When the two schools we have been working with met for a Sports Day, us fellows were more than ready to put on our cheering hats and support our kids. I felt right at home walking up to the track stadium at the University of Mauritius because I spend most of my afternoons and weekends in New Haven at the track with my team but let me tell you this was a track meet unlike any other I have ever experienced. Like any track meet, it was an all day affair. It started with a lengthy bus ride where we struggled to keep our eyes opened. We arrived early for the procession of the teams onto the track with special introductions for each school, watched heat after heat of event after event tirelessly until the last relay ran, and shared in the excitement of triumph during the final awards ceremony.
I don’t know if all the fellows knew what we were getting ourselves into at the start of the day and it is safe to say that most of us hit a wall of being tired and annoyed after the fifth hour of the meet. Luckily, my energy was immediately picked up by the impromptu dance party that started in the stands behind me. It was like nothing I have ever seen. A tradition drum was passed around the crowd and each person that touched it produced a new unique beat and we danced non-stop until the meet was over, every once in a while glancing back to the track to cheer at the top of our lungs for the kids.
Like anywhere else, kids here in Mauritius tend to be very active and always running around. During our time at the schools we would spend recess with the kids playing football to work out some of their hyper energy. I remember one day when we grew a little tired of the usual football game, we decided to try to introduce a new schoolyard game to the kids so we explained the simple rules of tag: a game that I can remember hating if only for the countless times I ended up ‘it’ for way too long. Luckily the kids at Etoile de Mer had no problem with the task of chasing their schoolmates around the school yard. The best part was when we introduced a twist to the usual game of freeze tag which said that a person could be unfrozen if another person crawls under a frozen persons legs without being tagged. Before we knew it kids were diving right and left to unfreeze their friends and I remember thinking who knew a simple game of freeze tag would be such a hit!
But back to the track meet. At the end of the day, I found myself a little saddened that the energy of the kids that I saw in the schoolyard did not translate to an amazing display of talent on the track. While there were a couple solid performances, I hated seeing the kids start to walk to finish the 400m and even worse was watching some of the kids just walk off the track because it was unthinkable to finish the 800m. It broke my heart to see kids give up and not even try to cross the finish line. After some more thought I was reminded that the day was just supposed to be a friendly and fun sports competition to celebrate the schools and for that it was most definitely a success. The kids were undoubtedly having a lot of fun!