And you thought dealing with TSA was a pain

If you think that dealing with long security lines at the airport, delayed flights, or road construction are a pain while traveling in the United States, you’ve obviously never had to travel through West Africa. I have made several references in past posts to these things called 7-places but I don’t think I’ve adequately described just how everything works here. So to catch a 7-place one must go to the “garage” where you are bombarded by 20 people all asking you where you want to go and pushing and pulling you in several directions trying to get you to buy a ticket for their car. Once you have found the car that is going to your destination you purchase a ticket at a flat rate, hopefully from the man in charge, you’re never 100% sure you’re giving the money to the right person. However, if you have to misfortune of having any baggage then you get to bargaining with the head person as to how much you need to pay for the baggage. Now there are many different techniques as to how to get a good price, there’s always just paying them the price they ask, which is ridiculously inflated, after that there’s the reasoning technique, here you try and appeal to their sense of fairness and tell them that their price isn’t resonable and that you’ll pay X amount. If that doesn’t work then you can always use the nepotism tactic, find out the head guy’s last name, see if it’s the same as yours (of course I’m talking about your given Senegalese name) and if it is tell them you’re “family” and it isn’t fair to rip off family. If all that fails then the final technique is to throw a temper tantrum, as I demonstrated so well a few days ago at a garage. A few days ago I was trying to get home from The Gambia, I had traveled for 12 hours when I got to the last garage I had to go to to get home. The man tried to overcharge me for my bag, I reasoned with him, he wouldn’t budge, I tried to pull the family card, no luck, finally I cut him off mid-sentence and told him to listen to me, I hadn’t eaten nor drank anything in 12 hours, I was tired, and I just wanted to get home, I then started stamping my feet and yelling that it’s not fair!! Yes, I admit, I, a 30 year old woman was standing among a bunch of Senegalese men stomping my feet yelling that it’s not fair that they are trying to rip me off, not one of my proudest moments but it worked and I got my price!!
So after you have negotiated everything you get to wait around to see if 6 other people (hence the name 7-place) show up trying to go to the same place you are. It’s a toss of the coin as to whether you will be leaving the same day, it’s never 100% sure. For example, I waited around a garage for 5 hours in the heat of the day to see if my car would fill up. If it doesn’t then you go back the next day and try again, doesn’t bode well if you are travelling on a tight schedule. If you are lucky enough to have another 6 people travelling in the same direction you get to pile 7 grown-ass adults (not counting the driver) into a station wagon from 1970 that is being held together with random wires and duct tape and pray that the car makes it to its final destination. Another note about travel, this is all over roads that are either paved but have potholes so big I’ve seen cars brakes their axles in half or what we call bush travels, which are naturally formed roads by mother nature and are more suitable for an ATV then a station wagon.
Now even though these cars are called 7-places it is not a hard fast rule that there are only 7 people in them, recently I have been privileged to sit in a 9-place, which isn’t too bad you just have to know where to sit, but the best is crossing to boarder from The Gambia to Senegal I counted 14 people in the car and two on the roof!! Yes, true story, and people think this is a normal way to travel.
So next time you’re cursing long lines, airline delays, or road construction remember you could be travelling how I described EVERY TIME you want to leave your city!!!

This is not the 4of us getting close to take a picture, this is actually how close we had to get to fit in the back of a cab.

OK so I took this picture in the back of the 7-place. My knees are the ones in the middle and notice how little space there is between mine and my neighbors.

So this is what it looks like from the back seat of a 9-place, 3 people up front (you can’t see one of the guys), 4 in the middle, and then 3 more in the back, where I was. Remember we never count the driver in when we’re talking about how many seats are available.

As we were getting a ride in a cab the driver realized that we may have had too many people in the car (hence the picture of 4 of us squished in the back) so he told two people to ride on the trunk.

And just because now both the car and the trunk are full doesn’t mean we can’t pick up more people, why not just have them hop on the roof of a car!!!


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