(second post within one day, but I couldn’t help sharing this experience)
I’m completely exhausted, totally dehydrated, my legs are trembling beneath me, and my arms are anything but steady. I have a pounding headache, and am covered in a layer of dirt and sweat. But oh God, I haven’t felt quite this good since arriving in Malawi!
On my way back from a day of field work late this afternoon, I passed by a “real” basketball court with a game going on. By real I mean that some of the surface was paved, and that the rims had backboards! Basketball “courts” are not that common of a sight in rural Malawi, and I was yet to see backboards before today.
So I couldn’t resist the urge to stop and ask to join their game. Even wearing jeans and low cut soccer shoes, I was better equipped than some of the guys playing barefoot. I was pleased to see that I was so easily and happily welcomed and integrated onto one of the teams. (as if they could resist seeing a white dude play b-ball anyway)
I got right into the game and found that the play was just about my level, especially since I haven’t played any organized ball in like 5 years, and not even any pick-up in years either. After about 20min of pretty good b-ball I found that the game play was slowly becoming more and more above my level. Not in terms of skill level, but in-terms of fitness level. I was getting so tired!
You have to understand that my level of cardio fitness is the lowest it’s ever been in my life, and even my level of general fitness. I haven’t done any consistent regular exercise for months.
I was struggling to get up and down the court on almost every play. I did manage to catch my second and even third wind through about an hour and a half of play, and managed to make a few notable defensive and offensive plays. Enough so that I was invited to join them again tmrw, and even invited to join the team in a tournament in the big city on the weekend! Apparently this is some kind of organized league or something (there was some sort of referee). Maybe it was my level of play, or maybe its just the novelty of having a white guy on the team, or that they asked if I could somehow get their court re-paved. (there’s maybe 1or2 permanent “western” residents in the small town of ekwendeni where I’m staying this week. A white person is a rare sight, and when a white person shows up, I’m pretty sure it’s rightfully assumed that they have come with the purpose of offering something) But I don’t really care about their motives for asking me to join them again. It was so amazing to get the exercise in, feel the competitive drive, feel the teamwork and camaraderie, even do a little shit-talking. It especially felt good to be so readily and seamlessly accepted, and just feel like one of group. Something that has been hard to feel so far over here. It felt exactly the same as any outdoor pick-up game I’ve ever played in Canada.
I definitely intend to try to get involved with this team of fun, friendly, and lively Malawians, or some kind of other team that I’m sure will be the same, wherever I end up settling in the country.