I had my own version of the Superbowl today when I went to my first African soccer (aka football) game. And let me just go ahead and say this in the beginning – a little bit of culture goes a long way. Last weekend and all this past week, what appears to be the Summer Olympics has been going on in our town. Cycling competitions, soccer games, and races have been going on every day. I think it is some kind of district championship that is taking place, but not sure about that. All I know is this little po-dunk town that usually ain’t got nothing going on has been crowded all week long. Everyone is so excited because the big games are in town.
I went to the last soccer game in the competition today. It was the championship game, so it was a big one. The game was scheduled to start at 2:00 and being true to African time, the game promptly began at 3:30! I was the only, and I mean only, white face in the crowd. My roommate decided not to go, but our guards wanted to go so my supervisor said that they could go on the condition that they chaperoned me. Gah, 27 years old and I still have to have a chaperone! I couldn’t tell if chaperoning me made their day or ruined it. They had to babysit the white girl I guess but they certainly got a lot of attention by being my chaperone.
Needless to say, I drew a crowd. As people walked by the sidelines of the “stadium” (also known as a dirt field with two nets) they would stop and congregate in front of me and stare….just stare. One absolutely precious little girl who was sitting near me burst into tears every time I looked her way because she was afraid of me. Her sweet mama kept saying things like, “look you have legs, she has legs, you have hands, she has hands just like yours.” At one point I touched her hand and she looked down at it and studied it just to see if the white had rubbed off on her I guess. Thanks to lots of coaxing and encouragement from her mom and my guard, she finally warmed up to me a little bit…and by warmed up I mean she quit screaming every time I looked at her. Everyone around us was getting a kick out of how absolutely terrified she was of me, simply because I looked different than her.
Behind me, there were no less than 10 kids sitting in every tree and these trees were really not that large. In case you were wondering, personal space means nothing here. Once the game got going, I was so pressed on each side that I just kind of curled into myself. I was sitting on a rock which was offered to me because I was the guest. Forget that I have lived in this town 6 months, I am still a guest. Guest or no guest, I still had two knees in my back at any given time and people tugging on me or pulling on me if they felt the need to stand up or step over me. I left the game with a nice thick layer of dust on my face and thinking that I had had enough culture for one day. It seems every day is the opportunity for a new experience here in Africa!