Ever since starting FUNDaFIELD when I was 13, I have been exposed to worlds that are completely foreign to your average American teenager. I have wrestled with lion cubs in South Africa, been extremely sick in a small hut in Kenya, and been part of a presidential motorcade in Haiti. When I try and explain these things to my friends at school, or random people I meet, they have trouble understanding my experiences because they don't have any frame of reference for such foreign concepts. I might as well be speaking a different language most of the time. However, there is one thing I've experienced that Americans easily understand: goats. In many of the places where we hold our tournaments, goats are the traditional prizes for the winner of a soccer tournament. As a result, over the years I have had to purchase my fair share of goats all over Uganda. Every time we hold a tournament, I save myself this duty. Buying goats may sound like a simple task, but to a suburban American teenager buying goats posed significant challenges.
It turns out that goat purchasing can be a very delicate task. For example, in Pader the local tribe is very fond of their goats and so there is a much higher supply of goats and lower prices. In Southern Uganda, the volatile weather might mean that a strong male goat could end up costing double the price depending on the season and the geographical region. Additionally, similar to Costco, the more goats you buy, the better. Mix in an exchange rate that compares one U.S. dollar to about 2,200 Ugandan shillings, price discrimination based on my skin color, and a culture with completely different economic policies, and it is easy to understand why things could get complicated.
Once we obtain the goats, we must then transport them to the tournaments for all the athletes to see what they are playing for. Transportation is not the same as it is in America, and it was not a shock to me when my fellow Claremont McKenna College students and I found ourselves packed in a Matatu (African Taxi) with a very distraught "Mr. Goat." At various points on the 40 minute taxi ride we would momentarily forget about Mr. Goats presence and then would quickly be reminded when he would "bahhhhhhh" in our ear.
Although we lamented the fact that "Mr. Goat" would not be spending what could very well be his last hours with "Mrs. Goat," the players' excitement over the prize they could earn made it bearable. When Wagadagu FC won their tournament, they triumphantly hoisted Mr. Goat on the shoulders of their coach and captains and did a victory lap around the whole town! They were accompanied by the van playing the championship music and about 1,500 dancing fans. Many of these dancing kids were orphans, or lived on less then two dollars a day, but watching them you couldn't help but be a little envious of the joy that winning brought to them. Even some of the losing teams joined in the celebration just out of pure love of the game. Watching this processional as the sun set over Uganda was only more confirmation to me that we were changing the lives of these kids for the better in greater ways than we could even articulate.
As best as I can try to paint a picture of this scene, most people will not understand how incredible it was. To those of us who were there, it was perfect.