Hot, Humid and Happy
September 10th 2015. CAC’s newest volunteer CJ Fritz writes about his first week in Indonesia with Uni Papua.
Landak, West Kalimantan was the setting of our first week of coaching in Indonesia. A two-hour flight and four-hour drive saw us arrive in Landak on Sunday evening ready and raring to go. That night, I was introduced to the idea of a bucket shower. On only my second night abroad, this foreign concept was quite a shock to my system. But, we played the cards we were dealt.
Every morning during the week we spent two hours with energy-filled primary school students who were convinced that we were famous. The David Beckham Effect from the children continued throughout the week among kids, coaches and practically everyone else who came across us. I signed I-don’t-know-how-many notebooks, t-shirts, and took so many photos with strangers that for a moment I thought I really was David Beckham.
I was very impressed with the level of excitement among the 60-some coaches with whom we worked. The children had equal – if not greater – zeal, but that is to be expected from children. The coaches started every session in high spirits and rarely experienced a dip in energy.
Both the children and coaches were quick to learn the games; Mingle Mingle – a dancing game that requires participants to create groups of varying sizes on-command – was a universal favorite. The coaches particularly enjoyed Adebayor Hands Against HIV, which involves participants in a small circle around one person. The ball represents HIV, and the person in the middle tries to avoid being “infected” with HIV as those on the outside try to hit them below the knee with the ball. Then, once they grasp how easily they can be “infected,” means of protection are introduced in the form of other participants entering the circle to try to block the ball. These forms of protection represented things like condoms or a one faithful partner.
The coaches were all very respectful, positive and willing to work. By the end of the week we had created a bond with the coaches who seemed appreciative and content with the week’s work. I was asked by multiple coaches for my contact information in order to keep in touch and to communicate about more games that they can teach their players. These exchanges left me with an accomplished feeling about the work we did in Landak and the memories we created with the coaches.
It was difficult to form a connection with any of the children since we had a different group of kids every morning, with each group consisting of 60 to 90 young players. Although we couldn’t connect with them easily, it was probably for the best, as we got to coach more than 400 players over the course of the week.
I was disappointed with how few female coaches there were – only two of 60 – but not surprised based on what we saw during the morning sessions. Teachers would bring groups of boys and girls to the field and wanted to have the girls sit out and watch the boys have all the fun, but with a little bit of persuasion soon the students were all happily involved. Seeing the girls laughing, smiling and enjoying the session gave me hope that Landak can create a community that supports women on and off the pitch.
There was a particularly special moment during the afternoon session on Tuesday while we were covering gender equity and female empowerment with the coaches. One of the two female coaches who was in attendance spoke up about how adults discourage girls from playing football and sports in general, and that we as coaches and members of the community need to work to change that trend. Her comment got a hugely positive reaction from the rest of the coaches and made me believe that we witnessed a bit of change that day.
The intense humidity was not enough to dampen the collective spirit of the participants, and by Friday night, a bucket shower was a gift that I gratefully accepted.
We left Landak somewhat sweaty, slightly stinky and supremely satisfied.