Welcome To Sorong
May 4th 2016. Volunteer Jon Eisen writes about his time with CAC and Uni Papua in Sorong, Indonesia.
After a week of coaching coaches in Jakarta, Charlie Crawford, the leader from Coaches Across Continents who had previously been working for two and half months in Africa, and I boarded a red-eye to Eastern Indonesia. Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands and is the 4th most populous country in the world. Jakarta, where we spent our first week, is essentially the New York City of Indonesia. We spent our second week, the focus of this post, in Sorong, a pleasant tropical town with beaches, palm trees and a more laid back way of life. We were greeted early Saturday morning by Frans and Rudolf, two of the local coaches . We spent the weekend relaxing and doing touristy things, like visiting the Buddhist temple, eating seafood and beaching it with Frans and Rudolf, as well as Nonce, the behind the scenes organizer. Come Monday, we were ready to get back to work.
Quick refresher — Coaches Across Continents (CAC) is in the sport for social impact game. What that means is CAC uses football (soccer) as a jumping off point for conversations about social issues like gender equality, child rights, safe sex, and problem solving. CAC partners with local organizations, in this case Uni Papua, to put on week-long coaching clinics on how to play games that bring out these messages. After the program, CAC remains engaged with the local organization for at least 3 years, returning for training sessions annually. Charlie continuously repeated that we are not here to tell anyone what is right and wrong, only to discuss the reality and open up a discussion. Two of the most common phrases he says during games is “now, solve your problem” and “use your voice!” CAC knows that no matter what happens in a week-long program or even in the longer partnership, what the coaches coach is ultimately their decision. Our goal is simply to encourage critical thinking and speaking up.
All that being said, this trip was CAC’s first time in Sorong. We spent three mornings at schools playing games with students and the afternoon sessions, with the exception of one, were predominantly dominated by kids. No matter what language is spoken or what life is like, one thing is for sure, kids love playing games. Even though it’s not the explicit mission of CAC, it was a ton of fun seeing the kids having fun playing games like Scary Soccer, a real life version of rock-paper-scissors and 95% football, essentially soccer without a ball.
There was one moment that struck me as particularly powerful. It was during a game called Indonesia For Attitudes. For this game, we create four coned spaces on the field that represent characteristics of males. When we call out one of the characteristics, the players race to get to that particular space. After playing several rounds, we bring it back in and rename the spaces to represent characteristics of females. The social impact moment is when, at the completion of the game, you ask why did you pick the characteristics you did for each gender? Can a man be diligent? Can a woman be strong? What are the sources of our beliefs?
During this particular game that involved only males, Charlie asked where these preconceptions come from. Blank stares. I’m not sure if it was a translation thing, a social thing or perhaps a combination of both. But it struck me that many of these kids may never have considered why they believe what they believe. Self reflection and thinking about one’s society is not always easy and fun. I think it is something that everyone all over the world, myself included, should engage in more often. This game, Indonesia For Attitudes, was a fun way to encourage this reflection.
Interesting Side Notes About Indonesia
- From the moment we left the hotel each day, people would shout out “Hey Mister!” and take our pictures. Charlie Crawford, the CAC leader for the trip, was used to the celebrity status of being a white person in a place with no white people. He said it would get old. It certainly was a unique experience but I will admit that by the end of the week, I, like Charlie, was looking forward to the anonymity of being in America.
- Our final day was cancelled as the Commander of the Armed Forces, the third highest politician in Indonesia, was making a surprise visit to “Armyville,” the location of our field.
- While not a lot of people speak English, the people are incredibly warm, open and kind. Everyone hangs out together outside of their homes. There seemed to be a very rich community dynamic. Indonesia is a great place!
- Martabak Manis will change your life.
So many thank you’s are due for helping me to be a part of this partnership. First, thank you to all my friends and family that helped me raise funds for Coaches Across Continents and make my trip a reality. Next, thank you to the CAC folks, particularly Charlie Crawford, the man with the plan, a human dumpster for all the food in Indonesia (literally all of it) and the leader of the programs; Nora Dooley for encouraging me to do it even though I know less about soccer than the kids we were working with; and Adam Burgess, who helped with my trip logistics and kept me on track. Thank you to our gracious hosts in both Jakarta and Sorong who made the partnership possible — Maria, Mr. Harry, Andi, Yan, the Salatiga coaches, Frans, Rudolf and Nonce. Finally, thank you to all the coaches and kids that participated. You guys are the heartbeat of the partnership.