Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Great Getaway

Remember I mentioned  when we were searching for a place to live in the  Plateau neighborhood where we saw apartments in the range from 350,000 CFA to 1,300,000 CFA and we ended up at the low end of the spectrum because the apartment was in the most perfect location (still small and frumpy but functional too). Well, the good luck for us turns out, there is a sports club called Gymnasium- that offers  a weight room, aerobic room, pool and a small private but safe beach access within 10 minutes walk from the house. Basically,  the low budget apartment has afforded us the luxury of being members of this oasis. And it is an oasis from the barrage that we encounter on a daily basis  - I can work out either taking a class or use the stationary bike and treadmill in the weight room (just like I was back in Berkeley sort of).  Once we realized after the first 2 weeks here - cycling was not an option - having the gym to stay in shape (both mind and body!) I was relieved. And now a new option for Manning. Not a bad view of the Ocean to keep you going.

Second, there is the pool and beach. With no parks with grass, or open space void of garbage or climbing structures for kids to play on, and no cultural or educational places to visit over and over (Lawrence Hall of Science or Indian Rock or hiking in Tilden comes to mind)  the pool and beach are 'the thing'. I can't be sure how it is farther out from the city center where we live but in the 'suburbs' of Dakar from trips we've taken to other homes or excursions - where houses are spread out - it still lacks there as well, but there are wider and emptier dirt roads to kick a ball around however. Or in the case of Rue Felix Faure - there is the Senegalese family using the shared passage way to each of our houses as wide as a bowling lane. However even this is an issue with our landlord Mr Diallo. While we discussed the relationship he and we should have with the Senegalese compound (let me say Mr Diallo is 1/2 Senegalese) - he's made it clear his preference is the passage way be used just for that - passing through.  Does seem a bit odd to get worked up since he has grown children who have kids of their own - but who are we to rock the boat on this when all we want is to stay on course in this apartment through July. C'est dommage.

A short but quick pick up game of soccer

Which  is why the pool becomes the great getaway!! And it doesn't take much for Parker and Addison to make a friend in the pool,  building sand castles, digging for crabs or collecting sea shells. These days I hear them speaking French with there circle of buddies and  Manning and I cannot keep up with their conversations.  As for myself - I find the ocean breeze and waves crashing beautiful music to my tinnitus (constant ringing in my ears for those not familiar with this condition). It's the one place that my tinnitus 'disappears' and my mind can melt directly into the current novel I'm reading. 


Before coming here I was linked into an ex-pat website in which one member recommended this gym so I knew it existed but had no idea it was going to be so conveniently located to the apartment.  Before actually joining we got to talking to a Senegalese guy on the street next to our apartment about cycling (the sport we would not be doing) and he mentioned the gym. I got all excited realizing he worked out there. He tells us to go see "Moussa"  who works in the "musculation" room and tell him "Babacar" sent us. So we go to the gym and Moussa is not there but  "Matar" is and he gives us a tour. Thankfully we are able to speak French and just enough English to explain our plans for the year but are not sure about the price (it's kind of buffet style depending on what you want - but not necessarily a discounted option for a family if you go for the pool, gym and classes). So Matar sends us to the manager "Nathalie" and again it's just our luck that when we talk to her it comes out that our kids are going to Sainte Jeanne D'arc, we are here for the year  and then she puts it together that her daughter had said there is an American in her class.  At that point we figure out which twin is in her daughters class (that would be Addison), she then pulls out her calculator - runs the numbers and gives us a respectful discount we could not refuse ;+}

swimming pool buddies

When the homework's done - the pool is fun!

One interesting observation both Manning and I have made with this club, that while everyone speaks French which is great because we want to as well unlike another athletic club and pool that caters more to an Anglophone crowd speaking English in another suburb and not at all convenient for us - many if not all of the patrons at our gym seem to be of European/French/Lebanese/Senegalese origin but with light or white skin tone. What I mean by this is that quite honestly even with the discount we get for the entire package - the cost for a single person to use the pool+aerobics+weights is 70,000 CFA/month - approx. $150 a month. Or 40,000 CFA/Month - approx $90 a month for the aerobics + weight room. The people we have met who use the facilities work for a company, own a shop, or are connected to an embassy  - Italian, Spain and German. Those that can afford it. 

With an almost 50% unemployment rate and the average Senegalese earning a salary of $1,000/year  (obtained from the BBC) - it might explain why we don't see a good representation of the population in this club. It is possible they belong elsewhere - there are other clubs but I'm not sure of their affordability?. Or as we've also seen - designated workout beaches, where running back and forth on the sand or lifting weights are available - all for free!

It's apparent that in this case a black Senegalese person or family is clearly a minority member.  EXCEPT - in the weight  room or those who work for the facility. The weight room is the least expensive individual option with the most fit black men  - and that is where many of the guys are. That price is 30,000 CFA the least priced option - approx $70/month. "Babacar" told us he only pays when he has the money so it sounds like he is a sporadic member. Maybe some people are offered discounts for this option as well but let's just say that there is no (*) on their schedule (like the YMCA) that would directly point out financial aid is available.  Why do I bring this up - because it's so noticeable you can't dismiss the demographics of who is there.

On Sundays usually the place does pick up with member and non-members since the club does offer an individual day pass and with all things closed - the pool becomes "a destination spot" popular for all ages. One thing I have noticed with Gymnasium is that they must have some kind of connection with various public and private schools (including Sainte Jeanne D'arc). Every morning I'm there - there is always a group of kids receiving  weekly group swimming instruction  which is nice as part of a schools fitness program.  One day I had the pleasure of being there (lurking from afar) at the same time Addison was there with his class. I could see those YMCA swim classes paid off!  


  1. Chère Belle-Soeur,

    Quel livre lis-tu sur la photo? As tu trouvé des


  2. Bonjour ma belle-soeur!

    Je suis desolee que j'ai pris trop de temps pour ecrire. Ma vie c'est tres interessant ici - chaque jour!

    Mon liste des livres pour l'annee c'est -

    Cutting for Stone - fini
    The Lacuna - J'ai vingt pages pour aller
    One Good Turn
    Catch 22
    Suite Francaise
    The Poisonwood Bible
    I Know This Much is True
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    Sarah's Key

    Voila. Manning a lu - The Emporer of All Maladies - http://www.amazon.com/Emperor-All-Maladies-Biography-Cancer/dp/1439107955 - Nous avons autre des amis qui ont lu le livre aussi. C'est tres tres bonne!