Monday, July 30, 2007

The Guatemala Home Court Advantage

With all do respect to the marvels of modern architecture American basketball`s march into the 21st century, it seems as though there's a sterility and sameness to all of these state-of-the-art arenas that have been popping up across the North American landscape.

Thank God for Guatemala!!!!!!

Most basketball players can tell you of legendary teams that could use the advantage of their home court take a slight edge over their opponents.


Duke has the Cameron Crazies and all of their obnoxious, sly, wit. (sorry Maria)

In 1986, Larry Bird and Friends were 50-1 at the "Gah-den" during the regular season and playoffs using several infamous design flaws to their advantage, such as knowing where the dead spots were in the parquet floor, and that the visitors a locker room was the size of a shoebox and hotter than the Puerto Barrios.

Well, Hoops Sagrado teams have been the victims of some amazing home court advantages over the years.

In 2002, we played in the Xela Military base against a military team. At halftime Hoops was up by 7 when armed soldiers were placed at each of the corners of the court. (We won by 2 and got out of their in a hurry)

In 2003, San Mateo Ixtantan 800 hundred fans came out to support the local team many of them sat on top of the 500 year old church and rained bricks of firecrackers on the court and on us during the game.

In 2004, the Hoops Sagrado Knights played at the gym in Salcaja against our arch-rivals Xela in a game that featured a halftime show of an Evangelical Karate team that smashed boards that were on fire (the power of Christ compels you!!) and a mid game replacement of the ball after we hit 5 straight three pointers. Not a big deal….. other than the new ball was one of rubber ones you get for ordering the large pizza during the NCAA tournament from Pizza Hut.

In 2005, at the Cantel Tournament (which should be our home court) Team Molar from the Pacific Coast had their fans and wives sit on our bench and yelled at us the entire game. Things those nice young ladies and their children shouldn’t say in any language……and again this was on our bench!!! When we brought it to the ref’s attention he just laughed.

Last year after a 4 hour flight and 5 hour bus ride across the country to Huehuetenango we were forced to play against the hometown team at 1am in an international tournament. Hoops took an early lead when suddenly the power went out. When the game resumed a Mam (Mayan language group) radio station embedded themselves behind our bench like Michael Ware in Iraq. The reporters continually asked us questions in broken Spanish about our plan of attack against the unbeatable heroes of the State of Huehue…..all HAIL!!!

So far this year the best Home Court Advantage we have seen is the gym in Chichicastenango, or should I say the indoor farmer’s market that at night functions as the Pro-team’s gym. Hoops Sagrado players packed up stands, shoveled up fruit goop (I hope it was fruit) from the floor, and swept up some sort of seeds before the game tipped-off.

A giant metal box straight out of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Get Smart was brought out of storage and set up to a elaborate electric scoreboard system that hung up high in the rafters. The scoreboard kept track of points and team fouls, but it had no clock so the time was kept on an old school Timex thus keeping both teams in the dark as to the time left in the game. Three minutes at the end of the game seem to be more like 45 seconds and the possession arrow was a roll of masking tape that was moved from one side of the giant box to the other.

At one end of the floor the backboard was fixed to the wall, making fast break lay-ups a thing of beauty --- like a human crash up derby. At the other end was a curb that shadowed the baseline. That rolled ankle will teach you to step out of bounds, gringo.

Chichi used the missed portions of goop on as off the ball picks sending Hoops players to the floor like Jeff McGuiness in the 1995 ACC Tournament.

Ouch Kendra!!!!

Top that with some of the most original referees in the history of basketball that gave the Hoops Sagrado Knights 3 technical fouls.

First, for having players on the floor during a timeout. ¿Que? And that Tech was called by the scorekeeper. Who knew the scorekeeper could do that?

Second, for throwing an elbow while alone in the back-court (Aniekan). ¿En serio?

And finally, for rolling your eyes (Victor) at a foul call.

When asked about the calls the Chichi referee keep telling us Este no es la NBA, gringo.

Bienvenidos a Basketball de Guatemala!!!!!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cakchiquel...Catch a what?

In another Hoops Sagrado first, Monday dawned with everyone arriving on time at the school at 8 a.m. for the start of classes. After being assigned their teachers everyone seemed to quickly settle in to their studies and for the first time since leaving D.C. the only words that could be heard were Spanish(ish).

The students had lunch and home and then met up at the school around 2 p.m. to head to the villages for their first day of camps. The four camps are Xejuyup (Sam, Victor, Jonathan, Trell and Nadia), Chuisuc (Aniekan, Jackie, Johari, Bibi, Arsenio), Chirijquac (Stan, Brittney, Akasha, Ronald, Brandon) and Pachaj (Kendra, Ernest, Jordyn, Sandra and Jerren)

Internet cafe closing....more in morning

Emerging Stars

On Sunday, the Knights looked to recover from their loss at San Cristobal with a game against a team from Colonial San Antiono, a neighborhood in Xela (the Barry Farms of Xela).

The Knights young guns clearly had recovered from their lackluster play and hot dog with cabbage coma on Saturday because they quickly went up 12 to 0. San Antonio started off the game 0 for 6 from the foul line courtesy of some questionable calls from the refs (Bryan, Stan and Ernest).

Under the vocal coaching style of Sam, several stars emerged during the game. Jordyn proved that she could give as good as she got as she was repeatedly fouled by the SA henchmen and never once backed down. Kendra had a breakout game from the outside post knocking down four quick buckets. Johari, Trell, Bibi and Jerren played lock down defense that turned into several unanswered fast break buckets.

Of the emerging stars, two stood out brighter than the others in a classic blue collar vs. superstar show down.

The superstar, Brandon, quickly became a fan favorite of the 12 and under female San Antonio fans. The San Antonio fans were so enamoured with Brandon and his boyish good looks that they learned English on the spot in order to scream out You can do it 13. In a series of half time photos that would impress even former boy bander Justin Timberlake, Brandon solidified his status as the Joaquim Noah of the Hoops Sagrado Knights. Oh and by the way, he played really well too.

The working class hero of the game and team favorite was Jonathan. Jonathan, who had not really seemed all that interested in playing decided that Sunday was his day to prove what a fraud he is because he dusted off the 00 uniform and came in off the bench and immediately scored on put back bucket that produced a grin big enough to be seen in Washington. He followed that up with two more buckets and six rebounds and a block. Not bad for a guy who had been practicing his magic tricks more than his jump shots. Look out Suchi.

Final score 99 to 81.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

San Cristobal Tour

Saturday morning arrived and we all loaded into a mini-bus driven by one of the teachers at the school (and a heistbox player for the rival team) and headed to San Cristobal, a small town about 30 minutes away for their basketball tournament.

The Hoops Sagrado Knights reign as the 3-time defending champions of the San Cristobal tournament came an anticlimatic end, when, after winning their first game in a nail-biter 60-59, they fell to a team from Suchitepequez/Mazatenango that reached the finals of the tournament under dubious circumstance (it started to rain and the team they were playing--Hoops Sagrado archrival team Xela--ran off with more than a quarter to go...slum).

The 30-minute rain delay and hot dog and Doroito lunch (courtesy of the host city) provided some sluggish play from Hoops Sagrado early on in the "championship" game. After cutting a 20 point deficit to 6 on the geriatric backs of their coach and counselors, the Knights ultimately fell to Suchi (slum). A rematch is in the works for later in the trip.

Xela will get a taste in the Cantel tournament on August 12 (weather permitting). Slum.

After the games were over, everyone headed to the fair where they sampled some of the local delicacies (corn on a stick with mayonaise, ketchup and picante), threw water bags at a guy in a wrestling mask and rode a ferris wheel in the rain. All lived to tell about the ferris wheel ride, although their stomaches may have had other ideas.

The bus ride back to Xela was referred to by one student as "the best bus ride ever." After the group ran out of rap songs to sing (and the oldsters on the trip couldn't convince them to sing some old-school rap), Hoops Sagrado reached an all-time program low when someone started (and sadly everyone joined in) a pathetic version of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." (If any of you would like to feel old, have a 14-year old sing you "Lip Gloss" and show you the dance that goes with it. Now we have a sense of what our parents must have thought about The Cabbagepatch.)

Iximché and Arrival in Xela

Over the years of Hoops Sagrado we've kept a list of dubious quotes that students (and founders of the program) have dropped on occasion. Within minutes of arriving in Antigua at our 200 year old hotel, a new comment was added to the list: "Does this hotel have an elevator?"

The second comment came on Friday when we made our way from Antigua to Xela stopping at the Mayan ruins named Iximché. At the entrance to the ruins, one student stopped to read a sign and noted with some disbelief "This sign is in Spanish."

After several arguements about whether or not Lil'Wayne is the best rap artist ever and after some colorful language was used to tell a story, all while sitting on the steps of a 2,000 year old Mayan shrine, we had about an hour-long discussion about why people hate Americans.

It was actually a pretty enlightening discussion and everyone had something to contribute and pledges were made to keep open hearts and open minds and not be the "ugly American" during our stay in Guatemala.

By the way, some of you may actually be familiar with these ruins because this is where President Bush spoke when he visited Guatemala and then as soon as he left, Mayan priests had a cleansing ceremony.

We arrived at the school in Xela just before dark and everyone soon met their new families and began the process of learning their way around the new hometown.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We are here!

After a 3:50 a.m. departure from Dulles we arrived in Guatemala City not on time, but early! The flight down was uneventful and our handful of first time fliers and those who aren´t overly thrilled with the idea did great (despite the horrible movie offered by TACA, there were no revolts on the plane). Not sure how much everyone slept during the flight.

As an added bonus to our uneventful flight, all the baggage arrived and everyone picked up their proper luggage (a big improvement from last year).

Tito picked us up in a "chicken bus" and we headed to Antigua. We got settled into two different hotels pretty quickly and then, this being a basketball thing a group of folks headed to a tucked away little court for some afternoon basketball. Others took that time to explore this beautiful city a bit. We met up around 2:30 and had a meal together at one of the many area restaurants.

Now, everyone is off on their own exploring the city some more, or, I´m going to guess, napping and showering.

Everyone seems to be getting along great and making fast friends. We´re meeting up at 6:30 p.m. to go over some of the basics of living in a foreign country for 32 days and then I would imagine, most folks will make it a very early evening.

Tomorrow is going to be a jam packed day. We´ll visit some ruins, explore the city a bit more and then hit the road for the three hour bus trip to Xela where the students will meet their ¨new families¨.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Meet the 2007 Hoops Sagrado Participants!

Brittney is making her second trip to Guatemala with Hoops. Brittney graduated from Lackey High School in Maryland (before that she had been at Thurgood Marshall Academy in D.C.) and will be attending Trinity University in the District in the fall.

Jonathan Marc learned about Hoops through his Spanish teacher at McKinley Tech where he will be a junior in the fall. He is currently training to become a tour guide at the U.S. Holcaust Museum. This will be Jonathan's first trip outside of the U.S.

Bibi is returning to Guatemala for a second time with Hoops Sagrado. Bibi is an Adams Morgan kid and member of the Teen Learning Center. He'll be a sophormore at DeMatha Senior High School in the fall.

Dontrell is making his second trip to Guatemala with Hoops after taking the 2006 summer off. Trell (as we like to call him) will be a junior at Wilson Senior High School in the fall and is a longtime participant in the Teen Learning Center in Adams Morgan.

Arsenio is making his first trip out of the country with Hoops Sagrado. Arsenio will be a senior at the Maya Angelou Public Charter school in the fall.

Kendra is making her second trip to Guatemala with Hoops. She will be a senior at Ursinus College in the fall and is serving as a counselor on this year's trip.

Nadia will be a senior at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School of Public Policy in the fall and found out about Hoops through the Latin American Youth Center. Nadia applied for the program because she believes visiting Guatemala will help her understand more about who she is.

Jordyn is obsessed with basketball. "Basketball is my life, my passion and my heart," is a line from her application essay. Jordyn will be a freshman at Paul VI in the fall.

Brandon is making his second trip to Guatemala with Hoops, but this will be his first time with us for the full month. Brandon will be a junior at The Field School and recently recieved honors from the Field JV Basketball team.

Odinga is an amazing photographer who is looking forward to turning his talents toward Guatemala. He is a first-time Hoops participant and will be a senior at Coolidge Senior High in the fall. Odinga is part of the Latin American Youth Center in Columbia Heights.

Mindy is making the summer trip to Guatemala for the fourth time and serves at the unofficial team mom (she always has band-aides).

Sam is making his fifth trip to Guatemala with Hoops Sagrado. A junior at the University of Massachusetts, Sam will serve as one of our counselors.

Ernest will be a senior at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania in the fall. This will be Ernest's second trip to Guatemala with Hoops and his first serving as a counselor.

Sandra was born in the U.S. to Guatemalan parents. This will be her second trip back to Guatemala, but her first time leaving the capital. Sandra said she applied for the program because she wants to learn more about her Mayan heritage.

Victor will be a junior at McKinley Tech in the fall. He has a life-long passion for basketball and has done a lot of volunteer work with children in D.C. This is his first time out of the country.

Akasha was on her school basketball team and played in the Jelleff League. This will be her first trip out of the country. Akasha will be a ninth grader at Georgetown Day School next year.

Jackie will be a senior at Cesar Chavez School of Public Policy in the fall. Jackie lived in El Salvador until she was six and will spend her mornings in one of the villages teaching English. Jackie hopes to be an immigration lawyer some day.

Ronald comes to Hoops through the Teen Learning Center in Adams Morgan. This will be his first trip outside of the country. He will be a junior at The Field School in the fall.

Johari is back with Hoops for a second summer. He just turned 15 and will be starting 10th grade at School Without Walls in the fall.

Stan is making his third trip to Guatemala with Hoops. Stan is graduating from Michigan State University in December and will serve as one of our conselors.

Aniekan is a mural artist in Washington, D.C. This will be Aniekan's fifth trip to Guatemala as an adult leader. In addition to working in one of the camps, Aniekan will paint a mural at one of the schools. Last year he painted a mural in Xejuyup.

Jerren is an Adams Morgan resident making his first trip out of the country with Hoops. Jerren is 16 and will be a junior at Bell Multicultural High School in the fall.

Bryan is the founder of Hoops Sagrado. Bryan founded Hoops in 1999 as a way to combine his passion for basketball, with his love of children, Guatemala and the Mayan culture. In addition to Hoops, Bryan is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Adams Morgan, rabid Portland Trailblazers fan, a husband and a dad the two greatest kids ever!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Three more down and one more to go

After a day at the passport office, three of the students without passports finally got the coveted little blue books. According to officials at the D.C. office, the last remaining passport was FedExed from the Charleston, S.C. office today for an arrival by 10:30 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. We're not completely in the clear until we get that phone call tomorrow morning confirming that the passport is in-hand, but things are looking up.

Another one down, four to go...

One of the five "missing" passports arrived in the mail on Friday and the remaining four students are all down at the passport office today. Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Four Down, Five to Go

We picked up four of the nine "missing" passports yesterday so now we just wait for our letters from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's office and then off to the passport office. Keep your fingers crossed and send us your good travel karama.

Monday, July 9, 2007

10 Days to go and Still Waiting for Passports

With less than 10 days to go till our trip, we're getting excited and a little bit nervous. As always, there are tons of things to do prior to the trip, but this year, we've got a slightly different situation.

We are still "missing" nine passports. We're scheduled to pick up four of them tomorrow from the passport agency but five are stil in the pipeline and we've had to enlist the help of our Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Hopefully her staff will be able to help us get the ball rolling so everyone who is scheduled to head to Guatemala with us, can actually head to Guatemala with us.

We'll keep you posted.