Wednesday, January 25, 2012

385 days like a weeklong dream

I have been here a while, as I sit here relaxing having just finished making and consuming my now world famous gut bomb skillet; it made me stop and think about the last year and where I came from to where I am now and what I have accomplished.  I came into Peace Corps with low expectations I told everyone that if I can make one person’s life a little easier than I have succeeded.  I accomplished my goal early on in my service.  I figure everything else I do is just a bonus.   Some people here don’t want your help or they will stop and listen or see what you are doing and continue to do things the same way as their grandparents and parents did things because that’s the only way they know how.  I don’t know if it is fear, lack of critical thinking or just plain “I don’t want to listen to this white stranger.”  Either way its fine with me, I believe and know I can’t change the whole country and fix all the problems that are in this country but if I can continue to improve a few people’s lives and make it easier than I am happy. 

I remember after that long 30 some odd hour flight from Chicago to Banjul via Brussels finally arriving at the airport and being so excited and then walking off the airplane and wondering why the engine exhaust was being funneled so close to where we were walking out of the airplane but then I realized quickly this is the glorious  weather of West Africa.  I remember telling people that work for Peace Corps here in The Gambia that “I’ll never be cold here,” well, over the past month or so I have either wore pants, long sleeve shirts or hoody sweatshirt with socks either in the morning or at night nearly every day.  I can’t believe it, it’s in the 70’s and I’m cold.  Just today I wore a local scarf around my head walking to a meeting we had, I wore it all day.  I told a friend I was with “I can’t believe I am wearing a scarf in Africa.” I don’t know how hot it was but right now at 8pm it’s in the 90’s and I don’t feel hot.  It is amazing how your body becomes acclimated to your surroundings. 

Over the last year I have had highs and lows, been so sick that I wanted to come home and been so hot trying to sleep wondering how people sleep in the heat.  On the other side I have had some wonderful moments.  I feel like have been adopted into a second family.  I have a couple teenage sisters that are surprisingly a lot like teenage girls in America and sometimes I just stop and laugh at the eerie similarities.  I have a couple small toddlers that every time I get off the bush taxi at my house they scream “Forday naata, Forday naata,” which translates to Forday is here Forday is here.   As they are running towards me with their arms out and then come crashing into my legs and try and carry whatever bag or box I am carrying, even if it is 50lbs. 
Overall, I am happy here I have finally settled in and loving it. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

West African International Softball Tournament

I just got back from almost a week in Dakar, Senegal.  About 30 of the Gambian volunteers went to the West African International Softball Tournament (WAIST).  There were 20 teams in the social league.  There were local Senegalese teams, local high school teams, Senegal Peace Corps teams, a team with Cape Verde, Guinea Peace Corps volunteers and then two teams from The Gambia.   

The week started off the night before we left with a friend of mine in my village braiding my hair into cornrows.  I went to here with the design and she did a great job.  She also braided my sideburns.   It was one of the most painful experiences of my life, the worse was the pain lasting for an hour and a half. 

Binta braiding my hair

Side view of my sideburn cornrows

It took us about nine hours to get from The Gambia to Dakar.  The first two days was pool play and the winner of each of the four pools would go onto the semifinals. 

The second day was tied the team we were playing with and they end with three wins and a tie.  We still had one game left to play and we had to win.  That would give us the same record and the tie breaker would be the run difference of how many runs we won by.  The magic number was 2 we had to beat our last opponent by two runs to advance on to the semifinals.  We did it we ended up winning 18-8. 
Monday rolls around and we play our first game against a team of Japanese players that are working for some organization in Dakar.  We fell behind them early in the game and slowly were scratching our way back and at the bottom of the 7th we were down 7-11 and we started being more patient at the plate and we ended up getting a couple key hits and a couple key walks and we won 13-11.
Trophy presentation

The team and crew

Me, John and Seth
The final was our team against a local Senegalese team.  I didn’t pitch very well, I was thinking too much and started walking people.  It seemed when those people got on base the next Batter would hit a homerun or the ball would find a hole and land in it.  We ended up losing 13-7.  We got a real nice second place trophy.

Me and the trophy girl
As you can see my outfit was one of intimidation, as a pitcher I took a note from “Kenny Powers” and Charlie sheen’s character Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn from Major League.  Most games I just got laughs and stares as I would walk back along the highway to our hotel.

Before games and after games we had lots of free time to walk around and see the sights of Dakar.  We went to a mall, a grocery store, and the beach.   We ate fajitas and just enjoyed ourselves because this was a vacation after all.

Walking to the beach

Chicken Fajita

Downtown Dakar market

Traffic leaving Dakar