[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 fourth of five installments about his experience. Click here for the first one. Click here for the second one. Click here for the third one.]

July 10, 2014

An iguana greeted us when we got to the field today, looking over its shoulder at us from a tree whose branches draped to the ground. Out on the field the sun burned on our backs and our T-shirts were instantly damp with sweat already.

Today we had a busier day. We had at least 10 more people than yesterday and about six mothers watching. We also had more kids arriving 30 minutes or more before camp starts, most of them from a squatters’ camp located near the field.

Brandon, who also lives nearby and is one of the most helpful kids, arrived at around the time we did — at 7:10 a.m. Before camp started, I took shots with all of them in goal at once. Manuel loves to play goalie and is very good at it. He is the brother of Randall, who we moved from the younger group to the older group due to his advanced skill.

There is a lot of sibling camaraderie in our camp. Many kids are related, and when one gets hurt the other is there to help. A younger kid named Johan got injured today and his brother, Jefferson, instantly left our drill and went to comfort his brother and retaliate if necessary.

Camilla and Alexa tied for the most points for the younger girls, so we had another shootout, which is exciting. Pulling Camilla into a huddle, Brandon coached her where to put the ball. Katrine whispered in Alexa’s ear, pointing and nodding advice for her shot. In the end, it was Camilla who got the most goals. After the shootout, Kyle, Pastor Dennis’ wife, and also a great help with our organization, bought each of the kids a homemade ice cream that came in a baggie. I had coconut ice cream, which tasted very real — like it just fell out of the tree and froze.

soccer camp

A friendly game of soccer on a black sand beach in Costa Rica. (Sloan Hanson photo)

In the afternoon, we were invited to play soccer on the beach with some men from the village. It was a true Costa Rican experience. Black sand beach with jungle all around. Old coconuts littered the edges of the beach, clouds stretched over a sunset. Both teams were intent on winning and yet also relaxed. My team lost, but it was extremely fun.

Shortly after, Dennis and Hidel, who gardens for Pura Vida and is a skilled soccer player, gave us coconuts by hitting them out of the tree with a stick as a possum hissed at them from between the coconuts. One got stuck, so Dennis’ relative climbed the tree and knocked it down. They chopped them with a machete and we drank straight from the coconut. Dennis said there were different tastes for each coconut — sweet, salty, watery. Mine was salty.

A full moon rose above the clouds as we went to the ocean to wash off the sand and sweat, then we headed back to our hotel.

— Sloan Hanson, 14, resides in Santa Barbara.