The Next Steps

So now that we’ve returned home, some of you may be asking what we are going to do now.

Well, Asa has made his way to Atlanta to play ultimate frisbee for the club season with his old team, Chain Lightning. Having been a part of this team for the last 4 years, and the two of us not having any grand plans arranged, it was a must for Asa to play another season. He is still in the same wonderful job that he can do from anywhere! He will be doing a lot of traveling for the frisbee season, making appearances in Santa Cruz, Washington D.C., Orlando, and hopefully Sarasota at the end of October.

I am currently in California with my parents and our pets.

The view from my parents’ balcony. It sure is a tough life!

One of my goals during our stay in Uruguay was to find a job for when we got back. Yeah, that didn’t happen, but not for lack of trying. Apparently the academic and science fields are super hard to find a job in right now. So, that’s one of my main activities now: job searching. I am also hard at work continuing to publish work from my PhD dissertation. While in Uruguay I got two papers published and have a book chapter and another paper in the works. For the first time in a long time (almost 10 years), my athletic ambitions do not involve frisbee. Instead I am going to have some fun running and get back into triathlons with my dad.

The next question you’re probably thinking about is what is going to happen with the blog. Well, at least for a while, we’ll continue to post thoughts and reflections from our trip to Uruguay. We learned a lot that we definitely want to share.

We will also start posting some of our adventures in the states. Our friends in Uruguay can get an idea of our life in the states and our friends closer to home may get some awesome ideas for places to go or things to see.

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Despedida

We’re coming into the last couple of days of our time here in Uruguay. This weekend was a busy one filled with last hoorays.

We went to our last board gaming night on Friday where we played some new games and some old favorites. We got to see some friends and say our goodbyes. We were welcomed back to our apartment at 5 am to a car alarm that proceeded to go off until about 9 am. We did manage to get some sleep, but not much.

On Saturday night we headed to our friend Chandro’s house for a small going away party (a despedida) for us and another frisbee player, Yasu who is leaving Uruguay on Monday. We had a great time “shooting the s*&t”, although between severe lack of sleep and too many people trying to talk at once, we had a bit of a hard time following the spanish conversation at points.

Here we all are hanging out!

The frisbee team got us gifts: posters with photos of our time with the team and some really cool coffee cups!

We will be headed back to the states on Tuesday night. We fly through Miami and arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning. Then we’ll be taking the Amtrak surf liner up the coast to San Luis where parents will hopefully be waiting with open arms and extra sharp cheddar cheese!

For those friends that we leave here in Uruguay: We thank you so much for your wonderful hospitality and friendship, your understanding of our horrible spanish, and for making us feel so welcome so far away from home. We won’t forget your friendship and hopefully we will meet again. Nos Vemos!

For those friends and family in the states: Thanks so much for following our adventures and giving us your support and love on our journey. We’ll hopefully see you all soon!

Ultimate Tournament Espíritu Sudaka

We were in Buenos Aires a week and a half ago for the biggest ultimate frisbee tournament of the year in this part of the country. Asa and I met the rest of the team at a hostel in the center of the city shortly after they arrived on wednesday afternoon. It was an awesome hostel; close to all the major tourist attractions in the downtown area, they served breakfast, and always had hot water for the showers. They were also able to fit all of us into two rooms!

The tournament itself was held at Parque Sarmiento on the west side of the city and about an hour travel from our hostel via either a subway and bus ride or a train and walking.

The tournament schedule was as follows:

The tournament schedule had clinics on thursday designed to help players with their throwing and defensive skills. It was run by some of the organizers of the tournament. There was also a clinic designed to discuss spirit of the game. They discussed things like interpretation of the rules and how to deal with disagreements on the field in a sportsman-like manner. A much greater focus is placed on spirit of the game and camaraderie here than in the United States, although it still forms the foundation for the sport in the states.

Thursday ended with two showcase games; one women’s and the other men’s. The women’s showcase game was played between the first (and only) women’s team from Buenos Aires (formed last August) and the rest of the girls from the tournament. This gave the Buenos Aires team a chance to play together and start figuring out how to work as a team. The men’s showcase game was between the Argentinian men’s team and 2-3 all-stars from each of the other teams. The Argentinian team will be attending World’s this summer in Japan. I played in the women’s game and Asa, Juanma, Cabra, and Juan Diego played in the men’s game.

Friday and Saturday were pool play days. There was one pool of 5 teams and one pool of 4 teams. The team from Colombia had some travel troubles and had to stay home at the last minute, hence 9 teams instead of the planned 10. We drew a spot in the pool of 5 and had to play Brazzinga (the top team from Brazil) in our first game. It took us a bit to figure out what we were doing and managed to keep the score fairly close. It was a hard game to have first and we ended up losing.

Our second game of the day was against the Cadillacs, a team from Beunos Aires. We worked together really well, with everyone getting good play time and we won. This was the first game that Cimarrón has won as a team!!!

Saturday started out with a game again Del Rial, or the mustachios. They all had drawn on mustaches and were giving gifts of stick-on mustaches. This was a hard game to have first in the day. They had picked up a couple of the Columbian players that happened to make it to the tournament. They were young and fast and moved the disc really well. We tightened things up a bit and made some strategy adjustments and won Cimarrón’s second game!!

Our second Saturday game was against a team from Chile. We rotated everyone through the lines and tried a little zone. Cimarrón won it’s third game!!! This was enough to put us second in our pool and in a cross-over quarterfinals game against the Bahía Blanca team. This team consisted of people from Monte Hermoso where Matt went to play the beach tournament in February, so he knew most of them. The game was a bit rough with calls and was more aggressive than any of our previous games. We stuck with it and Cimarrón won it’s fourth game!!

That put us into the semifinals Sunday morning against Big Red, Buenos Aires’ best team and the team that had won the tournament last year. We came out ready to go. We started playing a zone defense with two ladies in the cup and were able to shut down their offense for a bit. We were down for most of the game and brought the score back to 10-10 with us on defense. We threw our zone and got a turn. Asa sent a deep shot to Juanma who was wide open. Juanma ran toward the back of the endzone and tried to “toe” the line, but to no avail. We set our zone again, but Big Red managed to work the disc all the way back up the field and score. Cimarrón lost the semifinals by one point.

We still had the third place game to play against Sol, the other Brazillian team, but we had worn ourselves out playing Big Red. Cimarrón lost the 3/4 game, racking in a fourth place showing at the tournament.

Cimarrón’s end record was 4 wins and 3 losses, a remarkable tournament for the team and all of it’s players! Other players and teams continually commented on the improvement in Cimarrón’s players and team strategy from last year’s tournament. There was also a general excitement that Uruguay was building it’s ultimate program and actively seeking ways to improve and participate in the region.

Cimarrón also managed to get some awards at the end of the day: Asa won male MVP for the tournament and Randi won Defensor Feminino.

Thanks needs to be given to the organizers of the tournament for a great show. Also, thanks to all of you on the blog who have been with us from the beginning, providing financial and emotional support for the team here in Uruguay. The tournament was a great culmination of two months of hard work and there’s no doubt that Cimarrón will continue to improve and participate in future regional events! Thanks again!

Stuck in Customs – In sight, but out of arms reach

I could see them!! 80 discs to help teach and spread Ultimate Frisbee throughout Latin America were shipped down from the United States in boxes on the other side of the counter. Customs agents weren’t letting me have them though…

The Atlanta Flying Disc Club donated 80 discs so that we can help spread Ultimate Frisbee in Uruguay and throughout South America. It took about three weeks for the discs to arrive. Once they arrived, we received a couple letters from customs at our door saying we needed to pick them up.

We had no clue where customs was. There was an address at the top of the letter, but nothing indicating where we needed to go or what we needed to do.

We asked various people from ultimate frisbee in Uruguay, Asa’s work, and neighbors but we received conflicting addresses. Great…

After making a decision to go to the address on the letter, I headed off on a journey like Indiana Jones, but without the whip (it might be slightly intimidating to the customs agents) and hopefully without the danger… So I guess it’s nothing like Indiana Jones.

The shipment was in Asa and Randi’s name so they signed over the paperwork because they had some things to do. I called Carlos, a friend that is fluent in Spanish and plays ultimate frisbee down here, to see if he could help. He was able to meet at 3:30pm to help out so we could go in and pick up the three packages.

I arrive at the post office and Carlos notified me that he was coming with two other friends. They were a little late due to waiting for a while for a bus. Since customs closes at 4pm so I went ahead and went in customs to figure it out before they closed. I was hoping that Carlos and friends would make it in time to help me out in case there were any issues.

As I went inside, I started mentally preparing for the random questions about pricing, why my friends aren’t here to pick them up with me, and anything else they might ask. There was an open waiting room with a few people standing at the counter getting packages and about twice as many workers behind the counters standing around.

I waited my turn to hand a worker the papers and waited as he went into the back to retrieve the boxes. This was a huge moment! We were waiting for the discs to come in and they were finally here. Once he came back with the boxes, I figured everything was a go and the discs would be given to us.

The worker only spoke Spanish. This was going to be difficult.

Right as the customs agent asked for the receipt, he saw the invoice attached to the box. He opened the little plastic package for the receipt to look at it. Right when he looked at the final price, he gave me a confused look and said he couldn’t give me the boxes.

I asked him why not and what the problem was, but he kept pointing to the price on the invoice. I was confused. I figured I’d have to pay some money (an import tax) and then I could have the discs. That wasn’t the case.

The company that the discs were from put on the invoice that it was for donation for a non-profit and not for resale, but that didn’t seem to matter to the customs agent.

After we talked for a few minutes and eventually got to a point where we couldn’t understand each other, he asked if I would rather talk in English. Ohh perfect! I said yes and he walked away. Great…

A minute later, someone came walking from the back and said that I needed a customs broker. He didn’t speak much English, but I did understand that I needed someone to fill out paperwork for me and pick up the packages on my behalf. This was because Uruguay has a law that any package over $100 US Dollars needs to have official paperwork completed by an independent broker and properly paid for.

They said there was nothing I could do without a customs broker. I was so confused. I don’t know where to find a customs broker, what they charge, how to talk to one, or anything about what to do next. Luckily, after being outside for a couple more minutes, Carlos, Chandro, and Maru came walking up. I told them what happened and what the customs people said and immediately, Chandro and Carlos were on the phone calling people. They both are great people and have great connections, but Chandro had a family friend who was a customs broker and agreed to meet us.

We walked about 10 blocks through the city towards the port and arrived at his office. He met with us and was extremely friendly and gracious offering his services for free and helping. Without the normal upcharge percentage added on for needing to use a customs broker, he showed us that the taxes were going to cost about $450, which was roughly 60% of the final price of the discs with shipping. I don’t even want to know how much it would have cost with his fees.

He said he would take care of it and for us to wait until next week. He was going to try and go through the donations and charity route, but worse case scenario, was going to get the discs for us and we would pay him whatever it costs.

I hate waiting… BUT… after a week and a half, Chandro sent me a message on facebook and let me know the discs had arrived and we could pick them up. This time, Randi joined us for the fun. We figured it would be easier since it was originally addressed to her. There was a slight worry they would be confused since the address said Randi and not Miranda.

We met up with Carlos and Chandro and walked to the office of the customs broker. He gave us the good news that we didn’t have to pay for anything.

No taxes. No fees. Nothing.

It was extremely exciting to hear, but there was still doubt since we didn’t have the discs in our hands.

One of the employees of the custom broker’s office came with us. We were instructed not to talk or do anything and to let him talk. He didn’t say much at customs and handed over the papers that I originally gave them. They came back with three boxes and asked for Randi’s signature and passport.

She signed the paperwork and the customs agent rolled the boxes around the counter for us. No fees or anything. When we left, the customs broker said bye, we thanked him a lot, and he went on his way.

It was like Christmas!!

I felt as if I was 8 years old, running downstairs right after I opened my eyes on Christmas day to see the presents under the Christmas tree. It was so exciting. We couldn’t wait to get the boxes home and check out the designs.

The discs arrived safely

Discs made it home safely

We took the boxes back by bus, got home, and opened them up. There were a lot of great designs, one from Kaimana Klassic, Emory University, Spin, VC, some that were glow-in-the-dark, different colors, and the majority were standard white discs with misprints.

Various Ultimate Discs

Sorting through ultimate discs

Exciting!

Asa, Randi, and I talked a little about how we were going to give them out and how to maximize them to help spread Ultimate in South America (mainly Uruguay and Argentina).

So far, we have given out about 35 discs to the locals in Uruguay and some in a small town in Argentina called Bahia Banca. On a daily basis, they are telling people about ultimate, teaching at schools, physical education programs, youth centers, and bringing many youngsters out to learn the game and enjoy it. The most important part of ultimate to them is Spirit of the Game.

Discs for teaching and spreading ultimate

VeC with their discs. They were extremely impressive with their efforts of teaching and helping the sport grow in Argentina.

While we’re down here, we’re trying to teach everything we know about Ultimate Frisbee. One of the biggest problems is that no company sells real discs (Discraft discs) and each one costs about $30 US Dollars to buy because of shipping and import taxes (Great business opportunity if someone wants to take the time to figure out how to get discs here cheap).

Without the discs that the AFDC so generously donated, kids down here wouldn’t be able to learn how to play with discs that fly. Some of the discs were duct-taped together. I don’t think you need me to tell you that they didn’t fly that well.

Different departments of the government were trying to help buy creating a custom mold to create discs for kids to play with. The discs they created were really just circles of plastic with a huge hole in the middle. They donate fields to play on and help out with tournaments. Ultimate is slowly becoming more well known with the physical education teachers and government officials. It’s really awesome to have teachers come up to us and say how impressed they are with the sport, attitudes, and willingness to help others learn.

Just recently, we were filmed at a practice for one of the largest news programs in Uruguay. We recorded it and are being sent a DVD from the program. If they give us permission, we’ll upload clips for all to see.

Immediately after the program, people started sending facebook messages to players of the team saying they saw it on TV and it looked great.

The sport is growing!

Beware USA and Japan, Uruguay might become the next great team to contend with at Worlds!

Birthday Party!!

Carlos turned 22 and had a big celebration yesterday! Happy Birthday Buddy!

It is fairly common here to be able to rent out a space with some kind of kitchen facilities for parties or meetings. This is what the board gaming group does and what I assume Carlos’ family did last night.

We had our directions; the corner of Blvd. something Artigas and Colorado… Go past the fields and ask for Glorieta. So we walked down the street to catch the bus. We managed to get off a couple stops too early, but I guess that’s better than too late. We walked, we saw the fields, we saw a gate, we saw the guy in camo gear guarding the gate, and we kept walking. We got to the corner of Blvd. something Artigas and Colorado and knew we missed something. We called Carlos. He sent his brother Juanma and friend Ale to come and collect us.

Apparently we were suppose to stop at the gate and ask the camo guy about Glorieta. Turns out Glorieta is NOT a person. It’s the name of the little building where the party was. Go figure!

The party was great. I imagine there were about 40 people including friends and family. There were lots of snacks, along with beer and coke (both staples in Uruguayan dining). Some of the snacks we hadn’t seen before… Faína, which is a garbanzo flatbread that is sometimes placed atop pizza (called pizza al caballo). Maní, which are peanuts, but these had some kind of hard salty outer coating on them which reminded me of a corn nut.

When the majority of people arrived (probably around 10:30 pm) Carlos started the karaoke singing. It was very apparent that this might just be his favorite thing to do other than play ultimate, but unfortunately I haven’t gotten any good pictures of him doing either. I must say that karaoke in spanish was much more enjoyable in english, but that could have been the beer talking!

Matt and Juanma singing "We are the Champions" by Queen... Reminiscing about their recent win at a beach tournament in Monte Hermoso.

Juanma and some of the other frisbee boys enjoying themselves.

In the middle of karaoke there were hamburgers served. Then there were games. I guess the TV show “Minute to Win it” has gained some popularity here, so we played a variety of minute to win it games. These included: stacking bolts into a tower using a skewer, balancing a tower of 5 apples, bouncing a spoon into a cup, and moving  a cookie from your eye to your mouth without any hands. Asa and Matt both succeeded in making bolt towers and I dropped my cookie on the floor.

Asa and Carlos playing a "Minute to Win it" game.

Maru trying to out-balance her opponent in another "Minute to Win it" game.

We were taught (sort of) how to play Truco, an uruguayan card game. It uses a special deck of cards numbered 1-12 and may be one of the few fun purchases we make while we’re here. That is if we can actually figure out how to play.

We were just getting ready to leave when Carlos informed us that there was dessert. We sung happy birthday and ate delicious moosey cake with dulce de leche (sort of like caramel). Special thanks to Carlos and his family for organizing everything and creating a lovely evening for everyone.

La Playa (i.e. the beach)

Our first visit to the beach was this weekend. People seem to flock to the beach on the weekends as early as 8:30 am. Most people just sit in chairs to sunbathe, but some wade in the water or play with a ball. We are a little dubious about the water quality, but are told the government says its safe to swim. The people we know here say they wouldn’t swim in it.

The beach has sand volleyball courts, tons of trash cans, porta-potties, and its’ very own ice cream man that yells “helados!” all day long. There are also a series of large poles, evenly spaced. They were obviously put there so that we could do beach workouts for ultimate. Right?

The beach looking back towards the neighborhood we live in.

View of the beach looking away from our neighborhood. I think all the flags are up for Carnival in 2 weeks. These are also a couple of the large evenly spaced poles I mentioned.

What did we do at the beach? What else would we do… We threw a frisbee. I think this more than anything else pegged us as tourists. That and the fact that we’re all so white. Step 1: Learn spanish. Step 2: get a tan.

Matt throwing a frisbee on the beach.