I was never much of an outdoors child growing up in Australia. I was a book worm most of the time. I’d sit in my room and read or make up stories with pictures books. Sometimes, I’d go on the trampoline in our backyard (one of the death trap ones, not the super-safe fenced in ones you see nowadays – where’s the fun in that?). I’d ride around the neighbourhood on my bike, play in the neighbour’s pool. Those sorts of things. The after-school/weekend sports I did were ten pin bowling and dancing – nothing too outdoorsy.
And then we moved to Jamaica…
Don’t get me wrong, I still read but, while trying to make friends with my new soon-to-be-step-cousins and village kids, I discovered the world of the outdoors. It was a very poor area so people made their own fun. I saw a kid rolling an old bike wheel down the road with a stick and seemingly have a grand old time. It was very different from the relatively privileged life I’d come from in Australia.
I’ll give you a run down of some of the games we played
- Bat and ball – kind of like baseball except your ball was made from an empty ‘box drinks’ box (like the 300ml paper-y carton your milk comes in) stuffed with rubbish and bashed closed. Your bat was your hand. There was a bowler who stood in the middle and threw the ball at you. You then had to hit it and dash to one of the three bases – usually trees or rocks or some other obvious dashing-to point. Meanwhile, the bowler or fielders tried to get you out. This happened when someone caught the ball on the full or when they either threw it at you or tagged you with it before you got to the base. The rest is similar to baseball as you run from base to base trying to get home, followed by each batter that came after you.
- Another game was called site in the middle and used the same box drinks ball. It’s like a cross between piggy in the middle and dodge ball. You have one person at each end and everyone else in the middle. The people at the end try and clock someone with the ball and everyone else scrambles out of the way, trying not to get hit/’out’. This goes on until there’s just one person left and the people at each end are solely focused on them. When the last person gets out, the first two people to get out become the new throwers. There are many variations on this game and you can play with just three people and the throwers just exchange as they get the middle person out. This game always filled me a particular terror at being hit by the ball. Sometimes people put rocks in there and it could be quite painful.
- We also did more traditional things like building treehouses in the big june plum tree down the back or playing ‘house’ and cooking up plants in old tin cans. This ended badly on a number of occasions. Once, we cooked up scotch bonnet peppers and got them in our eyes. Another time, we tore apart some lily plants not realising that the juices are REALLY itchy if you get them on your skin. We got in a bit of trouble that time.
That being said, for all the ant bites, plant mishaps, cuts and bruises, it was much more fun that being cooped up inside, living in a world of the imaginary. It was a huge change for a ten year old and one that, on many occasions was quite tough, even unpleasant or traumatic. But, overall it’s an experience I’m very grateful for as opened my eyes to the different ways the world can be.