Thursday, June 24, 2010


Funny how a couple of words jog loose multiple memories. They keep spinning around in your head dislodging even further forgotten ones... My already full brain is now trying to remember, reprocess and relive more moments from my days in Ivory Coast. If only my pictures were easily accessible; I could submerge myself completely in memories. (Instead I further date myself by saying that digital wasn't even invented, at least for the public masses, when I captured my memories on film! The photos below are from my time in Ivory Coast, but pilfered from the college website from someone who had access to a scanner.)

I was in Ivory Coast the summer of 1994 during college. 20 students were living, studying and working with African families and learning languages, culture and so much more about ourselves. One weekend we were taken to a village that our host family had lived in for years. We stayed with families throughout the village and spent our time talking with families, learning about the daily routines and, on Sunday, joining the community in dancing the pastor to the church and home again.

 However, the highlight of the weekend, the event that both the students, teachers and the entire village had been talking about since plans for the visit had been made, was the soccer game on Saturday afternoon. The American students were taking on the village team with bragging rights and glory up for grabs. Each village has it's own team and the outcome of each game is extremely important!

Saturday afternoon we were accompanied by everyone not on the team to the field. With everyone laughing and chattering and the additional giddiness bubbling out of the American women in being able to wear shorts and feel the air on our legs for once (we wore dresses every day) it was like a huge holiday.

Our "team" was composed of some college students, professor, Dad from the host family and a couple of their kids that were old enough to play. We were a hodge podge of age, experience and fitness - this was just a really fun way to let off some steam! We were up against a group of guys who played together all the time and were looking forward to taking it easy and dribbling circles around the Americans. Plus, there was the fact that they were actually playing against GIRLS! Good times and the potential for hilarious stories!

The game started and we were off! We were laughing and shrieking as we tried our best to pass and play and remember how to run. Suddenly our professor's 14 year old daughter and I were dribbling the ball down the field towards the goal trying to stay upright and focused as the opposition made half-hearted defensive plays against us. But we moved through the sea of people and as the ball was passed back to me I found myself coming up on the goal posts. It was getting serious. The goalie came towards me; the last defense against two white American girls. I took a shot with all I had and somehow it bypassed the goalie's hands and hit the back of the net!

A moment of silent shock.

And then...GOOOAAAAALLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The field exploded in disbelief and the sidelines turned into a celebration choir as the women broke out in song and dance for me, the children shrieked and cheered and the men wheezed out insults to their village team in between their uncontrollable laughter.

I went down in village history as the white girl who scored on their goalie and they promptly put us in our place by dribbling circles around us and running up the score to a "respectable" number. Once it was all over we all good naturedly (except for the goalie. I didn't see him the rest of the weekend!) called it quits and gathered around some "refreshing" palm wine to hash out the details.

If you've been watching the World Cup, or even stopped for a few moments while channel surfing, you've heard the constant drone of the Vuvuzelas in the background. It sounds like a swarm of African bees and though many have found it annoying and distracting it seems to fit in with the warm savannah weather that I remember. (Yes, I know it's technically winter down there...) But that swarm of African bees is drowning out one other thoroughly African wonder. No one can hear the drums beats, the voices raised in jubilant song, the syncopated clapping and stamping that rings out the exuberance and love of the game on the continent. It's too bad we're missing that element because it is truly a joy to experience.

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