Even though we have only been in Madagascar for about three weeks, there have already been many experiences that I will never forget. Whether it be the exuberance of the children, the raw natural beauty of the landscape, or the incredibly extensive wildlife, Madagascar offers a truly unique experience. The most recent event though that I will remember for a long time was a basketball game that we played last Friday against the nuns that run our school.
When Chris our project manager told us that it is a bit of a tradition for the Frontier community volunteers to play against the nuns in football, basketball, volleyball or whatever other sports they propose, we were all both excited and a bit confused. Not only had none of us played a sport against a team of nuns, but there would also be about 1,500 screaming students surrounding the pitch as the matched happened. As Chris was the only person who had ever played in one of these matches before, this was going to be a very new experience for almost everybody involved.
On the morning of the match we were informed by Soeur Jaquline (the head of the school) that the sport would be basketball and the match would take place just after their morning break. We rounded up a squad of seven Frontier Fireflies (we were told that this is what we had been called in the past) and approached the match with a great deal of excitement. As the student’s morning break was coming to an end we ventured into the school yard. You could tell how excited all of the children were for the match as we were instantly swarmed by hundreds of students looking for high-fives, props, hugs, or to be lifted up into the air. This frenzy set the scene for the atmosphere in which the match would be played under.
As we approached opening-tipoff, there was a guarded sense of optimism running through our squad. Though none of us were particularly experienced or skilful in basketball, we did have three players above 6’ tall where-as it seemed to be an anomaly for any of the nuns we were playing against to be over 5’5”. Though they were fierce and quick, we managed to use our size to our advantage and we emerged with an 11-1 victory. Even though we prevailed, this didn’t seem to dampen the smiles on any of the faces of the nuns or the students.
The score didn’t seem to matter to the students either way. They cheered equally hard for both teams and stormed the pitch after the final whistle. Their energy and excitement made this match very memorable for all of the players on our squad. It seemed as though all of the students hardly came up for a breath the entire game. This was also the final day in Madagascar for our sports coach Thomas, so they ended the game with an incredibly kind ceremony in which Soeur Jaquline made a speech, all the students sung to him, and then they presented him a gift. It was a perfect ending to Thomas’s time in Hellville and match against the nuns. Hopefully there’s a few more in the following weeks before we have to head off as well.
By Fenner, Teaching Assistant
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