Vagringa / Varinga / Vaginga

The white jersey dribbles down the field, to the right, where in some fast-paced seconds, she steals the ball and places it on the feet of a colored shirt 20 meters down the field. They cheer and holler, the crowd of ten or so. Que rico estÌÁ la noche, the night time air. For the first time since arriving in Ecuador, she is playing. After asking her boss‰Ûªs husband, her Papi, her friends, a stranger on a bus – if they knew about women‰Ûªs soccer, if they played pickup games, if she could join. Finally she was playing f̼tbol. *** Kevin would pick her up at 6:30. At 5:30, she picked out a sports bra, a sporty but not too sporty shirt, and spent a long time deciding what shoes to wear. Converse? Okay for indoor soccer, but no traction on a grass field. Hightop converse? Eh, never played in them. Cleats? Didn‰Ûªt want to seem overly serious if they were all wearing tennis shoes. So she went with the lowtop converse, reddish Nike shorts, a blue and grey baseball tee, white sports bra, and (fake) diamond studs. Then she fixed her makeup, walking back and forth between her room and the only bathroom with a mirror, carrying mascara, eyemarker, concealear, hoping her brother didn‰Ûªt walk in to her fixing her makeup for a soccer game. She picked out a black jacket bought in Ecuador, and deliberately and carefully picked out seven items to fill the pockets: in the right pocket, a tube of chapsick and two $1 coins. In the left pocket, her phone, headband, and two more $1 coins. (The coins were split up between both sides to minimize jingling.) *** 6:40 Quieres jugar? AcabÌ© de tomar el cafecito. SÌ_. Ya vengo. 6:55 I‰Ûªll be there in 5. 7:03 Hola. Estoy aquÌ_, puedes bajar por la esquina? SÌ_. In the car, she was moderately quiet, answering questions asked, asking a few questions. Alfonso and Kevin sat in front. They arrived at the field and she met all of the friends – men speaking rapidly and laughing. She hadn‰Ûªt imagined it like this. Sitting and standing on the bleachers, sometimes forgetting to try to understand what everyone was saying and sometimes concentrating so hard on what everyone was saying that she didn‰Ûªt have the space to understand it, just space to try to translate it. And to laugh when everyone was laughing – but not too much, because she didn‰Ûªt really ever know why they were laughing. Finally it seemed like they were going to play, and one of the guys holds up his Adidas sling bag. Me puedes cuidar eso mientras juego?åÊCan you watch my bag for me while I play? Estoy jugando.åÊI‰Ûªm playing. The only other two girls in sight were there to watch from the bleachers, to sit in their boyfriends‰Ûª arms and chat. So they play. And suddenly she feels more comfortable, immersed in a language more familiar. The rules of the game are the same. How to track, tackle, pass, and run. The same. She feels good. And in the stands, they cheer when she completes a swift pass, wins a tackle. The only girl, the only gringa. Watching her teammate run towards the goal, the ball lifted just over the net, in this arbitrary second she realizes: I am a blonde 18 year girl old from the U.S. playing with eight moreno Ecuadorian men somewhere between ages 18-35. Before this thought, it was all normal. Before this thought, she could have been playing at home with her girlfriends, dressed in the red jersey of San Francisco. Yet this thought was just that – a thought. Just like that, it passed. She was not nerved, nor discouraged. Por el otro lado, she was proud. She was courageous and grateful. So she kept on running, kept on slipping and falling in the worn Converse, out of breath, tracking and tackling and passing. Her team lost 4-1. It would have been fun to win, but she had fun. And walking to the car, Kevin told her how good she was. So did another friend. In the ride home, she is not nervous. She isn‰Ûªt thinking about how she does not know these people, what to say, what they are saying. She sits laughing and joking, in the front seat with three guys squished behind her in the tiny white car. Ay, Kevin es malo. Como ya te dije Kevin! SÌ_, como el no me llevÌ_ hasta hoy a jugar… entonces ustedes me tienen que llevar y no el Kevin jajaja. AsÌ_ es, ve! *** Today is Monday (well now Tuesday as it’s past midnight) and my body is sore everywhere. My calves, my ribs, my back, my quads, my hamstrings, my butt. A purple and pink and blue bruise is growing on my right thigh. I love this feeling. I love being sore, feeling my muscles working, remembering a game I love with my new friends. And next Sunday I’ll bring my Adidas bag and cleats.