WAIST - all I can say is wow. First and foremost, check out the pictures. Nothing that I write here will be able to convey the ridiculousness of this event. WAIST was talked up by all the second years beyond belief, and it completely defied expectation. More than 100 PC RIM voluteers met up in Rosso about ten days ago to head down to Dakar together. The bender began before we left and didn't stop until we got back to Mauritania. We left Rosso around 7 AM and stopped off at a little hole-in-the-wall little bar as a pit stop. We must have been quite a sight to the locals at this little road-side Senegalese town, piling off of two big chartered buses. It was after 5 PM when we finally pulled up to the Club Atlantique in Dakar, the site of the softball tournament and our future debauchery.
The Club is a little bit like a country club back in the States, but without a golf course. It has basketball/tennis courts, a volleyball court, a restaurant/bar, a little food stand (the Shady Shack, without which I would have lived on a completely liquid diet the three days we spent in Dakar), a pool, and a number of softball fields. One of them, the field where the final game was played, is directly on the cliffs above the ocean. Gorgeous.
PC RIM completely dominated WAIST, in every way possible. We rolled up at least twice as deep as any other group there. We were loud, racous, mohawked, and ready to win us a championship. Team C was the party team. We managed to win a game against Senegalese PCVs, but in general we concentrated on the music playlist and the next beer run. One of our PCVs walked around literally the entire three days carrying a giant old school boombox, which kept the party going.
Those of us on teams mostly stayed in the homes of American ex-pats living in Dakar. I had about ten PCVs staying with me at a house about five minutes from the Club. Every morning, we headed over to the Club, played our games, cheered for the other PC RIM teams, and then went out for the night. Our A team put on a fine show, winning the tournament with ease and grace, supported by the rest of our constant cheering. I'd say about half of us, including myself, lost our voices from all the screaming. I still don't have mine back; all the Mauritanians back at my site think I'm sick.
(To be fair, they also don't really get that I was just in another country. Life beyond Mauritania is very difficult for them to imagine. Actually, even some places in Mauritania are very difficult for them to imagine. Some volunteers have had to explain to their host families that the US is not, in fact, south of Senegal, but on a completely different continent. They don't get the continent thing either. Some Mauritanians couldn't even tell you what, let alone where, Africa is.)
The tournament lasted three days, after which I was so exhausted I had to peace out. Some people stayed to check out Dakar, and I do feel a little guilty that I didn't see more of the city than the house, the Club, and a random bar or two. Next time I will have to stick around and explore. Dakar is huge and definitely the most like an American city that you can find here in West Africa. That in itself was a little mind-blowing: highways and traffic lights and grocery stores and office buildings. Weird. Even weirder to think that I'm sitting in a mud brick one-room house as I write this.
So after Dakar, Zach and I and a couple of friends made our way north to St. Louis and chilled out on the beach for a day or two. We like to travel in increments, a few hours here and there, since its so uncomfortable/tiring/can sometimes take three times as long as it should. After a couple days of detoxing in St. Louis, we finally made it back to Mauritania, where we split up to head to our respective sites. Parting was a little sad, but luckily we will all be together again in a month or so.
I'm going to Morocco at the end of March, and after that all the PCVs in Mauritania are getting together in Atar (my regional capital) for a marathon and some environmental work. The environmental work is productive but also just a good reason to get everyone up here. We're so out of the way, it takes too long for most PCVs to make it up to this part of the country, so this is a good opportunity for them to check out how aweomse the Adrar is.