Goree – Take 1

So today, August 17th, I had the choice between studying for my French exam and going to Gorée Island for the day with some people from my neighborhood – judging by the name of my post, you can probably guess which one I picked. I had stayed in my room studying until someone knocked on my door and said “Come eat, we’re going to Gorée” – not quite like that, but you get the gist. I ate a late lunch, since I had been antisocial all morning, took a taxi and went to the ferry port. A ferry takes you from Dakar to Gorée. Before we disembarked the taxi, Papi turns to me and says: “Don’t act like a foreigner, they’ll make you for 5,000 CFA.” Apparently that’s the price for non-Senegalese people and for Senegalese people its 1,500 CFA. Not trusting my poker face, I just gave him my money to get my ticket for me.

We get a ticket and filed onto the ferry – the whole thing is actually quite an efficient process. There’s a place to buy your ticket then you go into another room to wait for when you can board the ferry. They hole-punch your ticket before you get on. We sat on an upper deck on the ferry ride which was about 20 – 30 minutes. It was a lovely day – over cast, but warm with lots of breeze.

On Gorée, there were many, many people. The beach itself isn’t large and it’s quite rocky, but there are many places that jut out of the side that older kids like to dive into the water from. I jumped in once – the water is VERY salty and I grew up on the other side of the Atlantic! I just don’t remember Ocean City’s water being quite that salty. But many of the divers were quite impressive, doing flips and such. It was fun to watch – especially since I wasn’t about to get back in.

We stayed there the whole day (well we had arrived around 3pm – maybe later). Going in and out of the water, talking, watching other people. Most of the people in my group were planning on staying the night at island and had brought a tent. But I had to return and someone went back with me. But we noticed the 2nd to last ferry arrive just as it was leaving! We ran to catch it but to no avail. Luckily there was one more that arrived around 12:30 a.m. – I don’t even want to know what time I got home. All I know is that when I did, there was a party for young boys and girls (tween looking) in the house across from mine! It was extremely loud, but I drifted immediately to sleep! Gorée had been way to fun for a loud party to keep me up. A couple less hours of studying was definitely worth it.

Another wonderful thing about Gorée is that I finally took pictures!! To make up for my complete lack of pictures recently – I’ve put the entire set here! I also have some videos of two brothers from the neighborhood flipping into the water – I’ll try to upload them!!

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I also wanted to comment on why this is called “Gorée – Take 1”. It’s because in the CIEE program that I am on, we’ll be going to Gorée Island on September 1st. When we go there, I’m pretty sure the primary objective is to explore the historic slave house. Before today, I only knew a few things here and there about Gorée. When someone in the states tells you about it, it’s all about the slave house and how it’s a huge tourist spot. And when people as if you’ve been to Gorée, it usually implies have you toured the slave house. What they don’t tell you is that lots of people live on this Island and that many Senegalese people go there for day trips, fun days at the beach, etc; essentially, that life goes on around this historic site. I fell that somewhere along the way, I learned this. But seeing it in person made me really warmed my heart. To me, it was similar to the Elmina and Cape Coast slave castles in Ghana. Outside those eerie walls, and right up against it actually, Ghanaians moved on with their daily lives not allowing the history of the building to hinder their work and their play. Like in Ghana, I love seeing Senegalese people utilizing their own tourist attractions.

I’m finding it hard to quite express what I feel I’m trying to say. Simply, for me, it’s an interesting comparison. When the people in my neighborhood say “oh, we’re going to Gorée,” it means, “We’re having a beach day, let’s go have some fun.” But I know when the program puts it on our schedule, it means “Let’s go explore the slave house and reflect on this horrific part of world history.” This is of course a worthy pursuit and I’m looking forward to that event, but I’m glad to have seen this other side, this local side of Gorée first. So yes, I’ve been to Gorée Island. But no, I’ve haven’t seen the slave house.

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