I like to play tennis early in the morning before work. I love to play at Cercle Sportif at that time in the morning because the top of the volcano is visible in the clear morning air. I take inspiration from the majesty of the volcano just as I used to be inspired by seeing the Citadel sitting in the distant mountains when I worked out along the bay in Cap Haitien in Haiti.
This morning when I met Coach B at the court at 6 am just as it was light enough to see a tennis ball on the court, he greeted me with, “Bonjour, Maman Champion!”. “Um, not yet!”, I responded as we walked through the gate.
Coach B is doing his best to make me a champion. This morning I ran the version of tennis suicides. He placed tennis balls on each intersection of the court and had me run forwards to get each ball and run backwards to place them all on the racket at the back of the court then replace them all again. This is his strategy to improve my lung capacity because, frankly, at an altitude of 4,820 feet, I could use an oxygen tank after playing hard tennis for 10 minutes.
Even though I’m not yet a champion, I have spectators every morning. The court is surrounded by various forms of fencing- but mostly some oversized chicken-wire on denuded tree branches that serve as posts. There is a constant stream of people walking by the far end walking past on their way to or from their homes higher up the hill. Many of them- women dressed in their colorful pegne, soldiers in their green army fatigues, children on their way to school- stop for a few minutes and watch.
Do the women think I’m crazy playing a sport in a short white tennis skirt? Do they wish they could play, too? Do they just stop to take in the spectacle of a white girl in their neighborhood playing on their tennis court?
This morning I asked Coach B about the roofless building with the partially destroyed stone walls that sits overlooking the court. It does have “Cercle Sportif” painted on the front, but has lots of other graffiti as well including a red snake. Apparently, it and the hill above are part of the sports center. There used to be a pool, club house and extensive grounds, but they were destroyed in the war. All that remains is the rehabilitated tennis court that a foreigner helped to restore and the basketball court.
Despite the seen-better-days appearance, Coach B told me they do host tournaments there, so maybe one day I really will be Maman Champion.