Throughout Dakar, there are various motorbikes, motorcycles, and scooters that zoom down the busy streets-winding throughout pedestrians, passing taxis and nearly missing buses heading straight toward them. These motor vehicles range from the most modern and contemporary-easily toting 2-3 passengers, to the most rustic and literally rusty, hand crafted pieces of machinery that look like they belong in the bottom of a junkyard.
From first arriving here in Dakar and almost getting my heels run over by a motor scooter the first morning walking to school, I vowed that before I returned back to the States, I would ride on the back of a motorcycle/scooter/or bike with a complete stranger. Placed near the top of my “Senegal Bucket List” next to various exotic locations, I eyed it each night before slipping into slumber.
Today, I can now victoriously cross this item off my list with my purple Sharpie pen!!! Casually walking to school through Mermoz while reading a handout for one of my classes (yes, I can read while I walk: hence the nickname “Belle”), I passed a young gentleman pulled over with his motorcycle taking a call on his cell phone. He called to me and asked where I was going. I told him I was heading to school and that I was running a little late. He nonchalantly offered to give me a ride and I immediately replied “Déedéet” (No). A complete stranger offering me a ride? Come on. I might be silly at times, even a little crazy with good friends and family but I, Cece Marshall, am not a stupid naïve little girl…..or am I?
Declaring that I didn’t even know him, he launched into formalities-his name, where he lives, what he does ( I forget) and I felt obligated to share information about me-my name, that I was student living here, that I was already in love with the Senegalese people and culture and didn’t want to leave ever. Becoming a little forward, he offered his cell phone number and I told him that I didn’t have a phone here-a little lie but hey, he doesn’t need to know everything about me. This guy was not giving up easily-he offered to give me one as a gift, how sweet, though I assume if I had accepted the gift he would have told me I was now obliged to date him or give him my hand in marriage-I don’t know!
After my lovely conversation with him, I realized I was actually running late for school and tried to leave politely without offending my new friend. He still insisted on giving me a ride on the back of his motorcycle and before I declined as a finalization, the words inscribed in blue ink on white notebook paper ran through my brain, “Ride on the back of a motorcycle with a complete stranger.” Why not?
I packed up my paper handout reading, ensured my backpack was zipped up tightly, and gracefully hopped on the back of the vehicle, clutching the metal side handlebars. “N’est pas rapidement!” I insisted and he ensured “doucement”. I also warned that if he decided to ride past my school into the distance with me on the back, I would jump off quicker than a jackrabbit on a hot date.
My smile lit up my morning, causing all passerby to turn and regard this sight. “Cece, on the back of a motorcycle?!?! This cannot be!” Yes it can. I waved to my friends selling cell phone credit on the street, to the security guard at the gas station, and to the woman selling peanuts at the fruit stand. Though I didn’t manage to pass any of my American friends slowly marching to school, there was no discontentment found within me, even as my ride ended directly in front of the school.
Thanking my gentleman friend for his courtesy, my earliness to class, and for not kidnapping me, I hopped off and entered the campus grounds, laughing to myself, at my life, and at my silly “Senegal Bucket List” which can actually be completed if I put my mind to it.