Thursday, January 31, 2008

How I Almost Got Stuck in a Third World Country...

...Without Wallet, Passport, Money, Cell Phone or Friends

Maracas Beach, Trinidad

Back when I was in college, pre-bad knees and real responsibilities, I was trying to rise in the world of rugby. USA rugby, while not being well respected worldwide, has a lot of programs in place to change this. One such program, is a fluid traveling developmental team known as Atlantis. It is coached by one of the US coaches (at the time) and it's main goal is to promote newer players with potential to the national level of rugby. At the time, while playing for my college, I also played on the Midwest 7s Thunderbird Allstar team and several other traveling tournament teams. I got invited to travel to Trinidad to play for the Atlantis squad in my first international 7s tournament. I was pretty young, really broke and in the middle of finals during the trip, but I just couldn't say no. So I took my finals early and jumped on a plane to Trinidad.

Arriving was a crazy eye opening experience. It was my first real trip out of the country (besides Canada, Mexico or Jamaica) and my first trip traveling alone. I had to take a taxi about 50 miles at midnight to our hotel and pay for it in TTs. Pretty sure I got ripped off right off the bat. So I arrive really late, was sent to a room by myself and just passed out in the strange bed immediately. I wasn't even sure when we were supposed to get up or who to look for, but soon I heard the noises of other rugby players laughing and causing ruckus in the hallway so I knew it was breakfast time. I was soon moved to a room with another player and started to feel more comfortable as I got to know the others. I was happy that there were a couple of other college players that could share in the jokes about our age and rookie status.

The following week of rugby was one of the most amazing weeks of my life. As we practiced I had the opportunity to learn from one of the best coaches in the US, as well as play with some awesome players. We also visited a lot of local attractions like the beach, a horse race, authentic dinners, and of course a little nightlife. We destroyed at the tournament, and after our last game, I just remember a team of Scottish boys giving us a bottle of scotch from their sponsor, which we proceeded to taste test. Needless to say, us poor little college rookies got toasted.

So later that night, we found ourselves at out late and in no shape to walk home, so taxi it was. The team was flying out early the next morning, all except me. Since I was a college student done for Christmas break, I decided to stay in the country a couple of extra days and a player from the Trinidad National team had offered to host me. I wasn't sure what her name was, just that she was going to contact me at the hotel to arrange a pickup. The following morning, I wake up bleary eyed at like 7am because the phone is ringing. Hmm, I realize that my roommate is already gone to the airport and I am very perplexed by the phone. Who could be calling? So I grab it and it is the front desk, explaining that some taxi cab driver is there and thinks he might have my purse? Whaaha??? OMG, my purse is nowhere to be found.

I realize that I must have lost it the previous night. Because I am an idiot and had not traveled a lot internationally, I had everything in that purse. Money, cell, passport, contact number for my host, aka my proven life in America. And somehow, this incredible taxi driver had decided to bring it to the hotel where he thought he dropped off the person who lost it and cared enough to track down my name and call my room. I rushed down and got it from him, after emptying my cash into his hands as a thank you. Thank god there was no need to call the embassy considering my whole team was apparently already gone from the hotel. Trinidad may be a country where a lot of folks are hard up for money and struggle to get by, but I met the taxi driver with a heart of gold.

Later that day, I got rounded up by my rugger host and taken to her house on the top of a mountain. It was an incredible way to get a view of real life there. She called up her teammates and they met us at 4pm to have a lime for me (party) and laughed the whole night at my funny accent. I left that country thinking that islanders have it right. It has this amazing laid back attitude, I felt the people to be very genuine and amazing, and of course, can't beat the beach and weather.

Side Note: Of the 10 rugby players I played with that weekend (many of which were brand new to the game of 7s), I believe at least 5 are now Eagles (national team players). Some of them are among the best in the country as we speak. And I got to know them as skinny rookies. I went on to play for the U23 Eagles before injury and work made me take a step back from upper level rugby. I still think about what could have been. But I am happy with my rugby career as a whole, and as I drop over the retirement (permanent injured reserve) wall I remember how much I have gotten from rugby and how much I will miss it.


megan said...

hannah- i had no idea you were such a badass. i'm sorry work & an injury forced you to end your young career... but i am glad it slowed you down enough to find frisbee!!! ultimate just wouldn't be the same without you.

i <3 you!!!

chris thomas said...

Hannah, Current Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, who is also the host of several travel/sports shows, is in England doing a story on rugby. He's even going to play flanker on one of the open teams, in the EDF cup. check it out.

la chaser said...

wow i would love to hear how his experiences at flanker go. it is a very tough position which requires constant running, tackling, and knowing where to go. he will probably get his ass kicked i would imagine, cause the game doesn't slow down for newbies.

bettymountaingirl said...

Absolutely wild story with great happenstance. I'm psyched to hear that your items were returned to you. When I was at Green Mountain College in Vermont I ended up dorming on the rugby floor. Wild bunch of ladies I tell ya.