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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Futbol anyone?

At Larcacunga, with Fridays come language classes in the morning and physical education (Cultura Fisica) after lunch. The kids all come dressed in their grey sweatpants and sweatshirts, worn over their grey sweatshorts and white t-shirts. An array of footwear is worn and I am constantly amazed at what physical feats a person can accomplish in rubber boots.

As we often find ourselves with no teachers on Fridays due to them being away on 'courses', we, the volunteers, have had to be creative in thinking of fun and interesting activities to entertain 40 kids ranging in age from about five to twelve. Especially since every morning they come in with futbol (soccer) on the brain.

Thinking that playing soccer couldn't possibly involve everyone, as there are varying sizes and abilities of students, and as the girls have never shown an interest in soccer, we try to instead do activities that we think can include and incorporate everyone. These activities have included pretty much every relay, game, or race any of us had ever done at camp, in gym class or that we just plain made up. Ranging from Mini olympics to Rock-tree-bridge, from Knots to Duck duck goose, from Clothes relays to Beanbag tossing, from Sharks and minnows to Freeze tag, and on and on (am open to ideas if you have any...!). Now, picture us trying to get/keep the attention of all of these kids, half of whom have futbol on the brain, explain the rules to a new game (in spanish ofcourse) and execute a 'fun' time for all, all the while controlling the spontaneous dog piles that erupt and often trying to get everyone to keep their hands to themselves as they line up without touching/hitting/bugging each other.

Let me help you with the visualization, I would liken it to herding cats. Although there are usually at least four of us, these days often prove to be challenging and we find ourselves explaining that we could have a lot of fun together, if everyone could just listen... I shudder just a little every time I find myself saying something my teachers used to say, kind of like when you use an expression that only your mom would say. Anyways, we have managed a lot of fun on these days but also ofcourse some frustration and yes, there have been some bandaids and tears too.

So this past Friday, the teachers were not away on course and I was anxious to see how the chaos was organized when the teachers ran the show. I had heard about the orderly way in which the director arranged the children in two rows, boys and girls, shortest to tallest. I had heard about the way that the kids ran in an orderly fashion in patterns around the tarmac, executing drills at her commands, and the way they practiced marching in tedium without so much as poking each other. I had heard about it but I didn't believe it.

And so, on Friday after lunch, in her softspoken fashion, the director asked the children for two rows and rows were formed. There was no hair pulling, no poking, no hitting each other in 'the junk' (why do boys do that?). Two rows formed in front of us, boys and girls, from shortest to tallest, arms length apart measured by touching the person's shoulders in front of you. The older kids helped the younger kids get positioned and they stood, and they waited for the next command. A truly impressive display of discipline!

To their delight, they were told that they would play... soccer! Cheering erupted and they were split into six teams without so much as a whine or complaint about being split up from their friends. Who were these children and what had they done with my students?! haha.

Two teams of older boys,
two teams of little boys,
and two teams of girls.

And yes, that is a basketball.

They rotated in and out playing ten minute games. The girls, who had fooled us into thinking they didn't play soccer, came alive and showed their competitive spirits. We were all impressed by the display of everyone's ball handling skills, obviously learned from a young age. (Well except for the very littlest ones who I thought would most certainly get bowled over as they either chased after the crowd or stood still in the line of fire, but, to my relief, did not).

Those who weren't playing occupied themselves with...whatever they wanted! No organized activity or task required. Period. This is a concept I am working at grasping as I have realized that my OCD personality often thinks that every minute needs to be accounted for in some way.

Some watched from the sidelines,

some showed off the school 'mascot' and some took in the rays,

while others just monkeyed around.

Fun was had by all. While I don't know that we will ever command the respect and discipline that the school director (who incidentally has been in the community for 17 years!) does , I think we learned a valuable lesson. Next time the teachers are away on course...we will play soccer.

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