Sunday, February 21, 2010

WAIST – softball, sun, and suspenders

I’m not sure where to start when writing this post about WAIST…it was a totally new Peace Corps experience for me… I guess what WAIST stands for is a good starting place. WAIST stands for West Africa Invitational Softball Tournament. It has been happening in Dakar for some 30+ years and teams from all over West Africa come to play. Peace Corps teams make up the majority (every region in Senegal has a team, and several other West African countries send teams of PCVs, too), but there are also teams made up of other Americans that live in Dakar and their kids, as well as one Senegalese team. Most of the teams are in the “social league”, but there are a few in the “competitive league” – Peace Corps Senegal formed a competitive team this year. The teams are placed in brackets and the winner of each bracket goes on to the play-offs. Most of the teams have a theme of some sort – the Peace Corps teams usually involve dressing up in some crazy fashion (see pictures below). Since there were so many people around the fields, they had Senegalese policemen there just as a precaution; the policemen didn’t quite know how to react to us in our costumes… (ex. picture below of Byron).

Kaymor is in the Kaolack region in Senegal, so that was the team I was on. We decided to dress up as lumberjacks, which was a really fun them to dress up for – and the markets in Kaolack and Thiès actually provided an abundance of fabric, suspenders, and other supplies to satisfy our lumberjack needs. We started off with a strong win Saturday (2/13) morning, but had a disappointing loss that afternoon. The next morning had lost again, and then had a triumphant win against another PC Senegal team who had gone back in time for their PC-BC theme. We were hoping to be able to win our bracket and make it to the play-offs but it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe next year. The Peace Corps team from The Gambia ended up winning the social league, which was exciting (since PC teams don’t usually win).

As I mentioned above, PC Senegal formed a competitive team this year – and they even got yellow t-shirts made. It was all guys until enough people gave the guys a hard enough time about it – and then they let me play. We got killed (for the most part) in all three of our games, which just means we need to practice more for next year. Maybe the next couple groups of PCVs that are coming to Senegal in the next year will be full of good softball players – there are only a couple PCVs that will still be around next year.

Since we PCVs are (by most American standards) pretty poor, Chris Hedrick, the PC Senegal Country Director, found home-stays for all PCVs that wanted one. These Americans living in Dakar were nice enough to open up their homes for several days to crazy PCVs used to living out in the bush (or at least most of us…some enjoy the luxury of towns). For most of us, this was just the taste of America we had been dreaming of for weeks…or months. :) I stayed in the home, where the husband and wife had both been in the Peace Corps (that’s where they met) in the ‘90s, and now the man works for USDA and the woman is a teacher at the international school their two young children attend. I stayed there with 3 other PCVs from Senegal and one PCV from Togo. The five of us really enjoyed sleeping in real (soft!) beds, taking (looooong) HOT showers, and have a refrigerator and an oven as well as a dinner table and couch – all things that most Americans (including myself!) take for granted but which we found to be such a novelty. We took advantage of all the amenities of an American kitchen and did a fair amount of cooking – we would have done more if we hadn’t been able to buy real hot dogs at the softball field and if there weren’t such delicious restaurants in Dakar to check out.

Speaking of food, our time in Dakar was not just consumed by softball – most of it, actually, was not. The softball games were played at the international school that is right next to what we call the “American Club.” It overlooks the ocean and has a pool, basketball and tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, playground, a little fast-food-type stand, bar, and lounge chairs – i.e., everything that we wanted for our mini-vacation from the village life. I played a lot of sand volleyball with other PCVs, which was a ton of fun and a collision with another PCV’s shoulder (and three stitches on my chin) didn’t stop me from continuing to play. I also spent a lot of time swimming and just hanging out in the sun (and shade) chatting with other PCVs. In the evenings, we all went out and explored the various restaurants in Dakar. It really is quite amazing how different Dakar is compared to the rest of Senegal.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first WAIST experience and am looking forward to WAIST 2011! :)


  1. Hey I know that place!! You played softball on the field at ENEA/Suffolk where I had classes! That's incredible!

  2. Excellent article, Danielle. I lived in Dakar from 1998-2000, and some of my favorite memories are from WAIST Weekend. Thanks for bringing back such fond memories.
    Harry Bussey, Pensacola, FL