The Drop Continues!

2 August 2007

In my attempt to keep up with what’s going on at work and keeping the updates going, I find that I’ve fallen behind in posting what’s going on with OSC.   

My schedule has been changing from being on the day shift to working nights. On the days that I have the night shift, it’s too late in the evening to drop soccer balls. However, there are some days that we can get off the ground before the sun sets to make a drop now and again. On this particular day we managed to take off just before dinner and do a few checks on the aircraft. My crew was excited because since we’ve been on the night shift and weren’t able to make any drops for a while, the storage container of soccer balls was getting full. We grabbed a few giant bags of soccer balls and set them in the helicopter for our trip.   

In the late afternoon light, we flew across the wadi that stretches over the valley. We knew that the warm summer temperatures would surely draw the kids to play in what little water there still was left. There’s an interesting phenomenon that happens when we start to fly over the wadi. Everyone waves at us! Kids, grownups, people working in the fields…everyone! I remember when we first got in this country the people would just look up and watch us fly by. Now, things seem a bit more inviting. I haven’t seen a kid throwing rocks at us here since we’ve started dropping soccer balls and everyone waves instead. Could it possibly be that the attitude of our presence here has changed that much?   We started dropping soccer balls and kids started running. Another interesting thing we’ve been noticing is that the girls are now getting more involved with catching the soccer balls too. They don’t chase after the helicopter like the boys do, I guess it must be a cultural thing, but the girls will just stand in one place while the boys dart to and fro trying to catch a falling soccer ball. Well, we know that the girls should have just as much of a right to get a soccer ball so we came up with a plan. When we’re flying around and we see a small group of girls standing in the open, we decide if the boys are too close to them. Knowing that the girls won’t move and will just stand there, we move the helicopter away from the girls and make the boys follow us a good distance away from them. We drop a ball or two so that the boys stay in that one general area. Meanwhile, we keep our eyes on the small group of girls standing all by themselves. Once the majority of the boys have shifted away from the girls, we quickly move the helicopter over to where the girls are and drop a ball. The boys never knew what happened. The next thing you know, the girls have a ball in their hands just like we wanted them to.

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 It’s difficult to understand different cultures sometimes. We get set in our own ways and can only picture life the way we live it. How do we open ourselves up to understand that there are more people in this world who do things differently? What makes one culture more right than another? I ask myself questions like these and realize that when the soccer balls are dropping, kids playing and having fun is a good thing no matter what cultural or religious beliefs you may have. Before our flight was over, we scoured the countryside to deposit the last of the few remaining balls we had left. Thanks to my wonderful friend Erica H from Texas, we had the last of her donated soccer balls to give away. We combed the wadi looking for someone who could really use a soccer ball. We were all quiet as we made our way down one of the tributaries to the larger wadi. Suddenly, my crew chief broke the silence with “I got one!” On the right side of the helicopter he saw a small family walking across a small stream of water. We knew it was a perfect place to drop a ball. There was a father, mother and four kids. It looks like they were making their way home from the market. This amazed me because the town center is nearly three miles from where we were. We guessed that this family didn’t have much to their name since they were walking and everything they seemed to have bought at the market was being carried. We circled the helicopter around and just as the family looked up to see what we wanted from them, we dropped the last stars and stripes soccer ball to them. It was a perfect drop. The ball bounced just once and landed with a neat little splash right in front of the dad. He set the heavy bag he had slung over his shoulder and walked the few steps he needed to retrieve the ball. His little kids seemed a bit more surprised than excited and didn’t react much. The mom just stood there under her burqa holding on to their littlest one. The dad then bent down, gave the ball to his little boy, threw his heavy sack over his shoulder and continued to lead his family home. He gave a few glances over to us but no wave or any gestures to say thanks. I guessed that after having a long walk to the market, probably spending more money than he needed to buy the necessities for his family, and having to heave that sack some three or four miles back home, it would take more than a soccer ball to get him excited.     

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I’m sure in time, his kids will have lots of fun with that soccer ball. I’m sure in time the dad will get to smile when he sees his children playing with that same ball. For now, he needed to take his family home. I’m sure he has lots of other things to worry about. At least for right now. 

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4 Responses to “The Drop Continues!”

  1. nyc8675309 Says:

    Princeton,

    I love reading how much you “understand” the conditions and situation on the ground. I was wondering if you know if any of the local (afghanistan) news or press have mentioned your ball drops? Or if anyone has mananged to get thank you notes or the like to the base?

  2. soccerchopper Says:

    We’ve never had any feedback from the local people. The only thing that would come close to feedback would be the smiles and waves we get from the kids. Even if there were things written about the Soccer drops, I doubt that I would be able to read the Pashtu or Urdu writing.

    For me, the smiles are enough for me to keep doing this.

  3. nyc8675309 Says:

    WHAT? you don’t speak Pashtu or Urdu???? ; )

    and smiles are the best.

  4. Michael Mitelman Says:

    What Princeton and his friends are doing worth more than all the demagoguery about diplomacy, “peace efforts” and other cheap propaganda combined!
    That is how the real good will and peace are to be promoted!
    Thanks, Princeton. I will try to get more people involved (donating the soccer balls!).

    Michael


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