A.) If you decide to explore old town Funchal, turn to page 3
B.) If you decide to stay home and sleep all day, turn to page 7
C.) If you decide to follow the levada stream, turn to page 9
D.) If you decide to write at the coffee shop, turn to page 11Always an avid reader, I still remember my favorite books in elementary school. I loved the "choose your own adventure" novels. As the protagonist, I had complete control over what actions I would take and destinations to explore. I created my own stories, discovered new worlds and imagined these wonderful places in my mind. Wondering the outcome of other options, I’d often flip back to previous pages so I could encounter them as well.
While playing abroad, I sometimes feel as though I’m living in a "choose your own adventure" novel. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, I make a point to learn about the new cities and countries I reside in. In order to do so, I get out of my apartment as much as I can. I ask locals about places I must visit, food I have to taste and take time to research hidden destinations that need to be explored. Through playing basketball overseas, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience and enjoy places I would never have known.
I choose my own adventure everyday. Being employed as a professional athlete gives me a flexible schedule and often, a lot of free time. Most days I ‘work’ for about 4 hours. Two hours of shooting and lifting weights in the morning and 2 hours in the evening of team practice. It’s a nice schedule, but when AM workouts are at 10am and night practices start at 9:30pm - it’s a large gap to fill. Since I’m the type of person that likes to be kept busy and on the go, excess time can be a bit of struggle. Before I go to bed, I usually formulate a plan for what I want to do or discover the next day. I know too many professional athletes who attend practice and then stay locked in their rooms for the rest of the day. Most spend their time sleeping, watching movies or reading. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I understand everyone is different. However, I feel they are missing out on the best part of this experience. How many people get to live expense free in a foreign country while getting paid to play the game they love? Not a lot. I think it’s important to get the most out of every opportunity. Appreciate your new surroundings, as it’s a great way to learn and allows you to more worldly. How can someone say they’ve ‘lived’ abroad, when in reality they’ve only seen the inside of their apartment, various gyms and conversed only with teammates? When someone asks about their time overseas, could they really describe the country, people and culture?
Which brings me back to the 4 options I listed at the beginning of this post. I enjoy learning and one way I do it is by soaking up as much as I can from new experiences in foreign surroundings. Yesterday, after lifting weights in the morning I selected option C.), and decided to follow a levada stream I see everyday by the bus stop. With the hot sun shining in a cloudless sky, it was easily one of the most beautiful days I’ve experienced in Madeira. For over an hour I followed the narrow levada, which terraced through the mountains. I photographed lush green vegetation, admired the bright blue Atlantic, enjoyed breathtaking views from above and exchanged hellos with people I encountered on the path. I saw farmers hard at work, touched green bananas on a banana tree, admired million dollar homes and observed the other side of the island. It sounds like a cliché, but I couldn’t stop smiling. Here I was enjoying a bom dia (beautiful day), soaking up the sun and learning more about my island. As I rested on a cliff overlooking the ocean, I couldn’t help but think how nice it would have been to share the view with my close friends.
Returning home 2 hours after I had left, I turned on the TV in time to see the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Though I’m not an American citizen – I was moved, tingling with goose bumps. President Obama is very charismatic and when he speaks, you can’t help but believe he will make a difference. I know he is only one man, but if people can put their differences aside and work together, I believe he can make a difference in the world. He's very inspirational.
Basketball Update: Last night we played Uniao (the other island team) and had no trouble securing the win. Like last weekend, we won by 30 pts. My left achilles is still extremely sore, to the point that I can’t wear anything but flip flops off the court. I’m really worried because I have to play on it – I don’t have much of a choice. I receive treatment daily, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much. I think I’m going to have to work something out with coach where I only shoot at practice and ride the bike and swim for cardio. I hate missing practice, but don’t want to keep playing on it, as it could lead to something more serious. I can play through pain, but there is still 3 months left this season. To make matters worse, the club told Dani yesterday they were sending her home. Her stress fracture has healed, but she still has swelling around the area that is sore to the touch. The club suggested surgery to see what the problem was, which she didn't agree to – since it wasn't clear if it was necessary or not. Obviously, Dani has to do what is best for her. I would have probably made the same decision in her place. I’m sad to see Dani leave. We not only complemented each other on the court, but we got along great off it. I’m really going to miss her. She became more than just a teammate, she became a good friend. Whoever they bring in has big shoes to fill!
Saturday we play away at Esgueira, a team currently sitting in 9th place. I'm sitting this one out so I can rest my foot. Next weekend we have 2 huge games. Saturday and Sunday at home against Vagos and Olivais. Yikes…without Dani this will be a huge test.
Sidenote: Click here to read a very interesting article on European women's bball. Next stop - Russia!