What was supposed to be a lazy day at the regional house became an unexpected adventure once the trophy was spotted. Katie, Emilie, and I went to the toubab store to load up on snacks. We’d seen the yard sale on the way and commented on it, but we hadn’t decided to stop in until we were heading back, our arms filled with cans of knock-off Pringles.
Katie: What the hell. I can’t believe they’re having a yard sale. I didn’t think Senegalese people even knew what yard sales were.
Me: We should really go check it out. There might be some good stuff.
So we wandered over and started perusing the wares they were selling. Highlights include, but are not limited to: broken roller blades, exercise equipment, a dining room table set, shoes, etc. Typical Saturday morning junk.
We were about to leave when I saw it, shining in the African sunlight. The lighthouse that would guide us through the remainder of the day.
It was an old backgammon trophy from some forgotten time. The label on the bottom implied Eastern European origins. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
Me: Guys, look at this trophy. Wouldn’t it be funny if we gave it to Gregg for his birthday? Or better yet, we could give it to people after they did stupid stuff. Like, ‘I can’t believe you did that. You’re an idiot. Here’s your prize, dumbass’.
Katie: YES. How much should we pay for it? 200 cfa?
Emilie: Yeah, I’d pay 200 cfa for that.
We asked how much the trophy cost.
Yard Sale Guy: You can have it for 5,000 cfa.
Cut to us laughing, calling the trophy garbage, and walking back to the regional house.
As we were eating our tubular chips, we got to talking about the trophy. After 15 minutes had passed and we were STILL discussing its beauty and wonder, we all came to the same conclusion: that trophy needed to be ours.
Me: I’m not paying ten dollars for that trophy, even though it’s totally awesome. How about we offer him a trade?
After scanning the house, we decided a fair trade would be the crappy Christmas tree Mary bought two Christmases ago from a guy on the street. It was covered in dust, but it would suffice.
We wandered back outside. I was carrying the tree. The Yard Sale Guy eyed us from afar and turned to his friends, who squinted in our direction. Crazy toubabs.
Emilie: We’re BAAAAACK. We came to trade you this beautiful tree for that trophy.
YSG: That tree? Why would we want that tree? It’s dead and dirty.
Emilie: It’s a FAKE tree. It was never alive. Plus, it’s not that dirty. It’s a fair trade.
The guy refused, saying they’d already sold three trophies that morning. Either he was lying or backgammon trophies are serious commodities in West Africa. We offered to pay him 1,000 cfa for the trophy, and to be nice we told him we’d throw in the tree as a gift. He still refused, but he lowered the price to 4,000 cfa. He was bound to crack.
We stomped away in a huff with our metaphorical tails between our legs and the dirty tree in hand.
Katie: Well, I guess that’s over. Now what do you want to do?
Me: I want that trophy. Here’s an idea: how about we hire some kid to wander over to the yard sale and ask them if they have any Christmas trees? The kid could be like, ‘La la la. Oh look! A yard sale! Hello, sir. I’m in the market for a Christmas tree this fine February day. Do you happen to have one?’ It would totally work.
The girls thought the idea was brilliant.
We leave again. The guard at the regional house officially thinks we’re crazy.
So we wander the streets and stumble upon a group of Senegalese children playing football. We greet them in Wolof and ask them if they could do us a favor.
Kid: Je ne parle pas Wolof. Je parle le français.
We somehow managed to find the ONLY children in Dakar who don’t speak Wolof. We were on a mission though, so we told them in bad French that we wanted one of the kids to wander over to that yard sale and ask for a Christmas tree. We’ll pay you 100 cfa, we said.
So the bravest kid wanders over. We hid behind a wall and watched the scenario play out. We watched as the kid talked to YSG and pointed over to us. YSG looks over at us and starts walking over.
Emilie: He’s coming over here! Act natural.
So YSG appears and says a kid came over and told him that three Americans were inquiring about Christmas trees.
Katie: That wasn’t us. Uh…bye!
We ran away and hid in the house. At this point, we’d been focused on this for hours, but we hadn’t given up yet.
Emilie: What else can we trade? Let’s search harder.
So we wander around the house, upturning furniture and looking under beds. We come across a dusty old boom box at the bottom of a bookshelf. Assuming, given the state it’s in, it hasn’t been used for years and is broken. We clean it up a little and wander back outside. Katie is holding the boom box on her shoulder, much like rappers did in the 90s.
At this point, YSG and his buddies are highly amused by us, yet not amused enough to trade an old trophy for an old Christmas tree.
YSG: So you came back, eh? Are you gonna try to trade that boom box now?
We told him we were.
YSG: Does it even work?
We told him we had no idea.
YSG: Okay, if the boom box works, I’ll give you the trophy.
So he found batteries for the boom box and turned it in. Of course, it’s a fully functioning boom box. He gives us the trophy, saying it’s a pleasure doing business with us. At this point, we were so elated to have the trophy in our possession that we didn’t care how wildly uneven the trade was. We also didn’t care that we potentially stole someone’s dusty boom box from the Dakar regional house.
So the remainder of the day was spent passing the trophy around lovingly. We also had a photo shoot with the trophy, which included freeze-frame-esque shots of us holding the trophy in the air happily, much like they do at the end of bad sports movies.
As of right now, the trophy is in Emilie’s apartment in Dakar. No one has done something stupid enough to earn it yet (if you don’t count all the stupid things we did to win the trophy in the first place). Perhaps one day I’ll do something so stupid that the trophy will be mine. Here’s hoping.