Halloween fun, Soccer challenges. October 28-November 3, 2019
One of the great high points since my arrival was when two of the children of the youth center thanked me, twice. They loved their Halloween party and the activities leading up to it. They thanked me at the party and the next day as well. The best thing I have learned from Peace Corps is that the “process is the product”. It has taught me to not worry about what the decorations look like, but rejoice in the fact they were done by the children. We spent two weeks, coloring pages, making masks (which were surprisingly individualized and generally great). I carved a Jack o’ lantern while some of the kids watched. They finished 3 piñatas, while 4 went unfinished. We decided to limit our guest list to actual paying members of the Dar Shbaab, but actually had a few extra. We had 26 children, 11 adults, and many on-lookers for the piñata fun outside. We had the party at our normal closing time of 6:00. The Director greeted the guests with their trick-or-treat bag, my host sister was behind the trick-or-treat door, my Darija teacher manned the pin-the-tail-on-the-black-cat game, and Camping Khalid was an excellent ghost, letting the door barely open to a dark room, and scaring the kids wonderfully before giving them their little ghost lollipop, also decorated by kids. After, they stomped about 40 black and orange balloons to smithereens before learning that they were to retrieve prize notes from them. We demolished 3 piñatas and it was a dog-eat-dog scramble for the candy. What a mess, inside and out! But it was worth it. And, the really nice guy (one of several actually) that cleans the street came in the next morning and helped me clean up the yard.
The football program, while progressing, is not nearly as satisfying, yet. I am really surprised at the increase in problems with my adult coaches, and equally surprised with some young men, only 15-years-old in some cases, stepping up to the plate. Not one of my coaches is completely reliable, though we are holding it together. Suddenly all but one of the adults is unavailable Saturdays. Of the 30 coaches who volunteered, only 7 were responsible adults to begin with. Most coaches did not show up to the first meeting. Only one of the adults (who do not have considerable mental problems) showed up to the second practice yesterday. I do not make the mental problem claim in jest. I am serious, that I am working with 5 who are widely recognized as having problems. Still, these are people who need to be included. It is just a concern that they make up such a large part of our team, from a reliability standpoint.
Today, our first game day, it was raining at start time. One coach showed, called the other for that game time of 9:00, who came. We also had 8 kids, but it was raining pretty good and we did not play. By 10:00 the rain had stopped. Many kids came, but not their coaches. 11:00, no coaches, few kids. 12:00, one coach, two kids. By 1:00 we actually had 2 coaches and 16 kids (a combination of various teams) and we played our first game. Hopefully the weak showing was just due to the weather and we will do better next week. Schools will be out all this week and part of next.
But these are not my biggest problems. I have two now. First, the administration of the school where we play. When I showed up for practice yesterday, the custodian did not want to let me play. He ran to get the Director of the school. Now this guy is saying we cannot play until he has authorization from the De league. We already provided everything he requested of us, so, what is going on here? He literally gave me the “This is Morocco” as he spread his arms, in a gesture of “isn’t it obvious?”. I reminded him that 62 kids, their coaches and parents would be there momentarily. He finally agreed we would play these two days, to give the committee time to comply with whatever he now decided he needs. While we are talking, the custodian locks the doors behind me and I think, had I not been there 50 minutes early, I would not have gotten in at all. The custodian then proceeds to demand I bring him a phone like mine. Extortion? The tone left little doubt. He leaves and tells me to call him at 2:40 and he will return to open the doors again. My Director came and could not get in, along with one of the coaches, before I got him to return. Same custodian tried to make us leave before the end of our first game today, and the agreed time of 2:00. I heard him telling the teenage coaches that if we did not leave now (1:30) we would never play there again. He wanted to go home for lunch. I asked him why, when we had previously agreed on 2:00? I offered to stay while he went, and he relented, but stayed.
The second problem is tougher. There are about 40 children, who are not in the program, nor intend to join the program, who are trying to destroy what we are doing. They live near the school, in the poorest neighborhood, clearly have no parental supervision or guidance, nor anything to do. These are exactly the kids we want to engage, but I don’t know how to get there. They will not stay off the field. I try shooshing them out, but this just fires them up and delights them. And, I can’t shoosh the entire perimeter. They just run around ahead and behind me. They are like wild animals. I try talking to them, inviting them to join the program. I try to stay cool, but loose it on occasion, again, which delights them. I spent 6.5 hours today, 3 yesterday, listening to their assorted and repetitive taunts, begging me to give them the ball, asking when they will play, running onto the playing field, having them try to steal my stuff, crushing me at times, having them push other kids into me, throwing rocks at me. I cannot set any of my stuff on the ground, but must wear my pack and carry the equipment at all times. Some are very proud to share with me the only English they know, f*** you. Do they think they will wear me down, or win my heart, to the point I let them play? I can draw the majority of them away from the field as they will follow me, but then I am missing the game. Ah, children. I did sign up for youth development, right? Well, I said the Serenity prayer a few times today.
There are other facilities in town, and I hope we can move to a different one, but chances are not real good. This was supposed to be the buddy-buddy done deal.
My biggest accomplishment of the week was regaining the use of Outlook. My wonderful computer guru from Napa, Ray, of Always Computing, took control of my computer over the internet and fixed everything! Yay Ray! While he was exercising my computer demons, my historian friend here was continuing to have his own black-magic demons (including 3 ghosts that spoke with him on Halloween) exercised. He has now found a service that will do this over the phone. I am very sad to say he is leaving town this coming Thursday. He is very interesting, and helps me a lot. My time here will be tougher without him. My host sister visits most evenings, and even brought girls and couscous on Friday. We capped the dinner with a game of UNO.
I have gotten a couple of letters from home, and some texts. These make me very happy, as they keep me from feeling forgotten. They are experiencing many power outages and nearby fires in Napa. What a mess. Still, there is ongoing good news about my 49ers, now 8-0!
Well, there is more, but none fit to print.