• When Life Gives you Beetle Nut…Spit It Out

    CAC Self-Directed Learning coach Turner Humphries blogs from Sentani, Indonesia about another great week with Uni Papua.

    September 25th 2015. Walking around the town of Sentani everyone seemed to be wearing lipstick. Both young and old, men and women, skinny and fat. Each with the same glistening blood red lips. I began looking closer to ensure my eyes were not playing tricks on me. Not only were everyone’s lips red, they were also chewing on what could only have been the most industrious of chewing gum. Investigating further I noticed that their spit had also turned a vibrant red. Could this chewing gum be making their mouths bleed, I wondered? Alas, I gave up my Sherlock Holmes like quest for the solution to this red mouthed quagmire and asked Yan, who would be our translator for the week, just what was going on. “Lipstick!? Ah, that’s beetle nut,” he proclaimed, silently thinking I was the weirdest person he ever met. Beetle nut is an extremely popular snack that after the first crunch of your teeth leaves your mouth a color of red that can be seen from space. Between all my questions for Yan about this mysterious nut he managed to acquire a few for my enjoyment. After he demonstrated the proper chewing technique, I popped a beetle nut into my gullet and began chomping. Immediately my mouth became very dry. My head starting spinning. Stars were coming into view. And after trying to remain strong I, ultimately had to spit it out to a roar of laughter from the crowd that had gathered to watch my inaugural beetle nut experience. I must admit I expected something much more enjoyable. Following a few swigs of lukewarm water I was back to my normal self. Now it was Charlie’s turn.

    Driving to the field for the first time we turned into a complex that certainly was no stranger to a bit of camouflage paint, there was lots of exercise equipment, many sport utility vehicles abound and many serious looking men. We were on a military base and our field was adjacent to the shooting range. After going through Circle of Friends we chatted briefly about how the football field should always be a safe place, where players should feel comfortable to express themselves. While this was happening a platoon of soldiers had readied themselves, aimed and began firing off rounds from their M-16’s like they were reenacting the final act of Scarface. However it quickly became background noise drowned out by the sounds of the laughter from our game Mingle Mingle; quickly becoming a fan favorite amongst the Sentani participants.

    Before beginning the coaching program in the afternoon Charlie and I would visit a local school in the morning to conduct a brief coaching clinic for the students. After going through some of our games it was time to say farewell to the young Sentanians. Before we took a step off the field the children had raced to their backpacks to retrieve markers. We could not figure out what was happening. They all raced back to us, with marker in hand. They wanted autographs. Suddenly we were swarmed by a mob of Coaches Across Continents fanatics all in dire need of our signatures. Our best efforts to convey that we were not in fact professional players were in vain. They must have heard about my extremely average Eckerd College soccer career. I can only hope my signature will eventually wash off of their school uniforms.