[Noozhawk note: Sloan Hanson, 14, of Santa Barbara is visiting a poor, seaside village in Costa Rica and leading a soccer camp he helped create, called Clinica de Futbol Pura Vida. This is the fifth of five installments about his experience. Click here for the first one. Click here for the second one. Click here for the third one. Click here for the fourth one.]

July 11, 2014

Final day of camp. When we got to the field in the morning, the kids were fanatical, voices raised, big eyes. They had seen a crocodile in the swamp, where it lives across the street from the field. They said they threw rocks at it to make it go away.

Apparently, in games, teams will overshoot the goal and the ball lands in the swamp. Someone must go get it. I went with Dennis to look at some geese next to the swamp. Dennis is planning to get guard geese for his home. Dogs don’t live long here due to ticks, snakes and crocodiles, so some people use geese instead of dogs to protect their property.

Today we played a game called World Cup, in which kids pick a partner, pick a national team and then battle each other in knock-out stages. In the championship, strangely enough, we had Argentina against Germany. In this competition, Argentina won. We will see soon enough who the real victor is.

We were going to also scrimmage, but the kids wanted to play Steal the Bacon instead, so that’s what we did.

In our closing ceremony, we donated our 39 balls to the town’s children and women’s teams. We hoped they would share the blessing with other teams in the area. We gave each of the kids a compliment about their work in camp so that they can be encouraged to continue to improve.

soccer camp

Two of the young participants. (Sloan Hanson photo)

Camp was over. I hoped it had made a difference for these kids. It had for me.

Dennis and Kyle invited us to go see a waterfall. As we walked under the canopy to the waterfall, the sun drifted away — as did the heat. The waterfall had eroded the rocks in such a way that had created deep pools. We jumped off rocks high above these pools.

All around us was rainforest. It smelled musty. When we walked out, we saw many squirrel monkeys running around in the trees. After our trip to the waterfall, we went surfing.

We went from rainforest to ocean and then back to futbol, the quintessential Costa Rican day. That night we were at the field to watch Esterillos’ men’s team play. Several of the kids from camp were there as well as many of the villagers. Sitting on concrete bleachers with a gentle breeze blowing, the cheering grew louder as the final whistle blew — Esterillos had won, 5-3.

We began and ended our time in Costa Rica with soccer — an ideal experience.

— Sloan Hanson, 14, resides in Santa Barbara.