Friday, 30 April 2010

Warwick Castle

On Thursday John and I were invited to check out Warwick Castle with fellow Crusaders youth coach, Daniella and her friend Edith who was in town visiting from Israel. It was interesting getting to walk around inside and outside of the castle buildings. Some of the doorways were probably under 6' tall, and the stairways really really narrow.

We were able to hike our way up the spiral staircase to the top of the tallest tower and see the beautiful scenery for miles and miles. It's funny to imagine what life would've been like back in medieval times and actually living in a castle... my how the world has changed!

The highight of the day was definitely when we signed up to help load and shoot one of the largest Trebuchet's in the world!! Each of us were paired up and had to take turns walking inside these huge wheels (like a hamster) to bring down the arm that shoots the stone. After that we had to then walk the opposite direction in order to build the tension on the rope to shoot the arm. It wasn't that much "work" in order to get it loaded but it was well worth the final product of seeing it fired!

Yes that's me in there cranking that wheel.. we had to wear these funky outfits too, but all in good fun!

It was a fun day and I'm glad that we were invited out to experience it! Sometimes attractions like Warwick Castle are considered rip-offs (similar to going up the Space needle) and too expensive, but we got in for half off and I really can appreciate the history and uniqueness of midieval times now!

4 more days until I'm on that big bird flying home... trying to visit with everyone out here before Tuesday! Isn't it funny how time goes by soooo quick when you actually need it hahaha!

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The past week...

So I finally made it out back to Luxembourg on the 20th via train because flights were still not being allowed in or out of the UK up to that point. I took a bus to London and then caught a train down to Brussels and from there caught another train to Arlon, a small town in Luxembourg. It was beautiful day and I was able to soak in the sights on the trip down. We practiced on Wednesday night and then played a "friendly match" against a top league team on Thursday night. It was an interesting situation because some of the older players from this season (late twenties, early thirties) had recently decided that this season was going to be their last so there weren't going to play anymore. On top of that the club decided to not bring back the coach from this season, SOOOO on a "tryout" was a new coach originally from New Jersey. So we had 1 practice with a new team, new American player (me) and a new coach and had to play a game against a top league team the next day hahah!... It was an experience in itself, but my game plan was just to ride with it and have fun and play hard. We lost by 25pts, but that was expected with the current situation. I played well and had 30pts and 13rebounds. I liked the new coach and felt he did well coaching us and giving encouragement to the younger kids. It's a tricky situation as a coach to be thrown into the fire like that, but he did well and gave us some plays to run that were successful. As far as how things are with that club, they are going to have a committee meeting sometime soon and get back to me with their decision of whether they will be offering me a contract for next season or not. I am confident that they will, the real quesiton is if that's the place I want to play next season?? Only after time and prayers will I know that..

While I was there I stayed in the apartment with the new possible coach, Bill Paterno. We were roommates for the 4 days while i was there. It was a fun time as he has been in Europe now since the late 70's and playing bball for 40 years, so needless to say he had a ton of interesting and funny stories about life and the game of basketball. After the game Thursday the club didn't have anything else set up for us to do so we were free to do whatever until I left Sunday night. Most of my time was spent chilling online and reading a new book given to me by John called "The Shack" by Willaim P. Young. I most recently had finished "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller and would highly recommend it to anyone. It was an easy and very interesting read written by a guy who understands Christianity and has a simple but strong relationship with God. He really breaks down some everday struggles we all go through in our lives and shows how you can make it through them with God on your side. He is someone I can relate to because he had some similar questions about Christianity growing up and struggles about the faith that I've had. The way his life changed over time and his faith in God had grown was inspiring to me, and I couldn't put the book down once I started.
I was able to fly back on Sunday to the UK and made it safely!! It was perfect timing as my Bday was on Monday the 26th! So i was excited to be back with friends to celebrate the good times :) Monday was a busy day of coaching then John and I were invited to Coach's house for dinner. We were graced with a mexican night (which is always awesome because there isn't really any mexican restaurants in the UK at all) and also Rebecca's famous brownies!! yummy to the tummy!! It was really nice to get to spend my birthday with my UK family!

The plans for the night after dinner was to head out to a disco/pub called The Coliseum, which is a really busy "college night" on mondays nights. A couple of my teammates, Dan and Dave made it out and also some Crusader supporters Lauren and Lucy as well. It was a fun night of dancing and I'm glad that some of my friends were able to make it out for my 27th! Geez where did 26 go???!!! Here's a short video from the night...

John and Dave

John, Dan and Me

Me, Lauren, Lucy and John

I know I have said this often as of late but it really does amaze me how quickly my time here has gone (only 6 days left here)! I am going to miss my new life long friends I have made out here. It's also going to be hard to say bye to some of these kids I've been coaching for the past four months. The relationships I've made since being here are worth more to me than anything else another club could've offered. I really feel blessed to have had the opportunity to play in Coventry and be a Crusader.

Until Tomorrow... "make it happen"

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Coventry City football game Saturday & All Star game sunday

My good friend Mark came through with 3 tickets for the Coventry City football game and invited Scott and myself! So after our morning workout and coaching session I headed home and got ready to head out to Ricoh Arena where they play their games. It's a huge stadium that seats 32,000 fans although there was only around 16,000 in attendance on Saturday.
The game was awesome and the crowd from both teams were pretty intense with their cheers and banter. I've never been to a live soccer match and it was a lot of fun! Cov City scored fairly early and then gave up a penalty in the box and the other team scored off the free kick. It ended in a draw 1-1. It was a beautiful day for some football and a good time with Scott and Mark!

John and I were both invited to play in the All Star game for Warwickshire Basketball Association. It was a fun day as John and I got there early to support some of our Crusader U12 and U14 players who played before us in their all star game, but since we were there were ended up reffing instead. Which is always a fun time haha (gotta give refs respect, its not an easy job at all). So the schedule looked like this; U12 and U14 kids played in the AM, then the women's all star game, then there was a Shoot-Out 3pt contest, then a Wheelchair basketball match (which was awesome), then we had our game last. I played for the EAST and John for the WEST. It was a tight match and the EAST came out victorious, ya baby!!

Just a little update as to my Luxembourg trip this week: My flight leaving tomorrow has been cancelled due to the volcanic ash that has been spreading all over from the volcanoe in Iceland that erupted a few days ago. No flights have been able to come in or leave out of the UK for about 3 days now. So as of right now I will be in Coventry until further notice...

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Another awesome London day

On Thursday John and I tagged along with Coach Scott and his family to head into London to pick up Selah's US passport from the American Embassy. It was an early 6AM wake up call as their appointment was around 9:30AM. It was another gorgeous day to be walking around the streets of the "big city" for hours, we definitely lucked out again. Once we got off the tube where we needed to be, John and I went on our own path as Scott and Rebecca didn't need us for the passport deal. Of course the path started off at MacDonald's hahah for their double sausage with cheese mcmuffin meal!! That was only maybe my third or fourth time getting fast food since being out here, I've definitely come accustomed to cooking at home :)
After our breakfast we headed off to walk through a couple parks and enjoy the scenery (both Hyde and Regent's park). This led us on our way to Buckingham Palace to catch a quick cup of tea with the queeny ;) (no big deal really). The Palace was pretty amazing and also tourist central!

We eventually ran into a pretty famous bakery called The Hummingbird Bakery and John told me that they are very well known for their cupcakes. SOOOO of course we had to pop in and give one a fair try :)

I can't believe how much of a sweet tooth I have but ever since I've been out here I am always feening for my next treat haha! I don't know if it's because the chocolate is that much better out here or what, but I need to seriously take a step back on the sweets when once I get back home!
Everything went well with Selah's passport, it just took some time, kind-of like being at the DMV! We eventually met back up with the rest of the crew and made our way home. It was a long day of walking and taking in the sights, London is a great city with a lot of attitude, personality, character and spirit. I would reccommend that everyone try to make it out here if ever possible, you would all appreciate it's culture and beauty.

Until tomorrow... "make it happen"

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Luxembourg tryout

Me under the Luxembourg flag...

So last week I visited a club that I have been in contact with since last summer, BBC US Heffingen located in Heffingen Luxembourg. They had been following me and watching how I'd been playing all season with the Crusaders and invited to pay for me to come out for a tryout with the team for next season. They had their final game on the 10th and asked me to come out to practice with the team a couple times prior to their final game. So I made it out there on the 7th and stayed until the 11th. We practiced twice and I was able to participate in the whole practice and help them prepare for the game. I played very well (even if it was only practice) and seemed to fit it just right with the other guys. It was surprising to me that everyone spoke English during practice, and very well might I add. Everyone I might in Luxembourg spoke about 4 languages, which made me feel dumb for only really knowing 1... BUT because of the location of Luxembourg they pretty much know 3-4 to survive and get solid work. They spoke French, Luxembourgish, German and usually English.

They ended up losing their game on Saturday even though it was close one. The crowd was crazy with their drums and other noise makers and it seemed like the whole town was there in support(I'd say 800-1,000 fans). Afterwards everyone stuck around the gym to talk/visit and drink :) They have their own full bar right outside the gym in the main entry way and that's where everyone congregated for the rest of the night. Since this was the last game of the season all the important sponsors and committee members were in attendance, which meant I was schmoooozzzed and got the VIP treatment all night with champagne :). My flight was to leave the next morning at 4AM and I ended up staying at the gym until 3:30AM having a good old time with the other 30 or so people left, dancing, drinking a little bit and just getting to know each other. I think I'd fit in quite well there.

My contact from the team there is a guy named Jose. I got to know him through an old summer coach in Seattle. Jose played for Heffingen for 15 years and now is a member of the committee. He is the one that set up the whole trip for me.

I ended up staying with his parents Domingo and Julia while I was there and it was quite interesting because they are originally from Portugal and speak either Portuguese, French, little Spanish or Luxembourgish (the native Luxembourg language). NO ENGLISH. Seeing as though I don't speak much else other than English (little bit of Spanish in high school and a little bit of Portuguese when I played there) I knew this would be a fun experience! It was great and I had a blast trying to communicate with them about everything and anything. We were using hand language and movements (like pictionary haha) to try to explain what we were talking about. I ended up spending quite a bit of time there at their house when we weren't at the gym practicing and I found myself spending the whole time with them rather than by myself or watching TV. I was treated and taken care of incredibly and the hospitality I received was almost like none I've ever experienced.

As soon as I woke up Julia had my place set up at the table for breakfast, ready to go. Every meal was cooked and absolutely delicious. As soon as I got back from practice she was taking my dirty clothes to wash them for me, and also had my plate of food ready to be consumed. It was quite humbling to be served like that. I tried numerous times to do the dishes or help with something for dinner, but all i would get is a "Naaa Naaa" and a point to the chair for me to sit down Hahah.

This is a short video I took of Domingo and I on one of our tours through some small towns. You can hear from the video that he's trying to explain the country side to me in Portuguese.

This was a video from our other trip into Luxembourg city, downtown.

Domingo was awesome and we had a blast together. One day he took me through a couple different smaller towns surrounding the main city, then another day he took me to Luxembourg city and we walked around looking at the beautiful building and different statues and structures. Luxembourg is a beautiful little country with a ton of farm land and numerous little towns, but because it's soooo close to a couple different countries it would be very easy to travel and see some sights. The trip went very well and it was my first time getting a tryout overseas with a team rather than just dealing with teams through emails and phone calls from the States. It was quite the experience and I am blessed to be able to travel and see so many beautiful parts of this incredible world because of a sport where you put a ball through a ring... Life is crazy.

So the team has asked me to come back next week and practice a few more times with the team and also play in some scrimmage games against other teams so that all the committee memebers can watch me play and decide if they want to sign me for next season. I am leaving on the 19th and staying until the 25th. This will give me more time to see how I feel about this team imparticularly and also for them to see more of how I can play. Ulitmately it would be great to have a contract prior to the summertime and coming home! Less worry and stress of not knowing when and where I would end up going, but that's the business baby! Gotta love it. Life is good, GOD is great!

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"

Monday, 5 April 2010

Last game and Easter Sunday

Crusaders 92- Tees Valley Mohawks 95
We lost another tough one by 3 points after being up by 10-14pts all game. This brings a close to the 2010 Crusaders season. We finished in 10th place, 1 game out of 9th. I didn't have a good game by any means but would've loved to get the win. I had 9pt 7rebs 2asts 2blks. I have really enjoyed my season here and am very thankful for the opportunity to get to play here in Coventry. I don't know yet about next season and probably won't know until September, BUT I would always consider being a Crusader for another season!

Easter Sunday-
We started today off by heading to church at our usual Mosaic spot. It was a nice service with Pete (our other flat mate) leading worship and Mike (a member of the church) that was going to be sharing the word as our speaker for the day.
Mike spoke about some of his personal experiences in hearing GOD speak to him through prayer, and how each one of us can have these same spiritual connections with GOD. He said it's all about putting yourself in the right state of mind(whether it be in quiet prayer, or while signing worship songs) and then being able to recognize GOD's voice from your subconscious as he speaks to you through prayer. It was an interesting topic to take in and think about for the rest of the day. It made me think about how much I really "try" to hear GOD speaking to me, and how maybe I can try to focus more during prayer and not let my mind wander off as sometimes it can...

Post church we went to Scott's for the day as he and Rebecca had invited us over for Easter and had planned out a Seder meal for us to share with them. A Seder meal is the Jewish Passover meal that's celebrated annually retelling the story when God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. This was 'the Last Supper' Jesus celebrated with his disciples before he was arrested and crucified . Here is a link to see what exactly is involved in a seder meal:

It was a lovely time and the food was great! Scott cooked a leg of Lamb, potatoes and brocolli that was all delicious. It was great time of fellowship as it always is at the Neely household. After our meal we sat around and talked/played with Selah until it was bedtime for her. Scott took a funny video of me reading "the wheels on the bus" to her. Here is the link from my facebook:!/video/video.php?v=420646940999&ref=mf

It was a long day as we stayed late watching the Final Four games from the day before that we missed because of our game that was on the road Saturday night. I missed being home for Easter but I felt as though I was just down the street being with the Neely family!

It's crazy to think about but I'll be back home in less than a month now!! I can't believe my four months has gone by sooooo quickly. There are really soooo many things I'll take away from this experience. I've had a great time up to this point and hopefully I'll have some more in my last few weeks in the UK!

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"

Friday, 2 April 2010

Last game of the season...

This Saturday we have our final game of the season against Tees Valley Mohawks. It's gonna be a long day as it takes around 3.5hrs to drive up there, couple hours to play then another 3.5hrs to drive back. We've beaten this team already once before, but they've changed slightly in personel since last time. Hopefully we can end on a win to cap off our season!

So one thing that is nice about playing and living in the UK is of course that there is no language barrier. BUT that doesn't mean that there hasn't been some minor issues at times with conversating with people. Some of the terminology that we use in the States means different things for people out here in the UK. Also there are some everyday actions that we perform in the States that mean different in the UK as well. Here is a list that I have compiled thus far...

British word: American translation:

bollocks- testicles
mobile- cell phone
toilet- bathroom
loo- toilet
fag- cigarette
club- sports team
jumper- coat or sweater
napkin- tampon
tea time- dinner
quid- slang for a buck (a dollar)
queue- a line to wait in at the bank or store
boot- trunk of a car
trousers- pants
pants- underwear
chips- french fries
crisps- chips
trainers- shoes or athletic shoes
kit- jersey (shorts and top)
cheers- thanks
match- game
training- practice
mate- friend
fancy- to like or want
birds- slang term for women
bloke- slang term for men
wellies- rain boots
dinner- lunch time
posh- fancy or high class
lollipop man/woman- crossing guard
hip pack- fanny pack(because fanny means a women's privates hahaha!)
sort or sorted- figured out

In the UK there is a stereotype on young teenagers that are called "Chavs". They usually wear a full head to toe sweatsuit or track jacket type of outfit (nike or adidas) along with some athletic running shoes and then a hat of some sort. BUT not a typical baseball hat but like a burberry or nike sporty hat. Kinda funny, I guess it'd sort of be like our "gangster" in the States.

Another couple of funny things about the UK is that #1 you can actually get a fine for spitting in the streets! John and I kind've have a joke between us every time we spit, it's like a running tally of how much we would owe if we were to get caught each time. He says you can get like a 60 pound ticket if you get caught! Crazy!
#2 No one seems to "poop scoop" after their dogs!! And it doesn't seem as though there is a fine either... So walking down the street sometimes can be like a game rather than just a pleasant relaxing walk. You really have to keep your eyes peeled otherwise you're in for a squishy treat :)
#3 A peace sign is ok, BUT only if displayed this way...

NOT THIS WAY!! As I've come to find out haha! I guess it's the same as giving someone the "middle finger" or "the big bird"... Which is a shame because this is my "go to" pose for pictures hahah! Oh well..

I hope everyone is awesome and enjoying their Easter Break! Life is good, God is great!

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"