Henry and Lucas are playing soccer on one of the Rancho teams. The ages of the boys are 8-11. It’s a little different than the games in the
Going to a boy’s league game in the
On the Away games in New Hampshire “The Exeter Express” arrives in their parent’s minivans, one child to a family van, in the lovely little New England towns with the turf covered soccer field. The boys all wear brand new uniforms, and everyone has their new season cleats and shin pads. The parents line up around the field each with their own fold up chair. The parents must sit on the opposite side of the field so as not to annoy the coaches and the players. All of the mom’s bring snacks and plenty of fluid. Many of the boys have their own bottles of Gatorade. The coaches are trained to give everyone equal playing time. All abilities play in the younger leagues.
Going to a league game in
We heard we were supposed to leave from the Ranch on a bus at 7 am from the vocational school, but no one ever really knows. We ended up leaving in a van at 7:45 from the boys’ hogars. There were 27 of us packed into the
Toyota van! I had one boy sitting on my lap and four packed next to me in a three person seat. (At
Exeter we are only allowed to put 15 in a much larger vehicle and everyone must wear their seat belts.) Breakfast didn’t arrive in time for the boys, so all came along with empty stomachs. We did have some donated uniforms, so they all put them on in the van on the way to the game. Everybody who had shin pads shared one of their’s with another. Most everyone ended up with one shin pad. We arrived a half an hour later in the town of
Talanga. Talanga is a dusty, dirty town with unpaved streets. On the street we passed several pigs, humping dog packs, and giant oxen pulling carts. It rained last night so there were huge mud puddles all over the streets. Garbage is everywhere. When we arrived at the dirt/mud soccer field everyone seemed to be staring at us. I don’t think they see too many gringos around here, never mind soccer playing gringos!
The name of our team is the “Pre-moscas.” The “Moscas” is the older boy’s team. “Mosca” means “fly” in English; therefore, our team’s translated name is “The Maggots!” Our coach has had no sensitivity training. The boys were standing around helping the coach decide who should start and the coach said, “Only the really good one’s… Who are the really good players?” Henry was chosen to play while Lucas had to sit out for the first half. Even though Henry is eleven, the same age as a lot of the others, he is at least a head taller than everyone else. One boy only comes up to Henry’s stomach! Many of the boys we brought along could not play because they don’t have birth certificates to prove their ages. I supposed when you are abandoned by your family, no one gives you your birth certificate to carry along. Sigh.
Of course, none of the boys or coach brought any water. Luckily we brought some to pass around, and we brought some oranges. The boys practically beat each other up at half-time for the oranges. The game was pretty ugly: NPH 0- Talanga 6 . Considering they haven’t practiced together yet, they did okay. Henry and Lucas both did well. It’s a good thing. We need to break the stereo-type that Gringos suck at soccer! The other team had lots of fans, our team just had us. I guess when you don’t have any family around, you never have fans. The boys all seemed to be glad to have us there. We can’t wait until the next game!
Pregame huddle. Henry is the blondish, tall one! 🙂
I’ve been recruited for another blog entry…must have been a slow week for Betsy.
I figured it was worth talking about all the help I get when working on repair projects in and around the kids’ houses. Regardless of what I’m doing there is always at least one boy or girl who eagerly pitches in. It’s a great time for me because I usually don’t get much personal interaction with the kids. As he/she and I sit there replacing damaged faucets or digging out root-clogged drains I get to learn another name and another story. Maybe the kid comes away knowing a little more about plumbing or electricity too. Often times there’s a group of a half dozen children who insist on carrying the ladder and/or my box of tools and materials. They also maintain a running commentary about what happened during the day, why am I doing whatever I’m doing, and how cool it is when the new lightbulb/toilet/outlet looks when I’m finished. They especially like it when I do electrical work. I usually don’t bother trying to shut-off power when I fix the electrical outlets (there isn’t a breaker, the electrical panel is behind a locked door, or I’d have to shut off power to the entire building), and the kids seem thrilled by the possibility that I’ll get shocked. I do, occasionally, and that results in great howls of laughter.
That “fun in someone else’s pain” reminds me of another story. I recruited our hogar – Arca de Noe – to move fill from the Rancho’s “gravel pit” to a low spot in one of our new buildings. There isn’t a tractor/loader here at NPH, so the kids have to fill the dump truck by hand. You’d have thought that a Saturday morning in the gravel pit would have had that crowd of 12-14 year old boys moaning and groaning. Instead, they were ecstatic…they talked about the upcoming Saturday work detail all week. And then I learned why. All 15 of them and their teenage “tios” jumped into the back of the dump truck while calling and jostling for prime spots in the dump truck bed. The driver obviously knew they loved this part and he raced down the Rancho dirt road. The game, it turns out, is to grab low hanging branches, hold on as long as you can, and then release them so that the branch whacks a guy behind you. If you can do it with a thorn covered branch, the joke is even funnier.
Although I’ve had some great times working on things with the boys, the girls are something else. They are far less intimidated by me (or any other adult) and the majority are simply brazen. I have no idea why – their tough upbringing, the Honduran culture, their living conditions here at the Rancho (the girls hogares are huge…usually 30 to 40 girls per house) – but I suspect their behavior gets them in trouble more often. It also makes them a lot more fun to work with. One 10 year old – in a purple, velvet dress – joined me when I was clearing roots away from an inoperable water valve. She sat right down in the dirt, took the machete away from me and starting hacking away. Another 10-12 year old took a drain “snake” from me so she could continue fishing long strands of roots out of a bathroom drain. Each tackled their jobs with an intensity I’ve never seen in the boys.
One more good story…
A few months ago I got into a conversation with the boys at my dinner table about the Nazis. It started when one boy said something about the “cool” Nazi insignia. Once we had worked out how to draw a Swastika, I asked them if they knew who used the Swastika and what the Nazis stood for. Nothing but blank stares. I was amazed that this group of 13-14 year olds hadn’t heard anything about Nazi Germany before. I then gave them a quick summary of WWII, the Nazi atrocities, and Hitler’s suicide/murder-suicide. It was the first time in my life that I had spell-bound my audience. Then the questions flooded out…who won the war, who were the Allies, how many people did the Nazi’s kill (it was hard for them to believe that the Nazi’s killed millions more people than lived in their whole country)…they seemed to be particularly interested in Hitler’s death. Ironically, the boy who brought up the issue in the first place was wearing a donated shirt that had a “Jewish” star over the front pocket.
Carl works in an hogar bathroom with boys looking on.
Yesterday we took the boys to see the Honduras National soccer team versus the USA at the National Stadium. We had heard through the grapevine that they were playing. We eventually found out while shopping in Teguc before the game that it was the junior (under 18) National teams…okay, not as exciting, but we might as well go anyway. Besides it was only going to be a buck to get in. I decided ahead of time that I was going to cheer for Honduras. Afterall, they only have 8 million people to choose from, and the US has 300 million! Plus, they have no money and the US has ample funds to support a team. The boys wore their Honduran soccer shirts to protect us from being heckled. On the way into the stadium one man yelled at us, “The gringos are GOING TO LOSE today!!!” Then at the crowded entrance Carl caught a man trying to pick- pocket him. The man ran away before Carl could pulverize him. The US soccer team arrived with their 8 coolers of gatorade and fancy uniforms. The Honduran team had a bucket of water. The stadium still has a broken scoreboard. The stadium was more packed than any game we have been to, and the crowd was ravenous. I quickly fell into cheering for the good old USA, but very quietly. We have heard stories about people getting urine poured on them. I guess there is no denying where my allegiances are, even though I can’t stand US foreign policy! Guess who won? Honduras, 1-0! The crowd was ecstatic. You would have thought it was a world cup game. As we stepped out of the stadium into the street that was ripped apart under construction with sewage flowing by, I was happy for the Hondurans. At least they could have the pleasure of beating those lucky bastards up there in the USA.
We seem to have a constant stream pequenos who need things repaired. It didn’t take them long to figure out that Carl is handy. Word spread like fire and now he has become the shoe-repair man, the watch-repair man, the bike-repair man and everything else. If he could just charge some money ….
Carl fixes some bikes with an audience as always