John’s entry: Alex and I have found a new local basketball court near our apartment. We were very excited to find it after having to leave the good pick-up game we had in Camberene deux. When we first got there only little kids were playing so we sat around waiting for the older crowd to get there. After waiting a long time we deciding it would be absolutely essential for us to get a basketball of our own. A game did eventually start up but it wasn’t as competitive as in Camberene. We were a little disappointed but decided to come back again and it was a good thing because it seems that more people come every day. Yesterday there were about 20 guys waiting to get into a game of 3 on 3. Alex and I are usually on the same team and we have already become well accepted. The other day a guy on the street called us over and asked us why we didn’t play yesterday so we had to explain our absence, but it is nice that they notice when we aren’t there.
today, Alex and I decided to check out the outdoor gym right on
John and Pepe
Pepe's the one on the right
the coast which we saw in a cab ride to downtown. It was quite the experience. It looks like a prison gym, with wooden benches and chin-up bars. There are four bars with weights on them, but the bars are steel reinforcement bars for construction and the weights are an assortment of things like airplane tires, rims from cars and some unidentifiable round steel scraps all welded to the bars. It is perfect for us though, since it costs nothing and it is right on the coast and outside so it is probably way cooler than having it in a gym. It is about a half hour walk from our place.
Playing basketball will definitely be one of my nicest memories about Baobab. Alex and I did have a little trouble remembering names since they were just a series of sounds to us. In talking about the guys after the game we ended up having a number of pet names for the guys, which related to specific incidents or memorable things about them. Laura and Marian even got to know some of the names after hearing about them so much. Some of the names were: chin bandage/millimeter, muscle shirt,
803, headband, the big guy, red shirt/14 jersey, first round draft pick, Will Smith, Texas shorts/Simon, mushroom head/hairnet, dreadlocks, Rasta man, straight back, gold shorts/Ron Artest. I am sure they had names for us too which we would have loved to have herd. Alex and I often talked about possible names for each of us. We figured it would probably have something to do with the fact that when we make bad plays we often yell something in disgust with ourselves. This is very funny to these guys and some of the guys would even joke with us and yell something when they did something bad. Usually when we do something stupid and yell, there is an echo of guys yelling too, which is funny.
One of the first times when I was playing basketball, I was sitting on the side of the court waiting to get on again when a little kid (8 years old) came up and sat next to me. I said the usual Bonjour… Ca va? He seemed quite interested in me so I decided to try talking to him since I figured that we would probably be on the same level of French. He
was a really cute kid and asked me some questions too. My turn to get back on had come again so I said good bye and went and played. The next day the same sort of thing happened with the same guy whom I knew now was Pepe. He became my off court entertainment, almost everyday he would find me when I was off the court and talk to me or tap me on the shoulder and run the other way and laugh. He was really funny. He would often bring by other of his friends to introduce them. When we decided to move to Tamba we all thought it would be a good idea to give Pepe some gifts that we had from Canada. Alex also had a good idea to give the guys that we played with nets for the basketball hoops as a thank you for letting us play. So on our last day we headed down to the court to give the nets and gifts to the guys. It was a little difficult to explain that we were leaving and that we wanted to give these gifts as a thank you. We didn’t want them to think that we bought the stuff because we thought the court was not suitable for us to play on. In the end with a little grunting and smiling we think that it came across as we intended and everyone seemed very happy about the new nets. It was quite the process when Alex and I were putting them up though. Not a person in the place wasn’t watching us and the kids came right over to watch what was going on. I didn’t see Pepe and was terrified that I would have to leave without saying goodbye and give him the gifts. I eventually went to the area where he said that he lived and found him. I took him back to our house to introduce him to Laura and Marian and give him the gifts. When I gave him the gifts I wasn’t sure if he like them because I was expecting a reaction like a kid here when he got a gift. When I walked him back home I realized that he was actually excited and understood what was going on. As I we got to the road where he had to go home and I turned the opposite way I looked back and he was looking back at me as he walked and he was smiling and gave me the thumbs up and waved as he turned around the corner, which was all I could have asked for.
Alex and I went to a soccer game at the stadium near our place. It is hard to find out who is on the teams or what the significance of the game is since there is no coverage of the Senegalese league on the internet. We watched Baobab (not like the are we live in but another area) and ASC Diisoo. It seemed to be a pretty big game since the stadium was almost filled and people were really cheering hard. We ended up sitting in the ASC section so we were sort-of cheering for them. The game was exiciting, Baobab got out to an early lead and appeared to be the stronger of the two teams. Our team was getting a little down when a penalty shot was awarded. This was actually a hilarious event since as soon as the penalty was awarded, the fans started going crazy as though the game was already won. kids near us were hugging and completely content even though they hadn’t even scored yet. The player ended up scoring which resulted in a little more cheering but Alex and I couldn’t help but wonder what the reaction would have been if the player didn’t score since the fans seem to already be counting it as a goal. The game continued with a few weird event… for instance one team all of a sudden walked to their bench and took off their shorts and flipped them inside out, which we noticed that it was actually the right way for the shorts to be put on and then continued the game… no idea why. The game ended in a tie which meant a shootout to determine the winner. the shootout was close with no more than one goal difference at any time, in the end our team won. The fans were very heated about the event, and there was even a small fight in the section next to us during the shootout. After the game, with all the cheering another big fight started in the next section. It started off small but more and more guys kept getting involved. By the end it was a big brawl with outsiders throwing punches and wild kicks. the fight kept going up and down the concrete bleachers at a dangerous pace… like a crowd of 30 men simultaneously falling down the stairs. At one time we saw a guy right in the middle of it with a huge gash on the top of his head. Alex and I were extremely scared that someone was going to die. At one point there was a young dad trying to get out of the middle of it holding a young boy up in the air to keep him from getting hurt. he did manage to get away which was good. This whole brawl was happening about 10 feet away from us in a section that we could have easily chosen to sit in which was scary. The military looking police did eventually get into it. When that started to happen a huge group of men started running out then a military police man started chasing them with a HAND GUN drawn…. it was quite the experience. Another game started after that but we decided we had seen enough excitement for one day and decided to go home. To the credit of the Senegalese everything calmed down after that and were able to leave very peacefully with most of the celebrating going on well mannered way.
Alex and I have quite a bit of free time on our hands since the girls are at work from 9-5 everyday. I was hoping to volunteer but since mostly tribal languages are spoken here I don’t think I will be able to find anywhere that I could be helpful. Alex works a bit on his art project and I spend a little time on my French lessons but doing anything here takes so long we end up doing stuff all day that would normally take no time at all. For instance: Friday morning we got up realized that there was no lighter to light the stove so we left the house at 9am to get breakfast and do some chores. We first walked to the bakery to get some bread to eat to tide us over until we could get back home and eat a normal meal. The walk to the bakery is about 15 minutes, we got our bread then went to the internet café to check our emails. we decided to wait outside until we finished our bread so we didn’t get crumbs in the keyboard, only to realize that most of the keys on the keyboard were broken because of all the sand that gets into them. It takes about 5 minutes to get the computer started and a while to get the internet going. After an hour we had checked our emails and done some other things on the net. We paid and left. We didn’t have any water at our house so we had to get some at a local store. We checked around for the best prices for half an hour then bought 20L. We bought a lighter on the way home and got back at 12:00. If we were to accomplish the same things at home this is how we figure it would have gone: Wake up 9am, turn on tap for water, turn on stove and make breakfast. Check emails while breakfast is cooking. Eat and be finished at 10 at the latest. Amazing.
Alex and I have discovered much to our surprise that basketball is by far the best way to meet people in a new area. We were both really disappointed to have to leave Baobab where we had made so many friends with the guys playing basketball. So on the first day that we didn’t go to work with the girls we decided to go out and look for a basketball hoop that we could play on. We were feeling skeptical about finding a court since some of our friends at Baobab had told us that there was no basketball in Tamba, but we decided to give it a shot anyway. We had seen a court at the elementary school around the corner on our drive in and we decided to go there and shoot around and see if anyone came to play. We were carrying our basketball and had made it about 30m before someone on a scooter stopped us. Eventually we decoded that he said that there was a game at the stadium at 5 everyday. We were excited to hear that and told him that we had to go to a Thanksgiving party tonight but would go tomorrow.
The next day we headed over to the stadium to see about the game. We were half expecting that there wouldn’t be anything there since usually quite a bit gets lost in translation, but there was a good outdoor court there with no one on it. We started shooting around and got the usual response: Lots of people watching us for about 5 minutes then a mass of kids running over to play. We shot around for a while with the kids and even got a game going for a while when some older kids came over. Talking with one of the guys we found out that there was a club team that practices there at 5. At around 5 there were probably 40 kids, girls and boys, with basketballs shooting around on the two nets. We had to leave before we could find out what goes on there after 5 but are interested in going back to see if we can get a game going.
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