The Statue of Dakar... you can't miss it

On the way back from downtown Dakar, my taxi driver took a long, winding road along the Senegalese coast that passed by gated villas with armed guards at every entryway. It reminded me of Highway 1 in Malibu – but in Africa.

Then we drove by the statue. Not just any statue – this was a monstrous, bronze monument of excess that is taller than any statue in the West, even the Statue of Liberty. It stands at 49 meters – half as tall as a football field. It was unveiled last year after a North Korean company was paid $27 million to build it. Rather than uniting the country, it’s caused a lot of controversy – for example, the president says he’s entitled to a third of the revenue generated by tourists taking the elevator trip to the top. Why? Because he thought of the statue design, apparently. Read more here.

Anyway, it’s good to be back in Africa – the land of stark contrasts. The grinding poverty that mixes with outlandish luxury never ceases to amaze me. I had the chance to spend an afternoon at the $300-a-night Raddison Blu hotel with a spectacular view of the coastal cliffs. Nice place, if you don’t mind paying $70 for the lunch buffet. I limited myself to a $5 café.

The journey so far has been going pretty well. I flew out of Fresno early Thursday morning, arrived in Madrid on Friday morning, spent the afternoon walking around downtown and catching up on emails, then flew to Lisbon that night. The plane arrived in Lisbon very late – at about the same time that my flight to Dakar began boarding – so I missed the flight and TAP airlines paid for a night’s stay in town. The next night, I flew into Dakar, arriving at 2 a.m. Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon, I met with two Americans from Barefoot Solar who both happened to be in Dakar for a conference this week. The company builds mini solar-powered lighting units that are becoming increasingly popular throughout the developing world. I’m taking some samples with me to Guinea-Bissau to see if there is a possibility of creating a business selling this product. Such a business would have three goals: 1) generate revenue for the school, 2) create job opportunities for the students, and 3) provide a lighting source for people in a country where there is hardly any electricity.

Today, I spent the morning running errands in downtown Dakar with the help of a new friend, Parfait, who works for a Christian nonprofit based in Spokane, Washington, called Partners International. He works in the organization’s Dakar office. Really nice guy. We went to a currency-exchange shop, stopped by the Guinea-Bissau embassy, and bought a ticket for my 18-hour boat ride to southern Senegal tomorrow. From there, I’ll hopefully get my Guinea-Bissau visa, make the one-hour trip across the border to a town called Ingore, spend the night there, and then drive a couple more hours to Canchungo. Please continue to pray for safe travels.