Capturar La Bandera
Capture the Flag, a game in which players try to “capture the flag” of the opposing team without being caught, remained—and still remains—among the games I enjoyed playing the most while growing up. I liked few other games, for I was a sore loser and a poor sport, and I did not like games at which I frequently lost. Capture the Flag, however, led me to eventually pronounce myself the queen of the game, for I have completed many successful attempts over the years at capturing the other teams’ flags. My earliest memories of successfully playing the game come from my middle school P.E. class, where I proved my athleticism, tact, and competitiveness by first waiting until the other team’s players became too consumed with stopping my fellow teammates’ efforts at obtaining the flag before I sprinted across the field, skillfully dodging the outstretched hands of rival players. Unfortunately, since middle school, I have had little free time and therefore have played this game rarely—that is, until I introduced the game to the Paraguayan youth, who immediately became enamored with Capturar la Bandera.
Although the responses of the students at Paso Jhu’s elementary school reflected the obsession Paraguayans generally seem to have with soccer, not every child I met enjoyed el partido as much as the next. Most of the time, when the students organized a soccer game, the younger children and the girls chose not to play, denying even the Americans’ calls for them to join the game; in contrast, no one ever chose not to play Capture the Flag. A few times, the students preferred to play my favorite childhood game over soccer, as everyone enjoyed the quickness and excitement Capture the Flag entailed. Furthermore, the children would often invite my fellow American volunteers and me to play Capture the Flag at their homes: “¿Pueden venir a mi casa ésta tarde para jugar ‘la bandera’?” The young Paraguayans did not mind that their yards had limited space, nor that each team consisted of only a few players; each consecutive game became more and more competitive, as the children tied dozens of knots in the flags and placed the flags as high as they could on the poles.
The game’s essence came not only from the ease with which I managed to explain the rules in a foreign language, but also how every child openly accepted the American game and excitedly participated in every round, as signified by their joyful cries of “otra vez, otra vez.” Even though I faced the difficulties of a double language barrier, I still connected with the youth, which helped eliminate the initial qualms I had about working alongside them. Moreover, playing such a familiar game in a foreign place allowed me to feel more comfortable with both the environment and the people around me. Never again did I hear the shy uttering of “Me gusta el partido;” from the day I introduced the game, all I ever heard was a chorus of high voices chanting, “¡Bandera! ¡Bandera!”
– Andrea, AMIGOS Alum
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