Life in Senegal went from a simmer to a boil two+ weeks ago, when my Dell Latitude D630 stopped working. On Friday night, I was happily pulling together my next blog entry on the Vermont-Senegal connection (see my next post). On Saturday morning, I pushed the on button and . . . silence. Darkness. Fear. Then loathing. (No, not the Hunter S. Thompson version.) I’d had this identical experience in late July, two weeks before leaving Vermont.
The next week disappeared into time-change jimmied emails and synchronous chats with Dell’s support folks (go Scott F – a skilled and personable technician) and my law school’s IT department, figuring out what was wrong and how to get it repaired in Dakar under a North American warranty. My hard drive is fine, but the motherboard is shot. Something, I’ve since learned, that’s not altogether uncommon in these Dell laptops.
Yes, Virginia, Dell computers are sold and repaired in Dakar. Check out these pictures of Technologies Consulting Services (TCS): very clean, lovely A/C, and sleek presentation of new products, but no stock of motherboards for my D630. Ali Ali of the service department was so kind to me, calmly talking me off the ledge as he plugged my hard drive into another computer, to determine that all was fine and that I hadn’t lost any files. He also let me sit in his work space past closing time, as I methodically backed them up on USB keys. It was Friday, thus the Sabbath for M. Ali, who rolled out his prayer mat behind his desk and prayed while I thankfully copied and copied and copied. Unfortunately, TCS is not sanctioned to service a laptop under a NA warranty. Again, thankfully, serendipity stepped in, in the form of a Vermonter in Dakar going home for two weeks. And the kindness of new friends here, who’ve lent me their back-up computers.
Our body temps also boiled over during the past two weeks. Simmering Senegal is really sizzling Senegal this time of year. July to October is Senegal’s rainy season, with temps in the 90s and humidity in the same percentages. A tough time to experience our own personal climate change, moving from Vermont to Dakar in early September. My husband’s homepage is set to a weather page, comparing the temps in Thetford, Vermont, Paris, France, and Dakar, Senegal each time we boot up. I’ve watched the range grow from 20 degrees F to 50 in just the last week alone. When we arrived, we found our apartment lacking a refrigerator and the ceiling fans that the Fulbright scholar who lived here last year had installed.
Somehow, we made it through the first weekend, shopping and cooking meal to meal, hopping into a pool whenever we were near one, and taking cold showers several times a day. (In fact, we still don’t know if the hot water works in our shower. Although right now, it’s a moot point. We haven’t had any water since the afternoon.) The following Tuesday, we hired a pousse-pousse (hand cart) driver and some local guys to help us carry a fridge from an unused Fulbright apartment about a half kilometer away down 5 flights, around a large baobab tree and serious parking lot potholes, through the several inches of sand that cover the walkways in our apartment complex, and then up the 4 flights to our apartment.
An hour later, the electrician who had originally installed the ceiling fans arrived, with a new set to install for us. We were chilling: cold food storage, some air flow, even ice cubes! Until a week later, when the thermometer continued to soar. For a week, we clocked 33 C degrees on average day and night. The ceiling fans were just pushing around wet air and the heat that rose from lower levels of the apartment building remained trapped in ours. Our sweat could not evaporate. We couldn’t cool down. Strategies for using additional floor fans to blow out the hot air failed. And so, we installed A/C. Regular blackouts since Korite (the end of Ramadan celebration) gave us pause, given Senelac’s well known reputation for not producing enough electricity to meet demand. But the guilt about contributing to Senegal’s mismatch of electricity consumption and production and paying the bill (rates are rumored to be higher than home in New England) evaporated with our sweat.