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Balseria Part 2: Balsa Against Manny Pacquiao

In the "Cult of Escapism": Balseria Part 2: Balsa Against Manny Pacquiao

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Balseria Part 2: Balsa Against Manny Pacquiao

After about five hours at Balseria, we had consumed nothing but fermented liquor in its various forms and it was HOT. Like, there's-no-shade-and-we're-in-Panama-which-is-very-close-to-the-equator HOT. So we were ready to leave. However, I had told myself and many others that I would throw the balsa with someone this year and I would have been seriously disappointed with myself if after two consecutive years, I never even tried.

We wandered towards the balsa crowd, hoping to find a friendly challenger. Almost anyone there would probably have wanted to throw against me, but I didn't want to face some gringo-hating balsa master, who just wanted to break my knees. I may be adventurous, but I'm not a masochist.

After some short interviews, we settled on a guy who had been friendly to us throughout our balseria experience. The night before, we had watched him literally beat the snot out of a guy and then jump around yelling “I'm Pacquiao! I'm Pacquiao!” But a good boxer doesn't necessarily make a good balsero, plus I liked him for two key reasons: he admitted that he wasn't very good and he was extremely drunk.

So we grabbed a balsa and made a space for ourselves. We then huddled and discussed the terms: two throws each and we take turns throwing. Two throws, by the way, is nothing - 25 throws is real sport and even 8 is considered casual. This was just novelty.
Not dodged

He threw and I dodged it and everything changed. Within seconds, a massive crowd had formed around us, “A gringo is playing a Ngäbe!” I hit him in the ankle with my first throw and the crowd Oooed. We both missed our second throws and he immediately said we should do two more. I agreed. This wasn't novelty anymore.

He threw and grazed my left leg as I dodged. I started chanting Jochi, Chorcha! - my name and my region. Everyone told me that's what I had to do while I played, so that's what I did. I got him again in the shin. Two more!

We ended up throwing ten times each. He hit me three times: twice on my left leg, though just grazing blows, and once, hard, straight into my right calf muscle. Between the adrenaline and the chicha, none of them hurt at the time, though I could tell he had hit me well in the calf. I hit him four times, all in the shins and the feet. He also fell over on the last throw, but just because he tripped on the stick, not because it hit him straight.

Got him
In theory, I wouldn't have minded continuing – it's a rush. But the match was attracting a lot of attention, not all of it positive. Gringo playing balsa doesn't jive with everyone. So we called it and shook hands and an onlooker rushed over to give me a small bottle of chicha, which I shared with Pacquiao.

After about twenty minutes, my leg started to hurt and I checked and realized he had drawn blood. After a few hours, I was limping. I really want to know what his legs look like.

Another volunteer and I have decided to take this to the States. I feel like there are some rednecks, northern and southern, that are crazy enough to play this. Frat houses could use it as a form of hazing. Personally, when I have a family, I'm going to use a balsa stick as a tool for settling arguments between my kids - “Now Timmy, it's your turn to do the dishes, but if you can best Johnny in 12 throws, you can watch TV instead.”

Is that legal?


At March 7, 2012 at 6:42 PM , Blogger Stella said...

I'm so proud that you won. But I know for a fact you aren't going to name your kids Johnny and Timmy.


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