Friday, January 20, 2012

I Need New Shoes

I’m back at home in Cape Verde after a short vacation in Dakar. The trip was excellent, but the fallout was considerable. My legs feel like I swam home from Senegal,  my bank account is looking real bad, and my liver has gone on strike in the hopes of renegotiating its labor contract. In short, we did it big last weekend.

After six months in my new home, I headed to the mainland to participate in W.A.I.S.T.—the West African Invitational Softball Tournament. All I have to say is that if baseball was more like W.A.I.S.T., then I would play and watch it a whole lot more. Every January, hundreds of Peace Corps Volunteer from across west Africa converge on the Senegalese capital for a weekend of mostly-unproductive camaraderie. The weekend follows directly on the heels of several constructive events, including the WID/GAD* conference and the All-Volunteer Conference, where folks get a chance to share ideas about their actual work. In stark contrast, W.A.I.S.T. is more like homecoming meets The Wellington Sevens. I’d like to tell you all about it, but what happens in Dakar stays in Dakar. Instead, I’ll give you just a little taste. So, with no further ado, I present...

Ten Things I’ll Never Forget About W.A.I.S.T. 
  1. Partying so hard that even the kitten was passed out on the couch for most of the following day;
  2. Pondering the idea of replacing the “Classic 1 to 10 Scale” with the “Binary System” for rating the attractiveness of women... kinda like red light / green light, or taking a class Pass/Fail;
  3. Having a blast on an improvised Slip N Slide (plastic tarp + soapy water);
  4. Seeing a softball team plug their defensive gap in the short-stop hole with an inflatable killer whale;
  5. Charging the mound to tackle (and tickle) the pitcher from Team Far East after he beaned our batter;
  6. Committing hara-kiri after that same team pounded us for three innings;
  7. Replacing the third “s” in “sh*t, shower, shave” with “shawarma”;
  8. Kraus;
  9. The taste of a medium rare steak smothered in green peppercorn sauce (good); 
  10. The taste of homemade moonshine imported from Korea (bad)

Now, I admit that this post has been a bit less wholesome than the others on this blog, and I wouldn’t want you to walk away with a bad impression of W.A.I.S.T. Truthfully, despite the debauchery, I can look back on the weekend and appreciate some valuable takeaways. For example, the opportunity to meet over one hundred volunteers from across the region was golden for me. Being stationed in Cape Verde, I am constantly reminded how different my life is from the “typical” Peace Corps experience (if there is one). It was nice to actually compare notes with Volunteers serving on the mainland, mostly in rural sites throughout Senegal, Guinea, The Gambia, and Mali. Not surprisingly, I found that their experiences were very different—the biggest shock for me was to realize just how damn many of them there are! We have less than 50 volunteers in Cape Verde, plus we are spread out across several islands so we are never in the same place at the same time. At times it felt like there were that many volunteers crashing at the Regional Transit House in Dakar on any given night.

 By far, the highlight of the weekend for me was dancing. Actually, I’m bumping Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album at 11:00am as I write this, so you know what I’m about. It was just one of those times when you’re out there for 4-5 hours straight and every song that comes on just happens to be your jammy jam... even when you actually can’t stand it. It wasn’t until the next day when I went to get dressed and observed that my shoes were dirtier than Sarah Silverman's mouth, that I realized just how "active” I had been on the dance floor for the last two nights.

Believe it or not, Team Cape Verde did not make it to the semi-finals of the tournament, so we had Monday off to chill out. My original plan had been to use that day to explore the city a little bit, but I ended up exploring the couch at the Transit House. I can’t remember the last time I travelled to a new country or city and saw so little of it. I’m not proud of how little I integrated into Senegalese society during my four day stay—but I’m also not ashamed. Everyday for me in Cape Verde is a struggle to integrate, and I just needed a vacation.

Since my plane did not leave until Tuesday afternoon, I got to spend my last morning walking the streets of downtown Dakar. It reminded me how much I enjoyed riding solo during my travels leading up to entering the Peace Corps. More than anything, those few hours made me want to come back to Senegal again—maybe for W.A.I.S.T., or maybe for no good reason at all. At least I know I have a bucket of new friends in west Africa, and at least a few mud huts that would welcome me. I’ll make it happen... inshallah.

Pura Vida,


*From Women in Development to Gender in Development

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed WAIST! It was great to meet you and to hear how different your experiences are. Also good to know my slip and slide efforts were not umm wasted lol :) Hopefully you stop back over before I finish, sadly that was my last WAIST...or was it?