Monday, January 18, 2016

Day Twelve: Soccer!!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday morning: There are many things to talk about today but only one of them matters: futebol (soccer).  In fact, there is a Sunday community boat that returns people to Santarém at the end of the weekend, especially those who live in Anã but work in the city.  Today, though, NO ONE is getting on that boat because we are playing soccer against the local men’s and women’s team.  World Cup, Shmorld Cup.  This is the Game of the Century.  And, strangely, it’s the women’s game that is the biggest draw, as they know that our women are actually pretty competitive. They have every reason to suspect that their well-practiced men’s team will destroy our men’s team, as we have never even played together before.  But they saw Julia in the shootout last weekend and now they are excited. 

We can’t focus only on soccer today, though, as the games don’t start until 4:00pm.  So, lots of us went to church again this morning and this time got invited up to the front to introduce ourselves.  Jenny served as our spokesperson with moral support from Shawny.  We didn’t say much but we got applause anyway.  Church went strangely long but that was okay because the people who stayed home from church had more time to finish their laundry and make pancakes for all of us. 

We then headed to the garden to prepare some little black sacks for new seeds.  The 2015 group did this task for several days last year and planted more than 3000 new trees as a result.  It’s hard to see putting dirt in bags as a step in the process of reforestation but it certainly is. And, as last year’s group learned, it’s not as easy as it looks. 

We sifted potting soil of some sort and also sifted some of the native soil from the garden in with it.  We then stuffed the bags so that they were perfectly full with no wrinkles whatsoever and so that they could stand independently without leaning on each other.  It takes lots of little doses of dirt, lots of slamming the bags on the ground and lots of other delicate attention to get these things right.  Maybe the DIRT people should find this task especially rewarding but it’s a bit challenging and frustrating instead.  Jesse can make it fun by offering graded evaluations of our work but he decided not to kick in his criteria today to allow the newcomers to develop their strategies before being put up against the vets who have literally done this job thousands of times. 

We knocked off before we had used up the whole pile of mixed dirts that we had prepared because we knew we needed to eat lunch, hydrate and rest before our big soccer tournament.  We also had to divide up our jerseys and establish our team rosters by number for the public address and radio announcers to get our names down. 

Sunday evening: The games are over.  We were not totally humiliated.  Of course, this result does not by any means indicate that we won.  In the women’s game, we came close.  In fact, at the end of regulation play, the women were tied 0-0.  Penalty kicks didn’t go our way, as they got two through and we only got one (yay, Natalie!!!!).  We weren’t close in the men’s game, at least as far as the score was concerned (6-0) but we made some great saves and some solid shots on goal. 

We got ready for the game by using a local seed to apply warpaint to our faces and we showed up on the playing field ready to intimidate our opponents with our disciplined warm-up plans.  Strangely, no one was anywhere to be seen.  Our guys even had a whole routine where they started warming up with the U.S. version of a football, thinking that that the locals would find it hilarious.  As no locals were around, we were the only ones laughing. 

At 4:00, the public address announcer arrived and pointed out that no one was likely to arrive before 4:30 due to the heat.  The vets from last year’s game were quite surprised when the announcer not only recognized each of them and remembered their names but also produced the handwritten roster from last year on the spot. 

The women’s team showed up in jerseys before the men’s team arrived and we guessed that the men were protesting being demoted from the featured spot.  But right at 4:30, the men emerged from somewhere and were ready to play.  So, our schedule held.  The Brazilians scored within the five minutes despite our amazing and outstanding goalkeeper: Cole.  He used his enormous wingspan and his baseball throwing arm to our great advantage, as the score might have been 9-0 or 10-0 (or more) had Cole not been on our net.  He was a revelation.  The announcer kept pointing out that Cole is really a baseball player but that his soccer skills were clear and undeniable.  We agreed. 

Our men hustled and drove and kept up with the Brazilians at a lot of points.  But other times it was like the velociraptor scene from Jurassic Park, where we were looking at one guy and two other guys were ganging up to attack us from some other side.  The local team practices twice a week and competes regionally so it was no surprise that they were much smoother than we could hope to be. 

Still, we had athletes from a range of different sports out there (including the captain of the two-time national champion SMC rugby team) and a lot of serious gym users.  Just not regular soccer players.  So we impressed them with our stamina and fortitude, if not with our scoring. 

The women, on the other hand, were the subject of much discussion related to their formidable skills considering that only one of them is a full-time varsity team member.  The announcers kept reminding the audience that this team had never even practiced together before but we were giving their regional championship-winning women’s team a real challenge. 

And unexpected people really turned out to be tougher than we might have guessed.  Suzanne would hit the ground while tangled up with an opponent, keep her feet in control of the ball and pop back up without losing possession.  Claudia was fierce in battling some of the other team’s best offensive players and Leah and Annie both were unstoppable.  Ari played despite feeling a little under the weather today and Callan played the whole game, having recovered sufficiently from her head bump to be a real competitor.  Marlina steamrolled a few Brazilians without losing her stride at all. Jenny had been a star the last two years running, so they were right to expect her to be a threat.  Julia, of course, was a wonder to behold as she cut through the Brazilian defense like a faca (knife). 

We were all buzzing and giddy at the end of the game, noisily recapping every play as we walked the forest path home.  Once we sat down for dinner, we realized we were really really really tired.  And dirty. 

So tonight will be an early one as we need to get up early to prep for our boat trip departure.  We’ll be in another nearby community tomorrow night and we think we will get cellphone signal there.  If so, maybe some of you will get short phonecalls so we can hear your voices.  We hope so . . .

 Some of us had a better view of the game today…

Celebrating Natalie’s goal in the PK shootout.

 Cooper clearing space for the chicken coop. 

Confused as to which game day it is.

Apparently, we actually have fans!


  1. Even if you didn't win the soccer game, pat yourselves at the back for being a good sport. Everyone contributed their efforts, team spirit and at the same time had fun. The experience was priceless. Way to go DIRTies!

  2. Received a surprised phone call from Carlos yesterday! Thanks to Shawny for lending her phone. It is really appreciated. Glad everyone are well and having a great time. Looking forward to your safe return. God Bless You All! Love and regards from Cali!

  3. Loved hearing your sweet voice Jenny!!! Sounds like you're all having a great time!!! Thanks Shawny for Sharing your phone.

  4. Yes! Thank you Shawny for sharing your phone. Loved the surprise phone call from Steve! In fact it was such a surpris I didn't know who it was. Sorry Steve, it's not because you've been are missed and loved. Just thought it was another prank call from one of your brothers (you all sound the same on the phone) 😀

  5. Way to go team! Game day was one of my favorites! I was cheering you on from afar ;)


  6. I found it interesting how your notes only focus on website..