Wait - I thought I was playing volleyball? :)
Some practices are a little rough, some are a little boring, and some... are well hysterical :) I am loving getting to know these girls and becoming part of their lives. Hanging out, holding hands, eating together, yup gotta love friendship here in Niger!
To begin - eating just before or during practice seems like a terrible idea to me. Eat oily foods then go run for 3 hours in 100* degree heat on shade-less blacktop? No thanks. So I passed on eating with them the first couple of times, for that very reason, however I soon realized that it was necessary to join them for the sake of our friendship. So one day up walks a little boy carrying a clear trash can full of food. I say a prayer and stick my hand in with the others to pull out a few choice pieces. Don't get me wrong, I love most of these types of food - just not before I run in that heat! :) But the Lord is gracious and I don't eat too much, and thus thankfully have preserved friendships and also not gotten sick.
Well this was recently brought to a new level. There are a few things here that I will not try again or ever... for example: Crickets. Ok so I hate bugs anyway... but to eat them? I vote no.
I tried them once. In 2004. Never. Never again. I can't get my brain to even take watching people eat this snack that is sold on every corner. So in the middle of practice - out pop the crickets. Everyone is sharing and eating them. And crunching them... Sorry friends, I tell them, no can do... Seems to be a running joke for them now, but I am very glad I have tried so many other things so that I can get away with staying far - far from these bugs! Most people here seem to love them - maybe they are good? But I will never know...
Well as if that wasn't enough ammo for them to laugh at the silly american - bring on today. I cannot believe what a raucous I somehow managed to cause! The culture I grew up in and the culture in which I now find myself are VERY different. I know this... sometimes I forget though. The more comfortable I become with the locals I'm with, the less I see the differences. Today that meant: open mouth insert foot. Haha oops :)
There is some indirect way of talking about certain things, that I may never totally understand, so all I can do is try. As a group of us girls are chilling on the curb at the stadium waiting for our coach - M leans over and says, "you see that guy walking this way? yes. "that's my husband." Well I know full well she is not married, and have met this guy before, but I do know that he is her boyfriend. So he walks up, and in typical Nigerien fashion, he greets each of us and shakes our hands, not making eye contact. But to my surprise (here begins my downfall) he does the same thing to M. I KNOW that this is how it works here, that if you are dating someone, you don't really talk to them in public... but for some reason a look of shock must have registered on my face. And the girls all bust up laughing! They were like isn't that how your boyfriend greets you? I was like no way! I wouldn't be very happy if he walked through and never even looked at me... Haha. They just died and had to retell how funny I am to each girl as she arrived...
But of course that was only the beginning.
R, S, and I went onto the court to put our shoes on and get ready to play and some guys were warming up on the other court. Well one of them kinda shouts out at R - so she looks at me and says hey that guy says you like him. (Open mouth insert foot again). My gut response that shoots out of my mouth, ahem loudly... No I don't like him! Well, if I thought they were laughing before... that set them into fits! They shout at this guy to come over and he says hey what don't you like about me - I want to be your boyfriend! I replied (apparently ignorantly) I already have one! The girls all burst up laughing again.. but now I don't get why? He says what makes your boyfriend better than me? So since my foot is already in my mouth... I of course continue talking... and reply well he's taller than you and bigger too. The guy laughs and tries to make himself bigger and taller and says that he will work on it and come back later, but that he is sure he can be my boyfriend too! The girls are starting to cry they are laughing so hard at me. I am thinking... what does he not get about "I already have one." The girls finally come up for air and ask so you only have ONE boyfriend!? And I was like uh...yes...? Which sent them rolling and shouting till the whole group of 12 girls are around me shouting and laughing. It took a while for me to catch the french translation - APPARENTLY - the minimum number of boyfriends a girl our age is supposed to have at one time is 3.
Oh... my bad?
They each, shouting over one another, explain who has how many boyfriends and what each of their purpose is... From paying ones electric bill, water bill, etc to phone credit or whatever else they could come up with... Apparently you are only supposed to love one of them, and the others are just extras to pay for things... Got it :)
In so many ways we are so much the same, but there is no denying that we have different cultures, different worldviews, different tastes, different languages and different priorities. But isn't that the beauty of living in community with others?
I am so thankful that I get to call this crazy place home! :)