Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mini Olympics

It's that time of year where families around the world are glued to their televisions every evening, taking in the spectacular physical feats performed by athletes from around the world. While Nicaragua's contribution to the Olympics was a mere 6 athletes, we were represented nonetheless. Except for a few occasions where our fellow gringo neighbors across the “road” took pity on us and our inability to see Michael Phelps blow away the rest of the world or to see Shawn Johnson’s solid performances in gymnastics, the Olympics passed us by. For me (MF), that was disappointing at times because I LOVE the Olympics…it brings back fond memories of my childhood and of being the one time my parents let us watch as much TV as we wanted (ha ha!). However, even though we didn’t get to participate in the World Olympics we did have our own mini Olympics out here in Los Cedros.

These past two weeks our school have participated in sporting events against other local schools in the area. Sports are done a little differently at schools down here Nicaragua. Kids aren’t picked up by school buses nor do their parents have personal cars so as a result transportation to and from sporting events is essentially non-existent. Consequently, rather than having “sports seasons” like we do up in the States, they have “sports weeks.” Last semester we had two days of soccer games that were held at our school. This semester they had two full weeks of volleyball, basketball, futsala (soccer on a smaller scale), baseball, track and field, and hand ball games for students ages 13-14.

Top: Cheering on the team...sportsmanship at it's finest.
Middle 1: Coach Carlos celebrating a win...1st and 2nd graders should get an award for their support.!
Bottom: We happy faces and sad faces all throughout the week.

We have found in watching and helping these two weeks to see how all of the students perform since half of the games they participated in they have rarely ever played. Nicaragua is the land of baseball and soccer, so throw in volleyball, basketball, handball and track and field and you are in for some very interesting interpretations of the games.

For instance, basketball proved to be a mixture of American football, soccer and volleyball particularly with the girls. It was honestly hilarious to watch them batting the ball back and forth, scrambling for it, kicking it, essentially doing anything but putting it through the hoop. Our girls lost their game far the lowest scoring basketball game we’ve ever been to. The style of the game didn’t change much with the boys either, although they did win their first game! If anything it was even more physical (hence the football part) there were fouls left and right and traveling and double dribbling ran rampant. But every basket that went in was like it was the winning point at the end of a very intense and close game. Although our teams didn’t win very many games during the events, it was fun to be a part of it and to see our kids having so much fun.

Other than that, August has been a pretty uneventful month for us. No family or teams have come down this month to make the weeks fly by. Instead we’ve found a quiet contentment in being back out here on the “Island” as we so fondly call Los Cedros. So with that, I will leave you with a few thoughts I read in a biography about Mother Theresa.

“God has not called [us] to be successful, God has called [us] to be faithful.” As we reflect on these past seven months, in some ways we question “what have we really accomplished since coming down here?” We still don’t have internet, or fully functioning computers, and it often feels like my students haven’t learned a word in English. But what we’ve accomplished may not be the point, the obedience and endurance it has taken in coming to this wonderful and challenging country may be the lesson in itself for us.

Finally, I read this quote and thought it so beautifully portrayed the poverty we see every day: “The beauty is not in poverty but in the courage that the poor still smile and have hope in spite of everything…I admire their love of life, the capacity to discover richness in the smaller things.”

We see this truth portrayed in the faces of our students and Nicaraguan friends every day. While life is hard and for most every day holds immense struggle, there are still things to smile about. There is a strange and often unexpected beauty that is found in the simplicity and poverty of life these people live in. What a reminder that is for us when we long for the comforts and familiarity of home. Stuff is not what makes you happy, it may make things easier at times, but there is a beauty in the rawness of life that we often miss out on because we have so much.

So, that is it for August. We’re sorry this was the only update for the month, but September is looking like it will be packed for us, so there will be much to write about. With a team and then family coming down, along with Nicaragua’s Independence Day falling in the middle of the month, the tranquility we’ve found in August will not last much longer!