All posts tagged: Once A Sports Fan

This image has no connection to Colombia or the World Cup, other than my nostalgia for the other places I have loved, triggered by watching them parade through my screen during a soccer tournament

Soccer, injustice, and Colombia beyond the single story

My days are split. I spend half of them typing narratives of loss, injustice, and victimhood, courage, and resilience from Colombia, in an air-conditioned library that can afford me a cooler temperature and the kind of peace that my own apartment can’t provide. I spend the other half consuming the national drink of whichever country I’m cheering on: Ouzo, German beer, American beer, caipirinhas, aguardiente — all in the name of a soccer-themed nationalism. A friend even remarked today that I showed up to the Brazil-Colombia quarter-final game in my “most Colombian outfit.” She wasn’t wrong. I am not sure how I feel about most of the reflective moments in my life at the moment alternately emanating either from the dungeons of a library or from a (fairly corrupt) (fairly gendered) (fairly classist) (fairly is the wrong word) sporting event. And yet. I spent last week cheering on Greece — unlikely, for reasons I’ve written about before. And I spent my afternoon cheering on Colombians, in a Brazilian restaurant at that. It seems like all …

Tavern Girls

Hugging strangers

2004 was the summer of hugging strangers, in the country in which “don’t talk to strangers” was something Americans said in the movies, and not a dictum by which to live. Then, at least. On the special Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the Champions League games would take place, Ajax would face Juventus, Real Madrid’s Roberto Carlos would make the otherwise bored Greek sports commentators jump out of their seats, and-once in a blue moon-the odd Greek team would qualify only to lose 5-1 to a Norwegian soccer club none of us had ever heard of. On those Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we would get to order pizza, stay up past our bedtimes, and gather around the TV to listen, almost with worship, to a few bars of the Champions League theme song blare through the screen. The commentators always said “we” were outclassed, then proceeded to raise “our” hopes that maybe Olympiakos or Panathinaikos or occasionally AEK would surprise us all, quickly followed by an all-knowing proclamation that nobody ever seriously thought “we” could compete in …

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The involved places

I did not come to the Middle East to maintain an attachment to privacy. I have worked in five countries in this region and each of them has stripped me bare. The invisible bubble between you and the world dissolves and you sit there, practically naked in all your layers of clothes, with yourcollarbones covered but your life exposed. Questions feel like pokes initially, like none-of-your-business jabs. This is the story of my making peace with the questions. It is a story of my love for “the involved places”, the places that do not stop at “nice to meet you” and “check, please”, the places that transcend what is appropriate or their business to form a human, intrusive life connection. *** Living above Burgers Bar means I have woken up on more than one occasion wondering if there is, indeed, a portion of the population that craves a lamb burger at 8 AM. Some people wake up to the gurgling of the coffee machine or to a whiff of hazelnut coffee; Elijah and I wake …

tentsunrise

The day Messi rode past us

[This is part of a series of posts chronicling a walk across Israel. For the how’s and why’s, you can read The Time We Walked to the Sea. For the first segment of the hike, read The Day We Failed to Walk and for the second, The Day Storks Changed My Mind.] One of the unexpected joys of being a perpetual expat is seeing something written in your own language. When your language is Greek and is spoken in few corners of the world, the joy doubles. Cana greeted us in Greek: Αγοράστε εδώ το κρασί του γάμου! Christians believe Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding of Cana, where he transformed water into wine. Entrepreneurial souls in modern-day Cana beckon to religious pilgrims and romantics alike to renew their wedding vows, or – like the Greek sign requested of us – to buy some Cana wedding wine. Elijah and I were more interested in the water part of the miracle. Having walked thirteen and a half kilometers that day, we needed to refuel …

A fast rise, a steeper fall

We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have enough strength to stare it down. – Eleanor Roosevelt, quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Home Front in World War II   Moments of glory – then. In August 2006, I was trapped on a ferry with 300 Greeks and a lone American. Rather, the lone American was trapped with us. It was the World Basketball Championships semi-final match and Greece had just stunned the USA with its victory: 101-95. It was one of those things that will likely only happen once in a country’s athletic history, like accidentally winning the Euro Cup of soccer in 2004 or having a Greek, white sprinter win the 200 m. dash race in the Olympics. The ancient Greeks used to tear down the walls of their cities to welcome victorious warriors returning home; their modern descendants pour themselves …

Heartstrings of Champions

No matter how much I search, I cannot find another harbour. – Melina Merkouri, Never on Sunday   I grew up in a sports-loving family. The European Track-and-Field Championships of 1998? We will watch every event, from the steeple chase to the shot put. Olympic weightlifting? We will celebrate every Greek medal. The true family love, though, has always been Panathinaikos. None of us consciously chose a sports team. Before we could walk, our fathers draped us in a green scarf with a clove and taught us to recognize the team’s anthem. The family clan nowadays is a cast of characters: divorcees, widows, immigrants, nomads, America-skeptics, America-lovers. We are, however, all ‘Panathinaikos.’ Although it has been criminally long since Panathinaikos did tear-jerkingly well in the Champions League, the European Cup for soccer club teams, I knew that the rest of the family would be watching the Inter-Milan final… and that is how I found myself squeezed between a Cuban doctor/professor and a live Cuban band in Havana. The Cuban doctor informed me that Cuba is …