Ebrima, "Abraham" as he introduces himself to Westerners, or "Ebi," as his close friends and family call him, made an immediate positive impression on me; enough for me to pick him out of a crowd and trust him, essentially with my life, at Dakar airport. He's a bright, compassionate, curious, ambitious 26-year old. He's a good conversationalist, able and willing to offer a lot of information and insight into his country, the people, politics, economics, history. When he introduced himself to me as a guide, that indicated to me I would need to compensate him for his assistance. But I quickly saw the advantage of having a local help me find my way around town. He speaks English, French, Wolof and his native Mandinka. He was happy to negotiate good prices, which is a pre-requisite in Dakar. Tourists are constantly approached by either beggars or people trying some scam. Having Ebrima around helped protect me from them as well. So at the end of the evening when he asked me for CFA5000 for a cab home and a little extra for breakfast, I was happy to pay (though I later found out that a taxi to his home was closer to CFA1000).
We spent the next day together as I waited to meet Evelyn and Gregg. We were only meant to spend half a day together as I was to meet them early afternoon. He told me that his standard daily rate was CFA10,000, but we settled on CFA5,000. We went on a walking tour of Dakar and he played his role well, but the city is small and in a few hours you can get a pretty good sense of the place. And on Sunday, it's very quiet; by noon we'd run out of things to do. Ebrima called his uncle and asked if we could come over for tea. Having not traveled extensively and not been invited into anyone's home as a complete stranger off the street, I was genuinely touched by the offer.
Upon arrival we took off our shoes and entered the living room where his uncle sat. Ebrima and Ousmane exchanged the traditional extended Mandinka greeting, a tradition that I would learn and become all too familiar with in the days to come. His uncle spoke only a little English, so what few discussions we had Ebrima translated. We spent the next few hours just hanging out. Ebrima slept, his uncle worked, I watched French telly.
Ousmane's wife, Isha, prepared the evening meal. I started to sense that I was going to be late meeting Evelyn and Gregg, but here I was in Africa for not even 24 hours and already I was welcomed into a family's home! Isha teaches Spanish in Dakar; she also speaks excellent English so the conversation picked up a bit over the meal. Not only did I enjoy the company of his family and feel very welcomed, but I also found it interesting to see another side of Ebrima: the deferential nephew; a young man living in a modern society, not disregarding his customs and traditions.
In discussions with Ebrima over the course of the day, he mentioned that perhaps I would like to go to his village in Gambia. We talked about my interest in West African dance and drumming and that concept held the promise of my ideal African experience. I enjoyed his company, the few hours I spent with his family, and thought that Evelyn and Gregg would be into the idea as well. I also saw this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with him and make a new friend.