It was nothing tragic – if anything the whole situation was just kind of bizarre. Two friends and I left a party a little before two – quite early for a Senegalese party – so early in fact that all the guests hadn’t arrived yet. The party is in Oukam and we find a taxi that agrees to take us Sacre Coeur 3 for 1,500 CFA. In the taxi, we ask him if he knows the “Immeuble Marima,” – the usual drop off spot for the Sacre Coeur crew since most taximen know it. He says yes. As we’re driving we realize the other two girls live a little further away from it so maybe it’s best he takes us to our houses. One girl lives closer to the Brioche Doree so we ask him to take us there first. “That’ll be 500 CFA more.” So begins a short argument that ends up with us angrily telling him to just drop us off at the Marima even though we agreed on a price before telling him WHERE in Sacre Coeur we wanted to go and that the distance between the Mariama and the Brioche was not 500 CFA.
We storm out of the taxi and start ranting about how nonsensical and full of rubbish the taximan was. The road we’re on is well lite and cars wiz by, but there is little to no foot traffic. We don’t hear a motorbike come from behind us. I soon notice that it’s dangerously close (it’s not uncommon here for people to pull strange maneuvers that leave them quite close to pedestrians – cars and bikes alike). I’m the closest to the road and I turn to tell them not to drive so close to where we’re walking – but the Wolof and French phrases escape – not that I had that much time to formulate them.
The next few moments happen in a span that seem unnaturally slow given the circumstances. Before my words get out, the guy sitting behind grabs my purse. There’s a split second that exists that I could have grabbed it back. The driver pulls forward and my $10 side saddle bag snaps from the chain and they have it instead of me. My mind still hasn’t quite processed what happened. The boys stop their bike a few feet in front of us and stare back at us. We stare back at them. There’s a few more split seconds where I think maybe they know me – otherwise why would you stop and stare at me after taking my bag – they must just be messing with me. Then suddenly everything clicks for the three of us all at once and we yell and run after them, at which time they of course take off, crossing into the main road and leaving us behind.
They got away with about 6,000CFA ($12), some tissue paper, my chapstick and lipgloss, a copy of my passport and the keys to my house (that’s the only thing I really felt bad about because they weren’t my keys, I just got permission to take them upon leaving). Then the taximan, who had gotten back onto the main road, had the audacity to ask us what happened!! I had my phone in my right hand the whole time and I was able to call my host brother to let me in. All in all, we were quite lucky! Particularly since I almost brought 10,000 CFA with me, almost brought the keys for my room (no copy of those) and almost brought my camera! The experience wasn’t traumatizing, just really shocking (interestingly enough, I had also gotten electrocuted earlier that night at the party).
At the end of the day, it was a good learning experience. Just pay the extra 500 CFA to get taken to our door. Hold on tightly to your bag when walking down the street. All three of us agreed that we had started feeling safe in Sacre Coeur 3, and while this doesn’t mean our neighborhood is dangerous, it just reminds us to never let your guard down. In addition, we’re reminded that it’s almost tabaski here (a Muslim holiday celebrating how Abraham was willing to sacrifice Ismael for God, but then didn’t and sacrificed a sheep instead – super watered down version). Holidays mean that people feel pressured to provide large feasts and dress well for family gatherings (or they know people will have more money on them for those same reasons). Either way, theft rate goes up around this time of year.