You got Pecs like…a Senegalese Brother

This is one post I’ve been meaning to write. Senegalese people (largely men) are what I would call ‘obsessed with’ working out, although I think they would call it ‘disciplined’ or ‘accustomed to’. In any case, they work out a lot (I don’t want to say ‘too much’ because seeing the results, I just can’t complain). The most obese Senegalese man I know is a comedian on tv and safe to say, he’s an anomaly. Granted, there are many men with bellies (think upper middle class, drives or is driven everywhere) but the vast majority are just FIT. To be honest, I don’t know why these people aren’t global leaders in long distance running like the Kenyas and Ethiopes – perhaps it may be because Senegal is so flat so the level of endurance can’t really compare. But it seems to me you can’t have a 10minute conversation with a Senegalese man without touching on the subject of working out, mainly ‘him’ telling you how often he does it, where he does it, how good it is for the body and how you, if you don’t already do it, should start. I’m STILL talking about working out here…

Anyhoo, to partly explain the ‘working out’ phenomenon, a lot of young (I would say, largely of the lower, less educated class) men ‘train’ for the Senegalese national sport – wrestling – in the hopes of becoming one day like their idols. Except the really successful wrestlers are all obese (in my gentle estimation), but I imagine they start out being really fit, gaining muscle and I guess they pack on the fat afterwards so they are too heavy for their opponents to lift and throw down. The higher classes, though they’re not training to be wrestlers, still have the same mentality of getting fit and being active. I don’t know – I guess it’s just a Senegalese thing. I mean, I thought Swedes were mad, but I think Senegalese people put them to shame.

Now all of this largely refers to the men. The women also work out, but in significantly smaller numbers. And the ones I do see ‘sporting’, the rare times I go for a walk, are more the middle to upperclass women, many of whom are actually trying to lose weight. One obvious reason is that many of the ‘lower class’ women (I HATE class classifications!) work at the markets or as housemaids leaving significantly less time for ‘sport’ because of their more ‘rigid’ working hours. But that doesn’t mean they are not fit (their jobs themselves are workouts) – at least until they pop out a few kids, or get to their mid-thirties, early forties, or start living the middle to upper class life, for those that ‘get there’. In their youth though, they have really good shapes. I don’t mean to stare, but sometimes I do, because I find myself being impressed – tall, skinny, thighs, asses, breasts. Part of it is also jealousy since I don’t have an ass, and they ALL do. How fair is life? Senegalese (young) women can give a girl low self-esteem, I swear. But I’m not in such a bad shape myself so I’m not overly affected. It reminds me of an article online I saw once where they carved out the shape of ‘Barbie’ on a seemingly ‘normal’ woman’s body, to demonstrate how difficult it is to attain such a shape. I cannot help but think I see my share of a few Barbies here. And I walk around thinking in my head, ‘you could be a model, so could u, and u, and u…’ Tyra Banks would have a field day here!

I guess the moral of the story is: it’s largely about lifestyle. The poorer people, with ‘less modern’ (and at times, simpler, but not necessarily simplistic) ways of doing things tend to be in better shape because they live less luxurious lives that require them to be constantly on the move or in the sun, in the case of Senegal at least. It’s hard to see a poor, obese, Senegalese child. I’ve definitely seen a few obese children around, but the neighbourhood I see them in or the manner in which I see them does not signal poverty. But this relationship falls apart in modern’ societies i.e. in the U.S. where richer people are usually skinnier…but that’s for a host of reasons and another debate altogether.

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CAN 2012 Qualifying: Senegal 2 DRC 0

Pics from a football match I went to on Saturday, Sept.3. Entertaining enough match – there were actually three goals scored by the Senegalese team but one was discounted. The DRC team, I thought, were actually a slightly better team but at the end of the day, its the scoreboard that matters! Too bad I can’t actually go to the tournament in February 2012 – it’s being cohosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. I have neither money nor time :(.

Balla Gaye 2 vs Tyson – July 31, 2011

This is an obligatory post, one I feel mandated by my residency in Dakar. Senegalese people are  infatuated with two sports: wrestling and basketball, the former being that much more loved due to its being much more traditional. The last weekend before Ramadan (July 30th and 31st ) saw a flurry of activities as people tried to get in all their events and parties before they became virtuous for a month. I cannot recount how many parties I saw advertised on TV for Saturday, the 30th! Also, July 30th saw the final of the Senegalese basketball association match, which I actually went to (this will be the subject of the next post).

Anyway, July 31st was the big wrestling day in Senegal and the match of the year (which was even attented by the obscure daughter of the president!) was between Balla Gaye 2 vs. Tyson, which I watched on tv. Senegalese wrestling is interesting because the wrestlers train and plump up to almost thrice the size of a normal man. Eventually, their height, weight, size and (sometimes) muscle combine to make a formidable sight. Although I must say the amateur ones are just as skinny as normal so this really only applies to the the ‘big boys’ or more serious wrestlers.

To cut the short story even shorter, after much ado and pomp and amateur matches (that not many people seemed overly interested in), the main features made their entry. Granted, they had been in the stadium the whole time but they made their ‘formal’ entry. To be honest, I’m not much of a fan of the whole wrestling thing but I am a fan of their entrances! Basically, the wrestlers ‘dance’ in, to the drumming of a hired drummer, to choreographed dance ‘steps’ along with members of their entourage or team, with the periodic ‘liquid subtance’ being poured on the head of their heads. Sometimes, this water is blue, other times, it’s brown, but at ALL times, it is dirty. Sometimes it is washed off with ‘cleaner’ water, other times, it is just wiped off. Anyway, the dances themselves are not overly spectacular, it is just the sight of the hefty wrestlers pounding the ground with rythmic movements as deftly as any teenager that makes it entertaining, at least for me.

And the match lasted all of 30 seconds! The winner – Balla Gaye 2. I had imagined Tyson would win because he looked a bit more serious and BG2 was acting more like the crowd pleaser. After the match, I thought about their demeanors and decided that perhaps Tyson’s seriousness was actually some lack of confidence. Either way, I thought they should have given the crowd more than that. I mean, after all that ceremony and waiting? 30 seconds?!