So. We have traveled from the western part of Niger to the eastern section – Diffa. Pretty close to the ends of the earth. But I have to say it had been quite awhile since I’d been in Diffa, and I was pleasantly surprised by the development there. There was a brand new paved road – and it was right in front of our church! When we bought that land a few years ago, we didn’t know it be right in the middle of a ‘metropolis’. But God knew. And I’m telling you, it’s a nice road. While we enjoyed ourselves out there very much, the time had come to make our way home. Another 2 day journey in front of us. But the roads were improving, and we had good company. I will have to say though, that I’ve never seen anyone with the ability that Sharolyn had to be able to sleep in the car. And this was not driving down Interstate 95 either. Probably something closer to trying to drive out to see the Beverly Hillbillies. Pretty impressive.
Two days and countless potholes and speedbumps later, we arrive back into Niamey -which now did seem like a metropolis when put into perspective from whence we had come. But our journey with Jack and Sharolyn was not yet over. Oh no. In February every year there is a softball tournament in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Trae went 2 years ago. Neal & Trae went last year and when they came back Neal kept talking about how much fun it was and said that next yaer we should all go together. Agreed. I just had no idea how quickly ‘next year’ would roll around. It happened to fall during Jack and Sharolyn’s visit. We thought it might be something they would enjoy as they have been to Niger multiple times and this would be something different. So we asked them this: Were they interested in flying from California to Niger, taking a 2 day drive to Diffa and back, and then taking a 1 day drive not to another town, not to another state, but to another country to watch a softball game? Being the adventuresome souls that they were (and are), they said they’d love to! Whaddya think of that? What would you have said? It was hot (however, not ‘hot season’ hot like it is now) but it was really like a little slice of America for a weekend in a West African country. There was no apple pie, but there were hot dogs and ice cream cones! For real! And it was over Valentines Day weekend, so that made it even a little more special. We all went out to eat with Trae and Tanika (Tobi too) and some of their friends.
OH, but the games! There was a social league and a competitive league. Anyone who knows Neal or Trae doesn’t have to think very long to figure out which league they were in. However, they were on different competitive teams. This is very similar to the NUTS tournament that is held here in Niamey in October. I believe I wrote about that one – Neal’s team and Trae’s team ended up playing each other in the finals, Trae’s team walking away with the victory. Much to Neal’s, ummm, how shall I say it? Disgust. Yep, that’s it. Disgust. So, here we are again. Different country, same teams. Pretty much. The 2 teams were matched with each other for their first game. The old guy’s (Neal) team won. If I was more with sports talk, I would have probably remembered the score. On the tournament went, with neither team losing any more games. It ended up with Team Nomads (the mature guys) and the Sahel Sons (the ‘younger’ set, mostly) facing each other once again in the finals. The Nomads were looking for the win. OK, both teams were looking for the win. But the Suns had won it in October, and besides, the Nomads were undefeated. Can’t they take turns? I’m pretty sure no one wanted to win as much as Neal did. Even if it meant beating his firstborn son’s team. He never plays anything except to win. It is scriptural you know – run the race to WIN! Anyway, it was the final game and was it exciting. I wish I could remember all the details and spell them out like someone on Sports Center. That, however, is not me. But I’ll do my best. Nomads were up the whole game. At one point, by quite a few runs. (at least I didn’t say touchdowns). Last inning and the Suns have last ups. They are down. I believe (don’t quote me on this) they needed 5 runs to win. Well, can you believe they got them? There was a bit of a discrepency at the final play – something about whether a base was touched or something like that. But when that final play brought the winning run in, real live mayhem erupted among the Suns. They were walking on air. The Nomads, however, were not. Once again, victory eluded them. The interesting thing about the game, was that there were 4 sets of fathers and sons playing – fathers on Nomads, and sons on the Suns. We took a picture of the 4 pairs, where the Dads were supposed to be cheering for their sons. It was a real stretch for Neal. I will post the picture soon. But what about us Moms? Who were we supposed to be cheering for? Husbands? Sons? I’m telling you, it was a stressful thing! All in all, great fun was had. Good food was eaten. And our good friends enjoyed themselves having traveled from the ‘ends of the earth’ to ‘Little America’ in a matter of days. And Jack even got to play on Neal’s team in one of the games as someone was out for injury. (You know how it can be with those old guys!) Jack was thrilled to do it. Sharolyn, however, was not. She was concerned about being able to get a stretcher onto the airplane they would be boarding 2 days later. I think Jack was a bit stiff, but I’m pretty sure the fun he had far exceeded the pain. Oh, and Sharolyn told me that she couldn’t believe how good the attitudes were of all the players, both from Niger and Burkina. The teams were made up of mostly ex-patriots, but there were a few nationals that played. She said if we were really in the US, well, she couldn’t repeat some of the things that would be said. Way to go teams!
Neal is slowly getting over their defeat. Though I think it’s still a bit painful to talk about, he is happy for Trae. This was Trae’s last tournament, since he’s headed for university this year. I have to wonder though, if there won’t be some kind of a rematch – many years down the road. Could happen.