Where to begin. I ‘blog’ in my head all the time. I just don’t get it into print very often. Then I forget what I wanted to write about. Today I’m going to write about the weekend of October 10th. The Annual NUTS tournament. It’s a French acronym for the Niamey Universal Softball Tournament. This is Trae’s 3rd year to be a part of it, and Neal’s 2nd. Trae of course was on his school team the Sahel Suns. There were several teams from Niamey and teams that came from Burkina Faso. Neal was on Team USA, which was made up mostly of Embassy people and missionaries. The games began Friday afternoon. Both my guy’s teams were doing well. Then they had to play each other on Saturday. Someone had to win. Which meant someone had to lose. Team USA pulled ahead with victory. There were some very exciting games, and 2 in particular where both of their teams (not playing each other) were down 7 and 8 runs in their last inning and they had last ups. Even though they were different games, the end of each game was almost identical. ‘My’ team came from behind and the game was cut short when they made their winning run, much to the surprise of their opposing teams who had been ahead the entire game. Those victories put them in the finals together – playing each other for 1st and 2nd place. Neal’s team hadn’t lost any games, and Trae’s team had only lost to Neal’s. The final game was Sunday afternoon at 4:20. I really enjoyed watching the games, especially when they weren’t playing each other. I really did find it hard to know who I wanted to win – who I should be shouting for. In the end, I just ended up shouting the whole time. Trae would have a great hit. “Yeah Trae – way to go – Run!” I would shout. While Neal was on 1st base getting the runner (Trae) out. “Yeah Neal – way to get im outta there!” What’s a body to do? At least I wasn’t the only one with split interests.
So, the final game. I did not attend. I could end here, and allow one to think that I just couldn’t take the pressure, but that’s not entirely true. Actually, it’s not at all true. It’s fun and it’s competitive (if you know my family) but it’s not THAT competitve. My absence was due to the medical team we had arriving at precisely the same time THE game started. So I was at the airport, anxiously waiting to see the whites of the eyes of our team of 7 from New Orleans. The plane landed and with the help Number 11, our baggage guy, we begged my way into the airport (people are no longer allowed in b/c of security) and wore down the security guy with our determination, use of Hausa, and explanation that our guests needed lots of help (sorry team). I was in and wondered after 4 bus trips from the plane to the airport (It’s about a 50-100 meter drive, I think the busses are for ‘show’) if they had actually been on the plane after all. They finally showed up on the last bus. We waved through the glass after I got their attention. Then Number 11 went to wait for their bags and that’s when Neal called. The game was well under way and I could hear all the shouting. I could hear what I was missing. He was calling between innings to see if they had arrived. Yes, they had.
The baggage finally started coming. If you’ve never been in an African airport, you’re missing out. Oh the things people check onto the plane. But that’s material for another post. It took patience, but we finally collected all 14 of their bags and had all carry-ons accounted for. While in the parking lot introducing the team to Niger sweat, loading the vehilces and fighting off all those attempting to ‘help’ with the bags, Tanika called my cell phone shouting- “Mom! We won! We won!” “Great” I said! But wait a minute. Who exactly is “We”? I guess I should have known that she, being a member at Sahel Academy, would be rooting for the Sahel Suns. Instead of her father??! Yep. Sure enough. When I inquired who ‘we’ was she incredulously said “The Suns”, and I’m sure was thinking to herself ‘who do ya think?’
We finally made it out of the airport and the team arrived at our house welcomed by 2 very sweaty guys – one victorious, and one, well, – not so much. I gotta say though, Trae didn’t gloat much at all.
After a weekend full of softball, sweat, hot dogs and cotton candy (yep, the school has a cotton candy machine) it was time to change gears. Well, the sweat thing wasn’t going to change. The next morning we would be on our way in 3 vehicles driving 9 hours into Niger’s interior where masses of spiritually and physically sick people were waiting and hoping for victory. That’s a game we were ready to play…and win!