Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Polo, Anyone?

A few weeks ago, one of my students came in with a cast on his wrist.  When Carrie asked him what he’d done, he explained he was injured playing polo.  “Polo?!  Like on horses?” she’d asked him.  He said yes, and she told him to let her know when the next match was, and we’d come.  So low and behold, he let her know, and we came.

Saturday morning Carrie and I left the city, following the directions we had from the student’s parent. 

Well…I should backtrack.  It was a bit more of an adventure than that.  It always is. 
We went to start my car, and it was dead.  Luckily, as this has happened before, I am now the proud owner of jumper cables, so we easily started the car and got on our way.  After driving about 20 minutes, we stopped for coffee and breakfast.  Upon leaving, my car wouldn’t start again.  We went back into Starbucks and fumbled completely over the words in Spanish to communicate “My car battery is dead.”  Thankfully, one of the workers spoke English and jumped into the conversation, then offered to bring her car over to help us out.  Once again, it started easily after the jump, and we were on our way.

The rest of the trip to the match was more or less uneventful.  We missed our turn off of the main highway, but realized it immediately and didn’t have to go far before we could turn around.  We had to detour around a parade route in a small town, but we figured it out.  We thought we might be lost after that, but after calling our student’s mom, realized we just had a bit farther to go. 

We made it to the polo fields by about 11:20—which was of course 20 minutes after the match had started.  That would have been okay…except polo is played in four seven-minute “checkers,” so the game was more than half over already.  Still, we got to see our student play for a few minutes before the game ended.  We also met several American polo parents who were there with their sons for the tournament (there were also boys from Mexico and Honduras…and maybe Argentina?).  They were very social and friendly and opened our eyes to the world of polo (and explained the rules to us) as we watched the next game. 

Our student's game in progress when we arrived 

It turns out polo is really fun to watch.  It’s fast paced and easy to follow, and the boys’ skill with the horses is impressive (especially to a girl like me with zero horse sense).  We learned a bit about the game too.  There are 4 checkers, and after each 7 minutes, the horses are changed out to rest.  Professional players do this even more often; a pro may show up to a match with 12 horses for one game.  Obviously this contributes to making polo a very, very expensive sport.  For this tournament, the horses were loaned to the boys—so none of the international families had brought their own horses with them (but believe me, they had money). 

Carrie and I felt a little bit out of place…as if we’d been transported to another world.  Who would have thought this polo subculture existed right under our noses?  Still, the people we met were gracious and welcoming, and when they invited us to stay for the luncheon after the tournament, we accepted. 

It was nearly 4:00pm when we left.  We made our departure at the same time as the mother of another of Carrie’s old students, and as she was headed to Lake Amatitlan, which neither Carrie nor I had ever been to, she let us follow her there so that we could snap a few photos of the beautiful lake before returning to the city for the evening.

Saturday was an adventure.  It took me to a place I had never visited (and otherwise probably never would) and opened my eyes to a sport and a culture I had no knowledge of.  I’m so glad we accepted the invitation and experienced the day!  

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