Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fill the Bottle

I was intrigued by an empty coca-cola bottle last Thursday when I first visited the Redemption Children’s Home. It carried importance. That was obvious. When other toys were left in the sand surrounding their dorms, the coca-cola bottle never was. Always carefully set on one of the porches, close to a pillar, it was often accompanied by a a plastic baggie filled with sand and tied into a ball-shape. I had no idea what it was used for, but it was obvious that this glass bottle wasn’t simply waiting to be recycled.

Yesterday I found out just how important this coca-cola bottle was. I was wandering about, greeting the children’s ‘Good Morning Sistah!’ when I heard yelling and screaming coming from the sandy expanse before the main hall. And as I walked around the corner of the building, the plastic-ball-shaped-baggie whizzed near my head, followed swiftly by one of the girls! Trying to stay out of the way, I clambered onto the porch with the littlest children. The girl soon came tearing back, and promptly threw the ball squarely at another girl I had failed to notice. The girl jumped, avoiding the ball with a sixth sense, and as she ran, laughingly, out of the path of the onslaught, I caught sight of the glass coca-cola bottle filled part-way with sand.

Here at last was the answer to my intrigue! A game! And I sat down to watch the play unfold. It wasn’t a difficult game to follow, after watching a couple of rounds, I understood the rules.

Each round started of simply enough. The bottle, emptied of any sand from the previous round, was set in the middle of the expanse, while three children took their places. Two children took up their posts on either end of the ‘field’, while the other took up position near the glass coca-cola bottle. It was that child which carried the ‘baggie-ball’onto the field. When all positions were taken, all children readied, the child in the middle would throw the bottle toward one of the other children and then begin to fill the coca-cola bottle with sand as quickly as possible. All the while, the ‘baggie-ball’would fling through the air with the intent of catching the bottle-filling child unawares, thereby knocking them out. If not, the child at the opposite end would run to gather the ‘baggie-ball’ and try once again to knock their sister or brother from their task. The only exception was this: If the child in the middle caught the ‘baggie-ball’ instead of avoiding it, they gained the right to hurl it as far as they could, in whichever direction they chose. If the child in the middle managed to fill the coca-cola bottle with sand before being pelted by a flying ‘baggie-ball’, they earned the right to dance and scream for joy, filled coca-cola bottle in hand.

A simple enough game, yes, and yet the children never tired of playing, and I never tired of watching. Despite the sweat running down our faces, back, arms, legs... despite even that, ‘fill the bottle’never lost its charm. And I was struck by the vast difference between necessities for ‘play’between our cultures.

What percentage of toys sold in the Global North today require batteries? How many game colsoles are sold each day by competing companies? How many children’s rooms contain either a TV or computer—or both? If none of these, then how many parents scratched their heads in confusion as they attempted to assemble the ‘some assembly required’ toys that made it under the Christmas Trees this past year? Or how many board games do you simply set aside when the instructions become too complex and many?

How would we react to being given a beaten-up glass coca-cola bottle and a plastic-ball-shaped-baggie?

I, personally, am one of those electronics-junkies. I must admit that I’ve missed my laptop each and every day of my trip. The idea of walking almost one mile to log onto a computer that has only 32 MB of RAM and a 56K modem is difficult to take in. The fact that last night I walked that mile only to find that there was no internet at all, was frustrating, to say the least. And even with my laptop left at thome, there still resides in my carry-on backpack: 1 digital camera, 3 camera batteries, 4 SDHC cards, and 1 battery charger; 1 iPod and charger; and 2 cell phones and 2 chargers. Not exactly Ms. Simplicity. But the joyful afternoon I spent avoiding a ‘baggie-ball’ while attempting to fill a glass coca-cola bottle with sand seriously brought to question within me what exactly I consider essential to my happiness...

I knew enough, upon inspection, not to throw away the coca-cola bottle and ‘baggie-ball’ last Thursday. But I never would have imagined just how much fun I would have running and playing in the sand with the children of Redemption Children’s Home yesterday. The rules were simple, the objects common, but the happiness and joy that exuded from the field was unbelievable.

Just how much fun can you have with a plastic-ball-shaped-baggie and a beaten-up coca-cola bottle?

“Fill the Bottle” Instructions

1 narrow-necked bottle
1 small, softish ball
3 people (1 bottle-filler; 2 tagger-outers)
Enough sand or dirt to fill the bottle

Bottle-filler: to fill the bottle with the sand/dirt without being hit by the ball
Tagger-outers: to hit the bottle-filler with the ball before the bottle is filled
Exceptions: the bottle-filler may choose to catch the ball. If the bottle-filler is successful in catching the ball, they may throw it as far as they wish in any direction.

No comments: