Saturday, May 30, 2009
After a full eleven months of working at the Deaf school plus spending about three weeks of vacation working with Deaf groups in the wilderness, it was time to take a personal vacation.
With a good friend's peace corp stint in Mozambique almost finished, I grabbed the opportunity to visit her. Leaving everything going on at home was challenging but I managed to get packed up and on the plane. Four long planes and two cab rides later and having crossed both the prime meridian as well as the equator, I arrived in Jenny's rual village of Amatongas.
One of the most memorable experiences from those first days was going to church. Being a mixture of Portuguese and local dialects, I understood nothing. I sat there on a little wooden log enjoying the faces, the singing, and the whole scene. Toward the end of the service and after the preacher gave the entire serman again in English for my sole benefit, he had me and Jenny come before the congregation to introduce me (everyone already knew Jenny). I was introduced and then he asked if we'd like to shake hands. I nodded and soon realized he meant with the whole congregation. So up they came one by one and Jenny I greeted each one. A fantastic way to be introduced to the community.
On the way home it was requested that we stopped by a local man's home to offer prayers of well-being. He was suffering from Malaria. He came outside, looking cold in his jacket, and we prayed and all offered what we could in the form of words and prayers.
Before I left home I looked around my room to see if there was anything else I should bring. I spied a flashlight that had a laser on it and thought it might be fun to play with. And one early evening just as it had gotten dark I decided to try it out.
From inside the house with the laser point through a hole in the screen door I turned it on. Suddenly one kid noticed it and yelled, "Itcho!" I turned it off..and then on again...and soon began the calls and laughter that we would hear most nights afterwards. From 5 to more than 10 kids running about the sand yard yelling "itcho, itcho, ITCHO!" which later we found out means, "There!"
The kids would chase the little red light all around the year, trying to step on it, slap it, or even cup it in their hands. They quite enjoyed themselves and the joy and delight that we could feel in their laughter was exquisit. They ran around and around and around until they were exhausted, though still wanting more, at which point they were sent home. Needless to say, the "itcho," as we began to call the laser, staying in Amatongas so Jenny could continue the fun.
Another day while Jenny was making soap and knitting with some of the community's women, I wandered over to the abandoned train station as I though I heard some sort of ball game happening. Northing was happening but soon I was to play some of the most fun soccer I have ever played.
The station was one big room - doors on either end to serve as goals. I was told I was on a team awith two boys and we began to play. We did not have a regulation soccer ball. Instead we had maybe the coolest soccer ball I have ever played with. It was Mateo's ball - carefully handcrafted with definite skill, maturity and quiet pride. An inflated condom served as the ball's core. Around this were wrapped discarded plastic bags and this was all wrapped in bits and pieces of yarn or strips of fabric. More plastic bags were added followed by more yarn. The finished product was amazing. Perfectly round and wonderful to play with.
We played and played and played then took a break for lunch and then went back to play some more. None of these kids knew much English and I know little Portuguese. We knew numbers of each others' languages to keep track of the score - and the rest we did through smiles and gestures. I was heartbroken when the kids said, "mana?" meaning "tomorrow?" - asking if I could play again. At last they understood that I was going home to America.
Not knowing if I'd ever return, I didn't want to leave. I know I would love playing with the kids but I didn't really understand how impactful the whole experience would be . These kids have nothing except what they make or find. And they are independent, strong and happy. There is so much to write, but it is still overwhelming, so I've just picked out a few memories. Hopefully the pictures will tell more. I was there for only a short time, but it was an amazing time that I shall not forget any time soon. I hope to return, for the people, the soccer, the land, and of course, a few more rounds of itcho. Thank you, Jen!
Posted by Ben Urmston