We’ve been quiet recently because we’ve been out of the country for the past week. We went to Dakar, Senegal for our YWAM West Africa regional conference. Senegal is Mali’s neighbor to the west. We had a really good time at the conference, but the trip there and back was grueling and exhausting. It was a 34 hour bus ride covering 850 miles each way. YWAM chartered a bus which made things a little easier than public transport. We were VERY fortunate to have a brand new bus! It was air conditioned and even had a bathroom which is unheard of in Mali. The drivers were just using it for storage until we asked if we could use it. In fact, they didn't know how to empty the waste tank, so we weren't able to use it on the way home because it filled up on the trip there. Viva Africa!
Not only was the trip long, but the roads were so bad that in some places we traveled for hours no faster than 10-15 MPH. The border was another story all together. On the trip to Dakar, it took us 3 hours to cross the border. There are several border check points the bus needed to stop at and we were constantly battling with the truck traffic. The line for trucks to cross the border was well over a mile long. Truck drivers in Africa need an amazing amount of patience.
When we reached our hotel, our group had filled it to capacity so our family stayed in a bungalow at the hotel owner's house about a 1/2 mile away. Dakar is notorious for power problems and there are usually more blackouts than times of power. Thankfully our hotel had a generator so there was power all the time. Unfortunately, the place we were staying didn't so we arrived to a room with no lights or fans after an exhausting 34 hour bus ride. It was very discouraging to say the least. We ended up sleeping on lounge chairs outside the first night. But we had a wonderful view of the sky and witnessed the August meteor showers. It was beautiful. And the lounge chairs were a step up from sleeping in the bus the night before. Thankfully, we were hooked up to a generator the next day and had power for the rest of our stay and were able to sleep in beds in our room.
The conference went really well and we're happy we went. It was nice to see some of our YWAM friends from other West African countries. In all, there were 120 people from YWAM bases in 8 different countries. We also had a good speaker and a couple of excellent workshops. The conference was translated into French, English, and Portuguese, so we didn’t have to struggle deciphering the French.
The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree as Cole has been showing a lot of interest in sound technician work. He and John worked together running the sound system for the conference, and by the end, Cole was doing it on his own.
In the off-time, we had some good opportunities to relax and explore. We were within walking distance of the beach. So this summer, we've touched both sides of Africa and had a chance to splash in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans!
We were very close to a lake called Pink Lake, due to it’s unusual color. It takes its color from salt and minerals in the lake. It is said to be even saltier than the Dead Sea in Israel! The salt is mined by hand by people literally scraping it off the bottom of the lake and dumping it into canoes one bucket at a time. Women used to be the main workers but they are now prohibited from mining the salt due to massive infertility problems because of the salt and minerals in the water.
We left Dakar on Saturday night at 11pm. It was another long, exhausting trip. This time when we reached the border, it took us over 5 hours to cross. There was a rainstorm the night before that dumped 5 feet of rain in the region. The border was flooded and at times, our driver maneuvered our bus through 3 feet of water. He must have known the road well because everything was under water and it was impossible to see where the road was. Thankfully, we made it through safely. The luggage compartments flooded in the process. We'd heard about situations like this, so we packed everything in a rubber duffel bag which kept our things dry.
We arrived home exhausted but very glad to be back on Monday morning at 5am. Although the trip was long and grueling, we are very thankful we didn’t have any breakdowns or accidents.