Friday, October 10, 2008

Diama Barrage, our Mauritania illegal border crossing, and running Bejing Olympic style... all in one day!?

I think that I have made it very clear that St. Louis is extremely dirty…or at least comparatively speaking to Dakar; there is trash everywhere and, like Dakar (but worse), they have yet to figure out how to properly dispose of everything from rubber tires to cardboard juice boxes. Before my arrival in St. Louis, I was expecting lots of blue water from the Atlantic Ocean flowing into the delta of the Senegal river valley, clear blue skies that I could sit under after class, and less traffic that would allow me to run whenever and wherever I wanted to go.

Well, I was sure wishing for paradise... It is not that I am not enjoying my time in St. Louis; it is just not exactly what I was expecting. So, about this “barrage”…

For our “La Vallee du Fleuve, lieu de Culture et de Developpement” Course we visited the Diama dam. The Diama dam is one of two dams that were constructed to help regulate and provide energy for the river valley. Diama is a “anti-sel” dam that has eliminated the high saline concentration of the Atlantic Ocean from entering into the river; it is also used to regulate water levels, especially during the dry season (ten months out of the year). We left FEPRODES, the center where we have our class…I have no idea what the acronym stands for, at 8:45AM for Diama. Diama is about 35km north of St. Louis and is situated right on the boarder of Mauritania and Senegal. When we arrived at the dam we had a lecture/presentation on Diama and the general geography of the river valley (Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, and Mali comprise the Senegalese River Valley, which is roughly 300,000 km2; the river is about 1,800 km long and runs from the Atlantic Ocean, St. Louis, Senegal, to various smaller rivers in Guinea and Mali.) After our lecture/presentation, we had a tour of the dam and then did the unthinkable…

It is necessary to have a visa to enter Mauritania for one minute, one hour, one day, one month, one year, etc. unless you are a citizen of Senegal. There is a hefty fine and jail time for those that enter the county illegal without a visa…my American passport is not that great… So, you have all probably figured out that now I can check to countries off my Africa map that I have visited. That’s correct, I have been to Mauritania! Though only for about five minutes…it was beautiful and in no way different than St. Louis. It was funny because we were just walking across the dam and before we knew it we had crossed the “boarder”. I say “boarder” because some people think that the “boarder” is the halfway point on the dam (if that’s the case I was in Mauritania longer) and others say it is once you get off the dam. Either way, I was there and it was great…I can’t wait to show you all the pictures I didn’t take.

When we got back to St. Louis, Thomas, Stephen, Daniel, and I ran. We started running at about 6:30PM, but it was still extremely hot, probably about 75 degrees and very humid. The run was really good except for that fact that Thomas and I decided that this is exactly what the Olympic athletes in Beijing must have felt like. In St Louis, there is a layer of haze that fills the sky, it is so bad that you can look directly into the sun and see the entire sun’s circle without being blinded! In addition, there is so much pollution from car and bus exhaust and there is this wonderful fish smell. In the end, it was nice to go for a run…it ended up just being Thomas and I because Daniel and Stephen slowed down slightly…not to say that Thomas and I are amazing runners, but I want/need to go back to the states in shape (potentially ready to run track…ugh!) and Thomas wants/needs to be in shape for ultimate frisbee. We ran for about 45 minutes from the FEPRODES, over Pont Faidherbe, and around historic St. Louis (the island).

So sad that I am missing Fall, apples, apple cider, Halloween, seeing the leaves change colors, and everything else that makes Ohio and the states so wonderful at this time during the year! :(


P.S. I listened to the second presidential debate via an itunes podcast and BARACK OBAMA definitely did a lot better than John McCain.

P.S.S. Last time I checked the Obama/Biden ticket would beat the McCain/Palin ticket 353 to 185 if the election was today…giving Obama the three key swing states: OHIO, FLORIDA, and PA!!! Go Blue…not the first time I have said that (shout out to you OSU fans)!

No comments: