A couple of days ago, I went hiking at Yosemite National Park, which is about to celebrate its 150th anniversary. I set off as the sun was rising and hiked up to Glacier Point with the trail entirely to myself. I ate breakfast looking out at Half Dome, waterfalls and a bright blue sky.
As I was setting out again to clamber up Sentinel Dome, a man on his phone wandered by, trying to get through to his office.
“Can you hear me now?” he asked, pacing back and forth in search of a clear signal.
Personally, I’d be fine with the National Parks banning cell phones altogether, but I sympathized with the man. I’m on an extended break before beginning grad school in the fall, and I currently have the luxury of not having to check in. I’m hiking, reading books, teaching yoga, and spending time with friends and family I missed while living in Haiti. It feels like my Last Ever Summer Break, and I’m doing my best to make the most of it.
The World Cup has helped with that. I’m as guilty as the next American of neglecting the soccer world most years, but this tournament is different. There’s an excitement in the air and the camaraderie of cheering on your team in a crowded room.
Mainly, though, the World Cup reminds me of where I was four years ago. In 2010, I was neck deep in my very first days of setting up GOALS Haiti and beginning my life in Leogane. Expats caught the games on whatever little TV was available and every few hours, I’d catch up on the tournament results with the Haitian staff and kids. I learned a lot of soccer words in Creole, even though the only ones I really had to understand were ‘Brazil or Argentina?’
A lot has changed in four years. For starters, in 2010, GOALS was a fledgling project in a fishing village recovering from an earthquake. And this year, one of GOALS’ lead coordinators, Jean Kendy, is representing GOALS at streetfootballworld’s Global Youth Leader Forum at the World Cup in Brazil.
In 2010, I was practically foaming at the mouth with eagerness to go live in a tent, bump around on motorcycle taxis and do as much field work as physically possible. And I got all that. Four years later, I save the tents for camping, have an impressive scar from a motorcycle taxi, and my field work is limited to finding the most beautiful trails possible.
Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon – the National Parks I’ve visited recently are all the more impressive after coming back from Haiti. I do miss Leogane, mostly the people and the little things that make up daily life. There wasn’t a lot of silence to be had, there, however. Cell phones started becoming commonplace around 2009, and I’ve zoned out many, many people shouting into their handhelds in Creole: “Ou tande’m? Alo? Alo??”
So, it was with a light heart that I left the man on his phone behind as I headed back towards the trail, happily anticipating the mountains’ big silence. I know this is break is a rare opportunity, just as the chance to create GOALS was. The last four years have been a roller coaster ride, and this last summer to myself is all the more special for it.