Beach volleyball became a significant part of my life while I was living on the island of Roatán in Honduras. Almost every day, I would play. We would meet at 4 pm, at the End of the World Beach Bar in the West End. The court was situated perfectly on the beach, with a lovely shallow area to swim and cool off after a game. The bar next to it was local run, offering up an incredible menu, one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had, and always a cold beer.
At first, the group was relatively consistent and small, but people started coming to watch, sit and chat, and have a beer and then more and more people began to play. The volleyball crew was ever-evolving, but it was a wonderful mix of Italians, Argentinians, Canadians, Spanish, Honduran, American, and Swiss when I arrived. We would play from 4 pm until sunset. It was such a beautiful way to watch the sunset. We were in paradise.
The morning Sessions
Quickly, the group ballooned, and we had to start playing in shifts. Some of us would go a little earlier to play. Then COVID hit. The situation changed, and the uncertainty of transmission split the group apart. At first, I stopped playing because the situation was tense, we had a curfew and police presence was high. My villa bubble decided to create a morning session, so every day at 9 am, we would head to the beach for 2 hours of two-on-two. Not only did this keep us fit, but it also secured golden brown tans and luscious highlights in our hair. Our volley anthem became “The Living is Easy” by Guts.
Before COVID, between matches, one of the players who would later become a good friend of mine, brought mate to drink. Mate is a popular drink in the southern part of South America. In this instance, it came from Argentina, where my friend is from. It is harvested, dried, and cut then packaged for consumption. When you prepare the drink, you use a gourd with a bombilla, a metal straw with metal rings at the bottom that act as a sieve to keep the leaves out. Mate is an energizing drink; it gives you a more even-keeled boost compared with coffee. Considered the drink of friendship in Argentina; it is meant to be shared. I enjoyed the ritual of making the mate and sharing it with friends.
After a few weeks, things began to relax, and the group decided to organize a volleyball tournament. At this point, cases were low, and most of us coexisted in each other’s bubbles, the funny thing about islands. The tournament would be an epic battle. We selected captains, strategies devised, and everyone began to train seriously.
I am a competitive player, and I wanted to win. I had been nicknamed ‘Chung-Lee’ after the Street Fighter character because of the integrated martial arts movements I would use during play. Every player had a style and a nickname. Our Team was ‘The Absolute Beauts’.
An epic battled unsued, as the teams of four gave their everything to be the champions. In the end, our team won! We had such an eclectic group of people who came together of all skill levels, playing together, and making incredible memories. We had our little community that had blossomed and grew into this extraordinary family of ex-pats and locals from the island.
Volleyball in Roatán
In Roatán, volleyball is a popular sport because of the easiness of play and the tropical weather’s suitability. In Honduras, especially Roatán, Volleyball is an integral part of life and culture. We even had a professional player playing with us, who represented Honduras on the international stage. He then became a teacher, helping to bring the sport to schools and children. Volleyball presents an opportunity for youth to get involved in a sport, which creates an opportunity for fitness, socializing, and potentially leading to scholarships to university or college.
There are several projects to promote the sport amongst youth from lower-income families, for example, One Team. The project’s focus is to use “the sport of beach volleyball to convey positive values to children and young people. In free training units, they experience team spirit and learn to take responsibility for themselves and others.” They also integrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on Goal #3- ‘Vaccinate Your Family,’ Goal #4 – ‘Help Educate the Children in Your Community,’ and Goal #5 – ‘Empower Women and Girls and Ensure Their Equal Rights,’ into the DNA of their organization.
The Banana bread crew
An exceptional event occurred that will forever be remembered as the Banana Bread Incident. One day, while playing volleyball, a passerby walked next to the court, and the ball came close to her causing her to drop her loaf of banana bread in the sand. After that, whenever people needed to pass by the court, we would stop play and yell ‘Banana Bread’ to alert everyone of the game stoppage. We later would add ‘Baby Banana’ for the toddlers that would sometimes be playing near the courts. Although we were all sad for the dropped banana bread, it ended up taking on a life of its own.