What interests me is how much people, especially kids, and most especially orphans rally behind these characters. Lamb wrestling is the pride sport of Senegal. Everyone loves futball but lamb wrestling was invented here and it is ingrained into the culture. The characters are larger than life, full of ego, and very wealthy. People here love to talk about the crazy amounts of money these wrestlers make. From what I've experienced with the Talibe (basically Senegalese orphans) they have hope and confidence in the wrestlers. When they play, it's wrestling. When they talk, it's about wrestling. I can see why so many people pursue the sport in so many ways. And it's also why I could hear celebratory chanting all last night. And this is why I compare it to the Super Bowl. It is the Senegalese equivalent not just in viewership but in the way people rally behind their athletes. Despite the exorbarent amounts of money they make, it is where our respective fans place their hope.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
The Senegalese equivalent of the Super Bowl, that is. Yesterday morning started with a CPA from admin stating volunteers should avoid about 10 quarters in Dakar because there was a big lamb fight that day in the city. Now, that did not mean much to me but what I hadn't realized at the time is that one of the fighters is actually from Mboro. And the fight is one of the biggest of the year. This had everyone buzzing all day about the fight scheduled to start at 8PM. And in classic Senegalese style there were hours of discussion on TV leading up to the fight. When I joined my little brothers around 8:15, their eyes were already fixed on the action. Typically fights are very short but this one was particularly long-lasting. The two best fighters in Senegal were very well matched and there were many close calls. But then, just like that our man from Mboro threw his shoulder under his opponents leg to throw him on his back. The streets instantly lit up with kids and I could hear screaming from across town. It was only then that I found out the winner was from Mboro.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
It has been a while and that is mostly because things are very slow here. I am still researching and doing my needs assessment. Very soon though things will be picking up with language seminar, All-Volunteer Conference, WAIST (West African International Softball Tournament), and our second round of training all happening in February. And although things are slow now, it's still pretty tiring with the heat and persistent culture shock. So here is a picture of the secret of how I got through my first month at site.
And a quick sneak peak of blogs to come:
African stereotypes disproven, or maybe proven.
Cheb u Gen - the Senegalese fuel.
How to stay sane.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
It is hard to adequately describe in detail how my New Years was and what I felt but what I can say is I've never done anything like it before.
Myself and two other volunteers went to Dakar on the 30th to get settled. We spent the day exploring and orienting ourselves in the city. We went to the shopping mall called Sea Plaza which made us feel very out of place among all the wealthy French people. But once we saw the grocery store, our minds panicked because of the wide variety of western products. For me, I did not think I would see anything like it for two years so I was not quite sure how to handle it. In reality it was about the size of a small town grocery store with similar prices. But for having eyes starved of that feeling for a few months, it felt like we had walked into the world stockpile of food. We bought cereal and milk and went back to the hotel.
New Year's Eve was spent similarly; exploring Dakar scenes and cuisine. Chicken and pepperoni pizza for lunch and ice cream afterwards. For dinner and celebrating we descended upon a known hit: Ceasars Fried Chicken. We all of course enjoyed fried chicken and reminisced about past years as the New Year slipped by without much event besides the kids running through the street lighting firecrackers.
After dinner we went out searching for our other friends. Since there is no good way around the city other than word of mouth, we spent an hour wandering and asking strangers with our still fledgling Wolof where "Calypso" was. We ended up in "Place de Independence," the Times Square of Dakar. There we were confronted with more wild kids and teens lighting off little firecrackers and rockets. It felt like we were in a different lawless world where there are no inhibitions or rules. There were fights breaking out beside us. Little bombs were making us jump ever other step. All we could see were people running around wildly as we clinched to each other. I felt like I had watched the scene in movies before but never actually been there. There is no way it could have taken place in the US since the national guard would have been called in way before it escalated to what it was. The whole experience brought me way back from the feeling that Dakar sometimes creates; that you're not actually in Senegal but a whole other European city.
We eventually found our friends and danced until we were exhausted. The whole night was a continuous realization that I'm in a unique and unforgettable time of my life. I know I probably should have had this moment by now but being in the madness of Place de Independence on New Years called me to really enjoy this place in the coming year. I may miss home and I may be excited about my prospects for after service but my goal now is to take in as much as I can here. I have had many days of frustration already. I'm sure there are many to come. But I don't want it to fly by. I want to encounter every day knowing this is what I've wanted to do since I was a kid. And that is what I encourage everyone reading to do-enjoy where you are. Don't wish you are someplace else until you are someplace else. Bonne Anne!
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
For Christmas in Senegal we have chosen to descend upon the PCVL apartment in Theis. Most of our work zone is here to enjoy some American company, comfort, and food. This is certainly my most interesting Christmas I've ever had. The food is surprisingly similar, the conversation is mostly concentrated on homely memories, and the weather is COLD! Overall I am in good spirits and enjoying these relatively new friends. Of course I miss church, home, family, and friends but the deeper I get into this adventure, the more my commitment to these two years is enforced. My only wish is that all who miss me enjoy themselves and shoot me a txt or email to say hi. Much love and wishes of a blessed Christmas coming from Senegal.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Two days after I installed the all-Mboro futball league championship game happened in the stadium right next to my house. I have been amazed over the past few months by not only the amount of talented players there are in the league but also by how much the town rallies behind these games. This one in particular must have had half the town there. Try to imagine 15,000 people cramped into a space maybe the size of a high school stadium and half the seating. The entire dirt field was lined with spectators, many sitting on top of the walls. Kids were running around everywhere, crowds of them waiting to get in for free when they can. There were groups of drummers, dancers, and sellers making so much noise. This combined with the boisterous spectators and an announcer on huge speakers made a collective sound that could be heard all over town.
So far I've not seen anything like it. I saw a local youth group there the day before putting up tarps for shade. The Senegalese Red Cross was there for medical support. Even the mayors office provided a tractor to transport the speakers and provide other logistical support. I'm starting to see that futball is going to be crucial to work here. This is not just a hobby in town. People expect young men to play and seldom understand why anyone wouldn't want to. Work must be planned around it and opportunities may even present themselves within it. I can see that it gains people respect off the field if they can perform on the field. For me, I'll have to find some other way to gain that respect.
I'm in Mboro, installed with my new family and a whole new setup. I've got a lot to do and not too much time to do it. PST2 (Pre-Service Training 2) is only a few weeks away and I have a large report to write by then. But actually the past two weeks were very exciting so I will recap and take a step away from that.
I think the last time I wrote here we were leaving our CBT families. The next day we had our Wolof exams. Luckily I passed. The day after that we had a little field trip to Popenguine for Thanksgiving. To say it was gorgeous would be an understatement. So if you really want to know, come visit and you can buy me dinner at a nice French restaurant on the beach there. We cooked our own meals which was beautifully hectic. We had a very American spread with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, chicken (turkey is extremely expensive here), and even chocolate/pumpkin/apple pies. Altogether the two day stay made for the most memorable (and warm) Thanksgiving I've ever had.
After that we had our swearing-in ceremony in Dakar. We were all dressed very well in local attire. It was an extravagant ceremony with many in attendance. Coincidently this year is also the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps Senegal. This made it a huge party with three artists performing including Baba Mall, one of the biggest in Senegal. Throughout the whole party the Wolof words "Lu Yagg, Degg La" were repeated. It's a Wolof proverb used as the motto of the 50th anniversary. It means "If something lasts long, it is true." And I can tell this has been true for PC Senegal. Of course our goal is to eventually leave this country, but right now i can see how this hard working staff has created a respected organization in Senegal. Upholding that reputation and working hard with Senegalese citizens is a hope of mine now that I am in my site. Now starts my two years of service!