Monday, June 14, 2010
The embassy appointment went as it had been described to me: Yusupha is inadmissible and we have to get the grounds of inadmissibility waived. It was all expectedly byzantine and, dare I say, Kafkaesque. So since Kafka covered that topic far better than I could, I will describe Dakar--decidedly not Kafkaesque though it is many others things and much more.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
May 31, 2010
The purpose of this trip to Dakar was to go to Yusupha's immigration interview with him. The whole heart of the trip was to be with him, with my husband from whom I have been separated by US immigration since July 2009. We hoped to do our business in Dakar and then go to the Gambia and even to Allunhari to see the rest of the family, who I have not seen since 2005. Yusupha hoped, believed that he would be granted the visa at the interview. I knew from talking to our lawyer that that was unlikely because of the deportation and the need for waivers of the grounds of inadmissibility that obtain in spite of our 8 year marriage.
Since the interview came up on such short notice, I was unable to get a Gambian visa before coming. So on our first day in Dakar we went to the Gambian Embassy and I got that visa. I'm pretty sick of bureaucrats of all nationalities and their language and their red tape. But the encounter at the Gambian Embassy was almost funny. Behind the glass was a surly French-speaking woman who mumbled. I filled out the form and when I returned it to her, through the slot in the glass, she would not extend her hand to grasp it forcing me to push it further toward her. Nor was there any other trace of courtesy or recognition. It's one of the things that Yusupha gives me: The calm not to react, or if I react (as invariably I do) not to retaliate, as in: You dumb bitch, didn't anyone ever tell you about customer service...
Our interview was the next day and it went as it had been described to me by our paralegal. The officer said that based on the marriage, which she did not doubt, she would grant the visa. But, she said, "the way the process works..." Moreover, we would need to refile and repay (another grand) for the two documents. It was a blow to Yusupha and although I expected this outcome it hurts to be unable to protect him, to watch him suffer.
He is my love, the partner of my life.
May 31, 2010
From the plane through customs at the Dakar airport was trying. So incredibly tired. And it's hot. And I was so close to Yusupha, somewhere outside in the crush of people and taxis, but stuck in the incoherence of lines and official procedure--granted that in Dakar the whole thing is more low fi than in the US. When I finally emerged with my suitcase, there was an open area with barriers beyond which people were waiting. I was at once being warmly solicited by a man assisting with my bags, offered calling cards and money changing services, while scanning the crowd: Yusupha waved and smiled and at last we are together again. It has been almost 11 months.
Yusupha, ever the economizer, had a friend who had recommended a particular hotel, cheaper even than the Auberge du Lion of our previous visit. But he said if I didn't like it we could move. Since by now I'm barely functional in any language and Yusupha doesn't really speak Wolof, it took awhile to find the place. We checked in and Yusupha had to agree it that it was barely acceptable. There was a cover on the bed but no sheets. There was a toilet and across from that a stall shower, with a sink in the stall. Below a painted over window was a wheezing but not totally ineffective air conditioning unit. We decided to sleep there that night at least. What seemed barely adequate however proved shortly to be entirely inadequate as the nightclub adjacent fired up the music which continued until dawn.
The next morning we returned to the Auberge du Lion and after a day of sleeping I felt somewhere back toward normal.
May 31, 2010
The flight from Paris to Dakar. Again on the window, sandwiched between that and a fat lady and her fat husband. As my fatigue increases my tether decreases. In fact, they were very nice, even though she coughed relentlessly throughout the flight. They were on their way to vacation in Senegal. But the real interest this flight was the view out the window. It was clear almost all the way so I could watch the landscape below and track the plane's progress on the GPS. France looked so green and bucolic. Small towns surrounded by green patchworks of fields, rivers meandering through. Each town appeared so circumscribed as though the French have not discovered (or discovered and rejected?) the idea of urban sprawl. I wanted to descend and stay in one of those villages.
Spain, of course, appeared much dryer and emptier. Then we crossed the Atlantic west of Gibralter. There the water was spotted with thousands of white dots. At first I thought they must be white caps (which didn't really make sense from our height), but then I could make out some larger vessels and realized that I was seeing a multitude of small boats in those blue waters off Spain and near the Strait of Gibralter. As the plane flew closer to Africa, the sea emptied except for one large ship, perhaps a container freighter.
But the most fascinating part to me was crossing the empty desert reaches of Morocco and then Western Sahara. It became empty desert with the most amazing formations of rock, mountain, and rivers of sand. Some of these formations looked like trees with a central trunk, large branches, with ever smaller and more ornate branchings. One becomes multiple. I can hardly think of anything more fundamentally archetypal--as though these images summed up the entire meaning of the universe. I took picture after picture out the plane window.
May 27, 2010
My third trip to Africa has begun. Saying goodbye to Maya. We hug by the mailbox, then she goes inside, I step into the van, my hand pressed against the glass and Maya watching and waving from behind the front door.
May 31, 2010
The flight to Paris was long. I watched the GPS display on the screen in the back of the seat in front of me, tracking our passage across Canada, Greenland, Iceland, England and finally France. The Charles de Gaulle airport was enormous, lots of shops and places to eat. I changed a little money for euros and got a Paris coffee cup for Maya and a bag of pasta shaped like les petits Tours Eiffel. I got something to eat--expensive French yogurt: so good.
That first flight was stressless, on time, adequate food, but cloud cover the whole way. I slept awhile in the airport--unlike most airports they actually had some seats without arm rests inbetween to foil tired souls. Better yet, there where wonderful foam seats and couches in a remote sunny corner where I could stretch out and actually doze awhile.
Although we had arrived in the morning, having left the afternoon before, the sun had never set, I guess because of the polar route, so my sidereal clock had already taken a beating and I had entered that weird timeless, dateless state of being inbetween places. Such is travel.