my football team! the guy on the end in the white is one of my best friends in village
So last Sunday was the big girls’ football (soccer) tournament. There were 8 teams competing—Namon, Manga, Nawari, Bourku, Nampoch, Nandota, and 2 teams from Guerin-Kouka. My Volunteer neighbors came with their respective teams—Manga, Bourku, Namon, and Kouka. We played at the Kouka football field. The weeds weren’t cut down, but they hung nets on goals, set up the pavilion, and marked out the boundaries. Aside from a random herd of sheep that kept wandering on one end, the field was pretty nice. Since the field is right across from the big Kouka Sunday marché, there was a big crowd there for most of the day.
There were 7 60-minute matches total throughout the day—first round, semi-finals, and the final. Karen, who did most of the organizing, set up two pools, and then we drew for our opening matchups.
Nampoch didn’t win.
We played the 4th opening match, which started at like 1200. We drew Kouka B. I figured that we were in trouble when I noticed that all the girls on the Kouka team had shoes, if not actual cleats, stockings, and full uniforms. The Nampoch girls had matching jerseys and played barefoot. Kouka B has been playing for a while. It was the Nampoch team’s first competitive match. We lost 2-0 and our match had the distinction of being the first match that wasn’t decided on penalty kicks after ending 0-0. After I got done being disappointed, I was/am really proud of the Nampoch girls. They played really well against the team that would eventually win the tournament, and that had the edge in age, experience, and equipment. Afterwards, my friend Jen, whose Manga team also lost early, and I planned a scrimmage so that we could encourage our teams to keep playing since our villages don’t really have a culture of girl’s football yet.
The Friday before the match, Alisha biked out to Nampoch from Ataloté. I met her about halfway in Helotè. The total distance is somewhere between 35-40k. It’s hard to tell for sure because part of the route consists of paths through the Kara River valley. I did manage to carry our bikes across the river without falling. I was proud of myself. We got back to Nampoch about noon.
Anyway, the bike trip was a lot of fun, although we had to spend the next day recovering. Alisha helped out at the tournament, she’s much better at motivational speeches in French than I am, and we spent a couple of days hanging around in Nampoch. It was really nice having her around. People in Nampoch love her. They like it when their Volunteer brings his wife around.
Alisha left this morning actually. I biked back with her to Helotè again. The way there was fine, but I had a problem on my return trip. It rained pretty heavily last night, but the river was still only up to my mid-thigh at 8 this morning. When I got back there at about 10, the river had risen about a foot; it was up to my navel and a lot faster. It was kind of sketchy, but I made it across just fine.
It’s actually a really interesting bike ride. About a quarter of the ride is on little roads or just half-meter wide dirt paths around the river. If I am going to Ataloté, I can saluaté people in Konkumba up to the river. Konkumba still works on the far bank, usually, but about 2k down the road, Lamba starts taking over. Nandodja, the first sizable town after the river, is definitely Lamba. By the time I get to Heloté, no one speaks Konkumba and they all drink tchouk instead of tchakpa even though its maybe 15k from Konkumba-land.
After this bike ride, and my earlier bike tour, I am all about biking places. Traveling uses up a decent chunk of my monthly living allowance because my area is so remote. Biking is free, lets me see, and experience, a lot more of the countryside, and gives me a lot more exposure to Togolese. For example, this morning, a lady stopped me in the first village on the Konkumba side of the Kara river, said she was my host mom’s little sister, and asked me to saluaté the family for her. That would never happen if I was on a moto. On a bike, I am something tangible, that often speaks garbled local language, on a moto, I am a white apparition passing through.
And on that note I obviously didn't finish writing this post, but I am in Kara, its like 1500, and I need to get home before it gets too dark . . .