Is an understatement to say the least. But the phrase is a great way to trick your mind into thinking your not halfway across the Atlantic Ocean. That is until you reach the comma in that phrase and realize the only reason you feel you just MIGHT be close to home, and those that make each day - breathe -tear, and laugh worth savoring is do to the incredible advances in technology. Facebook; Myspace, AOL/YAHOO/MSN Instant Messenger, SKYPE, and now the creation of ESPN Sportscenter videos on the web at www.sportscenter.com , that can almost provide us with the illusion of being in a regular home just enjoying the day. But trust me the difference is eminent as soon as you turn on the television to hear a language other than that native to you. Or you look outside the window to a sea of COMPACT DIESEL FUEL swallowing vehicles parked on congested cobble stone
Looking to the left - bite sized parallel parking spots that look as if a 10 - speed bike would not fit into if you removed the front tire. Scanning left, picture buildings that are so old you feel a sense of power emitting from them from miles away. Moss and vegetation consuming three quarters of a tower that could tell a thousand stories before it tells you the deepest stories of its region. A simple act like walking down the street swirls into an eye popping mind frenzy as you register each difference around you. Street signs, nasal cavity-ISH streets, the clothes people wear (This is a whole other topic, more on that later), traffic patterns, smells, colors, mannerisms. Suddenly you transform like Optimus Prime into semi-truck , from yourself into Dorothy trapped in OZ as you realize, " We ain't in Kansas anymore." With so many differences how do we keep sane? How do we keep touch with those important to us?
Well this topic is o
ne that ANYONE that has EVER been away from their home city let alone the hemisphere they are native to can agree with. Since we went over a few types earlier let me first break down who it is we keep touch with. So here they are by category.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
These are the people that you speak to frequently/semi-frequently. I have some friends that I speak to on Myspace, others that I only communicate with on Facebook. Rarely do I ever blur the two with one friend, the reason is really unknown but ask anyone that is in my situation or even those that are not and they will likely tell you the same thing. Most times it is just a " Hey!" or " How are you?" Other times you actually have a change of information worth putting your typing skills to good use over. It is always nice to get a message from someone you have not spoken to or heard from in a long time. To be so far from home and to see a message just saying " Miss you man, can't wait till we can catch up." Can have an uplifting effect.
There are a few different types but I use mainly AOL (AIM), and SKYPE for my instant messaging. When I need to speak to my friends from overseas that are foreign I use MSN messenger due to the fact that the rest of the world seems to all use that form of instant messaging. Now the friends that you
keep on these forms of mind tricking communication platforms are differently placed also. First of all when I use AIM I speak mainly to people that I went to college with. That was the time that I started the account in the first place so that makes sense. Also I use AIM to actually TEXT MESSAGE my friends/family's phones. It is free of charge and is no extra fee to the person on the receiving end. Great way to get a message to friends that can not talk on a pone call at the moment or are just on the run. Of course we have the actual friends and the people that JUST HAPPEN to be online when you are.
Let me tell you that when I say I lived off this form of communication my first two and a half months here in Portugal, I AM NOT EXAGGERATING. My computer crashed so I was left with nothing. Thanks to the use of wifi on one of my two best friends (1. iphone 2. Macbook) I was able to live on email and actually email my friends phones as text messages. If you do not know how to use this method contact your provider. Most phones come with an email hookup using your number followed by your provider.com at no extra fee as long as you have internet - i.e firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before the news about how incredible SKYPE actually is I was at a loss at how to speak to family and friends at a price that was reasonable. I had only spoken to my mother two times in almost three months....Not to mention I had not spoken to anyone else voice to voice due to the price of a call. I have a cell phone but making calls would run my prepaid european cell phone minutes at a rate that you would not believe. On the flip side of that making a call from a different country code is not exactly friendly for a cell phone bill that you want anyone to have to deal with just to hear from you. With SKYPE I found a way to make life 90% better. Within minutes of downloading the program I set up a number with a Florida area code and voicemail that allows friends to call me anytime and if I am unavailable they can leave a message.
Then I chose a plan that fit my needs. I only want to call the states so I enrolled in a plan with UNLIMITED CALLING to North American cell phones and landlines for about $3.oo a month. On top of that the more months you enroll in this plan the cheaper it is per month. Also with Skype I can do instant messaging and now have a group of friends I communicate through this mode new age communication evolution. But it does not end there because with SKYPE I can do telephone conferences with as many people as I choose that have SKYPE also. The other day after not speaking to anyone from home on the phone in forever, I had my two brothers in a conference at the same time. My mother spoke with; my two younger brothers, and both their girlfriends that all have SKYPE! On top of this I can do crystal clear video conversations! Technology is mind blowing to say the least. The best part about the smooth process to this was that if you have your contacts synched through your cell phone with the address book on your computer, SKYPE will automatically ask you if you want to load these contacts up onto SKYPE. Now giving me every contact at the touch of a button.
THE " WHO'S WHO "OF FRIENDS
Now as all my friends will tell you I can talk forever. This does translate to my writing as it seems, so we will wind this down with the most intriguing part of life away from home. Friends and the magic ball that your absence provides you when looking at them. Quickly you find out what kind of friends you have. Some actually keep up with you. They know where you are. They want to know when you come back, and keep up with games to a degree. Friends can change though and over time we all do so it is not unexpected. What can be hard is going from speaking and socializing with friends every day, every other night. To not having touch with them for months or even until you return home upwards of six months later if not more. The average basketball season is 6-8 months and 10 months in other cases. Imagine not having more than a few exchanged words with someone you saw as a close friend and would have done anything for. Probably went through some tough times with even. It puts everything in perspective to say the least.
At first you feel a bit angered when you think about it. It is human. You bled with some of these people. Cried with even. Laughed and dined with on more occasions than you can recollect. You look back on pictures of back
home (another Vulcan mind trick ala STAR TREK) when times got tough or you were really
down. My first term playing was really tough in Denmark. I lived on myspace and FACEBOOK constantly reaching out to people. Trying anything to keep a piece of home. You just come to realize that it is a part of growing up and you can not expect everyone to put you in the center of their universe when you are off making your dreams come true.
Relationships are a WHOLE other topic. Imagine having a significant other, or what you thought was that to you or worthy of future inauguration into a higher role even.That person being out of sight but NOT out of mind for months at a time. Stressful to say the least. How can you make it work? How can you keep touch with the people that matter most and care most about your well being. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, godsons/daughters, grandparents, moms/dads, business associates and more? It takes effort that is for sure. Without the correct balance some will feel left out, others will feel let down. Some will forget about you and you will do the same. Relationships will be bent to the point of fracture, and possibly sustain a crucial relationship-ending break. Hopefully a clean one, that allows the wounds to heal in full. Though sometimes you do not want them to. Just to have the memory of that time when things were easy. When you were not halfway across the world while you leave those behind that matter most. Forcing them to find means of replacing the void you left them with.
Life away from home can be tough, FOREIGN to say the least. You can only hope that the people that you mean the most to, remember they mean the most to you.
Hoops Week in Review: We are on a current two game wining streak sitting in 6th place in our league standings. Top 8 teams make the playoffs, and we are just fighting to stay alive. I played well last week and started for the second week in a row after many line-up changes by our coach. Coach actually had me start against a 7 footer who I went right at to show my team we would not back down to anyone. We have played inspired basketball these last two weeks so we will see what our future holds.
NEXT GAME - SAT
GAMES REMAINING - 5
www.fpb.pt (league info and standings)
www.fcporto.pt (Team website)