Picture this: You are standing in the middle of a soccer pitch, the game in full force. The people around you are yelling to one another in a language you don’t know. Forget about not knowing the language, you look around and realize you don’t even know who is on your team. No one is wearing uniforms, and your one friend here has just been benched. And then the ball lands at your feet. Adrenalin kicks in and you run, kicking the ball, praying it’s in the right direction. You see someone shouting at you and you pass the ball off. They kick, the goalkeeper misses, and a goal is scored! You rush over to your teammate and suddenly you are both surrounded by an ecstatic group of ladies cheering and singing! The game is over, and we won!
This was my first experience playing a game I love, on the field as a newly arrived cross-cultural worker. I haven’t included the moments when the ball came to me and I missed it or the time (s) when I kicked it straight to the other team, but trust me those moments are there in full force! I joined this team in a bid to find fun on the field. And it was embarrassing, often awkward, slightly nerve-racking, but oh so, so much fun!
Do you ever wake up and feel like its groundhog day? For me, newly arrived on the field, my number one activity was to learn the language and the culture around me (it still is—turns out this is one of those life-long endeavors). I would wake in the morning and do a language lesson until midday, and then I would spend most of the afternoon in revision.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend this time investing in language and count it as a privilege. Yet, some days I felt like my life was on repeat. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy what I was getting to do and learn, but everything just felt so full on ALL the time. It didn’t take long to realize that what I was missing was the F factor- fun!
I love sports, but I wasn’t doing any here. So I went to my one friend’s house and told her (in my limited Portuguese) how I would love to join a basketball team. I LOVE basketball and would love to play. My friend told me how she was actually on a team and could get me a spot that weekend, how convenient!
However, as you know from the first paragraph, it was not a basketball team I was joining. Imagine my surprise when we drove far out of the city to a random field. I was still looking for the hoops when my friend passed me some knee-high socks and a soccer ball.
Finding fun on the field can be awkward. For me, it was also confusing and a little nerve-racking. It often looks different in our host country to what it did in our passport country. But the results of finding fun are the same. It helps you to love where you are, it connects you with the people you’re finding fun with, and it gives you a freshness as you step into each day.
Finding fun can look different for everyone, and changes depending on the season you are in. I hurt my foot six months after joining the soccer team and could no longer play. But by that time, I had made a group of friends, and fun was found visiting with them.
Fun is a short-term pleasure, with long-term effects. Maybe it’s reading a book in the hammock, or going out for a good coffee with a friend. It could be hosting a party, or walking along the beach at sunset. Having fun allows us to lift our eyes, even just for a moment, from the heavy toil we might be in and see a bigger picture. The picture God has given us to live in.
How have you found fun where you are?