Frisbee in Pusunchás

I’m propped up against my backpack, soft straw clinging to my t-shirt when Josh pulls out a Frisbee and asks “Who wants to play?” As we spread out and begin to toss the disc to one another, a few Pusunchás mothers and their children watch from nearby, grinning at the scene: a circle of Americans with straw and nettles clinging to their clothes and grey dust from the road on their sunburned faces, squinting into the late afternoon sun as they chase the Frisbee into the field on one side and down the hill on the other. The school is to one side of us, a few houses and fields with tethered donkeys to another, and the sun hangs over a view of the valley to a third. When Corrie offers the Frisbee to the kids sitting beside her, the little girl giggles and shakes her head, but the little boy shyly tosses it up before Josh grabs it out of the air.

Our game ends, and the two children, their mother Petie, and another woman take our place on the scattered straw, beginning a net-less game of volleyball with a small deflated soccer ball. Petie, who lives right beside the school in the center of town and whom we met on our first day in Pusunchás, catches my eye after she pops the ball up into the air, and I step into the circle. The kids laugh at me as I scramble and dive for the ball, trying to recall what my host sister taught me when she used to trounce me at the game three years ago. Eventually, I am called over to start a meeting with the JASS (the local water committee.) I toss the ball back into the circle and thank the circle of players, feeling just a little more at home.

A few days later, as I write in my journal and watch the others tossing the Frisbee, the kids approach us again, but this time they step into the circle. Miriam, the girl, is a natural, catching with one hand and trying new ways to thrown. Carlitos, her little brother, is still learning, but always has a huge grin on his face, even when the disc sails over his head or bounces off of his hands. As the sun sets over Pusunchás, I join the game, watching the glowing blue from Josh’s light-up Frisbee, and aiming by the voices and vague outlines of the other players. The next day, more children join the game, laughing and chattering at us.

The more time we spend in Pusunchas, the more complicated the project seems. The pipeline route is long; some parts run through farmers’ fields, while others are steep and rocky. The politics of the town are still trickier; choosing and buying a source have become more complicated than we thought, and the size of the community makes communication and unity difficult. But every conversation with a community member, and every Frisbee game with their kids, makes me more invested in completing this project. And while the work that lies ahead is still daunting, I feel more determined than ever to accomplish it.

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