That year, I took the first prize in English and loved it.
School became fun, and learning became my ‘best friend’!
My classmates noticed my skills in Physical Education and
sports. I had a trove of good friends, some of whom I keep in touch
with to this day.
In 1960, my father, who worked for the Medical Department,
was transferred to Mombasa where he worked at the Government
Hospital on Salim Road.
It took him about 30 minutes to get to work from Hobley Road.
My brothers were enrolled in the Goan School in Ganjoni and I
was enrolled at The Star of the Sea School on Salim Road near
the Goan Institute.
My school was co-ed from Kandi to grade 7.
I graduated with a grade I Cambridge Overseas Certificate.
I then studied at the Coast Teacher Training College.
It was here that I had the chance to play netball, and
gymnastics was a part of Physical Training.
Two years later, I was selected by the Principal of the Arab
Girls’ School to teach at the newly opened facility specializing
in Physical Education.
The students had never been to a public school before, and
they were faced with many challenges and a close eye was kept to
make sure strict Muslim rules were adhered to.
Many were natural athletes, and welcomed the protection of
high school walls so they could remove their ‘burkas’ (head and
body cover) and participate freely in all physical activities.
In my teens, I joined the Coast Athletic Club (Achilles Club)
run by Coach Ray Batchelor.
Albert Castanha, Seraphino Antao, Pascal Antao, Alfred Viana,
Phila Fernandes, Joanita Noronha and Meldrita were some of those
that trained with me.
I took part in the 100m 200m sprints as well as the shot put,
long and triple and high jumps.
After school, I corrected student work and prepared lessons
for the next day.
Then I walked with my sports bag 800 yards away to a track
next to the Goan Institute Club sports field.
All alone, I warmed up doing stretches, then practiced starts
and sprints ending with jogs and cooling down exercises.
By 5:00 p.m. I had removed my spikes and walked to the club
pavilion where my fellow field hockey players were gathering for
There I formed two teams and began practicing skills needed
to be competition ready.
By now there was a group of male experts to help with
I then went to nearby badminton courts to work on game skills
for singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
I followed these routine most weekdays.
I travelled to other states for competitions and to play
against rival teams.
I was selected as 'Sportswoman of the Year' 1962.
I met my husband, Lami, in 1960 when he came from Dar-es-Salaam
after East Africa and other states got their independence from
He played football and field hockey for St. Mary’s School in
Bombay and for the Goan Institute in Dar-es-Salaam.
It was destiny that brought us together.
It was a difficult time as many government workers were
losing jobs to indigenous people.
This is when Lami proposed and I accepted, determined that we
could begin life together anywhere.
He went to Dar-es-Salaam to work in the private sector, and
after finding an apartment; we set our wedding date and were
married in April 1964.
By this time, Lami was working for Alitalia Airlines.
We made two trips to Rome with our first and then two young
I worked as a teacher at a model school attached to the
Teacher Training Center where I met Helen Alpert.
We became good friends until she finished her contract and
returned to America.
In 1969, we were allotted green cards to immigrate to America
after a four year wait.
Our trip to France took hours.
From Paris to New York eight hours, where we were snowed in
for two days.
At the home of Lami’s Italian friend based in New York:
"Mummy, and look! It’s Christmas!" yelled my oldest, seated
at the window.
He had seen a Christmas card with a picture of drawn curtains
opening to a snow storm.
After two days, the plane took off on the flight to Los
Angeles and then to Santa Ana, California.
As I stood with my family at the door of the plane, I had an
indescribable feeling of peace and freedom, the warm sun bathing
us with Hope.
Our friend, Helen, greeted us with open arms.
We had kept in touch, and when she heard that we were going
to settle in New York, she had written,
"That’s a concrete jungle! Come to California."
She had set up our apartment down to flowers in vases with a
group of friends.
Lami got a job with Western Airlines a year later (a
45 miles, one way commute to Los Angeles).
I went to college at night, working part time at schools to
pay for it.
We made time for tennis and badminton.
We have kept up a schedule for workouts at the gym.
We talk about the past with nostalgia with many friends that
have settled here, not only from Africa, but from Bombay and Goa
We meet many in Toronto at reunions of the Goan School.
Thanks to social networks, we keep connected.
Many have passed away, but the yen to make the connections is
My thoughts on Sport:
• My biggest rival? Myself, Meldrita Laurente,
Phila Fernandes and Juanita Noronha.
This was in the late 1960s at sports meets at the Mombasa
Municipality Stadium near my home in Hobley Road, Sports Day on
the Goan Institute field in Ganjoni and national meetings in
The first meet held at the Municipal Stadium in 1958 (?) was
most memorable as I won the floating championship trophy and
first place in the 100 metre dash, the Shot Put, the Triple Jump
and the 4X100 metres relay.
I was in hog heaven!
• Under Coach Ray Batchelor’s guidance, I honed in
my sprinting skills, improved starts by watching Albert
Castanha, Seraphino Antao and the other male sprinters.
Later he taught me how to use blocks to get shooting starts.
As a coach, he set examples of respect for other competitors,
not resting on your laurels, using your inborn energy and
talents to be a winner.
I never heard him put down any athlete, and boosted anyone
who showed any disappointment in being second-best.
I have used all this advice my entire life in all I do.
I looked up to him as My Hero and a Godsend.
I never have forgotten him as I hold him in the highest
esteem as a coach.
, striving to do our
best, encouraging and cheering each other at practice and
sports meets, but having a lot of fun, too.
• We were like one big family
Albert was like a brother to me.
Anytime I met any of them in later years in other countries,
they always made it a point to spend time talking about the ‘old
days’ and inquiring about involvement in sports and sharing
notes on new achievements.
• My favourite sport was field hockey because it
involved team spirit and hard work.
I was very disciplined any time I played any sports (I am
this way in everything I undertake be it studying, teaching,
lecturing or presenting at conferences).
It is fun to encourage people to unearth their hidden
abilities and use them to full advantage (I still echo Coach
• My Dad and Mum were always proud of my achievements
as they was were involved in sports (Mom won the
championship cup at badminton and her framed photo was
displayed at home and at the photographer’s shop at the
corner of Government Road and the bus Terminal in Nairobi)
and Dad played tennis and football for the GI Nairobi.
He often told me how he and his teammates had to hack their
way through the bush to get to Tanga, in Tanganyika, to play the
opposing team there).
Both loved to tell their friends of my achievements.
• Some of the Goan girls who took part in Sports with
me: Phila and Sylvie Fernandes; Meldrita Viegas (nee
Laurente); Juanita Ramos (nee Noronha my sis-in-law married
to Alvito), (late) Melba De Souza - nee Castellino); Ruth de
Souza (Melbourne); Ivy Botello; Diana Barros; Ida Pires;
Wenda Carvalho; (late) Selina Viegas; Amy Fernandes; Sybil
Correa; and Linda Martyres to name a few.
Albert Castanha of Mombasa: Greatest Goan all-round sports
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‘Kenyan Hockey Star’ Reynold Pereira Leaves Behind A Legacy
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Long serving Trifa De Souza marks 50 years' as a Catholic
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