Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Great Day in Adama

Today’s missive will be somewhat long but that’s only because we are in sensory overload (that’s what Frank calls it). Man o man!! Here goes.

So remember all those stories about power outages, no running water, malaria and all the other goodies waiting for the Parade of Pampered to developing countries? They’re TRUE!! Last night the first of the power outages began while I finally gave in to sleep under mosquito netting that didn’t fit. And no fans – in all of Adama. I awoke in a pool of my own sweat and groveled my way to the bathroom with visions of showering my body! AHA!!! No such luck. NO water! The construction guys next door burst a water pipe so I showered with a bottle of warm seltzer water and brushed my teeth without rinsing! Returning after a full day of dust, more sweat and greasy mosquito repellent on my body guess what? Correct! Still no water. But the lights finally came back on. And the mosquitoes? Hovering and buzzing my neck and other bare spots like planes landing at O’Hare Field (an average of one every 47 seconds! I swear that one of them was circling for at least an hour waiting to catch some of the Nubber’s precious blood supply)

Today is Day Three of the nine that we are spending with the Save the Children team who managed to lure to a six-day meeting - 34 coaches and peer educators. Very caring people – every one of them -- who simply want to help the kids that are the future of Ethiopia.

Let’s get serious here for a moment. The goal is to give the coaches the tools so that they can pass on ways for these kids to deal with the very real issues they face every day. You can’t just tell these kids “abstain” or “use condoms” or “make better choices” , in a one day classroom setting. You have to create a culture of great decision making, dealing with outside pressures and self confidence. When I look at the agenda, I smile because it’s stuff that makes sense – values, self confidence, coping, decision making, healthy relationships, being faithful. And then there is what the Save the Children team calls “technical” – HIV/AIDS – what causes it, how to prevent it, benefits and challenges with abstinence. We have had GREAT success with connecting soccer (a sport that is all about decision making under pressure) to the even more important lifestyle decisions these kids face every day. These coaches and peer educators are thirsty. Thankfully, Save the Children and Soccer Saves have some water for them.

Back to the kids…snotty-noses and dirty and greasy, flock to Uncle Nubby and cling like sticky paper wherever I go. When I pull out the camera they mob me and begin smiling…many times with teeth browned and chipped thru neglect or absence of normal amenities! (AMENITIES????) Think about it?! Most kids in America hear “go brush your teeth” as a burden they must bear and we keep the dentists busy because we overlook the flimsy way they execute that chore! These kids would happily brush IF THEY HAD SOMETHING TO BRUSH WITH!! Oh, so we Americans can’t invest in a few million toothbrushes and some paste let alone recruit some dentists to come for a visit and “out of the mouths of children” may come a new generation of smiling, happy healthy people?!!)

One thing clears up in a big hurry over here: If we help one he/she immediately rushes out to ‘bring’ a friend; they bring two more then it’s eight + eight = sixteen, 32, 64,128, 256, 512,1,024, 2,048 4,096…you get the idea! The good news is the math takes care of itself. I mean, yesterday I did a walk-a-bout to various clusters of kids with balls worn to the cloth and dirt clouds that would make the small shadow trailing Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen look like fresh towels at a Marriott resort.

Day Two (yesterday, June 2) I strolled thru seven fields in Adama – one of Ethiopia’s poorest cities -and, after hugging and photo-ing and dribbling and passing dusty balls back and forth with scores of kids practicing, playing and rehearsing crude drills, today as neared the classroom - where we made presentations to the coaches - from everywhere kids appeared. They were like ants wherever Nubby appeared. The drought of 1984 in Ethiopia cannot compare to the drought of knowledge – and accompanying thirst for information these millions of kids represent. They are hungry and their bodies show it; but they are at once candidates for new insight, knowledge and change.

THEY EXIST TO LEARN AND the challenge is clear: GET TO THEM BEFORE THEY STOP THINKING AT AROUND 18 AND UP!!! Tomorrow, Day Four, The Nubber heads to the fields to lead these 34 thru sample training sessions while showing them how they can incorporate our message about healthy lifestyles, HIV/AIDS education, nutrition, reproductive principles etc. into their teaching. For example, today – in our chalk talk session - I was sharing with them how to help teach the very young how to learn soccer skills thru the use of games e.g. – heading a ball over a bench into a garbage can instead of demonstrating the art of heading (which seven and eight-year olds won’t stand still long enough to learn). By the same token, once these kids are ‘reeled’ in, we can start talking about making better choices about their daily lives. It’s a captive audience and it’s a SLAM DUNK!!! Stay tuned for the field session tomorrow: It will be the first ever ORGANIZED soccer training some of them will have ever experienced!!

1 comment:

  1. Cliff, great to see your blog!! Keep it up because it can be challenging. You are well on your way to Africa "getting under your skin", you will never be the same.
    Soccer has a very special place in the developing world and you are the special man to be part of that. You'll be in our prayers.

    Loanna Day