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To Play

The day began with a light trek of sorts. As with all of our mornings in the Chin state, it was chilly and many large spiders peered down on us as we walked. I’ve grown rather fond of arachnids, yet I couldn’t help but shiver at the sheer size of some of them. Following our twenty minute walk, all of us were sitting in new lodgings sipping some warm sweet tea. After quenching my thirst, I stepped out onto the porch and began to examine my surroundings.

Our house was located in the corner of two dirt roads that intersected in the middle of the village. The other quadrants contained a garden with a massive gourd, a small house with a pile of gravel next to it and a patch of tall grass respectively. The pile of gravel soon garnered my attention as a group of young boys, probably ten years old more or less, were staring at me.

I started down a set of steps leading in the direction of the intersection, when the boys scattered. At the bottom of the steps I took a seat on a small slab concrete partially under the house and made my self look small and less intimidating. Soon enough, the kids returned to their pile of rocks and began looking my way once more. One of the boys made a circle motion around his ear and pointed at me with his finger. Unsure how else to respond, I mimicked his action and pointed back at him. The whole group giggled and slowly two more boys crept out from behind the pile. This set into motion a game of me copying them and making them laugh. I carefully crept toward them while maintaining my mimicry. Soon enough the young man who had begun our interaction with his gesture stood facing me a few yards away. I held my hand out to the frontrunner and he shook it briefly before hopping back into his group of friends. With no verbal way of communicating with these kids, I used my hands to form the shape of a ball and made a kicking motion. This was a question and the answer was a series of wide grins. I ran inside to grab a ball and upon my return I was greeted by even more kids who had seemingly materialized out of thin air. How this game was going to work was beyond me at this point so I tossed the ball to the group and hoped for the best.

Almost instantly, a game of keep away began with the teams being all of them vs. all of me. After a few minutes even more kids appeared and the game had grown to around 20 people. If I managed to get the ball I was instantly swamped and I quickly grew fatigued by the effort of being a one man team. At this point I retired to the sidelines and simply watched as all the smiling kids kept passing and running around with the ball. Without speaking any words we had all grinned, laughed and had a time. The universal language of play had been at work and I was grateful to have been a part of it.