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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Building bridges: Students from abroad bond with DC SCORES students through poetry, soccer

Written by Mir'ed Asfour
DC SCORES intern

The bus stopped, the doors opened, and 18 young ladies walked off. These girls, all soccer players, had traveled over 7,000 miles from India and Pakistan to participate in the first dual soccer exchange.

The dual soccer exchange is a 10-day program for the girls from Pakistan and India to learn about the United States by interacting with young athletes and discovering how on-the-field success translates to classroom success. This exchange included a stop at Tubman Elementary School, last Monday, to participate in a DC SCORES poetry writing session, and then to kick around the soccer ball with the DC SCORES students. 

As the girls filtered into a classroom full of young poets, a soft sound of Tubman students chit chatting amongst themselves rose. There was a sense of curiosity in the room. 

Cory Chimka, DC SCORES Program Director, took over the room, and introduced the young girls from across the ocean. He explained to everyone that they were to get into two circles, an inner circle, and an outer circle. Both circles, comprised of Tubman students as well as the girls from India and Pakistan, faced each other and took part in an ice-breaking exercise. 

Each partner introduced themselves then spoke about where they were from, what they liked to eat, what they liked to do, and their favorite song and dance -- before moving on to another partner. After the students and guests had gotten to know each other and the ice was thawed, they found a desk and began the poetry session. 

Each student wrote about where they were from, talking about the sights, scents, sounds, and feelings of their origin. Mamoona, from Islamabad, Pakistan, volunteered to read her poem out loud. She raised her voice and begun speaking: 

Islamabad is where I’m from. 
Islamabad sounds like birds chirping the morning and noisy traffic in the afternoon, 
Islamabad tastes like delicious chien quemos, biryanis, dani ballay and corn baked in hot sand, Islamabad smells like sweet Jasmine, roses in spring, and ‘raat ki rani’ at night, 
Islamabad feels like a secure home with my friends and relatives around, 
Islamabad looks like heaven on Earth with the lush green Margalla Hills shading the city, 
In Islamabad we like to be active all day, so we are studying, playing soccer, and working all day, 
In Islamabad we like to sleep like an angel at night, 
Islamabad is where I’m from, 
I’m from Islamabad.

After presenting her poem, the sound of a thunderous applause in the form of snapping fingers took over the room. When Cory asked if there were any more volunteers, eager hands sprung up, kids desperate to share their poems. Many more poems followed. 

Kolhapur is where I’m from. 
Kolhapur sounds like prayers and children on the field, 
Kolhapur smells like spicy meat... Kolhapur smells like mcd’s meal, 
Kolhapur feels like hot, hot heat, 
In Kolhapur we like to play football all day, 
In Kolhapur we like to facebook all night, 
Kolhapur is where I’m from, 
I’m from Kolhapur.

The girls from India and Pakistan were not the only ones to share. Tubman students also shared their unique backgrounds, which included DC, but also various other areas. 

El Salvador is where I’m from. 
El Salvador sounds like people screaming and playing soccer, 
El Salvador tastes like frijoles, 
El Salvador smells like smoke and gas, 
El Salvador feels burning hot, 
El Salvador looks like houses, cars, and buses, 
In El Salvador we like to party and ride bicycles all day, 
In El Salvador we like to eat all night, 
El Salvador is where I’m from, 
I’m from El Salvador.

DC is where I’m from. 
DC sounds like people talking out loud, 
DC tastes like pizza with pepperoni, 
DC smells like carry out and roses, sweet, sweet, watery, 
DC looks gorgeous and nice, 
In Washington we like to play soccer all day, 
In Washington we like to watch TV all night, 
DC is where I’m from, 
I’m from DC. 

After sharing the poems they had written, I talked to the Tubman students and guests from India and Pakistan about their shared experience. 

“I liked how easy it was to share,” said Tubman’s Joshua. “It was amazing, because Pakistan and India are far away from here, and that shows how much they care about us.” 

Added Jasmine: “What I liked about everyone coming is getting to know everybody, where they’re from, how they do, their age … I learned how many people are from different places, from everywhere all over the globe.” 

The students from abroad had similar sentiments about the DC students. 

“I like the kids a lot,” said Chinto from India. “They were very cooperative and they came up on their own, I like their confidence. Most kids don’t come up on stage and don’t speak … but they had the right spirit to come up on stage. I had a great experience with the kids.” 

After their poetry session, all the girls hit the pitch. They split up into teams, mixing girls from India and Pakistan with girls from here. They passed the ball around, bonding as teammates, not being afraid to talk to with one another. The girls ran around the field in a competitive match that saw four goals, with three from one side and one from the other. 

At the end of the day, everyone had something to celebrate. The girls brought it in, then said their goodbyes. 

Everyone who got to be a part of the experience will cherish it. The girls from India and Pakistan were thankful and gracious for the opportunity, and the warm welcoming. The girls from Tubman were just as thankful to have the guests visit them.

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