Last week, Peace Corps Senegal graciously gave us 1.5 days off (which they also did this weekend – they’re spoiling us!). We (all the trainees except a handful) took the opportunity to escape to “the beach”! This is a tradition for all trainees so it was not hard for a couple of the trainees who speak better French to make the travel and lodging arrangements. We took 2 Alhams to the beach (Popenguine was the town/city we stayed in – it is just over an hour away from Thiès) and stayed in 2 houses right on the beach (the same houses the Peace Corps Volunteers always rent out when they go there). It was beautiful! The beach was really pretty and clean with very few rocks or garbage (that’s a first for anywhere here!) and the water was cool with little debris (such as vegetation or dead fish – some trainees and Senegalese boys had fun playing around with a dead fish Tuesday morning but that was it). We made spaghetti for dinner and hung out in the bigger house and in the water. It was a perfectly clear night with almost a full moon. Most of us had made our way into the water around 11pm and by midnight I was almost starting to feel cool – almost. What a feeling. I was beginning to think I had only imagined ever actually being cool, let alone really cold. I figured that was a good time to turn in for the night.
Next morning a couple other trainees and I got up “early” (i.e. at 8am) and made pancakes for everyone. We had a really simple recipe but they turned out really good! Everyone loved them. Then it was time to hit the beach again. After covering myself in sunscreen, I got in the water and then spent the rest of the morning moving from the water to the shore to play soccer with other trainees and then back into the water when I got too hot. Close to noon a Senegalese guy came over and started playing soccer with us. Soon the other trainees got hot and went back into the water but the guy (can’t remember his name…) and I kept playing for almost an hour. We mostly just juggled the ball on the shore in our bare feet – often chasing the ball into the water or further up on shore. This guy, in typical Senegalese fashion as I’m gradually learning, was pretty good at the basic juggling with his feel and thighs, but also had some cool tricks up his sleeve (or maybe down his socks – if he were wearing socks that is). His most common trick involved him kicking the ball up in the air, spinning around on the spot, and then continuing to juggle with the ball. He also liked kicking the ball up and catching it in the crook of his neck, holding it there for a bit, then tossing the ball back up or letting it slide down the side of his body and continuing to juggle. He was really impressed by my soccer skills. This is not because I’m that good – I’m really not that good at all – I’m guessing it is mostly because he is not used to a girl being able to play soccer at all let alone play it decently well.
When we got back to the beach after a long lunch at an Italian restaurant (Senegalese Italian is good but not anything like real Italian or American Italian food), I packed up my things and then noticed that the guy I had been playing soccer with earlier in the day was still out on the shore playing soccer – only this time with a handful of other guys. I changed back into my suit and shorts and played with them for another hour or so until we had to leave to come back to Thiès. These other guys were also equally impressed by my soccer skills. Something needs to change so women can play more soccer in this country and prove to men just how talented women are!
We all had a really fun trip to the beach. It was great to get away from Thiès, see the ocean, and relax a bit (though I don’t think it was really all that relaxing for most of us). It would have been nicer if we could have stayed at the beach for another night, but there is just too much we need to learn and do for Peace Corps to give us 2 full days off. We’re all looking forward to our next opportunity to get back to Popenguine though! :)