Out of the hut by 7am, Nacho sniffing at my laces because I can never seem to get my running shoes on fast enough for his liking. Once the door is open, Nacho and I both do our morning greetings to our respective species. Some mornings Nacho brings his friends over to greet me too. They pounce and sniff just like I’m one of their own. And then out we go, all of us, me and four to six dogs. I’ve learned now, which paths don’t go through other villages, so I don’t instigate the rumblings of inter-village dog fights. Running with one dog provides good company and encouragement. Running with a pack of dogs adds agility and attentiveness exercises. You never know when they will stop to sniff out a bird, veer off into a peanut field, or all sprint up from behind you at once. One day I knew I’d had a really great run when I returned to the compound and my brother told me that if I didn’t have earrings and breasts I’d look just like a boy. This was a compliment. He is apparently unaware of the how fit all the women in his village are from their daily work.
And daily work is the next step in my exercise routine. After I ingest my breakfast of oatmeal, instant coffee, and BBC news, I usually pull at least one bucket of water for my garden and chickens. We don’t have a pulley on our well so pulling straight up works the forearms, biceps, and shoulders. Once my bucket is full, I’ve now mastered the squat and full-arm extension to get the bucket on my head without knocking off the bandana that I’ve placed centrally to cushion the weight. It’s not a far walk from the center of village to my hut, but carrying water on your head does great things for posture and neck strength.
We have a choice in the next exercise. Option one: Help cook lunch. Pounding millet is a concentrated, repetitive shoulder workout. We also work on smaller muscle groups here. Wrist and forearms are active in scooping, stirring, and whipping sauce and grain. Option two: Field work. Bending over for hours no matter the task. Cutting millet off fallen stalks. Hacking at clay soil to prepare garden beds. Afternoon activities usually mimic morning activities. Then the day is rounded out by pulling more water, necessary for drinking, bathing, and gardening.
Oh, and the reason I’m sharing this all with you is because I am going to be run a half marathon! Senegal’s Race Towards Education will be in the Tamba Region March 3rd. There will be a marathon, half-marathon, relay marathon, and 7k races to raise money and awareness for girls’ education. Money raised will go to Peace Corps Senegal’s Gender and Development (SeneGAD) program. SeneGAD aims to empower all Senegalese people to “incorporate gender equality into their daily lives” by means such as Michelle Sylvester Scholarships, which provide school fees and school supplies to winners selected by school faculty, volunteers, and a designated selection committee. To donate click here and type “Marathon for Education” in the comment section of the form. It’s tax deductible and helping Senegalese girls reach higher education would be a great way to start off the New Year.
Happy deux mille douze!