Belize Adventures

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Football---well, we just played the last game of our tournament last Monday night. What a game! First, let me tell you about the tournament leading up to that final game.

This tournament was an elimination tournament, but like none I’ve played before. We played each team two times in a row. The team with the most goals scored in those two games advances. At first it took me a while to figure that out (as with everything in football here—I exist in a constant state of trying to find out the real story) because I couldn’t grasp the two game elimination and I didn’t know that goal differential was important. Perhaps it is because the first team we played, we beat them 5-0 the first game. (we’re not that good, they’re actually that bad) I didn’t know why in the world we would play them again the very next weekend. In fact, I was a tad bugged because our first game against them (their team name is the village they’re from—Teakettle) was over 4 hours late. That’s right. 4 hours. I showed up at 1 for the scheduled 2 o’clock game and we waited and waited. Apparently they said their bus broke down and they were trying to find a new bus. Our team said that they didn’t have enough players and were trying to find new players, not a new bus! But, we finally decided to push the game back to after the men’s game that evening. By the time this was all decided, I only had an hour before I had to be back at the field. I biked home, told my housemates I would miss dinner and mass, rested for a bit, and biked back.

So, I guess going into the next game, I didn’t see the point of playing them again after the huge margin of victory. I also knew I had plans for later that night and I was wary of yet another delayed start time. We travelled to Belmopan for this game, which of course, did NOT start on time. This game only started about 2 hours late though. Awesome. We beat them soundly 6-0 (told you they were bad) and I was getting so anxious to get back to Belize City. I thought that once we were back on the bus, we’d be on our way. As we’re pulling out of the field, we go in the opposite direction of the way we came. Umm…we’re going the wrong way! What is going on! In football (and I wish it were just football, but it’s pretty much everything here) it seems that everyone else always knows what is going on and no one has bothered to let me in on the details. I don’t think people do it on purpose; it’s just that they get it and I most definitely do not. So when I leaned over the seat in front of me to ask Rose where we were going, she looks at me and says ‘to buy’ which means we were going to get food. Great. But, my plans for the evening involved food—I was supposed to attend this formal black and white fundraiser for an organization giving money to Hand in Hand. The bus was rolling, the music was blasting, and I settled in for what I knew would be an adventure. Since nothing ever ever ever goes as I think it will (you know, I thought when the game was over, we’d return to Belize City) I wasn’t shocked when we stopped for food at some Chinese restaurant. Chinese restaurants are common here, but they don’t just sell Chinese food (and they don’t even really sell Chinese food)—they sell burgers, fries, and fried chicken—some of the most common food in Belize. Yummy. My teammates were coming in and out with soda, ice cream, Styrofoam containers of food and of course, I didn’t know who was paying for it or if I was allowed to get any. Turns out, we have sponsors. Yep. I don’t know what they get out of it, but they bought us food that night! So, I got an ice cream, sprite, and a boatload of fried chicken. Ugh. All the while, punta rock is BLASTING in the bus and my teammates are yelling, laughing, but most of all dancing in the aisle. FINALLY everyone was fed and hydrated and I was so relieved that we would actually get on the road. That is, until our bus wouldn’t start. I’m not kidding. Half and hour later, the bus was up and running (I have NO idea who did what to fix it) and we began our journey back to Belize. I literally RAN off the bus to my house, showered, went tearing through my house (again, totally not kidding) trying to gather myself for this fundraiser. I didn’t have a nice enough dress so I had to borrow one from my roommate, along with her purse and her earrings. My other roommate called a taxi for me which arrived in record speed and I was out of the house in less than 20 minutes. Phew. (that has nothing to do with football, but the fundraiser was fun!)

Our next opponent was another team from Belize City. I practiced with them for a week or two so I knew a few of the girls. My friend Sal plays for this team (Culture Yabra). I was REALLY nervous because we got a pep talk at our last practice that we are the better team but Culture has us in a few areas: they will run til they drop, they will bring intensity (read, they’re out to get us), and they’re crazy. Seriously. I could picture the girls I know from that team running around the field like maniacs and I was nervous. I arrived at the field on Friday night all aflutter. No need. Culture didn’t show. Not one player. They didn’t want the game on a Friday night, so they just didn’t come. After a lot of discussion (most of which I didn’t understand) we decided that we would have to play the game either on Monday or Wednesday. My friend Mel says, ‘tell them Maria’. I said that I wasn’t going to be here on Wednesday because I had retreat and so the coach promptly said—well, Monday it is. Again, I biked home. Our track record for starting games on time: 4 hours late, 2 hours late, 3 days late. Two of my roommates were going to come watch the game—good thing they knew it would start late and hadn’t left yet! When I told my roommates that the game was moved to Monday, they told me that we had a big dinner on Monday with our community, the PG community, and the two folks from the JVI office in Washington, DC. OOOOOPS. I told them that the team essentially made the game on Monday for me and I would feel really bad if I couldn’t make it. So we decided that we’d try to eat early and that I would just leave dinner when I had to be at the field. The rest of my community decided they wanted to come (they know Sal and wanted to see us square off) and that’s how I had a cheering section of 10 white people.

Monday’s game was really good. I felt like I played well, even though I was SO nervous. They ended up beating us 3-2 but I thought we both did a good job and I made sure to tell them. Even though we lost, I was happy with the outcome.

In this strange tournament, we played Culture again the following week. I got back from retreat Sunday morning and called Mel to see if I missed the game or not. She told me it was scheduled for Sunday night! Good thing I went to mass in the morning because again, I missed dinner and evening mass. We started the game knowing that we had to beat Culture by 2 to win and 1 to tie it up. It was so tense! Culture was on a high because they had beat us the week before and thought they were going to ‘bomb us’ as my friend Sal told me earlier in the day. We were up 1-0 almost the whole game and somehow kept it that way. When the final whistle blew, I was about to walk off the field and my team was screaming at me to stay on. Apparently, since we were now ‘tied’, we had to go to PKs to see who would advance. Oh man—talk about tense!!! Especially because I took my PK right after Sal. Sal missed and looked so miserable—I was trying to figure out how to be sympathetic to that while focusing on my own kick. Ugh! I made it, thank goodness, and then our keeper saved the next kick which made us the winners. Our whole team JUMPED up and started screaming like we had won the World Cup. Everyone was hugging everyone; my team was loudly proclaiming their love of each and every teammate (I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU—and we’re not really a lovey team…); everyone was jumping, dancing, skipping. It was amazing. I was all caught up in it and it was such fun! That lasted about 20 minutes and it was a fun fun fun 20 minutes! (Culture was pissed; they didn’t want to shake our hands and Sal left immediately after the PKs…I didn’t get a chance to talk with her after).

Our next game was in and against Cayo. This is a village about 2 ½ hours away from Belize; it is almost at the border of Guatemala. Their team (Gentle Touch) is great. They are probably the best team in Belize. I was not looking forward to playing them, nor was I looking forward to playing in the middle of the day in Cayo (read: hotter than Belize City!). That game we didn’t play well and lost 3-1. I was not bothered at all (where has my sense of competition gone?) but perhaps the reason was I was trying to regulate my body temperature to get it back to normal! Our team said “That’s the game. We’ll get them next week.” So last Monday, we played the final game of the tournament. The winning team received $5000 and the second place team, $3000. Pretty cool, huh. My whole community came for this game—they even had to pay to get in! I was just happy that we would either get 5 or 3 grand; again, I didn’t care too much about the outcome (I swear I used to be competitive). We were up by 3-1 in the first half, which was enough to tie it. (our coach seems to think winning by PKs is the way to go, as he urged us to keep this score for the rest of the game.) In the second half, we decided that we, in fact, did not like the sport of football and just up and stopped playing all together. We were running in every which direction, if we were running at all. I was supposed to be playing center mid, but ended up forward, defense, left and right, since I couldn’t tell who was playing any of those positions. Quite obviously, they scored on our messy messy formation and then scored once again to tie it at 3 all. Shortly after that, we had a corner kick. Now, here is when everything starts to get interesting. All of a sudden, there was a MASSIVE fight on the field. I am not kidding you. This was huge. It started when, according to our unbiased (ha) team, the other team boxed Shanelle for no reason. (which I’m sure is exactly what happened….right). Well, whatever did happen, Shanelle is not one to mess with and soon punches were being thrown left and right. My ENTIRE team---okay, all but three of us---rushed the field, both pulling players away and getting in the action themselves. It took no time at all for coaches, groupies, family members and fans alike to get out on the field and be pummelling each other. I was aghast. I could not believe my eyes, and because I refused to believe what was happening in front of me, the fight kept moving closer and closer towards me. I was never in danger’s way, but I was close enough to see one girl from the other team, Abbey, go after my teammate, Alma, with rage and fury that I’ve not seen in a person’s face before. Abbey truly wanted to hurt Alma and I’m positive that Alma felt similarly. After that lovely incident, I moved off the field and waited for the riot to subside, which it did not quickly do. My roommates who were watching the whole thing wondered where the police were---ha---a policewoman was out there, in a football uniform, yelling at Gentle Touch! Christine, a teammate of mine, is a member of the police force and was one of the reasons the fight was not dwindling. She kept going over to Gentle Touch and yelling this and that. Our sponsors (again, these ‘sponsors’) rounded us up and got us all off the field. My roommates were pretty freaked out and wanted to leave and wanted me to go with them. I was torn between knowing I should probably go and wanting desperately to stay with my team and figure out what the heck was going to happen next. I made sure I had a safe way home and decided to stay, as did a few roommates. Our team was told that we had played 78 minutes (anything over 70 minutes was regulation) and we had two options—finish the game or accept second place. Our sponsor said “I think the most wise decision would be to not finish the game.” GENIUS! We accepted second place and got trophies and a big check (so funny, us posing with a great big huge cardboard check) all the while Gentle Touch stayed far far away. I left before it was their turn to accept their trophies but have talked to a few teammates since and nothing noteworthy happened after I left. We had a team meeting the other day and I asked about any disciplinary actions for either team—apparently it is okay to have a horrendous fight in the final match of a tournament because there does not appear to be any sanctions for anyone involved! (but then again, we all know I only know a fraction of the story….)

After this tournament, I didn’t think anyone would be too keen to organize a next one. Well, as usual, I was wrong. Our next tournament (each tournament is like a season for us) starts in July and we’re supposed to start practices again next week!

Other than football, my life has been just fine. I’m getting anxious for all the change that is soon to happen. The boys are getting ready to leave and we are expecting three new volunteers at the end of July. Our first year is over so the floodgate for visitors has opened. June and July will be crazy with friends and family visiting, the boys leaving, the newbies coming, the PG folks moving in for the summer, THEIR visitors coming….eek, I’m getting anxious just typing it all! Well, keep us in your prayers that we weather these changes and transitions while remaining present to our jobs, our clients and coworkers, and our communities.