Around these parts it means “Same thing, different place”, well that's what google translator told me at least. The story of my life I guess. Since grade school and the beginning of sports for all athletes that is a phrase all too familiar. Different cities, states, and in my case countries that we go visit to play in hostile environments against teams we have never seen or heard of for that much. Our only goal being a victory at all costs. Losing is not an option now nor has it ever been. Athletes, excuse me COMPETITORS do not live by any other creed.
Today though I sit in the restaurant of the Yacht Club and Hotel here in Asuncion, Paraguay the capital of my current country of visitation on my third trip to South America in the last year and a half. A great meal of the norm; rice, chicken and vegetables have me full. Ice cream for dessert. A treat for the healthy eating throughout the week has me counting the crunches it will take to work off the hot fudge dripping from the bowl and the mixture of chocolate, and coffee flavored deliciousness that lay before me. Looking out the window sipping water to neutralize the sweetness from dessert and holding an iphone in the other hand typing rapidly on AIM instant messenger, I glance out the window and feel an aura of relaxation take over me.
(ITunes timeout, Fabolous- “Last time” ft. Trey Songz)
It so easy to get caught up in the mix of our daily interactions. Oh trust me I know, my days are blurred. They seem the same and leave me sometimes forgetting the day, date, and last night I realized I did not know what month it was for a second while chatting on a lifeline for survival known as iChat. Daily routine? Wake up; vitamins, protein shake, walk across the street from our condo to the hotel and restaurant our team arranged for us to eat all our meals at, breakfast, practice, lunch, rest, practice, dinner, ichat/Facebook/Twitter/Skype/ESPN.com. Literally that’s it, we play games on the weekends and some other parts are thrown in from day to day of course but you get the gist.
Something about today is different though. The clouds outside mixed with the blue skies in a type of blend that seems sculpted by hand almost takes my breathe away. How can inside this restaurant there is such a frenzy. Sunday brunch is quite an episode in this high-class hotel that looks out on the River of Paraguay. Children run amidst the tables and parents seem care free as they take in coffees, snacks and over priced meals made to look better than they are simply for the class of guests that frequent the hotel with a stream of steady business. Not one person here knows who I am. I could sit here all day and until I stand up and people see that I am six foot eight, not a soul would notice me.
(ITunes timeout, Jay-z “Blueprint 3)
The water outside is so calm; the voices inside erupt like firecrackers from all regions of the huge ballroom turned into a buffet on Sundays. The sky is powder blue like a can of paint was splashed. The man made beach on the rear of the hotel on the river is tattered with footprints that seem to almost be in a type of order. Across the river lay Argentina. Less than fifty feet away from that side of the river you can see shacks that are inhabited. Integrated into the rough shrubs and forestry. Every day I look at it and wonder how on this side of the river can lie Yacht Clubs, Golf Courses, tennis clubs, Mercedes Benz trucks, BMW Coupes, and high class living?
I toss the thought aside, the same thing happens in my own country so who am I to question that? It has been only a month and a half but it seems so much longer than that. A month and a half of being away from family, bad Internet, practices, bruises and bumps. It has been some 43 days of driving to practices, cold gyms, twitter updates, and road trips with internet that ends up being better than in my apartment! There are a lot of things that cause issues for you us and make us want to complain. But today I do not want to do that. Seeing a father at the table across from me teach his kids to count in a different language. Watching boats float by pulling a passenger on water skis. Eyeing the son of a friend walk past me giggling out of control. Reading instant messages on my iPhone that remind me that back home across open water, and over countries all too foreign to me than the word itself that I am loved, I just feel thankful.
Thankful that my legs have been able carry me from a crib as a baby to four continents as a man using the game that I love as my vessel. Each day I wake up healthy. I am granted the ability to walk, let alone play the game I love that allows me to support myself. My family is healthy and I live a life full of planes, trains, and automobiles that most would envy. The experiences that I have gained as well as the sights my eyes have seen will last me a lifetime. And they won’t be stopping any time soon. As I sit with my now melted ice cream and my battery on my iPhone dead I crack a smile realizing two things. I need to go back to my apartment, and I truly am blessed and should never forget that.
*Basketball update: We are currently 2nd place in our league at 12-3 with all three losses coming to the 1st place team.
www.latinbasket.com for more information (under Paraguay)