Since I’ve extended my Peace Corps service for a third year, the second most-asked question after “When are you coming home?” is “What are you going to do when you’re done?”
To date, I haven’t had an answer for my family and friends and when I do, the ones who know me the best understand that the answer I give them is only the answer for the day. Sometimes I’m planning to move to Chile to become a teacher, travel South America, and learn Spanish, other times I’ve applied for my BUNAC and am on the edge of jetting off to New Zealand to work on a dude ranch. I’ve exasperated my mother with claims to ride across West Africa on a motorcycle, start an American restaurant dance club in Dakar, and/or become a pirate and sail from Cape Verde Islands to Brazil.
But I have good news everybody! The days of dreaming and confusion for my future career are over. Just in the last couple of weeks I have had an epiphany and it was brought about by two obscenely polite gentlemen who decided to go on a beautiful afternoon jog on their Senegalese Independence Day. Lucky for me, I was also taking the opportunity to stroll with my four other friends at the same time as these two gentlemen, and was happy to oblige them when they decided to cut my bag off of me with their machetes. Not only was I happy to oblige them, I want to congratulate them on their representation of Senegalese hospitality, and thank them for pointing me in the direction of my true career path.
Yes, it’s true, I have decided to join these two crusaders of Senegalese hospitality and justice, and become a thief in Dakar!
Whitney, how could you, you say. How could a good country girl like you from a pretty decent family have gone so wrong?
Before you get on your high horses though, and begin to condemn my future plan, I beg you to look at my 10 reasons why becoming a thief in Dakar is a great career option!
- Laid Back Working Environment: I’ve never really wanted a desk job. Desk jobs make your back cramp up and I’m not about to start following the “standing desk” trend that work-a-holic workout nuts have made up. Nor do I really feel like a super intense job such as a large animal veterinarian or even sustainable gardening. Being a thief in Dakar is the perfect balance of no stress, very little physical activity, and working outdoors! If you’re a thief in Dakar, there are no worries that the police will chase you. I found this out when I watched the two thieves walk leisurely back across the street, swinging my bag and my friend’s bag like two school girls on a picnic, while two policemen in full uniform and AK-47’s looked on and shrugged their shoulders when I pointed towards the thieves. While I am a little upset about losing all my Peace Corps writing and photos that were in the bag, it’s a relief to know that becoming a thief in Dakar is a pretty stress free job!
- Top Notch Housing Accommodations: I haven’t really looked into the different housing benefits of gangs across America, but I have a feeling that Dakar has one of the best offers in the world! I learned about the Dakar option when I chased the thieves across the road and toward the peninsula on the ocean where they suddenly disappeared over the cliff. According to the many Pulaars that are in the area, the thieves are very comfortable in an elaborate and roomy cave, equipped with a myriad of passageways for escape, as well as multiple niches for hiding their booty that lies below the very highway where they work! How perfect—a very short commute to work, a great view of the ocean from a stony stalagmite decorated balcony, and comfy and cozy place to call home! And the best part that my Mom will be very happy to learn about: It’s the safest place in Dakar because even the police are too scared to go in there! WHAT A DEAL!!
- Beautiful and Accessible Working Environment: Being a girl from Nebraska, the ocean has always held a fascination for me. But it would truly be a dream to not only live, but also work right on the ocean! The Corniche is the newest and most accessible highway in Dakar and helps thousands of people every day travel efficiently and effectively from one end of the peninsula to the other. Winding along the coastline, which is a truly spectacular site that may bring thousands of visitors a year to Dakar, the Corniche is a very pleasant place. Business for me as a thief will be booming as it may be the busiest place in Dakar, what with the never ending traffic, and people out for a walk or a run on the mosaic patio stones laid purely for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Or steal, in my case. Everyone can enjoy The Corniche– from drivers, to walkers and runners, to lazy policemen guarding it, to thieves!
- Flexible Hours: When I’ve thought about becoming a thief in the past, I’ve always been put off by the late hours. My friends and family know that I love to dance, and since dance clubs don’t get bumping here until about 2:00 am, I can’t be wasting that time stealing from people. Luckily in Dakar, because the police force is so lax, you can steal at any time of the day and not get caught! While I’ll probably have to stalk around with my gang after hours, I’m sure if I cut a couple of bags off of people like the thieves did to me at 3:00 in the afternoon, they’ll give me time off to hang out with my friends and go to the clubs.
- Relatively no skills or experience necessary: Everyone my age complains about how it’s so hard to get a job without experience. And if no one will give you a job without experience, then how are you going to get experience? I’ve run into this obstacle several times when applying for jobs, but fortunately I’ve found a way around it. The bad news is that my parents wasted a bunch of money sending me to college. Sorry Mom and Dad! Becoming a thief in Dakar requires very little skill and almost no experience. Thieves in many major cities in the United States are astoundingly clever and practiced at the art of pickpocketing. Let’s be honest, when you get your wallet stolen by a particularly gifted pickpocket on the metro in D.C. and all of a sudden your money’s all gone, you want to say, “Good one on ya!” and laugh a little. As much as I admire the pickpockets in the United States, I’ve given up on achieving their level of skill. Here in Dakar, all you need is a sharp machete (don’t even need to load any bullets) and crazy eyes. I’ve got the latter, and I’m sure I could attain the former fairly easily for the equivalent of about $4.
- Team Work: In my life, I’ve always exceled at team activities. Loved being on the basketball team, always enjoyed group projects in college, etc. On the renowned Briggs Myers personality test I was identified as 100% extrovert, which means I will always choose to work/be with other people rather than working/being alone. Another huge advantage to being a thief in Dakar is that we always work in pairs! Why rob someone with one machete, when you can have two machetes? And then if it turns out you are too big of a wussy to handle an unarmed person alone with you own machete, you’ve got your partner to back you up! It’s also kind of like a workout buddy too, since the main strategy of thievery in Dakar is too jog up slowly behind the victim and then surprise attack them. I have so many fond memories of jogging buddies! Holla at me Ruth Nervig!
- Collaboration with Esteemed Organizations in Dakar: Like I said, I haven’t done much research on the ins and outs of thievery in Dakar, but from my point of view as the victim, it looks like a pretty cozy situation between the police and thieves. Why did the police men casually say “Wait, Wait”, when he very easily could have caught them if he had only hustled a bit? I’ve always wanted to work closely with policemen especially after we were robbed this last time and had the pleasurable experience of spending hours in their company. They treated us almost as well as the thieves, and promised that they would get our stuff back. They laughed with us about how all our stuff was stolen, and the police chief even kindly gave my friend his number after winking at her and touching her knee, I’m sure so that she could “follow up on the robbery”. The esteemed official who was writing our report was even empathetic when we asked if we could leave the police station to eat since we’d been traumatized and then had skipped lunch. He responded, “I know how you feel, I’ve been working all day, and I haven’t eaten lunch either.” I’m beyond excited to continue this positive collaboration, but this time on the other end of the spectrum.
- Health benefits: The young men who robbed us seemed to have a bit of extra jive about them. I’d like to see the kind of work we’d get done in Peace Corps if they gave us the same caliber drugs as the Den of Thieves is providing its employees. Come on Peace Corps, can we get some paint thinner up in here?
- A People Person’s Job: As many of you know, I took on this third year position in Peace Corps in order to sharpen my skills as a communicator and further the cross-cultural understanding between Americans and the country of Senegal. I often work and have truly enjoyed helping the expatriates learn about the culture here in Senegal. As I see it, the job will basically stay the same. Expatriates walking along the Corniche are often targeted by my future career colleagues and a little bit of communication never hurt to smooth over a machete attack. Also, it’s a great way to teach expatriates about the positive parts of Senegalese culture in the fact that it is a truly non-violent country. All we want to do as thieves is take your shit. If this were South Africa, you’d be dead. Count your blessings. I truly feel like my skills are an invaluable asset to the Den of Thieves in Dakar, which makes it highly unlikely that they will turn down my application. Cross your fingers for me!
- Self confidence: While I credit the Peace Corps with molding my identity and building in me qualities like perseverance, independence, adaptability, and toughness, I believe that in my new career path I will build self-confidence like I’ve never had before. I can’t imagine a greater thrill, a more inspirational boost to my spirit than robbing unarmed Corniche pedestrians with a machete. This in the end is my true inspiration to becoming a thief in Dakar, and I hope as my close friends and family you will support me as you have done for the past 3 years of life here in Senegal!
Thank you so much! I hope I have changed your minds!