“Aquí, aquí,” a boy yells at me from across the wet turf. His name is William, and he lives in Aguas Calientes, Peru. We don’t speak the same language, but it doesn’t even matter right now, because we can communicate through play.
Two weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Peru with a group from school. I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life. I wrote in a journal during my time there, which is a travel tip I certainly recommend, to capture the beauty and intrigue of the country. Afterwards, it was easy to reminisce and share with my family about every adventure. The two best memories which I starred in my journal were activities of– yep you guessed it– play.
This blog I want to tell you all about playing in another part of the world and the connections that my love of play helped me build. So here we go with the Psychology of Play: Soccer and Salsa Edition.
On the fourth day, our group hiked Machu Picchu on a part of the Inca Trail called the Sun Gate, and it was breathtaking. Upon return to the little village, my roommates and I heard shouts coming from the street. We looked out our hotel window and below we could see an open turf field lit up for the night hours. Lots of kids and adults were playing soccer together; it was a splendid source of community.
My friend Sarah suggested that we get some of the boys who play soccer together and all head down to the field in an attempt to start a pick up game. I was a bit hesitant, because I don’t play soccer for Roberson like they all do. But, I never miss an opportunity to play.
Six of us grabbed our tennis shoes and ventured into the drizzle to find some new friends. Three boys sat on the sidelines talking; they looked about our age or a little older. Lukas and I have been taking Spanish the longest, so we decided to try and spark up interest for a little game. I started by prefacing that “somos (we are) gringos,” and the boys just chuckled.
That’s where the intro of this blog circles back with our new amigo William. Eventually we had teams and were playing a game! The boys were so nice to us, even though they were better players than all of us. I’m obviously not a star at soccer, but they let me score, and cheered me on. Despite the language and culture barrier, we had made new friends through a commonly loved game of fútbol.
Our last night in Cuzco, Peru was my favorite night of the entire trip, all thanks to some salsa. No… not the kind you dip your tortilla chips in, the dance style! We went to a restaurant where they had cleared out all the tables and chairs, and up front one Peruvian guy was leading the basic steps. After learning the basics, we partnered up and tried some on our own. I’m not a great dancer, but I actually caught on pretty quickly and had a blast. At first, I danced with a couple guys in the group from our school, but soon enough the locals started asking us girls to dance.
Dancing with youth our age and older who knew what they were doing was when I really began to feel like I was getting the hang of it! You better believe I broke out a few salsa moves with my friends at prom last Saturday. Salsa dancing became an opportunity to learn new recreation with friends and meet new people at the same time, and that is exactly the reason I enjoyed it as much as I did.
Sharing these two experiences upon my arrival back in the States made me want to relive the play time over and over again. Who knows?.. Maybe I will pick up soccer next spring or even start a salsa club at Roberson. This blog is just a reminder to get out there and play every chance you get. I promise, you will not regret it.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”