And just like that my time with Girls United is over.
I’m not really sure how best to summarise the entire monumental experience into just one post so I thought instead I’d tell you my answers to a little tradition my family has where at the end of every adventure we say our three favourite and once least favourite moments.
My least favourite moment is very easy to think of and has to be when I got sick with food poisoning. It happens to one person on every trip and on this one it just happened to be me. The healthcare system here is a little different to back home as you pay a doctor round the back of the pharmacy the equivalent of £2.48 for a consultation and to prescribe you drugs when you then by at his pharmacy out front. I won’t go into too much detail but if you check out my Instagram @little_big_jen you’ll find a picture of my treatment plan, you can also DM me any questions you may have! I was only out of coaching for three days and was back to my feet in no time so don’t let this put you off, people get ill at home or abroad isn’t unusual and is just another bump on the road to make it a more interesting journey.
Moving swiftly on, thinking of three top moments is a lot harder because there were so many things both big and small that made my time in Bacalar so entertaining, fulfilling, and fun. So in no particular order…
1.) The weekend trips. Whilst weekdays are more restricted by coaching every afternoon, the weekends are left mostly free to explore. We went on a number of trips to the impressive Mayan Ruins at Kohunlich, the tax-free zone between Mexico and Belize where I spent too much and yet not enough money on fake football shirts (can you actually have too many footy shirts!?), and the coastal town of Tulum. I actually went to Tulum twice: once with all the coaches for a full moon party and my first swim in the Caribbean sea; and the second time for the best scuba diving I have ever done in my life! This area in Mexico is the only place in the world where you find Cenotes (magic wells) which are deep pits sunken into the ground filled with crystal clear blue water that is amazing to scuba dive or swim in. There are so many dotted around the area and they are all so varied, but the cave diving in Los Dos Ojos Cenotes was simply breath-taking.
2.) The Bacalar Lagoon. The lagoon in Bacalar is known as “the lagoon of seven colours” and certainly lives up to its name. The lagoon is not only spectacular to look at but also to swim in. At least twice a week we would go down to a local restaurant on the lagoon called La Playita where we enjoyed freshly made smoothies, read out books in the sun, and swam in the lagoon. I also enjoyed the boat day trip around the sites of the lagoon, including Pirate Bay, and a (very very) early morning Paddle Boarding trip on the lagoon to watch the sunrise. There are also Cenotes within the lagoon that give it the amazing colours and make for peaceful swimming spots, my personal favourite was Cenote Negro.
3.) Coaching. Before you ask, no I was not coerced into writing this! The joy on the girls faces when they achieve something on the pitch is heart-warming. Being able to pass on my passion for football to others was a huge privilege and something that gave me immense joy. Whether it be having a ‘secret’ handshake with each of the regular girls, a drill that you spent time planning (and in my case translating), or just watching as the younger girls giggle as they chase the ball around the field; there were so many tiny moments that made coaching so worthwhile.