In Which I Hit a Man.

At Magdalena last night.

It all started when our SP landed in Dakar this past Sunday morning. Suffice it to say, though having them here is great fun, they’ve been wreaking absolute havoc with my REM cycle. In between working a couple of consecutive sixteen hour days, not having any time off in about two weeks and not sleeping well at night, I woke up this morning feeling like the “before” lady on that Prozac commercial. You know, the one who sits dolefully in her ragged, defeated blue bathrobe at the breakfast table staring listlessly into her coffee mug while a monsoon rages outside of her kitchen window? Me. A thousand times me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even have time to finish caffeinating before it was time to dash out the door to meet the SP at their hotel and sort through contact cards from the movie last night. [And unhappily enough, I’m fresh out of Prozac.] Bleary eyed and quickly fading, my team and I spent an hour translating sloppy, hastily written French comment cards, after which Christy and I headed off to meet Bineta [a favorite!] who was very excited to take us to an alfresco fruit market.

Sorting contact cards with Cash this morning.

 After the typical harrowing taxi ride downtown, Bineta, Christy and I hopped out of the car onto the bustling sidewalk, where stand after stand of mangos in every conceivable shade of green and a myriad of exotic fruits you’ll never find in Harris Teeter all vied for my attention. As eager vendors anxiously urged me to buy their oranges, Christy and I were very suddenly surrounded by a group of Marabou [Talibe] men. [Religious cult leaders in training-more on the Talibe system another time.]

 Impatient, insistent hands suddenly reached towards us from every side, as men demanded our money with the practiced ease of those who are all-too familiar with getting their way. This is not uncommon-I am almost continually asked for money in Dakar. What is a bit more uncommon is for men to touch me while they’re doing it. When a Muslim man touches a woman that is not his wife, it communicates an utter disrespect unparalleled by anything in the Western world. As those men demandingly continued to grab Christy and I this afternoon, they might as well have screamed “give me your money, whore!”

 As [normally] mild-mannered Christy vehemently told them to “ne touche pas!” [Don’t touch us!], with rapidly increasing irritation I angrily insisted that they “go away”. Indifferent to our demands, the men pressed in closer, shaking hands full of silver coins in our exhausted faces with a resilient confidence that suggested that particular tactic had garnered some measure of success in the past. “Cinq francs! Cinq francs!”

 Something inside of my tired little body simply snapped. I get spit on, groped, and pushed into traffic on a weekly basis in Senegal on my runs. I have the occasional bottle thrown at me from cars full of men that think it’s amusing to use white girl as target practice-and the other day some man even yanked my pony tail. I have never retaliated. I jerk away, wipe the spit off, and sometimes I yell-but I always keep running.

 Until today.

 Out of the corner of my furious eyes, I saw one of the Talibe men reach towards Christy and grab her arm again. And that was it. I reached over and slugged him. Twice.

 With a sort of morbid fascination, Christy stared at me looking for all the world as though I’d just grown an extra head. Fuming, I lividly declared that I was going to “do it again!” as the man I’d just hit followed me down the sidewalk, loudly chastising me for hitting him. I vividly remember pondering the distinct possibility that Christy and I were about to engage in our first Senegalese fist fight-but my level-headed sidekick stuffed me into a taxi before I could hit anyone else.

 It was during the taxi ride home when a doubled over Christy pointed out, through incredulous gasps of laughter, that I’d just decked a “Marabou-in-training”, that I decided it was time for a nap.


  1. I’m surprised you waited so long to hit someone. I figured you would have already of started to hit at least one guy a day by now.


  1. […] Some of you began reading way back then. You knew why I’d moved to Africa, and ached with me over stories like Aya’s. You offered a listening ear as I detailed my affair with Mohammad the fruit stand man, my almost-forced-marriage to sweater vest man, and ranted about doing laundry in the bathtub. You were there through birthday salmonella, black Santa, and Ian’s favorite story. […]

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