Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tribute to my Dad

As most of you know, my dad passed away unexpectedly on November 3. I don't want to write too much about it on my blog, however, the funeral service was recorded and my eulogy that I gave in dedication to him starts here. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to my mom and me during this tough time. The support has been amazing and it has really helped us stay strong.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Little Bit of Work, Little Bit of Play

I know I know. I owe you guys a blog post! I'm I've just been busy playing basketball and...well... enjoying the gift that is Rio de Janeiro. If you follow any of my other social media, you've seen some of the pictures and the posts. If not, I 'll share them with you here :)

Hmm. What should I start with? Basketball updates or the fun I've been having in Rio. Mmm I don't know so I'll flip a coin. Heads basketball, tails Rio. 

*flips quarter in the air. quarter hits ground and rolls on the floor into the kitchen. almost breaks toe while chasing said quarter. looks down and sees heads and kicks quarter under refrigerator and wishes he never flipped quarter*

Basketball it is! So far so good! We've played six games, we've won six games. The final of the small tournament is this week. Hopefully we can become the Carioca champion nine years in a row! As for me personally, I've had some good games and I've had some games that I feel like I could have played better. I still have some things to improve before the NBB starts next month.

Just me. Dunking the ball. No big deal
Man they had good seats haha

On a kind of related note, four of the games were on the road and we traveled by bus. The longest trip was only four hours: a gift for those of us who have experienced the double digit bus rides of Argentina. I asked our manager what was going to be our longest bus ride of the year, he said six hours. My eyes started to water; tears of joy were ready to run down my face. If you've only been reading my blog this year, please read about my longest bus ride while I was Argentina here. Only then can you appreciate why I was so happy.

I also looked at my blog from year one and realized that I complained about the referees a lot. I don't think that I will do that anymore. Not that I'm afraid one of them will read it, it's just that at year four I have gotten accustomed to the officiating and there is no use in complaining about it.

Time for the fun I've been having in Rio! I told you all on the last blog that my friend was coming with her mom: they had a blast! They got to see me play a game and we went to some of the tourist sites together. Be sure to take note of all the fun you're missing out on. Here are the highlights:

Chicken heart?

Aren't we cute?

Garota de Ipanema

When you look at this pic you hear music don't you?

Taking pics in the middle of the street
Summoning my inner Bolt

One night we went to dinner at one of those all you can eat Brazilian restaurants where the waiters walk around and bring you different kinds of meat. We saw them bringing around chicken hearts, (yes chicken hearts), and it caused a discussion between us. I said that I had tried chicken hearts for the first time a couple weeks back, even though I was disgusted by the idea; they weren't that bad. They then told me that when she was a child, her and her sisters would always be on their best behavior to get the one chicken heart that would come in a package. This conversation got us excited to eat chicken hearts! The batch we saw earlier had already been given out, so we asked one of the waiters to bring out some more. Five minutes later, still no chicken hearts so we asked someone else. Ten minutes, then twenty minutes went by and we were still chicken heart-less. At that point we had asked about five waiters in both English and Portuguese to make sure they understood us. FINALLY, the chicken hearts came! The waiter unloaded about eight on each of our plates because we obviously were obsessed with these things and would gulf all of them down without a second thought. Well... maybe we had overestimated our love for these things just a little bit... A lot. I forced myself to eat one, and I think they had half of one between them. We came to the conclusion that they were indeed disgusting and we had to eat some different food, even though we were full, just to get the bad taste out of our mouths. We then laughed about what we had done for the next three days...oh well.

I went to my third soccer game this past week with my teammates and coaches. It might have been the most fun I have had at a sporting event. The place was packed to the brim and the energy and excitement was unmatched by anything I'd ever experienced before. We won the game 4-0 and every time Flamengo scored we went nuts! I was able to catch the madness of the last goal here.

Vai pra cima deles MENGAOOOO

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Night Before Game Day

"...His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy

There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti.

He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs..." - Eminem

Ok so it's not thaaaaat drastic but I am a little nervous because... WE PLAY OUR FIRST GAME FRIDAY! Finally at last. It's what I've been working for all summer, and the almost two months since I've been here (hard to believe it has been two months already!) But yeah, I'm excited and ready to get the season started. I'm also excited to get a glimpse of the "Flamengistas", the fans of Flamengo. I've heard so much about how they are the best fans in Brazil; I've had an opportunity to see them at soccer games but I want to hear them cheering for me :) Here is a clip from the finals last year. The fans have already been great on social media and I appreciate the support.

Game face. Are you ready?

I went to another Flamengo soccer game last week. I am starting to become a real soccer fan now! The game was against Botafogo, an inner city rival, and they were playing in the Brazil Cup. For a rival soccer game though, I must say that the hatred was very mild. My Argentine teammate agreed and said that when the two big Argentinian soccer teams play each other (Boca vs. River) that one team has to enter on one side of the stadium, and the other on the opposite side or there would be a riot. I'm not trying to start any trouble here but maybe Argentinians are crazier about their soccer... Mmm never mind, I just remembered this article. Anyway the game ended in a tie 1-1, but in my expert soccer opinion ;), we should have won the game. Most of the team went as well and it was fun hanging out with my teammates outside of the basketball court.
Those two tiny guys in the middle are on the staff in case you were wondering.

iPhone's panoramic camera coming in handy

On an unrelated note, while I was in the weight room today, my teammate looked at me and said, "Ah, I see you got your hair cut." I turned to him, smiled and said, "I did this myself!" (I have to look good for my first game tomorrow :)) He didn't believe me. He came over and examined my head and asked if I was serious. I proudly smiled and nodded my head yes. He was quite impressed. Who knows? Maybe I'll start cutting my teammates' hair. Then after that open a barber shop: shooting basketballs by day, cutting hair by night. And then when my career is over I'll open up barber shops all over the US and become the greatest barber that ever lived!!!! Haha just kidding.

First attempt: October 2010
October 2013. Oh how far I've come

In other news, I will have my first visitors coming on Saturday! My friend, Merriam, from college and her mom are coming and will stay for a week. I've yet to go to any of the tourists sites in Rio because I was waiting on my friends to come; now I will have the opportunity! Okie dokie. That's it for this blog, let me get some rest so I can kick some butt this weekend!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rock in Rio

Sometimes you make impulsive decisions that are good, sometimes they are bad. I saw that Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys were coming to Rio for Rock in Rio and I impulsively bought a ticket. I did not know anyone who was going, I didn't know how I was going to get there or how I was going to get home. I didn't think about it, I just bought the ticket and I figured out the rest later. (This is what you need to do. Just buy your ticket to Rio and figure out the rest of it later). Why not, the season has not started yet, why shouldn't I enjoy a bit of Rio.

Anyway, I found some people I knew who were going and I figured out my transportation: time to party! There was like a hundred thousand people there; it was crazy.


I knew I would be in a big crowd which always brings the danger of someone pickpocketing you. Though I would hope my size would intimidate anyone trying to steal from me, I still took precautions and hid my money and my phones. When I was on the bus heading towards Rock in Rio, I put my hand in my pocket to pull out my headphones, and realized I had accidentally brought this...

Yep, that is what it looks like. I brought a remote control to Rock in Rio. Maybe that it was a smart idea. A remote control in my pocket looks very similar to a phone so if someone did try to steal from me, they would be in for a bit of surprise! Imagine if you were pickpocketing someone and stole a remote control. What would you do? A part of me wanted someone to steal it from me to see what would happen haha. Ok back to the concert.

I was closer to the back of the concert for a couple of reasons. One, I'm very tall and I would block everyone behind me if I were too close. Even where I stood there was no one behind me for that very reason. Two, because I was with a big group and it would have been hard to get that many people close to the front. It was fine by me, I could see perfectly and I charged 20 reals for anyone who wanted to sit on my shoulders haha.

Ok. I raised my arms to take this pic
but my view was still pretty good!

I knew I liked Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake very much before the concert, but I didn't realize just how much until I was at the concert. I used all the extra space I had to sing at the top of my lungs and dance and flail my arms without a care in the world. Enjoyed Alicia so much I kept singing Girl on Fire as I moved to and from the bathroom; the people who heard me got a good laugh out of that. Fortunately or unfortunately there is no footage of my singing. I had a lot of fun and I'm glad I went. I will be on the lookout for any more artists that I like who are coming to Rio!

I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to Iguazu Falls. I had gotten so accustomed to Rio's weather that I forgot to check the forecast and I didn't bring a jacket. Big mistake; it is still winter in Brazil! Anyway, the waterfalls were absolutely amazing and they should be on everyone's bucket list. Here are a few pictures.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

First Time for Me

...It had gotten to the point where it was the only thing on my mind. My senses were heightened. I was ready to jump at moment's notice. I could see it, I could smell it, I could even taste it. I rocked back and forth anxiously waiting until she came behind us and said those words that I was dying to hear, "Ok guys, time to eat!" I was like this. That's not an exaggeration, it was literally how fast I moved.

We arrived to area where the food was and, to my dismay, I saw that the plates were smaller than the size of my hand. "No matter, I will just keep going back until I am full!"I thought to myself. But just as I finished my first plate my bliss had come to an end when someone said, "This food isn't for us, ours is in another location." Ok, I thought, as long as there was more food to come I will be fine. However, being the wise, eating veteran that I am, I put some food in my pocket before I left. Good thing too because we didn't eat again until halftime!...

Yeah so this post is supposed to be about my first soccer game experience, but I decided to start with the most memorable moment for me :)

I was invited to watch Flamengo's soccer team play on Wednesday against Vítoria in the new soccer stadium Maracana. The stadium is beautiful and I got a chance to go on the field and walk around in the dugout before the game. We watched the game from the presidents box; I felt like a big shot haha.

I will admit, I am not the biggest soccer fan in the world, but I do enjoy the big games. I never played soccer growing up, so all I know I learned from playing FIFA; I played it a lot so I do know a thing or two haha. During the game there were a couple of times that I did not understand what happened, but for the most part I understood it and I enjoyed it. We won that game 2-1! I guess I brought the team some good luck.

I almost forgot, I got interviewed before and after the game in Portuguese and I was able to understand most of it. I had to respond in English but at least I know I'm making progress. The goal of doing interviews completely in Portuguese by January still stands!

Chillin in the dugout

I hope all of these people like
basketball too! haha

It had rained during the game, but I was under a cover so it did not bother me. When I arrived home, however, I realized just how much it had rained. The streets were flooded like they had been in Rio Tercero (for those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning). Luckily I was able to take the subway and I arrived near my hotel so I stayed dry. All in all I had a great day!

I couldn't even cross the street to get my Açai!!!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Patiently Waiting

I've had a blast here in Rio my first three weeks, but I'm starting to get very anxious to start playing basketball. I didn't come here to be a tourist; I came to play and win. I've been working while I've been here I'm ready to hit the court with the whole team and play some games.

I haven't moved into my apartment yet, which means I've had to eat at restaurants all the time. That's fine with me, the only problem I've run in to is using the bathroom in public. For some reason bathrooms in Brazilian restaurants are sometimes very very small--like airplane small. The sink is sometimes outside the bathroom completely and the toilet is in a narrow room with a door. Anyone who has seen me in-person knows that I have pretty broad shoulders, so these narrow bathrooms are a problem. One time I went into a bathroom that was so narrow I had to turn sideways to get in. However, once in I couldn't turn back towards the toilet. I really had to use the bathroom and I could not wait to go back to my hotel...so I aimed sideways. 
What was I supposed to do?
In other news, I've had a couple caiprinhas since I've been here because people told me they were soooo good. Eh. I wasn't a huge fan. However, I was invited to a favela with a friend where I tried a caiprinha that was made with some TLC (tender love and care). Absolutely amazing. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the real treasure. 

I'll return to what I did in the favela, but first I want to talk about the fruit that they have here in Brazil. Usually I drink water (without gas) whenever I go anywhere, but with all the exotic fruits that are available to me, that may have to change. A lot of them I've never had before coming here and I don't know what all of them are called but they are very good. I had seen people eating one fruit called açai all the time but I never tried any...until today. It was a life changing experience. I'll probably eat it everyday from now on. It was the best fruit I've ever had. Apparently it's good for you too, which is good because even if it wasn't I would eat it anyway :)

Back to the favela. I didn't go there to drink caiprinhas, I went to listen to some classical Samba music. I love Samba music. I love it because it just makes you move your body. With all of the percussion playing together, you just can't help but to dance a little. I've tried to pick up on the Samba "dance", but I have noticed people doing many different things. I think its just meant for you to dance and have fun. Here is a video from where I was.

I don't know what they're singing but I like it. I've also been to other samba clubs,w but people say I also need to go to a place that plays Funk. I'm looking forward to it, and maybe it will inspire another blog haha.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Brazil vs. Argentina vs. USA

So I've been here in Rio for a couple weeks now and I'm starting to learn a little about the culture, and to observe some of the differences between living in Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. Now some of these observations may be unique to Rio and not the norm for the whole country but I'll still share with you what I've observed.

The first, and probably most disheartening thing I realized was that there is no siesta in Brazil. The days of three hour naps that I have had grown to love and cherish are now taken away from me; I almost cried.

Second, there are no casinos in Brazil. Like none. My friend told me they've been outlawed since like 1980. Another part of me died.

Third topic of concern: food. I easily could have lead with this observation, but if you've read my other posts, you already know that food is number one on my list. And food in Rio is EXPENSIVE! My wallet will definitely suffer :(. However, the portions are HUGE! My stomach will definitely benefit :). In other countries, when they say, "Portion for two", I laugh because usually that can barely feed me. Here in Brazil, when they say, "Portion for two" they should say, "Portion for a small village". It's impressive. My first night that I ate out alone I had to bow my head in shame after I could barely finish half of the food I ordered, and this was after I hadbragged to the waiter about how much I could eat. Ooo one other thing. There are a lot of buffets here in Rio. Yes! However, you have to pay by the kilo...this was my reaction when I figured that out. Here. I mean, it makes sense here, you should pay for the amount of food you eat. I just had gotten so accustomed to beating the system in the United States that paying extra is just so painful. (I know that if they ever implemented this policy in the US, people would riot!)

On to driving. I thought people in Argentina drove badly... I have to do one of two things when I'm in a taxi: Look out the side window at the beautiful scenery or sleep. If I look straight ahead and watch how crazy the taxi driver is driving or at how badly the people are driving around him I get nauseous. There is no regard for lane lines, pedestrians, traffic lights at night, pedestrians (cant stress that enough), or just any kind of patience whatsoever.

Name pronunciation. My name has been pronounced a thousand million billion different ways and it does not bother me at all as long as it's close enough that I know that you're talking to me. In Argentina my name was pronounced Shay-ron May-gin-see. Here so far I've gotten Jeromy Mayo-niece. Eh. Still better than Menendez (for my friends since middle school).

A big personal adjustment for me is adjusting to living in a big city. Im from a relatively small U.S. city, and every city I've played in so far has ranged from VERY small (shout out to Río Tercero) to about a medium-sized city in Corrientes. Río is huge and inhabits almost seven million people! With that comes the fact that everyone moves at a fast pace, traffic, unlimited things to do, noise, and of course unbelievably brave pigeons that think they run the place. One day I was eating lunch and a pigeon had the audacity to run over my foot, stop, and then look at me like it was my fault. Unbelievable.

Let's see what else? Ah yes, both the language barrier and me sticking out like a sore thumb. My Portuguese is improving every day. I'm no longer scared to speak it; I just state that I'm American and I don't speak Portuguese well, then I continue you on speaking.

  • That reminds me of something else interesting about Brazil, the racial diversity. People assume I'm Brazilian until I open my mouth. You really can't tell tourists from Brazilians until they speak; which means I only stick out because of my height haha. Again, this might be unique to Rio, but I feel like it is more diverse here than in the USA.
Back to the language. I'm still not sure what people are saying to me when they comment on my height. I can understand when they ask if I play basketball and when they ask how tall I am. After that, I'm not sure. I just smile and nod until they are finished. I have heard every comment there is to make about being tall so I'm sure nothing that they say is original haha.
  • Best comment I have ever heard about being tall. I was in high school and I was lifting weights at a gym. I had just finished a set of squats and I turned around and a guy walked up to me, looked me right in the eye and said, "My friend would beat the !@#$ out of you in a limbo contest." Then he walked away like nothing had happened. I'm pretty sure they are not saying anything like that, but soon I will know.
PDAs (Public Displays of Affection). I had noticed that in Argentina couples were more affectionate towards each other than in the United States. Brazil is on a different level. First of all, holding hands is a must. I have yet to see a couple walking together and not hold hands. And they don't let go either; if someone walks between them, they lift their hands over the persons head, they don't let go. But the biggest thing is the kissing. I have seen numerous people have full make out sessions in restaurants, in the middle of the street, in the grocery store, basically everywhere. I have no witty comment to say here, just making an observation.

Lastly, I'll return to a food. Unlike Argentina, I can eat anything I want here at any hour of the day without being strange. In Argentina I used to eat chicken at 5 or 6 before practice and people thought that was the weirdest thing ever. In Brazil I can eat my chicken in peace :)

Pictures to make you jealous that you're not here/give you incentive to come visit!