By Kirsten Dobler
June 11, 2015
Shortly before I left to come to Malawi we lost Toni Marciniak. I have tried to describe who Toni was to me in many ways but each way seems too short. Toni was a brilliant football (soccer) coach, hollering at us from the sidelines to get on our bikes, ensuring us of our abilities on the sidelines, and encouraging us in times of doubt. Rage was more than just a soccer team that played on the weekends. We travelled together, we warmed up in sync, and we played with a connection that I have not experienced on a football team since. Our success, even though we were so young at the time, had a large part in the ways that Toni, and Erros, coached us. As a player that definitely developed after the first season I can completely attest to the unconditional support that Toni gave me, and my love of the game. Toni’s presence in my life stretched past the field; as a father to three awesome people (sometimes I even thought that Chase had some Toni aspects) and a counselor at school that I know would always be available for a chat, but he came the most alive on the football pitch. It was here that we shared some amazing wins and some very, very tough losses. At the end of the day Rage is a part of my life that I will always look back on and smile, many parts in thanks to Toni.
I have been in Malawi for two weeks now and I have been thinking about Toni a lot this week. At the beginning of the week Marten began a week of football matches, so I have been watching a lot of football. Each day I think a little while longer about Toni and about football. As I stood on the sidelines today I began to think about football and the ways that it brings together communities. It is especially visible in Kasungu, the area that we are in, because each team brings with them their community. Men young and old line the sidelines with their arms folded as they watch the U20 players fight for village pride. Children are dancing on the sidelines waiting for a goal to be scored so they can run onto the field and celebrate. A sense of community that I have witnessed in no other location has come to life in a way that celebrates whole communities. I know that in Canada this is something that we might feel more when we are watching hockey, but I can’t help but imagine Toni standing on the sidelines here, watching the lads.
I have come to the realization of the importance of football in the world. Football is a language that translates into all languages. The objectives and the rules are universal, while the spirit is infectious. Sports are so critical in communities and they create bonds between members and the community. Every night our Campus field comes to life as people crowd the sidelines. Every night I smile when I think of how excited and proud Toni would be for me being here and to know that football is such an important element. On the very last game that we played as Rage, Toni gathered us together and asked us if we knew what carpe diem meant. Of course we were fifteen, so we didn’t know, and I remember how pinnacle it was for me. This was the closest that we came to provincials and as we circled around Toni and he expressed to us (in a very Robin Williams circa Dead Poets Society) that this was an opportunity for us to live in the moment. I have never played as hard as I did in that game. I remember so clearly so much of the game, most particularly when Julie scored the first goal and it was the first glimpse of our future as a team. Of course we all know of the tears that were shed at the end of that game, but carpe diem stayed.
There are many moments when I am running for student government at Bishop’s or deciding which European country that I am going to visit while au pairing in Italy that I think carpe diem. I am very sad that I was not able to come home to give Hills, Kate and Jord big hugs, but I know that the rest of the community was there. However I know that Toni would be proud and probably would love to hear about the influence of football, even in small villages of Malawi, Africa. I have recently began thanking my parents for raising me with the confidence to go all the places that I have gone, but I have many other people that I should also be thanking. Toni shared with us so much of himself, leaving everything that he shared with us to live on, both on and off the football pitch. Toni shaped us football girls with his leadership, his passion, and his belief in all of us. For that I am forever grateful. RIP Toni.
By Marten Sealy
This has been such a detour. I used to look at a thick book and wonder where the author found the fuel to fill many pages. I was an avid young reader, but I often worry that the time might come when I would be called upon to contribute back to the pool of knowledge from which I quenched my thirst. I was intimidated. I’m a perfectionist, which means that the nozzle controlling my flow of thought onto the page is slow. Some unseen power is confining me to a sad little leaking dribble. Give me a fire hose. Let me soak everything. It’s frustrating. Woe is me. I’m reflecting now, and realizing how silly that fear of authoring a big book really is. Have some humility, Marten.
The truth is, a “fire hose” would do me no good. What reservoir do I really have to pull from? I walk around, eyes wide open and head held high convinced that I see a lot, but I’m a little bit full of myself! Patience Marty, you’ll be an elder someday. Keep those eyes open, but don’t worry about preaching at the ripe age twenty. You’ve got to be young and dumb before you can ever hope to be old and wise. Perhaps someday I will organize myself and decide upon a collection of thoughts cohesive and important enough to be ‘book worthy’. For now, let me share what has perked my senses recently, coupled with some modest insights.
Friere, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. NY, New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
By Marten Sealy
Canada seems such a distant place already. I’ve been absent in my role as a “westerner” for a week so far, cocooning, preparing to return home a new person. What happens in the cocoon, mind you, is a very active process.
Living on the new Campus, which is still under construction, is a bizarre sort of stark utopia. The hostel in which we are living is at the heart of the Campus, and during the day it is surrounded by locals whom have been hired as cooks, cleaners, carpenters, painters, security, and more. The employees work hard, but it is not uncommon to find several workers taking a break in the shade between jobs. I’ve found it very rewarding to join them and converse about whatever happens to be on my mind. People tend to have uniquely interesting perspectives which surface as soon as you switch off autopilot, and I’m having no trouble at all achieving that. I think people in any setting strive for genuine human interaction, but colourful ads and screens can distract them. People here don’t get distracted.
My co-learner, a phys-ed teacher and football coach at the local secondary school, loves to discuss the differences between his country and Canada. We share a rich dialogue. I practice honesty and modesty, admitting that our wealth can bring comfort to life, but preaching that full bellies and big TVs aren’t the holy grail that they’re built up to be. If there is a life of ultimate quality, then it contains something far more profound.
As a footballer, I’ve had punctuality drilled into my head as a key element of respect. Multiple coaches have reinforced: If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. You can show a coach that you’re worth their time by being well nourished, rested, dressed, warmed up, and otherwise fully prepared both mentally and physically before they even arrive. The attitudes in Malawi are different. My co-learner and I have begun referring to the two mentalities as “African time” and “Canadian time”. When deciding upon a meeting time we make sure to distinguish which mentality will be used. When my co-learner arrives before me, he might tease, “today I was the Canadian and you were the African”. These are obviously massive generalizations, but I laugh and accept the title with pride.
The reason that 1pm can casually turn into 2 or 3 or 4pm is not just due to a lack of clocks and watches. I walked with my co-learner to visit and deliver a message to six villages yesterday, and it was a great chance to practice my greetings and conversational Chechewa. We stopped to chat with villagers somewhere between 50-100 times along the way. Greetings in Chechewa are very thorough. When you run into a group, you often greet each individual separately, and when a group is meeting with another group, the time taken is multiplied.
Even though we had a lot of ground to cover, there wasn’t the faintest sense that we were in a rush. We’ll get there when we get there. We walked for hours in the hot sun, and my legs became tired, but my mind was still fresh. My thoughts were racing the entire time, but distance covered is not what tires the mind. It is the burden of stress that saps the mind of its energy – I vow to be forever weary of accumulating stress after I return to Canada.
About the Blog
From 2013 to 2017 students participating in Transformative Praxis: Malawi wrote blog posts reflecting on their experiences of participating in action research in Malawi.