Last week I went on what is called Long field. If you don’t remember Long field was our opportunit as trainees to go and visit other volunteers and spend a week observing what they do and learn more techniques. I went to misiones. Santa Rosa, Misiones is a state (here called Departamentos) in the south of Paraguay. My group and I went there to work with a volunteer in Urban Youth Development. We worked with his youth group that recently created a co-ed basketball team. The reason we went was to help them with community service and also participate in a basketball tournament called “Friendship International”. During the week we cleaned the sports complex where they were we played and repainted the lines on the court and also helped generate ideas on how to generate funds for the co-ed basketball team. On top of this we practiced every day. Needless to say, I have not played basketball in over 12 years and after the first day, I was sore up and down my body. I don’t know what happened, because I barely played, but the youth group, the kids that came to watch and the parents all called my Michael Jordon. I don’t know how they could compare me with Mike, but I guess the simple fact they we are both black had something to do with it. I asked one of the kids why they compared me to Michael Jordan when I suck at basketball now. He responded, that because I dribbled behind my back one time (the have never seen this) they thought I was really good.
Anyway, back to the Urban Youth Basketball team. At the end of the week we played in the tournament (three teams) called “Friendship International”. There was a team from a nearby town, the team volunteer’s Urban Youth team and a Peace Corps Team (the one I was on). Our team consisted of three girls and four guys. The three girls were the volunteers that came down with me. Three other Peace Corps volunteers met us there in the town to participate in the tournament. The very first came we had to play a team from the nearby town of San Ignacio. I was expecting some kids who could barely even dribble the basketball. However, all of these guys were taller than I have and knew how to play very well. I knew immediately that we would get beat. However, I didn’t know what was coming next. The tournament had been announced on the radio and most of the town knew that the tournament would take place. Therefore many of the Urban Youth basket ball team’s family came to the event. Of course their brothers and sister also came and brought friends. Many individuals came to the court to watch, in fact many of the children sat on our bench, so much so that we didn’t have any place to sit. So what happened? One of the Peace Corps volunteers that came to play with us begin to act up. During the game the team from San Ignacio begin to play very unfairly, taking cheap shots and smarting off yelling many gesture that were unbecoming. Because of the way this team acted this particular volunteer began to yell and curse at the other team. At one point, all us volunteers felt very embarrassed to be part of the Peace Corps. This particular volunteer begin to curse and insult the other team. Most at the court were taken aback by the volunteers behavior, especially us volunteers. At the end of the game (we lost) one of the players from the other team walked over to our bench (in front of everyone there) and told the Peace Corps volunteer off. He told him that his attitude was completely unacceptable and that as an American should be an example for Paraguay and especially for all the children that had been following us around, and that he should be ashamed of himself. This was done in a screaming fashion and all that were present saw the arguing that was going on. I don’t need to tell you that that was the first time I was completely embarrassed and wished that I could just sink into the floor and disappear. The only thing that I could do was turn to all the children explain to them that the Peace Cops does not condone the type of behavior that the volunteer displayed and that most Americans are not as short tempered as this volunteer. Thankfully, most understood and agreed with me.