Re: Amadou
Hotel La Croix du Sud #550
Dakar, Senegal

This turned out to be one of the most complex and emotional days of the trip so far.

After a quiet morning, meeting with my guide Assane to make plans for our trip, I rested and then went for a run along the beach road, past the back of the Presidential Palace and the stunning view of Goree Island.

Alan came back from the streets and told of being cornered by men who tried to run a scam on him of some kind. We then left to eat at what is becoming our favorite restaurant. Along the way we encountered a small boy in a torn shirt who attached himself to us and sat outside the restaurant door while we ordered. Alan was inspired to ask him in to sit and eat with us and thus set a poignant process in motion.

With the help of a friendly waitress the boy came in, had a coke and ate a chicken meal. He was shy and charming and obviously overawed by all of this but he spoke no French or English so we couldn't communicate with him except through gestures. From the waitress we found out that his name is Amadou Manukal. When we walked back to the hotel he meekly followed us the whole way. Later we came out to see the night in this city and there he was, waiting and he walked with us as we strolled around looking for something to do.

We ended up in another cyber café and spent the evening flirting in strange ways with the prostitutes. We made it clear that we were not in their market but when we invited them to just sit and talk they declined for the most part.

I had a whim that I at least owed them something for their time so I offered to pay a young woman to look at my web site. This idea proved to be too much for her but another woman in a red dress did come and seemed to appreciate the work but eventually left me to answer a nice message from Susannah's mother.

The final act of the story with Amadou began when we needed to part after he followed us back to our hotel. We stood at the hotel door caught in the realization that we had established an emotional connection with him and we could feel the weight of his disappointment that we were not willing to follow through. The awkwardness of this situation lingered until finally a cab driver and a tough young man in a blue shirt who had been observing all of this came over and roughly convinced Amadou that we could not bring him up to our room to sleep. The toughness and streetwise pragmatism of this man made for a very sad and emotional parting as we faced the reality of having raised Amadou's expectations of what we were willing to do for him. I don't know if we will ever see him again, but we can only hope that he uses this experience as a motivation to grow, but it's hard not to feel that the immediate lessons are ours to learn from…. Something about compassion and how to make it work in this world.