I’ve never been very good at getting to know new people. As a kid, I made my younger brother scope out new friends for me, and as an adult, I have relied heavily on introductions made by mutual friends. Back home, I know only one activity that has truly allowed (and sometimes forced) me to form connections quickly and it is soccer. Despite only ever keeping a small, close group of friends off the field, my group of supporters immediately turned into a team of fifteen to twenty girls the minute I walked onto the field.
In the past, soccer has allowed me to create friendships I never would have made otherwise. Fortunately for me, on Friday, we played a game of soccer with some of the Haitians here at Calusa, the compound at which we’re staying. While in Haiti, I have found that the process of getting to know people has been made even more daunting by language barriers. Though my knowledge of Creole still leaves much to be desired, soccer requires only a mutual understanding of “shoot!” and “pass the ball.” Although the extent of verbal communication was minimal throughout the game, it was necessary for cohesion as a team and created a sense of connectedness between us and the Haitians.
Additionally, playing soccer with the Haitians served as a good reminder for me that we’re more alike than our backgrounds might suggest. Though we come from different countries, the rules of the game never change, and more importantly, neither does the love for the game. I was tasked with keeping time for our game and after alerting the Haitians that the game “technically ended five minutes ago,” they responded “ok, five more minutes.” Although it’s small in the grand scheme of things, it was nice to see their passion for a game that has also meant so much in my own life. And even though soccer didn’t give me much insight into their life stories, I feel more connected to the Haitians that we played with and am more willing to strike up conversations with them in the future. We have decided to continue playing soccer together each Wednesday and I am excited to better connect with all of the Haitians that join in.