The teams were introduced in proper style

 We had a football tournament. Our local team, named USA but the letters mean something different, hosted a week long football tournament in Melsisi. It started on Children’s Day and was supposed to end Independence Day but that got re-adjusted with the French being in town.

I didn’t go to the opening. I was busy at Children’s Day at the school. I didn’t go the next day either, because I was teaching in Ranwadi. I popped in and out through the rest of the week and listened to the band play every night. USA hired Vanlol, the band in Lalbateis to play for an entire week. I think it is both good and kind of silly that they basically hired their brothers to entertain them for a week. Still, they are a good band and I appreciated it. So did everyone else in Melsisi.
There were 12 teams playing and each team played almost every day. They did four days of pool play and then direct elimination with a third place round. The prizes weren’t huge, but they weren’t nothing either. Third place was 25,000 vatu (~$250 USD), second place was 50,000 vatu (~$500 USD) and first was 75,000 vatu (~$750 USD). Some of the guys from up north said those were low stakes. I guess last year there was a tournament on Ambrym where the winner got a truck. But still, in a country where the average household income is in the $2000-2500 USD range, that is a good pot.
A good summer outing.. in the middle of “winter”

On Saturday, we spent most of the day laying in the sun, watching football and eating junk food bought at food stalls. It felt like a lazy summer day at a tournament in the US. Of course it is mid-winter here, all there was to eat was gato(fry bread), rice and beef stew, and green coconuts, the announcements were happening in Bislama and the occasional cow would interrupt the games. Seriously, midway through one of the games, a cow came wandering on the field and play had to be paused while it was chased off.
One of the other volunteers in Melsisi is on a team that played. We made it to one of his games to support him. They lost that game but still we came and cheered for him. I may have gotten distracted counting a little girl’s toes. She was puzzled that she and I had the same number of toes. I guess being white should have changed that or something. Hannah also pulled out her binoculars and entertained some little boys by making the world come much closer for a bit. One of the boys managed the turn them over and got really confused when everything was further away. That was also funny.
Paul joined in the fun

July 30th is Vanuatu’s Independence Day. We had a party. We sat and drank kava at the school’s stall while we listened to the band play and watched people dance on the football field. It felt as normal to sit and drink dirty water, speak Bislama and eat bread with coconut jam while listening to string band as it did to lay in the sun and watch a football tournament. I guess this is home, too.

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