Yesterday was the rematch between the nutjobs at Rhiannon and the camioneta drivers from nearby Malchingui. A camioneta is basically a truck taxi.
I missed the first game on a day in which I felt throughout work that I was about to faint, puke, fuke or paint. Incidentally, it would be painting that would dominate my work schedule over the following three days, a welcome change from maize picking and tent tent repair (referring, of course, to the tarp that covers tents that are not waterproof. We treat our campers nicely at Rhiannon.
After nailing some grommets with a fellow communer, I had to back out and head to the house for a nap and a worry. You see, sickness is no stranger in Comuna Rhiannon, and while I understand my general ability to ward off most diseases (punch a tree), I was somewhat more apprehensive about this current set of circumstances. It probably didn’t help that the day before the match, we had ‘entrenarnos,’ which consisted of about an hour of grueling gravel fútbol. Long story short, I, the starting keeper for the gringo team (sorry Zamir, Emmanuel, Zoellie, and Pancho-the only non-gringos among us), spent the afternoon of the game in bed, which also meant I missed beers in the school watching the UEFA final. Sound like the beginning of a Matt Christopher book? I know, (s)he has a style that has begun to determine events in my life. So it goes.
On rematch game day, which I like to call Easter Sunday Back From the Dead Rematch Bonkers Fútbol Event, I spent the day, along with the majority of the community, watering the trees, flowers, and herbs across the entire property…a lofty job, if you must know. Now, all that water has to come from somewhere, and we have a few options at Rhiannon. First, there’s the tap. Stolen, bogarted, free, unreliable. Second, the brown bucket. Unreliable, filled by the well. Third, the well, which fills in two ways, both rain (ha…I wish…but not really) and the hose from the tap overnight.
The option on this fateful day became clear enough, as a handful of people rob the poor brown bucket of all its contents within the first ten minutes. I decided to be well-master, which just happens to be the most romantic job on the farm. It’s just you and the damned well, filled to about 3 inches, and you’re on the clock, with an army of ‘regadores’ arriving after what seems like no time, ready to rob you of all your hard work. I thoroughly enjoy jobs in which my main challenge is my own ineptness, as I spend the day trying to overcome the hurdles in my way.
Long story short, I got every damn drop of water out of that damned well. The plants got watered and felt great, but likely not as great as I, the well master, who had in a John Henryesque feat of strength, defeated a concrete and steel creation of this luddite hating 21st century. Pretty overdramatic, isn’t it? I like it that way.
After three hours of work, a Minnesotan friend and I cooked lunch, both keeping in mind the magnitude of the afternoon’s upcoming events. She, a very conscious athlete, probably did more to regulate the menu than I, who played nary a hockey game without a little booze in his gullet.
Our menu consisted of the following: salad (of iceburg, tomato, cucumber, lime and panela dressing), lightly boiled broccoli, white rice, lentils with tomatoes, cumin, black pepper. A four-course meal for your face, which the two chefs washed down with a Boa Constrictor (a drink that, at the time, we thought may or may not have caused said Minnesotan to have difficulty breathing…hence the Boa, get it?)
After dressing out, which ideally consisted of donning an Ecuador national team jersey, we linger outside in front of the house, waiting for the camionetas to arrive to deliver us to our destiny. Some juggle the fútbol, others take shots of a liquor called D’Brandy, some stretch their legs (though I think this was more show than anything-I know because I was one of the ‘stretchers.’)
The camionetas arrive, and we’re paraded through the streets, looked on by many familiar faces with smiles as well as some that are less acquinted, who seem to be asking why we’re so goofed up and in the jersey that represents their country. Either way, this all adds to the excitement, nerves, and anticipation.
We arrive at the stadium, dubbed Estadio Central de Liga Deportiva Parroquial Malchingui. It’s complete with grass, ticket booths, concrete bleachers, and possibility. We walk through the throngs of people, probably 15 or so, into the stadium, and are greeted by a beautiful and massive fútbol field. Equally effective in stirring emotion is my first vision of the opponents with whom we’ll battle over the next hour and a half…Junior, Gordo, Beto, Profe (the school director and also camioneta driver), Juan, Diego, etc…we’ve reason to be nervous.
Minutes into the match, my breath has been taken away by the powerful and stunning siren called Altitude. It is clear that I’m in some sort of shape, just not the kind you need to be in to play fútbol. After the first few shots, I fall back into the comfort akin to my hockey mindset, and the game begins to be fun, in an intense way. The intensity is somewhat challenged when Juan, neither old, fat or a camioneta driver, makes a fool of your beloved narrator by dancing around him for the first goal of the game. That first one I always like, and this one was no exception. It’s why I hate shutouts…I prefer to be imperfect and human.
We go into halftime down 3-2, which is more than I could have hoped for.
Into the second half, I find that my expectations might be selling us short. Riding the back of our trusty and skilled Mexican steed, Pancho, we notch a couple of goals early in the second and find ourselves staring at a possible victory…an unbelievable upset, I would imagine…think Miracle on Ice.
In the end, however, lessons are learned, limits tested, passion manifested, and bittersweet pride fills us all after what ended up being a 6-4 loss to the home team.
After the game, we’re lead by the opponents, who now have their chance to show their human side, to a Malchingui bus that takes us to a local restaurant. At the restaurant (more like a garage with an oven), we’re filled with beers, choclo, and hava beans. The atmosphere is naturally somewhat divided, mostly a language thing, though some of us crossover and converse.
It’s clear at the end of it all that we have earned their respect, not only as fútbolers, but also as people. And that’s what counts in the end, now isn’t it?