk? Will I be able to keep up with its infamous sun tanning marathons? Has the blob mutated as it perfected its skill of lying on beaches around the world? Once a point of high self-confidence, my ability to lie in one spot and do nothing seemed pale in comparison to the description of the blob our friends gave.  Maybe I should have gotten a base tan before the blob’s arrival. Even though I’ve never gotten a sunburn in my life, I acquired a fear of sitting in the sun and got into the habit of searching for shade where ever we sat.

But here is what my dear friend, Roxana has taught me:  I am a blob! I can blob with the best of them! My natural blobbing abilities are only slightly topped by the master herself and I catch on quick.   Roxana and I blobbed from the north of Senegal to the south of Senegal and all the way down to the beautiful archipelagos dos bijagos of Guinea Bissau (and then we came back to Dakar and blobbed some more!) We blobbed on beautiful deserted beaches, hotel pools, and even (while pretending to be rich housewives looking for a beach house) at a gated vacation home community.

In Roxana’s journey around the world to find herself, she helped me to find  a little part of myself too.  I found that I can lie next to a hotel pool (we never actually stayed at the hotels) from breakfast until dinner, deflecting questions from the staff like, “have you moved in the past 8 hours?” and “aren’t you going to leave?” and repeat it all again the next day. Each day, we couldn’t wait to get to our next blobbing destination. Would it be a beach (probably)? A pool (maybe)? A pool overlooking the beach (who can turn down that combination)?  There is nothing more exhilarating and satisfying than finding a good hotel poolside with an ocean view and then finding out that they also have great food.

Our friend, Anna, asked me, “what are the side effects of blobbing?”

It makes work unbearable, your muscles atrophy, and it’s as addictive as heroin.

I wouldn’t say that culture-filled-doing-and-seeing-things-vacations are overrated, but just don’t knock the blobs. ok?

If you liked this post, read more about Jana’s time and experience working in Senegal  http://janashih.tumblr.com/

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