Sunday, March 9, 2008

Out for Blood

My best volleyball buddy from California, Bill Sablan, just so happens to have been born and raised on Guam. And so, since he is here for a month to spend time with his extended family, I thought I'd take him to PIBC to introduce him to volleyball, Chuukese style! You see, every weekend, I play volleyball from 9:00-11:00 p.m. with primarily Chuukese students. (We don't play earlier in the day because it is too hot). And so, Bill and I enjoyed an hour and a half of fairly competitive volleyball. I say fairly competitive because of the nature of the play. This term has no bearing on the ability of the players. You see, they are all very talented. They pass, set and hit quite well, often extremely well; however, they are seldom American-style competitive. I was telling a friend how I sometimes want to shake them and say, "OK! I KNOW you guys can play--come on, let's play for blood!" My friend commented that this was quite the spiritual picture of a missionary! (Yes, I know, I do tend to be a bit competitive). But, it's true. The Chuukese just don't have that same love for the intensity of the competition that we have in the States. And this is the backdrop for this particular story.

As the night wore on, Bill and I went from playing six on six to five on five and then four on four. By 10:30 p.m., all the students had wandered off save two. "Come on!" With a wide grin I entreated those two students, "Let's play two-on-two. Bill and I will whoop you!" I'm not sure they knew exactly what "whoop" meant but, thank goodness, they were willing to stay and play. Bill and I were thrilled, of course, being the complete die-hards that we are. You have to remember, by this point we'd already played rigorously for 1-1/2 hours, we're over twice these young men's ages, we were sweating in the humidity and dehydrated (yes, perhaps my competitiveness is showing a
little). And so the game commenced. Bill and I were calling out the score after EVERY point earned (not the typical Chuukese way of doing things). It was neck and neck throughout the entire game. At one point, when Bill and I were leading by one point, our opposing player very sincerely proclaimed, "You guys are whooping us!" "No, not YET," I graciously replied. The game swung back and forth with us leading by one or two points and then our competitors leading by one or two points. Ultimately, those young, buffed, used to this hot weather, fully-hydrated students beat Bill and I by one point. But, not to be deterred by this, Bill and I challenged them to another game. They shrugged and accepted while Bill and I determined in our hearts to "whoop em" this time (instead we should have gotten a drink of water!). The second game was much like the first until near the end. Our rivals had gained a five point lead and Bill and I were losing steam quickly. Give up? Never! "Anything goes" we encouraged each other--this translates: "Get points by any means possible!" Our Chuukese opponents conferred with each other at this point also. It was their serve, the ball hit into the net. We scored a point AND got the ball. Yes! We served, they passed, set, and when it was time to hit, they spiked the ball into the net. It was then that I realized what was going on. Our contenders were too skilled to make that many errors. They were purposely losing! I'm not sure if they would have given the entire game to us or just made the score REALLY close. The Chuukese simply will not trounce a "friend." I have seen this consistently in their culture. They could not comprehend that Bill and I would have much preferred losing fairly and squarely (because we would just challenge them next weekend when we would be refreshed and then we'd whoop em!). For them, and their culture, it is not kind to "beat" a friend and so they don't. They have too much of a sense of "group." They are too aware of how their opponents may be feeling and would never want to shame them. Although, being an American, I prefer my "In the game, go for blood" mentality, there's something very beautiful about this Chuukese way of doing things. I think when it comes to my interaction with people (not sports), I need to become more Chuukese.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:10

1 comment:

SLS said...

You may not realize this but your competetiveness kinda overwhelmed us in the United States as well :) Wish I had thought of the "let her win" strategy. I don't think I could have followed through with it, though. Competing with you is just way too fun!