Friday, September 14, 2007

Trinidad, Part 1: Garlic Pineapple

At 3:30 AM, we finish packing, Gwendolyn loses her passport, and Ryan thinks he's gone blind. By 4:15 AM, Gwendolyn found her passport, Ryan discovered he stuck two sets of contacts in his eyes, and Ferg is waiting by the car, worried about time.

By 4PM, we are eating okra and pig's tail in Trinidad, with the family of Gwendolyn's club coach. Louis, a cousin, takes us walking around the Burroughs of Chaguanas. He wears a beanie with a brim, a red wife-beater, and Lugz boots. We walk by fruit stands, bunches of bananas hanging from string, men with machetes cutting open coconuts. There's a troop of stray dogs following us. We buy salty, spicy, garlic pineapple, though we did not know it would be salty, spicy, or full of garlic. Luke, who doesn't like to waste food, keeps offering the plastic baggie to people who walk by. Everyone rejects him, like he is the creepy guy at Halloween who offers poisonous candy to children. Trinidadians drive fast and without fear--aggressively nudging their way into intersections. Louis has the same approach to crossing traffic when on foot--he slings his arm out to the side and the four of us follow like little ducklings into the middle of crossing traffic. Once it turns dark, Louis says, "Without me, someone will put you in a car and steal you. I'll protect your life." We smile and nod.
At home that night, Gwendolyn talks to a friend of her coach, and he tells us to meet him at the Royal Bank at 10am. We have no idea what for. He takes us to a training session of a team trying to qualify for the semi-pros. Training sessions are exactly what we're not looking for, but we don't have the heart tell our boisterous, gold-toothed host. The team has lost two games in a row, so they run sprints all practice--Gwendolyn and Luke don't want to be the Americans who are too cool to run fitness, so Gwendolyn is sprinting her face off to keep up with long-legged Trini men. After practice, we again explain what we're looking for.
At 4pm, we arrive at the Queen's Park Savannah, the giant park filling up the largest roundabout in the world, where we hear people play pick-up in throes. At 4pm, we see zero pick-up games...it's only teams in uniform. It's also raining, so Ferg and Ryan are hiding with the cameras beneath a large tree. At 5pm, right as we are starting to feel defeated, hundreds of people--old and young--show up to play. There are different pockets of games going on and every one of them plays until it is too dark to see your hand in front of your face.
In the middle of the roundabout, there are large trenches that used to be a horse track. Ryan falls knee-deep in the water-filled ravine. Ferg makes fun of him. Approximately thirty seconds later, Ferg tries to kick a ball back into play, slips in mud, and bites it hardcore. Ryan asks, "Is the camera ok?"

6 comments:

Pheasant said...

I just read about this project on the Houston Soccer newsletter "Keeper Notes" and have since told everyone I know about it. It sounds like one of the best ideas I've ever heard. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this goes. Best of luck. Some of my favorite moments abroad were always finding locals to play soccer with. My favorite was playing on ash fields in the Czech Republic. Playing soccer somewhere always makes if feel like home, for sure.

forbis said...

my favorite pick up moment of our Brazil trip was on day one...
after flying all night across central america, we touched down in Rio around 10:00 am, lugged soccer balls in a suspicious black duffle bag through customs and arrived at a school around lunch time to little wide-eyed Brazilian kids leaning out the windows of their classrooms to see the "Americanos"
I played barefoot futsal on a concrete court that evening after 24 hours without sleep. The 10 year olds that I was playing with gave me a clinic. We played until after dark and the only thing i scored was a butt whoopin and a bloody big toe.
bom jogo.

kerrie white said...

Hello Ryan, it's Kerrie White. I was thinking of you guys last night as the Beckham's sat behind me at a concert. Wishing I had the info on this amazing project! Maybe if we all pass along the blogs and emails it may get to them somehow! GOOD luck, be safe much love-Kerrie

mannequineye said...

I thought that two sets of contacts makes u see better? leave it to ryan to destroy this myth.haha ryan best of luck to u and ur project..eager to see it.-tyler

mary said...

Luke and Gwendolyn, no headers and take your pepto bismol. Miss you.

Dan Morehead said...

I'm behind in my reading, but "Ryan going blind" is about the funniest thing ever. Sorry, Ryan.