Saturday, August 16, 2008

if an olympian can do it....

ok, so in reality perhaps i should not be comparing myself to olympians. sure, maybe i can eat like one (see petie's latest blog). but as was made evident from my mishap doing a somersault in altitude this 4th of july (see photo), i should leave olympic competitive activities to the olympians.

however, even the average darcy can't help but be inspired. i've watched my best friends kick ass for years, so frankly, that's old news. ;) no, this quadrennial's inspiration has come from the plethora of blogging that my friends have taken upon themselves. pete, brenda, betsey, golda, alison and jess are all dominating the internet with awesome blogs on their experiences. so i figured, if ass-kicking olympians can take the time from their ass-kicking to write kick-ass blogs on a daily basis, this journalism major should be able to write SOMETHING a little more often than once every 6 months.

but today, rather than talk about myself, which i greatly dislike and also i realize is quite boring unless you are enthralled by hermit workaholics, i'm gonna give you a lil olympic update on my friends in beijing.
besides blog domination, the crew in u.s. women's water polo is hitting their stride in the pool as well. if we have learned anything from the beijing games so far, it is that china has been ferociously focused on building their teams and individual athletes into medal contenders. and apparently the chinese people as a whole have been well versed in cheering loudly and in unison. having been to the past two olympics, i've seen the power of the home team playing in front of crazy support from the home crowd. the chinese water polo team is certainly well-trained and ready for these games, knocking out russia and giving both the usa and italy tight games to advance to the quarterfinals. our usa friends have settled in and grabbed that top spot in the group to score a quarterfinal bye and move straight to the semifinals, where they await either australia or china. keep an eye on team usa HERE. that's also where my friend brad and i have been huddled late at night to watch the opening rounds live online. i've had several mild heart attacks already just watching the tiny-screened usa games so far, but there's no way i could handle waiting through the night for a tape delay. it's live action or nothing for me. let's hope NBC picks up the semis live on real tv... my heart and my eyeballs will appreciate it greatly.

two nights ago, i spent approximately 2 hours napping on the futon and 2 hours in my actual bed thanks to my unnatural desire to watch the water polo and soccer live. after my water polo friends snagged that trip to the semis with a powerful 12-7 win over russia, it was time for a quick nap before tuning in for the usa-canada women's soccer quarterfinal. usc senior amy rodriguez -- a wonderful and hilarious girl who also is very adept at applying clairol hair dye to my gray hair when necessary -- has been tearing it up for team usa. she did the same in the quarterfinals, using her blazing speed and vision to set up both usa goals in a looooooong match (interrupted for 1.5 hours by lightning) that went into extra time. keep an eye on a-rod and team usa as they head into the semifinals as well -- playing japan soon. has some good coverage, but even better is media director aaron heifitz's work with and another entertaining WNT blog.

another friend doing some serious damage in beijing is my old high school teammate nicole branagh, who is teamed up with elaine youngs as usa's #2 team in beach volleyball. although kerri and misty are the only team that nbc pays attention to, believe it or not there IS another usa pair playing in beijing! i admit that i really love to watch kerri and misty play -- they are outstanding athletes and have such great personalities and certainly deserve the success and attention -- but it's been a little frustrating for me to keep track of nicole's matches because they don't get much play in the media. that said, our mighty matador won her first four matches and team BY is heading into the quarterfinals! go branagh go!

ok... that's enough blogging for the day. you really gotta train for this stuff i think. sending winning vibes to beijing... back to hermit life...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fall back…

In keeping with the procrastination central that I seem to have built this blog into, let’s take another walk down memory lane, shall we??
Seriously, at the end of the year, I got to ride through one of the most exciting and proudest experiences I’ve ever, well, experienced…

Since I took this job at USC, something about the soccer team has just been a special part of my world here, maybe because they were the first team I started up with, and first team I traveled with. I just have a cool connection with the girls… like I inherited a pile of really entertaining little sisters. I could go on, but to spare you all from a rambling stream of consciousness rant about the inner workings of the USC soccer program, let’s get to the point, shall we? And I’m going to include some more photos to try to balance out my rambling… but those will come soon…

My first 2 seasons at USC, we had great talent, but for different reasons, we could never quite put together a strong enough season to get some momentum and confidence to break through the NCAA Second Round. Even this season, we came up against a few road blocks, but instead of getting thrown and frustrated with the losses, the coaches and girls seemed to learn and move on. Along the way, we lost two outstanding players to torn ACLs – Meagan Holmes and Nini Loucks – and that hurt bad. Great players and important teammates, but I know they will be back. They are fighters.

In the last regular-season game of the year, the girls lost. They were on a road trip to Washington State and lost some focus and lost the game. But after that… they just didn’t lose!

We got shipped to freezing and crappy Missouri for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament – god I really could write a book or make a movie about this season – and that was the most stressed I’ve been. We drilled Creighton in the first round, then played Missouri in the second round. That’s when I was super-nervous, because that game was the one that would make history or represent another slam into that second-round wall. No score at half. No score at regulation. And then in overtime, Megan Ohai sends a sweet flip throw-in to Ashley Nick, who drilled a diving header in for the score!
From there, the pressure was off – but that didn’t keep me from wanting to crap my pants every game.

Next we hosted at the Coliseum… a little extra work on my end, but exciting all the same. One of our rad freshmen, Kasey Johnson, had emailed me about how she thought it would be cool to score her first goal. I told her I thought she would. And then… she did! Against Florida in the second half, Kasey – a defender – came up and headed in the winning goal to make some more USC history!

So then… we were in the Elite Eight… and we got shipped to freezing cold West Virginia. And another crazy scary battle. But thanks again to some wicked defense, and ANOTHER goal from Kase, the Trojans got it done. For someone who had a concussion early in the season, the kid came up big with that dome and knocked in another game-winning goal. AND sent us to the Final Four.

We got to play arch-rival UCLA in the semis. But by then we were seasoned travelers. The Bruins had been tucked away at home the whole damn tournament. We had been on planes and buses and in random hotels the whole time. And every time, the girls just sucked it up, dealt with it, and got the job done. In our first trip to the Final Four, the pressure was still off. UCLA had been there the previous 4 years and never won a title. So even when we went down 1-0 at halftime, my Trojans (yeah, I said it!) were all business once again. In the second half, Amy Rodriguez worked the UCLA defense and tied up the game. Later, she scored again! Caught the Bruins off-guard again and got us up 2-1! Throughout the whole game, Kristin Olsen was absolutely crazy good in goal… shut down UCLA with some ridiculous saves… made those Bruins cry when we won… our first win over UCLA in like 11 games! Fireworks went off in College Station after the game. And the coaches and I drank some great Texas beer – Shiner Bock if you happen to ever see it.

And THEN… we won the national championship! It wasn’t even really that tense of a game. Once we beat UCLA in the semis – that felt like the national championship since they were the No. 1 team – our confidence was high and our game was on. We didn’t even play that fantastic, but we made Florida State look slow and sloppy. Marihelen Tomer scored the first goal… Olsen was huge in goal once again… and then Janessa Currier scored again in the second half on the way to yet another shutout win. It was awesome. I was so stinkin proud. And still the girls were nothing but class and joy after the game. We won the effin NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!

Of course, I had to celebrate with the girls when we got home… it’s a special rite of passage that I got to share – for better or worse – with the men’s water polo team in past national championships… and it meant a lot to share in that with the girls. I got a good bunch of kids here… I’m lucky…

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

the moment you forgot you were waiting for...

never did get around to that costa rica recap, did I? Typical.
Let’s do a quick tour, shall we, so that we can relive the highlights and maybe move into activities that aren’t 6 months past.

Started our escapades in lovely san jose… where we stayed at a wacky little place run by an eccentric artist who paper maches EVERYTHING and had lots of, let’s say, “colorful” artwork covering near every inch of the rooms. Right smack in a cool little neighborhood in san jose is mayra’s Cinco Hormigas Rojas (five red ants) oasis… pretty cheap, mayra makes breakfast boxes for you and has tea and coffee always flowing. The place is its own little ecological refuge, packed with trees and flowers and consequently birds and bats that mayra feeds bananas. Truly the weirdest and coolest place to stay. You’d never know you were in the dirty city. Even a great place to eat across the street (Café Mundo) if you feel like leaving the jungle for a bite and a glass of wine. Ok.. enough tour guide talk… NEXT…

After exploring the promenade in San Jose and getting caught in a ridiculous rain storm (gracias, 50 colon ponchos), we left early the next morning for Tortuguero. Our kickass guide Jacky was legit and fun, and we pretty much had her all to ourselves except for a drunk couple from Florida. We discovered plaintain chips with lime somewhere along the way, boated through another ridonkulous rainstorm and arrived at Turtle Beach Lodge. We saw five – count em FIVE huge sea turtles that night! About 3 were heading back to the ocean from the shore, one coming in from the surf, and one we got to mosey right up to and watch her lay eggs. So cool! They are huge!

The next morning our drunk Floridians were too hung to join the 5am boat ride, so we got Jacky and our awesome boat driver Manuelito all to ourselves and we tore up those waterways and found all kinds of crazy creatures.

Oh lord just realized that if I do this day-by-day I’ll never sleep and anyone who reads this will probably bail out quick. So… a recapitulation, if you will:

-stayed in a hostel in la fortuna and hit the waterfall first day… swam around in the ferocious water at the base of the falls
-cabbed to the lava side of the volcano that night and got a spectacular view of lava rocks flying and tumbling down the volcano. You’d see a biggish red blob leap out of the top, hit the side of the volcano and break up into littler red spots that sprinkled down and down and down until the red glow fades. Kinda like fireworks… kinda… but 100 percent natural and really effin cool.
-hiked around the lava side the next day, where the lava rocks were still popping but don’t look red during the day, just like smokey boulders and rocks tumbling and grumbling down the volcano. Still very rad.
-hit up the hot springs at the tabacon resort afterward, soaked our asses off…

-first thing on the agenda was to get on some zip lines… went to EXTREMO (no joke – that’s what it was called) and hiked and zipped on some monster zip lines. Some were about 2000 feet long. and I think we all about crapped our pants with fear and joy on this tarzan swing thing that has a teeny tiny but crap-enducing free-fall at the start. In the words of one of our zip-mates “Puta Mierda!”
-oh gosh… we discovered an amazing African drum band called Sege. So much energy and an interesting blend of individuals, but the best one is the guy with the horsehead hat. Trust me.
-after another splendid breakfast of café negro and gallo pinto, took a cool hike in the cloud forest at the Santa Elena Reserve. It’s one of the most unique places you’ll see – plants on plants on plants, in a misty and quiet forest, feels almost magical. Not a lot of wildlife, but so many cool plants and a really peaceful and different scene. Do it. We did meet a pig later. His name was Charlie and he is a saino, but tame. You can pet him.
-learned about coffee and saw a mess of howler monkeys up the road by Café Monteverde… bought postcards at Bromelias and ate lunch at Stellas’ Bakery. Good times.

Took a super long and uber bumpy busride back to san jose. If I haven’t mentioned it before the roads to/from/around monteverde are god awful. You could walk faster than the bus can go with all the rocks and potholes. But at least you won’t break an ankle.

Rented a car and head to the beach! We had been aiming on checking out Jaco, but upon the advice of an older couple we met at the most-beautiful-café-ever-to-be-built-anywhere-on-the-face-of-the-earth (look it up in the guinness book) we passed up jaco and the druggy tourist trap it’s turned into and found a completely empty beach called Esterilla, stayed at the Pelican, had the beach to ourselves, played in the water, ran on the beach, gathered sand dollars, swung in hammocks, watched the sunset, killed mosquitos, drank some beers and played some pool.

Next day cruised to Manuel Antonio and after some trial and error found an air conditioned and bug-free suite. Nicest place we stayed, but it was worth it. After a lightning storm chased us off the beach, we came upon an entire tribe of squirrel monkeys. Cutest damn things you’ll ever see. Millions of them. Trillions maybe. Ok.. but a lot. And real close to us. Then it really poured and we took shelter at our room. Petie and I saw a lightning bolt strike literally across the street (and it was not a big street, my friends) from us. When the lightning stopped, we grabbed our suits and went back to the beach and body surfed in the wild water while the tourists were hiding from the rain.
Hiked all around manuel Antonio the next day, saw capuchins, sloth, wild pig/deer/rabbit creature (later found out it was an agouti), a little crocodile, crabs, and great views.

We rounded out our adventures with a trip to Dominical – a mellow little surf town to the south a bit. Never did make it to a disco, which was very disappointing to this sucker for a latin beat, but we did get a surf in… or at least, I got pounded by muddy waves on the board that pete and I shared. Monkey caught some stuff, and had fun until the rains really pushed the mud and junk into the surf. Dominical is a sweet place to surf, but we just picked the wrong time of day to go along with a rainstorm. But still, we surfed! Job well done.

after another day of exploration and cruising in the teeny tiny Jimny, we had to say our goodbyes to the beachy goodness and catch that plane back to reality...