It’s autumn down here

While all of you Northern Hemispheric folks are starting to enjoy summer, some of you starting out a few months of vacation, down here we are hard at work with final projects, papers, tests, sailing, camping, swimming, playing, watching the World Cup, and trying to squeeze every last drop out of this precious time.

Last Friday was my third time sailing here, through my university.  Because there are many people who have dropped out, I officially have a place in the class/team, and they opened it up for other folks to sign up.  So I not only got to practice managing a boat that I’m still fairly new to, but also had the fun and funny experience of teaching brand new sailors, who had never set foot on a boat, how to sail.  In Spanish.  Some of the words are anglicisms, like outhaul and cunningham, while others are terms that I never fully learned in English either.  We got to go a bit away from the harbor, surfing the large swells and enjoying the brisk breeze.

When I left and got back to my house, Chile’s first game had just begun and my living room was awash in red.  Beer and orange soda were mixed in glasses (fanschop, it’s called, meaning fanta-beer), eyes scarcely strayed from the screen to greet me, and a few people were munching choripan (chorizo-pan, or sausage and bread, because Chilean world cup fare is all about the portmanteau).  I felt sticky from spending my afternoon in a wetsuit, so I went to take a quick little shower.  Just as I was toweling off, I heard the unmistakeable ruckus of the first goal, erupting from the television, from the people downstairs, soon followed by car horns honking and yells from nearby houses.  I wasn’t quite downstairs when a second goal followed on the heels of the first.  As soon as I sat down, my presence near the TV seemed to turn the tide and although they continued to overwhelmingly possess the ball, the Chileans were having trouble scoring, and Australia got a few breakaways, and then a goal.

Normally, gatherings with family and friends here seem pretty relaxed, with a free flow of food and drink, but on this occasion I saw the obsessive soccer fanaticism that caused delayed and refills, grabbing chips, or even just taking a sip of beer until the ball was out-of-bounds.  Wouldn’t want to lose concentration for a second, after all.  At one point, I think I went too far into this concentration and came out on the other side, wondering which of these little moving dots of light I was supposed to be focused on, but the yells of my companions brought me back to reality.  We were reduced to a simple worldview pitting Us against Them.  I thought about how in Ultimate, the onus of being a good sportsperson is placed on each player, and the integrity of the game is only held up through self-refereeing.  By contrast, soccer players will frequently argue with a ref’s call, seeming to want the advantage for their team at any cost.  However, you also see them helping players of the opposite team to get up, shaking hands after a contentious moment, and kicking the ball out of bounds when someone on the other team is injured.  These moments remind us that even in an atmosphere of the fiercest competition, there always remains that human element, where brief shows of compassion are expected and as much as shows of great athleticism.

Chile’s Jean Beausejour scored the team’s third goal just before the game ended, and I was there to see it, and to be part of the room of fans, jumping up and down with a pride as if each one of them had personally participated in making the goal happen.

This is a great place to be for the World Cup.  I watched the US-Ghana match as well, this time at a bar with a huge group of Americans, and I have to say we did our country proud with face paint and noise, chanting extra loudly to make up for the fact that there were no car horns outside accompanying our yells. To both of my red, white and blue teams: I couldn’t be prouder, vamos Chile y vamos USA!