Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nanga def?

      The dominant sport here is soccer, well...futball. Many Americans have heard about lamb wrestling from Senegal (which I will get to later) but futball is king.  Arriving in Senegal the first things noticed were the people everywhere not necessarily doing anything in particular, the goats walking around freely, and the tons of people playing futball.  There were many fields along the highway; made of dirt and utilizing buried tires as boundaries. The biggest structure I saw was their futball stadium. It was something you would expect to see in the US. The PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) in my van told us that futball games are huge events here and they also use the stadium occasionally for lamb wrestling tournaments. I fell asleep after that so the next thing I knew we were pulled over on the side of the highway with our driver taking a knee in the bushes while we waited for the other Peace Corps vans. We soon pulled into Theis and arrived at our compound. We are on lockdown until we get our safety and security briefing tomorrow. Many of us are getting stir crazy but I'm sure it would be worse if everyone here weren't incredible. Monday we are free! (Almost). We will go explore a little bit and try our hands at bargaining in Wolof. 

        Personally I am doing great. Sleeping has been a little hard because of asthma and trying to adjust to the new allergens. My immune system must hate me right now but I have not gotten too much grief for the abuse. The food is great! A lot of rice cooked with oil is typical. Meat is available for lunch and dinner. There is bread, salad, and coffee all the time. None if this will last for long.  When we get to our CBT (Community Based Training, with a nearby family to learn the language) there will not be so many options. The WAY we eat, which I actually love, is crouching around one large bowl and everyone eating with a spoon. At our sites this will be pretty typical, just without the spoon. There are countless more things I could say about this culture, it's nuances, and why I love it but the power and wifi might go out by then. I will get this post through while I can. 

    Pictures to come soon!
Good luck Stonehill XC at CodFish Bowl, do great!

       All is well,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Made it!

      We landed yesterday in Dakar, took an hour bus ride to Theis, then ate, danced, and napped. Really feels like a vacation at this point. We have started culture training and we will soon be doing language courses. Overall things are good. I am safe, healthy, and very warm. I will post more extensively later when I have more time, inshallah (God willing). 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tourist Haze

         I am writing from JFK but I do not know when I will have wifi to send this post. We have successfully made it to JFK and through security..I think.  I am amazed by my fellow trainees. I am in freshman year of college all over again. Nobody knows exactly what they're doing but a lot of people seem to know better than me. I think there are 68 of us but I have not gotten a thumb on the exact number. What I DO know is that these people amaze me. I thought I was prepared for this journey but every person I meet in our group has already done phenomenal things with their lives. There are those who did their undergrads at Cornell and Georgetown, someone works on a fishing boat in Alaska, and another was raised in Tanzania. That's just the beginning. There are two married couples in the group.  Many of us speak a different language fluently. Everyone is incredibly positive and excited to lose all of their American comforts. I'm learning that these people are going to be the physical support that will get me through hard times over the next two years.  They have the same worries and they have similar aspirations. It is easy to see that amazing volunteers are the engine that drives the Peace Corps. 

       I am in a haze because I'm not nervous. That might be bad but it feels pretty good. It is probably because of all the warm thoughts coming from everywhere I have friends and the support of these people around me now. I'm sure it will change soon and I'll write about it here.  Hope you're ready. 

       In relation to running, have not done much since my weekend at Stonehill.  I have been mostly mentally training to conquer the inevitable culture shock. However, I have met other runners in the group who want to run!  One just got 9th place in a Wyoming North Face trail marathon. Another ran for Western Colorado, a DII power house in cross country.  We will all have a great time exploring Senegal by foot. I also met someone who is as excited as I am to explore the wrestling culture in Senegal. Soon we'll be tapping into our macho instincts. 

       Finally, thank you all for the warm thoughts and support. Girls, thank you for taking Lizzie out for cheesecake, you know her well. Thanks to everyone else involved in our lives supplying much needed support and writing nice things about me. You are all as always too kind and exaggerate too much.  Updates will come soon and they will be from Senegal!  Bisimillah!

     Much Love,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Next stop: Philadelphia

I am at Logan and getting ready to leave. Next stop is Philadelphia. I wanted to get in a quick post while I still have reliable Internet. Plus a lot of you have been asking for my address. Here it is:

PCT Tim Johnson
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 299
Thies, Senegal
West Africa

If you send mail to that address, I should eventually get it. Packages are not so certain. Thanks everyone again for such an amazing weekend with friends, music, and great food. Much love.

Bon Voyage,

Friday, September 20, 2013

Exodus Adventurous

My blood is vaccinated, My bags are packed, and My family is sad. It's time to go to Senegal. 

If you're reading this it most likely means you know me. And if you know me then you know where I'm going, why, and what this blog is basically about so I will skip those details for now. What I am posting about today is a little of my personal reservations about leaving and more importantly the concept overriding the theme of my blog. So let's get at it:

I've never been this emotional about leaving Thomaston (my home town in CT). It's not that I don't usually like it here, but rather because it is literally my favorite few days out of the year for weather. The leaves are just starting to turn, the air is crisp but not chilling, and it smells like apples everywhere.  It also doesn't ease my exodus that I have been having so much fun lately seeing everyone and saying goodbye. This has given a lot of my friends opportunities to see each other and I'm so happy about that.  The whole object though, which makes it all a bit ironic, is that I leave and don't come back for a while. So ultimately i must put my attachments to the past away and cling to a new and exciting future with the Peace Corps. 

About this blog: aside from my weekly (maybe monthly depending on Internet access) stories and grumblings from Senegal, I want to write about the world I see through an athletic lens.  Similar to the way many writers explore the world by food, I want to use running as a base to encounter many local and national sports. My background is running (I guess the metaphorical hamburger/hotdog meal in this situation) but I am really excited to see both how people run and perform other sports customary to their areas.  I hope to find this as an influential part of their culture and maybe it will, after all, lead to some great food experiences too. If this doesn't make sense quite yet we will just have to see where this  literary voyage takes us.

Thanks for readying and Bon Voyage!