After spending a few rainy days in New York, I headed to Washington D.C. from which I was supposed to fly to Dakar, Senegal. However, things didn't go well as I wanted them to.
It was only five days ago when my flight operated by Cubana was canceled all of a sudden, and this time I was stuck in Washington Dulles Airport for two days due to some trouble with South African Airways.

Here are the details of what happened to me:

@2011/12/07 08:00am


I took an AMTRAK train from NYC to Washington D.C. The ticket cost me USD80.00 on the Internet for the coach class. It wasn't cheap, but the train was surprisingly good and comfortable with free WiFi available for all passengers: this AMTRAK was actually much better than those trains that I took in Europe last year and it made me wonder why the USA hadn't implemented this AMTRAK network all around the country.

@2011/12/07 12:30pm


It was a downpour in Washington D.C. and shortly after my train arrived in the main station, I hopped into a shuttle called SuperShuttle and headed to Washington Dulles Airport: USD27.10 one way.

@2011/12/07 13:30pm


My flight (hereafter SA208) operated by South African Airways (hereafter SAA) was a daily-route between Washington D.C. and Johannesburg via Dakar.
I checked in without any problems and no extra luggage fee for my surfboards. However, the SAA check-in counter staff informed me that SA208 was being delayed for about five hours due to "a mechanical problem", and she gave me a voucher for dinner.
At this time I didn't think that the delay would be a big concern. I decided to spend this waiting time on cruising around the airport.

@2011/12/07 22:00pm


When I turned up to the gate just before the scheduled boarding time, there was no plane docking at the gate and I didn't even see one single airport staff member there.
In fact, SA208 wasn't delayed. It was canceled a couple of hours after I had checked in, but I was neither informed about it nor did I see it on the departure schedule board. Somehow, it kept showing "on time" on the board. Why?!

@2011/12/08 00:00am


A funny thing was that I wasn't the only uninformed passenger then. There were at least four other passengers in the same situation as mine: two South Africans, one Senegalese and one American. We were just abandoned inside the terminal and were only to discover later that SA208 was canceled when we checked the SAA website.
Not knowing when SA208 would be ready to fly and no accommodation inside the airport, we were just sitting in front of the gate and trying to get some sleep....

@2011/12/08 09:00am


I only slept for three hours on the floor in front of the gate and then I woke up without my alarm clock as it was getting busier and noisier with more and more people coming into the terminal to catch their morning flights.
The SAA staff came to the gate-counter around 9am and all the people who missed yesterday's flight flocked to them and asked them for an explanation, apology, compensation, etc. I wasn't angry about yesterday's cancellation. I was just hoping to fly out of here as soon as possible.
The SAA staff gave me a new boarding pass when I re-checked in at the gate-counter. She also gave me a voucher for lunch, which inevitably meant that our flight was being delayed again: no wonder the departure schedule board was still saying "on hold" for SA208.

@2011/12/08 19:00pm


It was already dark outside when SA208 was finally ready to let passengers in, and the SAA staff made a boarding call for only those who were going to Johannesburg but not for those to Dakar; SA208 was a daily flight between Washington D.C. and Johannesburg with a stop-over in Dakar, and because of the cancellation of yesterday's flight, there were way too many passengers for today's flight. Thus, SAA decided to fly all passengers for Johannesburg today and leave us tomorrow for Dakar.
Needless to say, all the passengers for Dakar became furious, but somehow I was not: I was just tired of staying inside this monotonous airport. I was also sick and tired of SAA's measurement on this whole incident at a snail's pace.

@2011/12/08 21:00pm


No chance for me to fly at any cost today and I was expecting to spend another night inside the airport. However, SAA provided us a hotel to stay in; I wish that they had done the same to us last night.
The hotel turned out to be good with dinner and breakfast included: it was such a while ago when I last stayed in this kind of a 3 ~ 4 star hotel. It just reminded me of my time as a freelancing system engineer on a business trip: a good old time to remember....

@2011/12/09 07:30am


The third day at Washington Dulles Airport.
No matter what it would take today, I wanted to fly out of here for my next destination - Dakar. So did everyone else.
The SAA check-in counters were chaotic this morning as so many people were queuing up for today's flight. It was no surprise that some people ran out of their patience, shouting at SAA staff and demanding for apology; one lady in particular was so angry, she was calling CNN and asking them to broadcast this incident as news.... Such was American! Chill out,
Meanwhile, I was given a boarding pass for the third time and then I walked through the security gate and sat near the boarding gate.

@2011/12/09 09:00am


Finally, a boarding call for those to Dakar was made and I stepped into SA208 for the first time after being stuck in Washington D.C. for nearly two days.
By this time what was really wrong with SA208 was not clear. SAA staff only told us that there had been a "mechanical problem" and no further details were disclosed to us. Well, it didn't really matter to me in the end. I was just relived to be able to fly out of here.
Not such a great start for my first trip to Africa, though.


!!!!! Note !!!!!
A few weeks after this ordeal in Washington D.C., I actually met an SAA pilot in Senegal and I asked him if he knew anything about what was wrong with this SA208. He explained to me that the plane's No. 3 engine wasn't working at all and the engineers in Washington D.C. were unable to fix the problem. So it was flown back from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg without any passengers on board and also without the No. 3 engine functioning.... Scary!
All in all, it took me two days to get out of Washington D.C., but I think it was worth a wait then.

Next Destination >>>



The reason why I chose Senegal was because, first of all (and always), it was surfable, and also because (I thought) Senegal would be a good hub for me to travel to a few other countries in west Africa.
Furthermore, one of my best friends Sakura's husband is Senegalese. I simply wanted to see what his country was like.


While being stuck for two days in Washington D.C. (Refer to the previous article "SA208" for more details), I got to know Senegalese guy Seydina who was living and working in San Francisco. He was now on his way back home in Dakar for Christmas by the same flight.

Despite full of passengers on SA208, our flight was smooth and we arrived in Dakar early in the evening - about 8 hours from Washington D.C. And the fleet would continue to Johannesburg after Dakar.
I was worried about whether or not my luggage arrived in Dakar after not seeing it for two days. Luckily enough, mine was there, but Seydina's wasn't....


Seydina and Seydina's brother were kind enough and gave me a lift from Dakar's shabby airport to the hostel called Annex Kingz Plaza - seemingly the only hostel in Dakar.
There was, however, one problem then. My surfboard bag was too big for his brother's car. So we carried it from the airport to the hostel on the rooftop of the car without any straps on it, but by holding it with our hands out of the windows. No police stopped us.

Welcome to Africa, hahaha!


It's dry hot during the day, but it cools down a little bit after sunset in Dakar.
The sky appears to be hazy or almost sandy every day as some sand is blown in by the dusts from the Sahara desert.
The hottest season around this region of west Africa is said to be between April and November when the temperature often reaches over 40 degrees. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about the heat as for now.




Honestly speaking, my first impression on Dakar was;

" Ahhh.... Is This It ? ? ? "

I wasn't expecting much, but the name "Dakar" had done a huge influence on my imagination about the city due to one of the world's most famous rallies - Paris & Dakar Rally.
In reality, however, Dakar was still very impoverished, much more than my imagination. There appeared to be lack of infrastructure, many buildings and roads under construction or undone, and lots of kids begging on the streets. I'm not judgemental about Senegal. This is just factual.


Nevertheless, the bright side of Senegal is that although poverty is clearly evident, there are hardly any dodgy people here such as thieves, muggers and alcohol/drug addicts. Senegalese people seem to me very disciplined.
Additionally, most of them are super slim and super tall like my friends' Senegalese husband - Michele. I see quite a few semi Naomi Campbell and semi Usain Bolt everywhere!

My new friend Seydina who I got to know while we were stuck in Washington D.C. for two days was very helpful, giving me a lift from the airport to the hostel the other day, e-mailing me at times to make sure my stay in Dakar was Okay, etc, etc.
One night he even invited me to his parents' house for dinner, and the photo below shows what I had with Seydina and his brothers all together around this bowl of rice.


This dish was called "Thebou Diene" - perhaps, the most common and traditional (?) Senegalese food with rice, fish and steamed veggies.
You might think that it doesn't look good (I also thought so in the beginning), but it was actually really good. It tasted a little similar to the Japanese dish called "Takikomi Gohan".


Seydina's younger brother made tea for me by pouring it into a shot glass and then into another shot glass, repeating this process for a few times in order to make the tea fluffy(?).
It tasted to me like weak coffee with lots of sugar in it, but he claimed that it was tea.


Seydina spoke very good English, but his other family members spoke Wolof and French (the official language), both of which I did not speak (just a little bit of French).
I really wish that I could have some decent conversations with Seydina's parents and his other brothers. Still, I felt very fortunate to be invited to a local Senegalese family and to have dinner with them.

Gochisou-sama, Seydina!