Thursday, April 2, 2009

Locales

The morning was going just fine. I had finished my run, and was just getting ready to step into the shower. First, though, I had to check for the giant spider currently living in corner of the bathroom. We’ve decided we don’t mind him for now, because there are also mosquitoes in the bathroom, and we’re hoping he might take care of them for us. Still, as Chris put it: “If he tries dropping on our heads, he’s done.”

But this morning I couldn’t find the spider. I looked in his normal spot, then high and low, but nothing. Maybe he dropped on Chris’s head, and she had to take him out. I shrugged and reached in to turn on the water, and – WHOA!!! THERE HE IS RIGHT BY MY HAND!!!

So now the morning finds me writing, waiting for the spider to go somewhere else. Yes, I could just kill him, but then who would get rid of the mosquitoes?

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Last night Chris came home early (early being around 6pm) so that we could go out to watch the Mexico-Honduras World Cup qualifying match. We don’t have a TV, but even if we did it’s much more fun to watch it out with the gente, with the people.

Green jerseys were out in force all day, as they always are when the national team – known officially as La Seleccion (the Selection) or colloquially as El Tri (the “tricolor” of green, white, and red) – plays. I still wear my 2006 version of the Tricolor jersey, the one that Chris bought me when she was here during the summer of the last World Cup.

The player whose name adorns my ’06 jersey, Omar Bravo, has had a rough year. Last fall he left the Chivas to go play in Europe, but failed pretty miserably there, and probably because of a lack of playing time in Europe failed to get the call-up to the national team, too. But just last week he was called back to El Tri, and scored the first goal of a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica. It was a resurgence for both Bravo and the national team, their first victory in this round of qualifying matches.

So it was with hope for another step toward South Africa (site of the 2010 FIFA World Cup) that we headed out into the evening. We don’t know a wide range of restaurants yet, so we sheepishly went back to the same pizza place where we watched Saturday’s match. But we needn’t have been sheepish. Everyone was so friendly, and our water from a few days ago was very happy to see us again. He even wore his own 2006 jersey (Chris said he was jealous of the one I wore on Saturday). After a little while, an older man walked in whom everyone seemed to know. He shook the owner’s hand, and then the owner left and came back with coffee and the two of them sat down to watch the game, too. Just your average neighborhood hangout in a little Mexican town…

By halftime we were done with our pizza, so we decided to go our coffee shop to watch the second half. You might be wondering why we didn’t just go to a bar, to the local equivalent of Jimmy’s in Hyde Park. In Guadalajara that is probably what we would have done. When we lived there we had found a little wings place where we’ve watched the Chivas play away games a few times. But bars are kind of funny here in Lagos. They all seem to be very masculine – even more than those in the States – with not a woman to be seen. So Chris and I can’t go in together, and I’m surely not going to go hang out in the bar by myself, so… we end up going for coffee and dessert instead, which Chris likes better anyway.

In the coffee shop we again find that despite – or maybe because of – the fact that we go there nearly every day, everyone is happy to see us. The staff is crazy-friendly, and the owner starts chatting with us about soccer. He asks Chris if she plays, then comments that the States have the best women’s soccer in the world. A man walks in off the street, looks up at the screen and starts asking about the match in rapid-fire Spanish that’s too fast for me to understand. This is a favorite Mexican experience: Watching soccer and hearing rapid-fire foreign language all around. For some reason I just love it…

Unfortunately, we have to tell the man that the match is not going well. Honduras scored twice early on, and Mexico hadn’t had more than one decent shot on goal. In the second half, Honduras scores again. Mexico scores on a penalty kick and saves themselves the embarrassment of being completely shut out, but it’s still an ugly result: a 3-1 loss. Everyone thinks the coach is going to lose his job tomorrow, but nobody seems to think Mexico will fail to qualify for the World Cup. I’m not so sure. They’re playing pretty badly right now, and the victory on Saturday now looks more like a fluke than righting the ship. (I'm not the only one who's worried - check out this World Cup qualifying round-up from ESPN Soccernet below.)



Still, the man asking us about the match gets off three or four questions before asking us the inevitable question of where we are from. This makes Chris extremely happy. Anytime “Where are you from?” is the third or fourth question instead of the first question you know you’re just a little less of a foreigner. Heck, sitting here in our little coffee shop, going back-and-forth with people we see every day, we almost feel like locals.

On our way back home we pass the pizza place, and our friend in the green jersey is standing outside. “Perdimos!” he says – we lost! But he says it with a smile, and Chris responds with “Fue muy feo!” – it was very ugly! – but she’s smiling, too, and for the first time we feel like we’ve made some kind of connection with the people of this place where we now live. Oh sports, the great equalizer…

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Now there’s a large beetle running across the floor, so I’d better go take care of that. Look, I don’t want you to think our place is dirty and disgusting – I sweep and mop the floor every day, wash down the countertops, do the dishes…we keep the place pretty clean, it’s just that there are a lot more bugs in Mexico and maybe more of a sense that every last one of them doesn’t need to be exterminated. But I still can’t have them running across my floor. So if you’ll excuse me…

2 comments:

Zach Parris said...

Turns out you and your companions were right about Sven's future:
http://www.soccerbyives.net/soccer_by_ives/2009/04/mexico-fires-sven.html

From Michigan with Love said...

oh sports the great equalizer...now where have I heard that before!?!?!? :-) I also enjoyed the fact that you had the same water who was glad to see you at the pizza join!

GO USA!!!