My recently acquired litmus test for deciding to live or work somewhere is whether or not I can play tennis there.
I began tennis lessons for the first time in Haiti in August of last year, and when I interviewed for this job, I made sure there was at least one tennis court here. There happen to be five clay courts in three different locations.
On a tour of the town my first week here, we (fellow co-workers and I) went out to the Caribou Hotel where they have two courts. When I say we drove out to it, it really was a long drive on rutted roads. It’s in a beautiful location right on Lake Kivu, but a bit too far to drive to two or three times a week. That was out.
Two weeks ago I checked out the two courts at the Ihusi Hotel, also on the lake, but within two minutes of the Rwanda border. When I asked around the court for the tennis pro, a short man holding a broom and wearing a navy blue gardner’s uniform approached. He said he was the tennis pro. I had a hard time believing him, but I asked how much it cost to play there--$100 per month-- plus the price for lessons--$5 per lesson.
I wasn’t too keen on the Ihusi, and mentioned that I wanted to play tennis to a local staff person, B, who helped me with the shopping excursion.
“Oh, there’s a court at the Cercle Sportif.” I’d been trying to figure out where exactly that was.
I asked if he could take me after work. He agreed and said we could walk there!
Just a three minute walk from the office and four minutes from my house-- literally around the corner-- is a public sports center. On first glance I wasn’t too impressed. Run-down at best, all the center contains is an open area with a tennis court at one end and a basketball court on the other.
B and I could see two guys playing a match and a few spectators sitting and standing around. We stepped through the turquoise-painted wooden gate and walked to where a few others were lounging in plastic chairs. One of them saw us and brought us two chairs to sit in. I hoped we weren’t imposing. He asked if we wanted to talk to the coach. Yes, exactly why we had come. I also hoped the coach looked a little more like he knew what he was doing than the guy at Ihusi.
Our host/facilitator called in Swahili to one of the guys playing and he came over to us. Since I’d just been admiring his tennis abilities, I was pleased when he introduced himself as the coach. After a few social pleasantries and introductions, I asked prices.
“How much for the court?” $30 a month. “No matter how many times I play?” Great!
“How much for lessons?” $5 per lesson and $1 for the ball boy. Nice.
It’s been two weeks since I started playing with Coach B, who happens to be ranked #2 in all of Congo and Rwanda.