Sunday, March 27, 2011

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and a Bit of French Diplomacy

About a month ago twelve of us took a trip down to Paris, France for a few days. No, there was not a sponsor on this trip. There were twelve, inexperienced, twenty-year-olds exploring the streets of Paris. It was a recipe for, well, anything. We saw it all. We gazed out of the top of the Eiffel Tower. We delved into the catacombs and saw more dead bodies than I thought was possible to stuff into such a confined place, and here's the kicker. There were no guardrails, or guards for that matter, separating us from the skeletal remains. Anybody could just reach and and touch the piles of bones that were so ornately stacked that they reminded me of a sick form of modern art. I saw the grave of Victor Hugo in the Pantheon, which, if you know me at all, is perhaps my favorite author. I was as giddy as any literature nerd could be. The story, however, has nothing to do with the sites we saw. The story is in our mode of travel. My good friend, Nathan Ashlock, found a round trip bus ticket for £40, which is around $70. If you recall your high school geography, you must be realizing that this defies all logic. There's a body of water known as the English Channel that separates the two nations. The only way to traverse the distance outside of flying or by a boat is the Chunnel. The Chunnel is an underwater railway that bridges the gap between the coasts. We assumed, based on the information given to us by our professor, that we would take the bus onto the ferry and continue our journey into Paris. You know what they say about assuming? Sometime you're wrong. We arrived at a train station and literally drove our bus into a tin can. There was no more than five inches between the wall of the train and our bus. A metal door slammed behind us, enclosing us into an incredibly confined place. We could not exit the bus. I'm not claustrophobic, but I developed a severe case of it on this bus. It was very dark. The bus was shut off because of carbon monoxide poisoning, inevitably shutting of the air-conditioning. It was sweltering, and I was wearing a couple layers because it was going to be cold in France. Needless to say the sweat glands I've inherited from my father kicked in. The lady sitting next to me on the bus only spoke French, but I have an idea of what she was saying. I won't repeat what I think is the correct interpretation because my mother reads this blog (hey mom). The ride was surreal. The lights went out, and the train just started to rock back and forth. There were no windows. The only way I can describe it is through that Jurassic Park game at Gatti's. You know the one where you close the curtains and shoot dinosaurs with small handguns while the tiny car rocks back and forth. Those were the days. The oven known as our bus finally arrived in France at 6 in the morning. Paris made that incredibly long, hot bus trip worth it. We had a blast and saw everything that Paris had to offer. On the last night of our trip, after we had gone to the top of the Eiffel Tower, we were riding the subway back to our hostel when we bumped into a group of extremely drunk French youths. They were singing French songs out of tune at the top of their lungs. It was absolutely hysterical. They shouted at one of my friends unintelligibly, but in a friendly way. When it started to quiet down my good friend Patrick Louden, in a moment of comedic genius, began singing Frère Jacques. The French youths lit up and began to sing with the fervor of fifty men. The Americans and the French all joined into together, much to the annoyance of the rest of the car. Then they asked us to sing our national anthem. Our group was full of American Pride. Team USA all the way. We belted it. I kid you not there were French tears in the audience. As we reached the climax of the song the most inebriated member of the French delegates approached Caleb, another of my friends on the trip, hugged him, and lifted him into the air nearly ramming his head into the ceiling. He went around and hugged most of the American group. I realized then and there that we had solidified the French-American alliance for the rest of time. It was a beautiful moment. The French diplomats disembarked before we did, but the man who had given us all hugs kissed the window as the doors shut and shouted, "I love America!" Now all of this must sound interesting, but the really intense part of our journey had yet to begin. We had been discussing the idea of tipping points earlier in the trip. So far, on every trip, there's one moment we can point back to where everything flips on its head. If the trip has been miserable, all of the sudden the sun will be shining. If the trip has been all we could have dreamed of it was about to turn nasty. Our bus left at midmorning the next day. It shouldn't have been a problem seeing as how we left three hours before we were supposed to arrive, except for one glaring obstacle. We were a group of alpha males who enjoyed delegating minor responsibilities to one another without ever confirming if somebody had verified the details. We assumed that the bus would be picking us up where it had dropped us off. I've already explained what assuming can sometimes lead to. This was our tipping point, and, just to remind you, Paris had been awesome. In fact the bus was picking us up a solid forty minutes from where it had dropped us off. Needless to say we weren't going to make it. Thus began the frantic search for alternate means of travel. We were near the airport and contemplated taking a flight until we saw the prices. Bill Gates would've shuddered. While one group stayed to watch the luggage Tanner and I went to check on train prices as well as tickets for a different airline. One of the information workers told us we could all get tickets for reasonable prices, but she had typed in the wrong date. Those tickets were for a month after we needed the tickets. There was a train that was leaving in an hour that would beat our bus that had left already by an astounding margin. "What a stroke of luck?" I thought. There was a theme that ran throughout this trip, and that was that I was wrong on most accounts. It was true in this instance as well. The train was more expensive than the plane. It appeared that we were going to be stuck in Paris until the next morning when the same bus would be leaving at the same time from the location we should've been at earlier that morning. We decided to take the risk and go to where we should've been several hours earlier. The bus took us so far outside of central Paris I thought we'd crossed into another country. We finally arrived at the mysterious location forty minutes from where the bus had dropped us off three days earlier. This was the second tipping point. We trudged into the ticket office lugging our heavy backpacks. We were all on edge, just waiting for someone to push us to the breaking point. We were standing in a long line with our tickets in hand hoping that we could get a refund of some kind, but with the way the trip was going it seemed unlikely. Then, out of nowhere, the most unlikely of heroes stepped up to the batters box and knocked one out of the park. Robbyne Harris somehow jumped the queue to the front of a different ticket office. After a short discussion she turned and beamed at us. There was a bus leaving in ten minutes for London. Since we had already bought tickets for that day all we had to do was pay ten euros, which was chump change compared to what we thought the damage would be. We managed to get on that bus in less than ten minutes. We were on our way back home. While there was much rejoicing over our serendipity, we were still dreading the sardine can we had to ride back to London. However, the ball was not done rolling in our direction. We didn't have to ride the tiny train back. We ended up on the ferry. We watched from the boat as the sun set over the English horizon. It was gorgeous. The ferry was like a cruise ship, complete with a food court. I gorged myself in celebration. We finally made it back to Oxford. We were exhausted, but home. In the midst of all the chaos I learned two things: never assume, and sometimes it's okay to ask for directions... as long as you have a woman do it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Looking At and Looking Along

C.S. Lewis describes the experience of looking at a beam of light in a dark toolshed. He notes that you can see the shape and brightness as the light reflects of the dust particles floating in the air. After reflecting on the experience of objectively observing the beam, he then steps into the light and looks along it. As the light shines in his eyes he can see out a window. The tall trees and green grass are suddenly visible. The sun shines bright in a clear blue sky as wisps of clouds dance around it. While the light allows him to see out the window, he can no longer see the beam itself.

Lewis is commenting on the paradox of experience. No one can objectively look at joy while he is experiencing joy. No one can observe sorrow while weeping. In his essay Lewis says, "If only my tooth would stop aching so I could write about pain." Observing and writing about experiences is very difficult because no one can capture the true sensation of all that is happening. There is something lost in the translation of being there, to trying to describe the sensation of being there. Gazing backwards and joy, sorrow, pain, or any other sensation, can't be adequately captured with memory and certainly not with words. Looking at a light, while interesting, can never be the same as looking along the light.

This past weekend my friends and I took a trip down to foggy London town. One evening we decided to go to Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral. I could spend hours describing the intricately carved statues and moldings that permeated the towering structure. I could strain the English language to attempt to give you the experience of gazing up at murals so real and so poignant. I could search for hours for adjectives to adequately describe the magnitude of the structure, but even more shocking was the walls that were covered with beautiful paintings showing scenes of the Bible in an artistic perspective. One could sit and gaze for an endless amount of time and still miss a detail of a painting that made it all the more beautiful. I could attempt to string together a list of adjectives to describe the experience of sitting in an ancient, wooden chair and listening with eyes closed to the choir weaving melodies so flawlessly it seemed to come as natural as breathing. Sound echoed of the walls of the tower mixing songs of praise with glorious murals devoted to Christ welding both sound and sight into a worship experience that overwhelmed the senses. I could attempt to do all these things, but there is no way to describe the experience. There is a giant chasm between looking at and looking along a beam of light.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Four "R's"

My goal at the beginning of this little adventure was to live one great story, and I have to say I’m a tad bit disappointed. Most of what I lived was just awkward situations that could be spun for a couple of cheap laughs. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed every single minute of my time down here immensely. My dream was to do something important. I wanted to do something that would leave an impact on the people I met down here. I wanted, as corny as it sounds, to make a difference. Although I may not have done anything worth writing down, my experience did change me. I regained an appreciation for things that had once been important to me. These four things had slowly dissipated over the years until they were completely lost. These are my four R’s.

A major passion that was reignited during my time here in Brazil was reading. While endeavoring to live out a great story I couldn’t help but return to some of the classics that have inspired people for generations. One belief of mine that I believe was instilled in me by my father was a love of story. I’ve always loved to read. I think it was originally a way to stay up late. When a parent walks in and finds you reading at two in the morning what can they do? Ground you from reading? Eventually it became more than an excuse to stay up late. The characters, particularly in the classics, engrossed me especially the characters that faced insurmountable obstacles and trudged on. I can’t help but quote one of the greatest monologues in film history by a Mr. Samwise Gamgee after Frodo gives up hope.

Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

I am completely aware that it doesn’t get much cornier, but it’s characters like these that inspire. Reading constantly reintroduces attributes that are impossible to come by, but everyone desires. These attributes are necessary for someone to live a story worth retelling after they’re gone. So this is why I read. It’s a vision of what a great story could look like.

I used to run for the sole purpose of being in shape to play sports. Eventually it became something else. In all honesty it hast to become something else if you want to continue running after sports are done with. In Brazil I didn’t have much to do. Your options become limited when you don’t know the city and you don’t have a car. So I ran. I’d stopped running for sometime, but, with nothing else to do, I started back up here in Brazil. I’d forgotten how it felt. I started off running around three miles a day. It soon evolved into six to ten miles a day. I had no motive. I honestly don’t care about what I look like with my shirt off (Although it’s an added bonus let’s not kid ourselves). There is a new motivation for running. Deep down it was the reason I enjoyed the longer distances more than the short sprints in high school. Well that and the fact that I’m impossibly slow. Distance running is a different animal than sprints. In every distance race there comes a point when the runner is forced to make a decision. He hits the wall. His legs ache and his lungs are on fire. He smashes into a brick wall and has to choose whether to stop or not. For some reason, I’m betting on my dad, I love that moment in the run. My dad’s always said, “A man loves the grind.” In all honesty I do. I love the moment when I get to decide whether or not I can go on. So far I’ve never hit the point where I couldn’t convince myself to keep going. Running is a poetic metaphor for life I believe. Maybe that’s just too much time stuck inside my own head talking. I suppose there comes a time when things just look hopeless and the decision is yours. When stuff kicks your teeth in do you get up or stay down? I guess, for me, running is a daily reminder that characters worth their salt always get up.

I picked up writing again as well. I’m well aware this word doesn’t begin with the an ‘r’ but it’s got the sound. I’ve always loved to write, mostly short stories and beginnings of novels that will never be finished. No, these will never be able to be viewed by the public. I write as a means of expression not for people to see. I haven’t been just writing a blog here in Brazil either. Writing for me is a way to imagine a character that I want to be. I don’t mean physical attributes obviously. I mean those attributes that make a character who he is. The struggles he’s faced and persevered through. The triumphs he’s had and the failures that made him who he is. For me writing is a way to imagine where I want to be and then strive forward to be that character. Writing is a form of what is known as self-prophecy. Thank you fundamentals of communication. Yes mom and dad that’s what my college fund is going towards. Donald Miller put’s it best in his new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. His contention is that the characteristics of people in the stories that we love to read are applicable in reality as well as in story.

The last ‘r’ is reuniting. I couldn’t think of a better word that begins with an ‘r’ for daily devotionals and the title wouldn’t work if it was three ‘r’s and a ‘d’. While viewing life with the lenses of attempting to live a great story I applied it to just about everything I saw. That includes while I was reading the Bible. One of my favorite preachers put it best when he said something to the effect of the Bible is not a road map for your life, but rather a great story about the glory of God. Reading the Bible like a story rather than a textbook reignited a passion for studying it that used to be there but burned out shortly after church camp. The Bible isn’t a good road map to life, but as far as revealing the glory of God through His ability to use what is wicked and wretched for the good of those who trust him is a fascinating read. No one likes to read a list of rules. Who doesn’t enjoy and epic tale? Reading the Bible like a story revealed just how outlandishly fantastic some of the things inside are.

So no, I didn’t do anything that dropped jaws. I didn’t jump in front of a bus saving a complete strangers life. I didn’t march into the Amazon and convert a nation of indigenous people. I didn’t stand in the streets of Campo Grande preaching in a different tongue and converting hundreds of people at once. When I leave here people might miss me for my charms, the laughs we had, or just the crazy American kid who taught us poker that one time. Most of them will forget my name by the next year, but I regained some essential parts of my life that I once life so I can’t say the trip wasn’t a success. In fact it might be more of a success than I had originally planned. I didn’t make a real difference in the lives of these people, but I suppose regretting that is the first step in doing something about it. I’m nineteen years old. I’ve got the rest of my life to do something worth mentioning in the future, but one thing this trip has taught me is that stories don’t just fall into your lap. They tease you from the other side of a large gap. Stories don’t come easy. Sometimes you have to jump for it and hope it turns out well. In the immortal words of my friend Chad, which I’m sure came from somewhere that I’m just not familiar with, “You gotta risk it to get the biscuit.” Maybe I didn’t doing anything spectacular, but if I’ve gained anything from this trip it was a bit of courage to go for it the next time an opportunity comes around. This may be my last post from Brazil, but here’s to hoping something will happen in the future that will be worth writing down. The blog will continue because I enjoy writing it and it’s an incentive to live deliberately. I’ll leave Brazil with this quote from Mark Twain, “Let us endeavor to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Of Chips and Millstones

Most people thought that my purpose here in Brazil was to help with the church. Some, like myself, thought that I came here to learn Portuguese, experience a different culture, and observe people from a different church background. As it turns out my only purpose here so far has been to corrupt the young people of the church in Campo Grande. I last week I received a call from one of my friends here in Brazil. He wanted to know if I wanted to play a game. I had no plans so I jumped at the chance to get out into the city. I asked, “ What kind of game.”

He replied, “Ogre.”

Now I had no idea what ogre was so, being an avid Sherlock Holmes fan (both the literary and the cinematic versions), I attempted to deduce what ogre could possibly be. I didn’t have many clues. It was around eight in the evening, already dark, and rather cold. Campo Grande, Brazil, gets one week of legitimate winter weather a year. I happen to be here during that week. When I say cold I mean it hit thirty-two degrees that night. The day before it was sunny and eighty. I don’t have any warm clothes. Through an intense session of concentration and reasoning I’d narrowed it down to a game that took place inside. I realize this wasn’t an impressive conclusion, but I’m not Sherlock Holmes. My friend arrived and we drove to his house to meet up with four young people from the church. We cleared the table in preparation for ogre. As my friend put two decks of cards and some poker chips in place of the plates he asked me, “Do you know how to play ogre?”

“You mean poker?”

“Ah, yes, poker!”

“Of course I know how to play poker?”

“Can you teach us?”

I’m still not sure what they would’ve done had I not been there because none of them actually knew anything about poker. Anyways, I began to teach these five, naive, innocent people the art of gambling in Portuguese. I realize speaking in Portuguese doesn’t justify the fact that I corrupted five people simultaneously, but it has to be better than corrupting people in English. I explained the different hands, which were better, and other things pertaining to the game. They asked if we were playing for money to which I promptly replied, “Absolutely not, I’ve done enough damage as it is.”

To make things worse the house we were playing at is used as a church on Sundays. The owner is the preacher. He walked and, upon seeing what was taking place said, “The church has been turned into a den of robbers.” He was laughing when he said it, but I got the feeling he was about to go braid himself a whip. That joke was for all my fellow bible nerds. The Brazilian people are incredibly kind until you get them behind the wheel of a car or playing soccer. It turns out it is the same with poker. They were vicious. I dealt the entire time and didn’t play. It would’ve been hilarious had my soul not been in peril.

After a couple hours of poker they wanted to play porco, which means pig in Portuguese. It’s a lot like spoons except when you lose one letter of the word porco is written on your arm. Once the word is entirely written you have to crawl on all fours and oink. I told them we played it with knives instead of spoons in the states, which was a lie, but they believed it and think we are all insane. Then I told them a story about how my entire family played a game of spoons. There were around thirty of us and I specifically remember my grandmother, Rita, wrestling on of my cousins for the last spoon. You better believe grandma wiped the floor with him. That was a true story, but the Brazilians didn’t believe it. Apparently playing a game with knives that would leave you fingerless is more believable than true stories about my family.

The night ended well past midnight and we all prepared to go home. As I was leaving they all thanked me for teaching them how to play poker. I was reminded of a verse found in Matthew 18:6. It says, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” At least we didn’t play for money right? Well as I was getting into the car that was going to take be back to Zanatta’s house they asked if I knew how to play billiards. That millstone started to get heavy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

We Laughed We cried, Vai Brasil Vai

Last Monday Brazil had its second round World Cup game against Chile. For those of you ignorant people who know nothing about the World Cup the second round is a win or go home situation or in Brazil’s case win or never reenter the country unless you have a death wish. Well Zanatta gave me two choices. I could go watch the game in a tranquil environment with him and his nephew at his nephew’s house, or I could watch the game at the Cidade do Cupo (City of the Cup). Well obviously I didn’t have much of a choice. I had to go to the Cidade do Cupo. It is a patch of field by a busy highway with street vendors, live bands, and two massive televisions for watching the game. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few professional sporting events in my lifetime. I’ve seen football games, basketball games, and even a baseball game all at the professional level. Not a single one of them even comes close to the tension and excitement of the people at the Cidade do Cupo, and this was before the game even started. Just to give you an idea, the Brazilian presidential election is going down four months after the World Cup finishes. I’ve been watching the news to practice listening to Portuguese. I only found out because my teacher told me. There hasn’t been a single story on the presidential election, but I’ve seen several stories on what Kaka is doing at the present moment in South Africa and how Brazil measures up against the Netherlands. Legitimately, if you were to ask someone in Brazil who is running for president in a few months they would have no idea, but they could tell you what minute Kaka scored in the game before Chile. Trick question, they tied Portugal nil-nil. The World Cup absolutely engulfs every facet of a Brazilian’s life. It affects the economy, politics, and the morale of the entire country. My teacher said if Brazil doesn’t win the suicide rate goes up. I don’t think he was kidding. Well this is the environment I was thrust into during their last game against Chile. It was very crowded. I stood for two hours watching the game without being able to move. Brazil scored their first goal and some dude hugged me. I have no earthly idea who he was. I told him he needed to by me dinner first. He just stared. After that two other people punched me in the arm. I thought we were about to throw down, but apparently that’s just some form of good luck charm because it happened every time Brazil scored. As Brazil continued to advance, I moved closer to some ladies to see if I could celebrate the next goal with them. That last statement was purely fictional and was meant to only be humorous. That one goes out to you mom. Anyways, I continued to be hugged, punched, and slapped on the back by random strangers with tears in their eyes. One of the two people I came with showed me his arm after the second goal. He had goose bumps. Now I love the game of soccer, but seriously? Goose bumps? After an hour and a half of some impressive soccer the game ended with Brazil winning three to nothing over Chile. The fireworks didn’t stop until around three in the morning. The game ended at four in the afternoon. I went running today and somebody rolled down their window and shouted, “Brasil!!!” The game was three days ago. By the way while I was running I passed a woman power walking with a cigarette in her mouth. I told her, “ My dear that’s the definition of counterintuitive.” She stared just like the guy who still owes me dinner. They just don’t get me here in Brazil. Anyways, the sanity of the people here in Brazil hangs on the shoulders of twenty-three young men in South Africa. You know, if we told our players if they didn’t win we’d kill them we would be good too. For those of you who may never get to experience the insanity that is Brazilian soccer fans go to any professional sporting event and imagine that instead of the thousands of people shouting at touchdown the entire United States of America is shouting at the same time and you might have a fraction of what Brazilian fans are like. To sum up my time in the Cidade do Cupo, we laughed, we cried, and we shouted; Vai Brazil Vai!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I learned this past Sunday that the people here in Brazil call church services cultos. If you’re like me when you heard this you may have immediately begun looking around for some form of synthetic drink that you would not be drinking. Jokes aside there is something so amazing and so different about the church here in Brazil. It’s not my first rodeo in a Latin American church. There were fifty or so people singing in fifty or so keys. Eight of which, I have never heard in my entire life, but they sang with heart. There were tears, raised hands, and genuine emotion, not the kind that some people do for show. When you get to walk into a church where everybody knows your name (yes older folks, that was a reference to a classic television show). I sat through a service in a different language. I couldn’t understand the songs nor the preacher yet I still walked away with my heart uplifted and a greater sense of who God is and how his people, when they live in community, can make a difference in the lives of the people who walk through the door. The members of this church truly care about each other. Everything I’ve done here in Brazil has been with members of the church. They get together to play soccer. They go to movies. They serve their community for neither service hours nor bragging rights, but rather to be together and spread the gospel. Everyone hangs out, and I mean everyone. I rode in a van on the way back from church to Zanatta’s house. The entire van was laughing and joking from the youngest child to the old woman (the same one who knows how to cut a rug from the party). Everywhere they go they represent what the church could be. I want to borrow a quote from my favorite preacher Matt Chandler. Essentially what he says is, “In the beginning the church a small movement that affected every facet of human society. Now it is a very large movement that is basically impotent.” I completely agree with Mr. Chandler as far as the American church goes, but I don’t think he’s been down in Campo Grande and seen the church here. Whenever I meet someone here they ask, “You are a brother?” they mean a brother in Christ. They are one large family, and they see anyone who is a Christian around the world as part of that family. Don’t here me say that they don’t treat other people who aren’t part of the church with love and compassion. Zanatta alone can’t walk five steps outside his door without people shouting a greeting to him. I understand that I am a nineteen-year-old kid who may be naïve. I am not an expert on what the church is or what it does these days, but I have been going to church for sometime now. What I do know is that this church has made a difference in my life without me being able to understand them. Yes, they may call their services cultos, which has an obvious negative connotation, but the influence of this church on its community that I’ve seen in these few days here in Brazil leaves no doubt that Christ is moving in this place.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Once More Into the Breach Dear Friends, Once More

Unless you’re unequivocally ignorant you know that in Brazil soccer is kind of a big deal. They eat and breathe futbol on a daily basis. A young man named Eduardo told me that during the World Cup soccer becomes even more important to the Brazilian existence. Well, I was honored by some of the residents of Campo Grande with an invite to participate in their soccer league. I showed up dressed in an old football workout shirt raring to go. Sadly my soccer cleats were too long and the owner of the fields would not let me wear them. So I slipped on some old tennis shoes and attempted to understand what the other players were telling me. Some of you may know I played soccer for around eleven years, but that was when I was a child. Trust me, what minor skills I had have been lost for eternity. Regardless, I promised myself I wouldn’t turn down any opportunity. There were three teams of seven. Winners got to rest between rounds. Losers had to stay on for one more half. My team sat out the first round. I watched the Brazilians and attempted to measure myself against them. The odds were against me. The referee blew the whistle and I jogged out onto the field, taking my place where they told me to, out of the way on the right wing. Each round lasted twenty minutes. It was an absolute battle. We played at full speed the entire round, twenty minutes of absolute fury. By the grace of the Almighty God I held my own. I set up some opportunities for goals, had a couple of assists, and even made a few steals. I will say it’s pretty tough to get the ball from your teammates when you can’t even call for the ball, but we managed. The referee blew the whistle and my entire team collapsed except myself. Apparently I was in better shape then the rest of my team. Don’t get me wrong I was exhausted, but not to the point of gasping for air on the ground. Sadly, my team lost so we had to play another round. It was the same story; except I took a decent shot this round and the crowd went wild. It felt like I was that kid coming in dead last in a race. I mean back of the pack by a good half-mile kind of feeling. It was a pity cheer, but I take what I can get. We lost again because my team was obviously the won that enjoyed their churrasco (Brazilian barbeque) more. We played for two and a half hours. More than a full game of soccer for those of you who don’t know. I was extremely tired and ready to go home and sleep for days. The Eduardo, my ride, told me it was time for the, “Segundo jogo com os irmaos da igresia.” My Portuguese is at the level of a two year old at best but roughly translated, “Second game with the brothers of the church.” “Once more into the breach dear friends, once more”, I thought to myself. No, I’m not joking. We hopped in the car and drove to a different field made of turf. Although less competitive because of the lack of skill it still maintained the level of intensity. I played a total of four hours of soccer that day. Around two games with maybe forty minutes of rest spread throughout the day. It was a new level of exhaustion. Still my futbol buddies complimented me on the way I played. I said, “Don’t patronize me.” They looked confused. They also said I looked much less tired than they did. I knew it was my typical male ego trying to save face, but I thanked them all the same. My vision was blurred and my head was fuzzy, but I understood that they wanted me to play with them every Saturday. My answer, of course, was absolutely.