Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Short Shorts, Speedos, Sans Bikini Top…
Sometimes I can’t believe where my job takes me. Only two games into the season and I found myself on the Canary Islands, gazing out on the brilliant blue of the Atlantic Ocean, warming my pale skin in the hot sun.
I’d heard of the Canary Islands, but never actually thought I’d get the chance to visit and travel the largest of the Spanish archipelago - Tenerife. Once our season schedule was released, I began researching which away games were in cities worth spending time in. As soon as I realized Tenerife was one of them, I immediately got in touch with my coach and club president, requesting to stay an extra day in paradise. A few days later my request was granted and the team booked my flight back to Ferrol a day and a half later. Score!
Of course once we departed for our trip south, I was all business. First and foremost we were there to win a basketball game, not vacation. Once arriving on the island, we checked into our hotel, ate dinner and discussed the schedule for the following day. Facing Aguere was going to be tough, as they are expected to be one of the top teams in the league.
The following morning we were up early for breakfast and morning shoot around. After getting comfortable with the unfamiliar floor and rims, it was back to the hotel for lunch and downtime. It was going to be a physical game. Later that evening, motivated and confident with the scouting report, we quickly jumped out to a 28-11 lead, playing fast and playing together. Then just as quickly, it all fell apart…
Opening the second quarter we started the first 2 minutes on a roll. Scoring 5 points in a little over a minute, Aguere was forced to try something different. Throwing a full court press on us proved to be the solution. Our guards tensed up and were unable to handle the pressure. And just like that, our lead quickly started to disintegrate. It also didn’t help that the forwards could get a whistle while being mauled inside. Frustrated by the lack of calls, I stayed focused, but unfortunately lost my cool a few moments later. Setting a screen on the baseline, a Spanish girl on the opposing team ran by me (not even grazing my jersey) and suddenly threw herself to the ground as if she had been hit by a freight train. Screaming in phantom agony, the ref blew his whistle and issued me an offensive foul with a stern warning of no dirty play. What?! Looking at him incredulously I said in a normal tone “Wow. That’s a terrible call” and ran back on defense. Apparently that was enough for him to give me a technical foul. Are you kidding me!? I had never been given a ‘T’ in my overseas career until now. I didn’t even get to scream and shout for it!
Nevertheless, the combination of turnovers, my 'T' and the fact that my coach decided to sit me for 12 minutes straight after the call helped lead to our demise. Still, at halftime we were only down 9. That proved to be enough, as my team stopped playing for each other and started playing for themselves. There’s nothing that bothers me more than when people play basketball selfishly. It was an unfortunate turn of events. What could have been a big win for us, turned into and ugly game that exposed our biggest weakness – team chemistry and mental toughness on the court.
After a heated exchange of words in the locker room, everyone trudged to the bus malcontent. The atmosphere after losing a game is not enjoyable, especially when teammates refuse to talk to one another. Once back at our hotel, we ate dinner in silence and were told told to meet in the lobby at midnight for departure.
Finishing dinner around 9pm, I suggested we go to the bar down the street. Three of the 4 other pros agreed and we sat down to have a few cervezas…which quickly turned into a few more than that….
After getting some frustrations off our chests and finally calming down somewhat, we started to have a good time. With a bit of liquid courage and a persuasive barkeep, we found ourselves joining a karaoke party downstairs. The rest of the team showed up a bit later and we ended up putting the game (or most of it) behind us as we belted out tunes from Lady Gaga, Shakira and various Spanish artists. Glancing at the clock, it was time for the team to get back to the hotel and catch the bus to the airport. Waving goodbye, I was now on my own.
Not wanting the party to end, I went in search of the hotel’s discothèque. Strolling in the dimly lit hall, I found myself dancing with English vacationers, explaining why I was wearing a hideous mustard colored polo and navy basketball shorts (team issued gear we have to wear when together). Eventually, we wandered out to the pool and chatted under the moonlight. Not wanting to be tired for my only day of exploration the following morning, I said goodnight and headed to bed. I needed to get up early if I wanted to see both the north and south of Tenerife.
Waking a mere 6 hours later, I finished a quick breakfast and waited for the bus to Santa Cruz. Sitting at the bus stop, a car with a good-looking fellow pulled over and motioned for me to come to the door. Giving him a questioning look, he rolled down his window and offered me a ride to the city. Tempted, I decided against the idea, as I was traveling alone. Politely declining with a smile, I sat back down and hoped the bus would arrive soon.
Ten minutes later, I was on my way to Santa Cruz. Being Sunday, there was hardly anyone on the streets. With no particular plan in mind, I quickly found that the capital of the island was a fairly modern city, with very little historic architecture or monuments to gaze upon. Nevertheless, I walked down to the water and came across a large, bizarre shaped building – the Tenerife Auditorium. After snapping pictures of the giant structure, I continued along the boardwalk enjoying the morning sun. Thinking about heading back towards the bus station, I stumbled upon a massive gypsy market. It was close to 10 city blocks of everything and anything you could imagine. All the downtown streets were shut down and people we hawking items like blow dryers, jewelry, cassette tapes, clothes, cigars, washing machines…you name it, they had it. It was complete madness! Browsing my way up and down the streets, I found a couple gifts to tuck away for Christmas. Deciding I had had enough shopping for the day, I stopped for a café con leche in the town square and made my way back to the bus station. I found Santa Cruz a bit overrated. There isn’t much to see. It seems like a business district with very little beach access. I was ready to move on and spend the rest of the day in the South…on the beach and in the sun!
One hour and 15 minutes later I arrived in Playas de las Americas. Starving, I grabbed a quick bite to eat, purchased some sunscreen and made my way to the beach. Walking up and down the boardwalk, I finally decided where I wanted to spend my day. Stripping down to my bathing suit and lathering on sunscreen, I was ready to read my book while soaking up some rays.
Not taking note of my surroundings, I forgot how ‘free’ Europeans are. Sitting up I found myself looking directly at an older man bending over in his tiny speedo. Stifling a laugh, I glanced around a realized almost every man was wearing a speedo (many who shouldn’t have been) and most of the women were topless. Keep in mind, the ones baring the most skin were more often than not the more ‘mature’ individuals. Welcome to Europe folks! Thinking about joining in on trend, I finally decided against it. The skin I had exposed was fair enough and I didn’t want risk getting burned in places more sensitive...
Continuously re-applying sunscreen (should of gone for that SPF 70…ouch!), swimming in salty the ocean to cool off and reading my book made for a fabulous afternoon. I was able to relax, enjoy myself and soak up some much needed vitamin D. After about 5 hours in the sun (30+°C, 90+°F), I gathered my stuff and decided to stroll the boardwalk and find a place for dinner. I was surprised by how much English was being spoken. It seemed most of the tourists were from the UK or Scandinavia. I should have figured that out from the almost translucent skin pigments that had surrounded me all day! Selecting a restaurant right on the water, I ordered halibut in champagne sauce and savored the delicious meal while gazing out on the ocean…
Deciding I had seen what I wanted after a long day, it was back to the bus station to catch my bus. An uneventful hour later, the sun started to set as I was walking down a hill towards my hotel. Seizing the opportunity, I sprinted to the water, got back into my bathing suit and jumped into the ocean as the sky turned a fiery red. It was gorgeous. Climbing onto a rock to admire the breathtaking view, I couldn’t help but wish I was sharing the moment with my closest friends…
Sidenote: I think it’s worth mentioning that though I had an amazing time in Tenerife, traveling is not quite the same when spending awesome moments alone. The experience is greatly enhanced when you’re sharing it with someone.
Sidenote2: Though I enjoyed the island and found it very beautiful, it doesn’t quite compare to Madeira (Portugal). Madeira is gorgeous and green, whereas Tenerife is desert like. Just my opinion!