by Leonard Marks, MD
In the morning of the second day our group took a hike through the rainforest, seeing the huge kapok trees, tasting lemon ants, observing parrots and birds in their habitat and getting a feel for the ecological balance in this vast area. Following lunch we took the canoe about 20 minutes down river for our meeting with natives to get an insight into their culture and to share knowledge and ideas. We were fortunate in being able to visit the medicine man.
The medicine man spoke only his native language, that of the Achuar people. His words were translated into Spanish by an Achuar guide which was then translated into English by a guide from the lodge. When we spoke, the rotation was reversed. During this time we drank their version of “beer” made by the women of the village chewing roots, spitting them into a bowl, adding water and fermenting. It wasn’t bad. After introducing ourselves, we were to state what professions/jobs we had in our country. While the medicine man was more interested in my being a Pediatrician, he had this to say about my being a soccer coach:
MM: What is a soccer coach?
I explained what one is.
MM: Why do you need one?
I explained how we had teams that played other teams and how it was arranged in leagues and discussed the duties of a coach – how we taught and guided the players/team.
MM: Why can’t you just let the children play?
He really had no idea of why it was necessary to teach kids the game. I should add that while we were talking the Medicine Man’s 5 year old grandson was kicking a soccer ball with his nine year old daughter. They were playing 1 v 1 with no goals and laughing.
Soccer, indeed, is a universal sport. There is beauty in its simplicity. I don’t think the Medicine Man every fully understood why we need coaches. I wonder who is more civilized.
Note on, I believe, the first shot of the Soccer Field that there are actually two fields – the main one and a smaller one withsmaller goals. I could not confirm that the smaller one was used forkids. I do know that Kapawi has the Achuar school at which all/most ofthe Achuar youth attend. They live in shelters with actual walls whichare more sophisticated than the medicine man’s. As mentioned: There isno electricity and no plumbing. The main mode of transportation to theoutside is via airplane and a good number of the Indians have never beenout of their village area. It is a totally different existence.