Thursday, July 31, 2014

Everybody eats...the basketball version

Finally getting around to posting about our Sunday games in San Cristobal. We have been friends with the team captain in San Cris for 14 years and have probably been playing against them for their annual tournament for almost as many years.

The San Cris tournament coincides with the town's annual fair so it's often the first chance for our students to enjoy some of the finer delicacies of Guatemala, like corn-on-a-stick with mustard, ketchup, mayo and cheese...seriously. Or cheese, salt and limon for the sophisticates in the bunch.

The tournament has a notorious history of multiple rain delays stretched over two days, but luckily for us and the people who use the court on a daily/weekly basis, the town paid for a roof...and lights!

First up on Sunday were the Young Guns who played the San Cris older team. The Young Guns trailed for three quarters, but turned on the burners for the fourth and ended up beating men old enough to be their father's by 12 points (stats below).

Hoops Sagrado has a basketball philosophy that everybody eats, meaning that everyone has an opportunity to score. For the first time this trip, everyone on the Young Guns team who got time on the court ate. 

Next up was the Hoops Sagrado Old Heads vs. the San Cris young team (who, let's be honest, aren't looking that young these days). It was touch and go for a while, most likely because certain members of the older Hoops team had a late Saturday night (early Sunday morning), but they settled down and pulled out the two-point victory (see stats below). Nigel and Max made their "Old Head" debut and had great games.

This of course lead to Stat Girl's worst nightmare. The two Hoops teams playing each other. Someone always catches feelings and it's just not fun. Fortunately, for the new Hoops Sagrado, things went relatively well and a hearty thank you to the people of San Cris who stuck around for the final even though their team was not in it.

The Old Heads trailed for 80 percent of the game (see earlier comment about a late night), but turned on the burners when it was necessary and beat the Hoops Young Guns by two almost a the buzzer. While there were definitely some feelings at work after the game, for the most part everyone was a good sport about it.

Following the game, all four teams joined together for a Sunday night meal in the middle of the basketball court before heading back to Xela.

HS Young Guns vs. San Cris Old Heads
Demani: 6P/3R/2A
Sanu: 11P/2R/2A
Daniel: 5P/1R/1A
Miguel: 2P/1R
Manny: 2P/1R/1A
Ronny: 4P/2R/2A
Carlton: 4P/1R
Alec: 4P/4R
Malik: 7P/10R/1A

HS Old Heads vs. San Cris "Young" Guns
Bryan: 9P/4R/2A
Diggs: 12P/6R
Josh: 2P/8R/2A
Hitch: 2P/6R/3A
Mark: 20P/10R/3A
Roppolo: 1P/8R/2A
Nigel: 6P/4A
Max: 2R

HS Old Heads vs. HS Young Guns--because Stat Girl was keeping track of stats for both teams and because there were always a lot of bodies in the way (and because she doesn't get paid to do this stuff), these stats are probably not 100 percent accurate (as Stat Girl has already been told).

Bryan: 7P/5A
Josh: 8P/3R/1A
Hitch: 4P/11R
Mark: 22P/5R/1A
Diggs: 12P/1A
Roppolo: 3A
Jim: 2A
Nigel: 1A
Max: 1A
Malik: 12P/7R
Demani: 2P/2R/3A
Daniel: 14P/2R
Sanu: 10P/1R/1A
Alec: 2R
Ronny: 2P
Manny: 2P/2R
Carlton: 6P

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A family business

About 45 minutes from Xela is the town of Momostenango and just before you get to Momos there is a bend in the road and one crazy set of stairs down from the road is the house of Dona Thelma and her husband Louis.

The house, which includes a living quarters, a courtyard and a small work space (oh and of course a space for the chickens and turkeys). The family has been on the property for 150 years (although a portion of the house was destroyed by Hurricane Stan in 2006) and for 150 years they family has created works of art from local wools and fabrics and sold them.

The whole family works in the business of making blankets, scarves and other handicrafts. As soon as a child in the family turns eight, they begin working. An interesting lesson to say the least for many of our Hoops students. 

Each year Dona Thelma and her husband open up their home and hearts to Hoops Sagrado and show us the work that they do and most importantly (to some of us anyway) feed us THE BEST tortillas in all of Guatemala.

The students are encouraged to participate in the day from learning how to make the yarn that is then dyed and used in their many products...

To joining Dona Thelma at her wood-fired stove to try their hand at making tortillas.

After the lessons and the eating, the students often spend some time viewing the families wares and for the folks back home, if you are lucky, they buy stuff.

Hoops Sagrado has worked with Louis and Dona Thelma for more than a decade and they are and will always be one of the greatest parts of our time in Guatemala.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The better angels of of our nature

Just a quick post for now (will post about San Cristobal later), but we thought this was important to share.

Twice so far on this trip (knock on wood there isn't a third time), members of our team have lost a wallet and an iPhone (sigh). One would assume those items were gone, no matter where we were, but especially in Guatemala where money is scarce. That's what one would assume of course and we all know what happens when you assume.

The wallet was left on one of the buses that the students take to the camps each day. The person who lost the wallet (an adult on the trip), went to the bus terminal where all the buses and and restart their routes, found the bus he was on and found his wallet with everything inside.

The phone was lost on Friday at a local restaurant. On Sunday, when we were in San Cris, a young woman came up to our group and handed over the phone. Turns out she knows someone who works at the restaurant who knew we were a basketball team and knew we would be playing in San Cris on Sunday, so they gave her the phone and she brought it to us! This is an amazing story on so very many levels.

Anyway, this just highlights to all of us that there are good people out there everywhere.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Divide and conquer

Saturday was divide and conquer day for Hoops Sagrado. Seven of the team left Xela at 2 a.m. for a hike of Santa Maria and the remaining members of the team met at the more dignified hour of 10 a.m. for a trip to San Andres Xecul to visit the aldea's famous yellow church...which I might also add involved a hike, albeit not one as great at those who hiked the volcano.

We ended our day with a Super Chivos game, which is always a highlight of our time in Xela. 

Santa Maria
At 2 a.m. Ronny, Manny, Alex, Max, Miguel, Nigel, Malik and Sanu met up with adult leaders Alex and Mark along with our friend and their guide Malba for a sunrise hike to the top of Santa Maria.

To put it into perspective, Xela is located at about 7,600 feet above sea level. The peak of Santa Maria, which is an active volcano, although it has not erupted for years, is 12,357 feet.

Of the seven students who braved the trek three, Miguel, Max and Alec, as well as adult leaders Malik, Alex and Mark made it to the top. According to reports, Nigel was pretty darn close and the others gave it their best, but just couldn't make it to the top.

Early reports indicate that it was a really great time, although I don't think any of them are chomping at the bit to climb it again. To quote Alec, "I'm glad I did it, but I'm never, ever, ever doing it again."

San Andres Xecul
The rest of the group, Johanna, Jionni, Carlos, Daniel, Demani and Carlton headed to an aldea about 30 minutes away called San Andres Xecul. Our trip there included almost every mode of transportation including microbus, "chicken" bus and pick-up as well as a lot of walking (although not nearly as much as the volcano group).

The town is known for it's yellow church (pictured) and the "rainbow roofs" which are hand-dyed thread drying on the roofs of houses. The church is in the main plaza of town, but at the top of the hill, there is a smaller yellow church that is symbolic. Mayan ceremonies are held next to the church and frankly, it's a hell of a view from the top of the hill.

Super Chivos
And a super fun day was capped off with a win by the Super Chivos! Often the Super Chivos games are the highlight of our trip (okay, well one highlight), but the Guatemala soccer association has changed the rules about what supporters can/can't do at the games and although the games are still fun and the Chivos won 4-2, the atmosphere just wasn't quite what it used to be. Still, Vamos Xela!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

School daze

Friday was the first full day of "normal" for Hoops Sagrado. The students arrived at school at 9 a.m. ready to start their Spanish studies, or for some, their Quiche studies. There was definitely some eye-rolling and heavy sighs when they realized they would be in class till 1pm each day, but between the mid-class break and the settling in time, it really is closer to only three hours of studying.

There are two students working with each teacher and so far, things seemed to be going well. Those with no Spanish skills are learning some basics, including important phrases for basketball and those that have some Spanish under their belts already are expanding their vocabulary.

After classes and lunch with their families, the students spent their first full day in the basketball camps running the clinics and there is already a lot talk about who has the better teams. Because of our shortened time in Guatemala (only three weeks this year), the director's of each school chose the 20 students to participate in the basketball camps, which alleviates the angst that so many of our alumni will tell you comes with cutting children from the team.

Friday ended with a group meal at a local restaurant. Everyone had to get home early because some of the group (about 8 students) needed to be up at 2 a.m. to climb Santa Maria. The rest of the group will visit San Andres Xecul and Saturday will finish up with a Super Chivos game. We'll be sure to follow-up with photos and news from all of our Saturday adventures.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hello old friends

Thursday was a big day for Hoops Sagrado. In the morning we met at the school where the students will spend the next few studying Spanish and about Guatemala and the Mayan culture.

We were greeted by our old friends and long-time partners Tito Morales Sam, Jaime Garcia, Malba Raymundo, Maria Salanic and Yanira Yaxon as well as some new friends who have joined the program to teach. Following an introductory lecture about Xela and Guatemala the students split up into several groups and went on a tour of Xela with their teachers.

In the afternoon, the directors of the four aldeas we work with: Xejuyup, Pachaj, Chiriquiac and Chuisuic met us at the school and took the students to their respective villages where they will be spending the next 10 days running the basketball clinics. The students seemed to have a really great time on their first day of camps. We'll have each camp write a post for the blog as the days go by.

Following the camps and dinner we all walked to the gym for two games versus our old frenemies, the local Xela team. Over the years, we've become more friends than enemies with the Xela team, but that still doesn't mean we want them to win the games when we play each other!

The Young Guns were up first and they were quickly introduced to the side of Guatemala basketball that we tried to warn them about. Fortunately, despite the many obvious fouls (that of course weren't called) everyone remained calm and they worked together as a team against the Xela sub-21 team. Unfortunately though it wasn't enough for a win and the Young Guns fell to Xela.

Young Guns: 31 vs. Xela: 46
Alec: 3R
Daniel: 5P/1R/1A
Demani: 5P/1R/1A
Sanu: 13P/10R/1A
Carlton: 2P/2R/
Carlos: 1R
Manny: 1R
Nigel: 1R
Malik: 6P/6R

While the Hoops Sagrado Old Heads were on a bit of a winning streak against Xela in the past few years, this year the streak was broken. Yesterday was the birthday of our friend Alex who plays on the Xela team, so we'll say it was our birthday gift to him.

Old Heads: 52 vs. Xela: 56
Bryan: 8P/3R/3A
Hitch: 5P/4R/2A
Josh: 17P/7R/2A
Mark: 12P/5R/4A
Diggs: 2P/3R
Alex: 5R
Malik: 6P/4R
Daniel: 1R/1A
Sanu: 2P

On Friday, it will be the first "normal" day for the students: Classes in the morning, camps in the afternoon and dinner at the school Friday night.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

So quiet you can hear the wind in the trees

On Thursday we said our good-byes to the ancient city of Antigua and headed towards Xela. Before we got to our final destination though, we stopped at Iximche, the remnants of the Kaqchiquel's 15th-century capital.

While Iximche doesn't pack the punch of Tikal or other, more famous ruins, it is no less significant.

We spent some time learning about the Mayan culture from our friend Jaime. He talked to the students about the significance of the Mayan calendar and a bit about the history of Iximche. 

The students were given an hour or so to roam through the ruins. The sky was perfectly blue and it was so quiet in the ruins (even with 13 teenagers there) that you could hear the wind whistling through the trees.

After our time at Iximche, we boarded the bus and headed to our final destination and our home for the next few weeks Xela. We arrived around 5pm and the students were introduced to their families. The families were super happy to meeting the new, temporary members of their families. Most of the students live within a block or two of each other and this year we were very fortunate to be able to have an adult in almost every house. The students all had their first meals with their families, which everyone claimed to like and then the whole group met up in Parque Central for a quick night tour of Xela and then it was off to bed because the real work was set to begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You win some, you lose some

After settling into our hotels and having a quick rest, Hoops Sagrado headed to the local gym for a match up against Suchi.

The "Young Guns" were first up and although they went up early it was a close game. On their very first game in Guatemala, the students were introduced to the creative foul-calling and score-keeping of our Guatemalan friends. Although the clock said the game was tied at the end, the Young Guns were really up by one at the end of regulation. There was five minutes of overtime and the Young Guns prevailed by one bucket.

While not everyone on the Young Guns was able to score a bucket, everyone got some playing time. We'll work on making sure that "everyone eats" at future games. 

Young Guns
Hoops Sagrado 54 vs. Suchi 52 (final score reflects scoreboard score, not actual score)
Alec: 6 points
Sanu: 15 points
Demani: 11 points
Malik: 5 points
Ronnie: 2 points
Carlton 4 points
Daniel: 8 points

The "Old Heads" played a tight game that had each team exchanging leads throughout the game. Sanu and Daniel made their debut playing for the Old Heads and were each able to get in the books with some points.

Unfortunately, despite having possession with 12 seconds to go and only down by two, the Old Heads weren't able to get their first win. That will just have to be against Xela on Thursday...which will be sweet to say the least.

Old Heads
Hoops Sagrado 56 vs. Suchi 57
Bryan: 12 points
Josh: 3 points
Mark: 17 points
Hitch: 7 points
Diggs: 5 points
Roppolo: 6 points
Sanu: 2 points
Daniel: 4 points

Following the games, everyone came back to the hotel for our first group meal in Guatemala and thankfully, everyone ate it. Always a big accomplishment.

We're off to Xela today to meet families and get settled into our home away from home for the next three weeks. We'll post again soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And we're off!

With just moments to spare (of course) everyone made it to the airport, got checked in and most importantly got through security with no problems! All three flights (it's a long story) are now racing towards Guatemala. The students are all on one flight and there is a lot of snoring coming from the back end of the airplane. We'll make a pit stop in Houston and then it's on to Guatemala City.

Our first night will be in Antigua. We have games scheduled for 6pm (the young guns) and 8pm (the old heads). Let's hope there is a lot of plane sleeping because if not, that 6pm game might be a bit rough.

We'll post again at some point in time today and will introduce to you each of our team. Until then, we'll be flying the friendly skies (wait, is that United's?).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hoops Sagrado 2014 

And we're back!

After a two-year hiatus, Hoops Sagrado is back and better than ever. We leave early tomorrow (July 22) and will be in Guatemala for three glorious weeks. We have a fantastic group of students with us this year who you will meet in the coming days.

Today we are busy doing 10 million last minute things including deflating 80 basketballs to given to the children in Guatemala as gifts.

Speaking of gifts, before we get into the tales of basketball glory, we wanted to take a moment to say a very heartfelt thank you to all of our friends, family, colleagues and in some cases complete strangers, who donated money or items from our Wish List to this year's trip. It's through your generosity that we are going to be able to provide a wonderful trip to the students from D.C. and some great, useful gifts to the children in Guatemala.

We'll do our best to keep the blog updated every (or every other) day and you can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter!

Thanks again everyone for your donations and well wishes.

Vamos a Guate!