Wednesday, October 30, 2013


So I think I now have at least a beginners feel for how many Senegalese interact with sports. There will always be more to learn about the complex fascination with athletic prowess here but for now I I can explain the basics. 

Futball (soccer):
It is ingrained in every neighborhood of every city I have seen so far. Especially young men are so interested in playing and watching futball. I asked my neighbor Djia Djia what his favorite thing in the whole world is and he said "to watch the futball highlights on tele."  Most cities have formal or informal stadiums and many players organized into leagues to fill these stadiums. At any time of day where the temperature is bearable you will see kids in the streets playing futball with anything from an actual ball to a rolled up wad of cloth. And most often three out of four are wearing futball jerseys. In a country where pre-made clothing is much more expensive, one takes notice of such things.  These are only the informal observations anyone can make walking around Senegal. Apparently there are some much more serious themes behind their love for the sport. 

Many young men train so hard to play futball at a high level. If someone is running or exercising it is safe to assume they're doing it for futball. For many this effort is in the hope that they will make something out of themselves as a professional athlete. This has taken many of them out of the workforce and away from household duties. In many cases this prolongs the poverty cycle for those families. Many people think they can make the Senegalese national team which in 2002 made the World Cup and defeated France to earn a spot in the quarter finals. It may be hard for many Americans to imagine this as anything but a marginal and trivial cultural trend but I recently found out something tragic from two of our Wolof teachers. Not long ago a group of hundreds of past-prime idealistic futball players realized that they would not be contributing members of Senegalese society. They had not gone to school, picked up a trade, or had any sellable skills. They all got into fishing boats (which are more like large canoes here) and tried to navigate to Portugal or Spain. They all died during this pursuit of a better life. The massive amounts of deaths from these journeys drew a lot of attention to this problem for a short time. This has brought new meaning to the futball obsession for me. The obsession is beyond an athletic release for them. So many men my age feel that they can become professionals. In a country where so many families are struggling to put good food on the table, it is hard for me to find any kind of legitimacy in their fantasies. 

Lamb wrestling:
I have not seen this sport practiced nearly as much but informal and sometimes impromptu matches spring up all over the place. This is a huge national sport and the most prominent figures are printed onto many popular products. The season has not started yet but I will surely see the extent of its allure soon. 

Not too many people play or enjoy watching basketball. At least this has been my experience so far. It seems like more of a hobby sport in many cities. There is a school called the Seeds Academy near the Theis training center where students learn typical curriculum and get good formal teaching but go there for free since they are so talented in basketball. Some students have even been drafted by the NBA. They come from all over Senegal. I don't have too much more information than that but some Peace Corps volunteers do work there so I will find out more soon. 

So far I have only witnessed this as a sport for tourists and Rastafarians. Many Senegalese cannot swim since the only place to learn is in really choppy oceans and life vests are hard to find. I would love to do some work with surfing programs in the future so it may be an uphill battle. The waves here are beautiful, especially in Mboro. Apparently the only surfing can be found in Dakar however. 

Many people do not run for sport. They just call it exercise or training for futball. There is a marathon in Tamba every year though so there may be hope for me yet. I do plan on running consistently when I am at site so this could possibly create some interest in Mboro. Time will tell. 

For now this in-exhaustive and poorly researched report will serve as my baseline. I hope to learn more about new and culturally exclusive sports as time goes on. I also hope to report more about how these sports reflect and idealize their culture. 

Friday, October 25, 2013


For those if you who don't know and are too lazy to look it up, Tabaski is a holiday celebrated by Muslims all over the world but it is only called such in Senegal. It is a celebration and sacrifice in remembrance of God's provision to Isaac when asked to sacrifice his son. Every family who has the financial means buys or raises a sheep to slaughter on this day. In. Our neighborhood in Mboro some families slaughtered as many as 3 or 4 sheep. 

Personally I had a great Tabaski. I was invited to many houses since my host family is catholic. I went to my friend Sarah's for the first meal and spent most of the morning peeling potatoes and slicing onions. After having some garlic barbecued ribs and onions I moved on to Austin's. There I was fed roasted and seasoned sheep with onions bread and lettuce. It was really a treat and I was so grateful for the family graciously letting me eat so much of their food. I was invited to Daniel's family's meal also but they put it in a bowl for me to enjoy later. The rest of the day was filled with digesting and celebrating Austin's birthday with others. 

I had sheep for every meal about 5 days afterwards so I've eaten enough bone fragment filled meat for at least a year. I really enjoyed this holiday. It combines elements from Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Yom Kippur for them. They really look forward to it and really go all out. The whole neighborhood brought my family meat since they did not slaughter a sheep. I'm learning more and more everyday about the traditions and celebrations here. More to come soon!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


One more thing I love, we can take naps anywhere we want, whenever we have time off. 

Quick picture of training camp in Theis

Staying in Mboro

Yesterday we found out where our permanent sites will be. They performed a ceremony-like procedure where we were all blindfolded and guided to our respective locations on a large map painted on the basketball court. As I stood there in anticipation of the reveal I remembered the prayers I prayed back in January after my initial interview with my recruiter. I had asked her what my chances were of getting an assignment and she told me basically it was only a matter of time. I began thinking about my community at that instant. I wondered what they would be like and I wondered what they would need. I started getting excited then and it has not stopped. I didn't know the process would take so long and the decision would be made a few weeks before I found out, but here I am. And I am so happy. I love Mboro and I'm very excited to start working there. It is very hot right now but apparently it cools down after October. There is a Catholic Church there which is fun to attend. I don't understand anything yet but the music is worth the language barrier. I have already made a few friends and learned the basics. I have a lot to learn about my community and how I can contribute but for now I am thrilled to be (almost) a part of Peace Corps Senegal. I have many steps to take over the next month to be sworn in. I will continue to pray for usefulness and patience. 

Some Pictures from Tabaski

On our way to take our official Tabaski photos. 

Djia djia and I dressed up. 

The sheeps all cleaned up and enjoying their last supper. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I found an Internet cafe in Mboro. I am here for my hose stay learning Wolof and acclimating to the Senegalese culture and food. I am still waiting for time to write an extended post but for now I can say I am healthy and happy. The people here are great. I just received my first evaluation and I'm still here.  I have been running a little more but right now it is still just too hot to do it safely. Right now the priorities are eat, sleep, speak Wolof. I am missing America but I have a long time here and I want to enjoy it in solidarity so I am patient with these feelings. Overall a good report from here. 

   Much love

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Leon Baba Ciss

This is my new Senegalese name. I have met my family who will teach me how to speak Wolof and Senegalese living. They feed me the best food and treat me way to well. I still feel like I'm on vacation but there is some definite pressure to pick up this language. This post will be short but I hope to get a longer one in later this week about what I've been up to. I will hopefully be able to get in a few pictures by then too.