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Inside Politics

Day 2 with the first lady: On the run in Senegal

Story Highlights

• Six journalists join Laura Bush on trip to Africa
• They find themselves running for security checks, and to find first lady
• Senegalese officer takes them on a trip to remember
By Suzanne Malveaux
CNN
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Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events.

DAKAR, Senegal (CNN) -- It's day two and we are literally on the run.

We've gathered in a small room inside the Le Meridien President hotel where we're told to drop our morning coffee and run.

It's time for a security sweep, and Secret Service agents and their canines wait outside. We put down our computers, cameras, purses and backpacks in a neat line on the sidewalk, where bomb-sniffing dogs circle our gear. We grumble and shuffle because we haven't had enough caffeine.

Only one person seems grumpier -- a Senegalese security woman who seems to have lost her patience with us. She calls us to come quickly so she can wand us for weapons.

We jump into the first motorcade of the day without the first lady. A white van labeled "press 1" is our ticket to ride, and what a ride it turns into.

The guide leading our entourage is in front of us. He is a Senegalese police officer on a motorcycle and his job is to get us to Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade's house as quickly as possible.

With horns blaring, the officer bobs and weaves through traffic. He points, directs and waves with one hand, and then with two. Then, frustrated he's not going through Dakar's morning rush hour traffic fast enough, he bolts across a dirt median, leading our motorcade down a one-way street -- the wrong way.

We are in awe and terror as we speed into oncoming traffic. Buses packed with people and trucks loaded with cement barrel toward us. Herds of goats scatter. Our Senegalese motor cop gestures wildly for vehicles to get out of the way.

With every speed bump we hit, the two passengers in the back of our van go flying into the air and then come slamming back down into their seats. "Ahhhhhhh!" they scream. A small car careens onto the roadside. I can see the whites of the driver's eyes. She's a smartly dressed woman in a red business suit who looks absolutely stunned.

"Did you see her face?" I ask the colleague next to me.

We pull up to the gates of the president's home and our motor cop jumps off his bike. The two guards standing at the gate refuse to let us in. Two U.S. diplomats jump out of our caravan, as well as a 5-foot female White House volunteer who all of a sudden seems to be much bigger. The small scrum of Senegalese and American officials begin the delicate dance of negotiating our entrance. As it turns out, we are at the wrong gate of the Senegalese White House.

We end up making the first lady's event on time, by doing what we had done first thing in the morning -- running!


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CNN's Suzanne Malveaux finds traveling with the first lady is a running adventure.

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