Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – One sunny day in Dakar, my colleagues and I took a taxi to navigate the urban landscape. Little did I know that this simple journey would lead to an entertaining yet insightful encounter, revealing the universal language of caution and friendship that exceeds borders.
Shortly into our journey, one of my colleagues urgently needed to purchase mobile airtime. Lacking the ability to convey the request in French, we resorted to a language more universal, sign language. Much to our surprise, the taxi driver comprehended our miming and gesturing.
As we approached the airtime vendor, seated comfortably in the taxi, I reached for my phone, intending to communicate the purchase to the salesman. Suddenly, the driver gave me an unexpected jerk. His actions were animated, and though I couldn’t comprehend his French words, his message was crystal clear, “Don’t expose your phone outside; it might be snatched away by a thief!”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the driver’s evident demonstration of the potential dangers that creep on city streets, a sentiment shared by many in Dakar, where vigilance is paramount. While our communication may have been a mix of broken French and gestures, there was an unspoken understanding between the driver and me, a shared concern for safety in an unfamiliar urban landscape.
In this funny turn of events, I decided to take a selfie with the driver, capturing the lighthearted moment that had unfolded during our journey. The photo may not have had a specific purpose, but it served as a reminder of the delightful encounters that travel brings, those unexpected connections that bridge cultural divides and leave lasting impressions.
And as I reminisced about this comical yet enlightening encounter in Dakar, it brought to mind similar situations in Sierra Leone. In the bustling streets of Freetown, most especially at Sani Abacha Street, you’ll find locals who, like my Dakar taxi driver, share this instinctive urge to protect travellers from potential street theft. It’s a universal lesson in street experience, and whether you’re in Dakar or Freetown, the language of caution is one that needs no translation.
As I continued my exploration of Dakar, I carried with me not just the memory of its vibrant streets but also the laughter shared with a taxi driver, a reminder that sometimes, the most profound moments in travel are found in the simplest, most human interactions. PSN/29/9/2023