Friday, July 20, 2012

Mercer's Jasmine Blakemore Blogs From Her Service in India

As part of Mercer On Mission, rising women's basketball junior Jasmine Blakemore is spending a portion of her summer break in India, exploring health challenges facing the nation's population.  Blakemore will check-in with periodic blogs during her stay; Scroll down to read her series of entries.

Mercer On Mission is a unique blend of study abroad and service-learning that provides life-changing experiences for students through academic instruction, cultural immersion, meaningful service, and spiritual reflection.

Click here for photos.
Day 17 – July 26, 2012

What a day full of history I had today. We took a field trip four hours outside the city to visit the famous ancient 1,000 year-old sun temple in the state of Gujarat. It was really cool, there was a prayer area that was filled with a 15 ft pool of water. It was built pyramid style around the water, with 108 prayer idols built-in. In the background of the pool was the two standing temples. Both hand carved were beautiful. As we walked into the main temple to admire the architecture, we look up and there was ceiling full of bats! It was crazy.

After leaving the Sun Temple we went into the city of Admehbaad, where we visited the ashram of Gandhi. There we visited his home, temple and walked through the museum made in his honor. It was a great experience and quite humbling as well. I was able to really understand what he stood for and what he means to this country.

Today was definitely a day I could never forget, so much history and so many great images, that I will remember forever.

Day 14 – July 23, 2012

Today was different than the usual. We woke up this morning and attended a class. The class that we attended was at my professor's old place of study, the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. There we sat-in on a class about social work in the urban slum areas. We were able to interact with students and also answer questions.  We were also able to learn about the ways that they problem-solve their communities. I learned that even though our facts and figures are a little different, their problem-solving techniques are close what we would come up with in America. When class was over and we had a break we went to the courtyard for an ice-breaker. We played some trust games and learned a traditional folk dance. Even though my time is coming to a close here in India I can truly say that I am enjoying myself.

Day 10 - July 19, 2012

Today has been quite interesting. We took a trip to the government hospital, which is one of the main governmental medical facilities in the state of Gujarat. It was very different from what I am use to seeing in an American hospital. All types of treatments are given in this hospital - from surgeries to dental work. They have all their departments in one facility. We also got to take a tour of the neonatal department in the maternal ward. The babies were so small! It was great to see how medical care is distributed to people in other counties. Also helped me to appreciate some of the things that I know I take for granted with my own medical care. 

Later in the day, we went to the slum of Ramdevnagar. It is actually better maintained than I initially thought. However, it was still evident that it isn't the best condition to live in. For example, in the entrance of the slum there is a pit full of dirt, animal feces, and trash.  The pit was just one piece of the troubling conditions that these people live in everyday. There are also many animals all around. By now I am use to seeing goats, cattle and monkeys in the street, but in this particular division of the city they are abundant. With the heat and rain mix, walking through the slums is a challenge due to a lack of a proper drainage.  The situation makes it hard to get around and makes our jobs much more difficult. Still, the families are very hospitable and helpful making what we have to do much easier. 

We hope to soon be done gathering information and head into the analysis stage of the study.

Day 6 – July 15, 2012

It's Sunday and I have officially been away from the United States for about a week now. I'm getting more accustomed to the differences from home and the stares we get out in public. I've even caught people taking pictures of us! I honestly feel like people have taken more pictures of us than we have of them.  It's actually pretty entertaining to me. 

On Wednesday, we started our field work in a village called Lingsthul, collecting data for a study we are conducting with BCC. I was surprised to see the differences of how people were living. In the same village, there were people who had nearly nothing and people who lived quite comfortably. We went to many houses asking them the questions for the study and sitting and having coffee or tea. During one of our rounds I had at least five cups of tea! We also got a chance to interact with the kids at the village's primary school. It was such an experience. We taught them little phrases in English and they taught us a few in Gujarati (the local language). I now officially know how to say: good-bye, let's go, my name is, and thank you. I really didn't know exactly what was in store for me with this trip but I see a change in myself already.

Day 1 – July 10, 2012

Today I have finally made it to Vadodara, India. The first three days were a struggle, since we spent them in-and-out of airports.  First, we traveled from Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta to Heathrow airport in London, England. From Heathrow, we flew all the way to Chhatrapati Shivaji airport in Mumbai, and then on to our final destination of Vadodara in the state of Gujarat. However, when we finally made it to Vadodara, I was relieved - but the work was about to begin. Tomorrow, we are to get acquainted with the staff of The Baroda Citizens Council as they brief us on the work we will do for the next couple of weeks. I'm excited but scared at the same time because I really don't know what I'm getting myself into.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

KSU's Julie Nelson's Amazing Experience at the 2nd World Deaf Football Championships

Kennesaw State women's soccer rising sophomore Julia Nelson (Marietta, Ga./Hillgrove HS) is just like any other collegiate soccer player, except for one thing – Nelson is deaf and a member of the U.S. Women’s National Deaf Team. 

As far as she knows, Nelson was not born with hearing problems. Around the age of five, Cecilia and Gordon Nelson, Julia’s parents, started to notice problems such as when they would try and talk to her in the back of the car with friends. Her friends could understand her parents perfectly fine, but Julia had trouble understanding them. Nelson’s parents got her checked out and realized the problem was slowly becoming worse. They believe the hairs in her ears are not long enough, so they do not vibrate as well as they would in a normal ear. Julia’s 16-year-old sister Sydney, is also deaf and a member of the U.S. Women’s National Deaf Team.

From July 16-28, Nelson and the U.S. Women’s National Deaf Team competed at the 2nd World Deaf Football Championships in Ankara, Turkey. The U.S. opened group play on July 18 with a 1-0 win over Russia, with Nelson scoring the game's only goal.

Nelson's blog highlighting her experiences in Turkey can also be seen on KSU's website here. 

Days 11-12: A Little Time Off to Relax

The day after our 8-0 rout of Germany I finally had a chance to catch up on my beauty sleep and went down to breakfast 2 hours later than normal. It was magnificent! Then we went to cheer on the men’s team as they took on Uzbekistan. Unfortunately, their hearts just were not in it and they suffered another disappointing defeat. They lost 1-0, and now have no chance of competing for even 9th place. However, the women's team will not only be competing for first, but will WIN IT!!

After the game, we slowly but surely made our way to the mall to enjoy some good old American fast food. I have been hobbling along, but am healing quickly. I can finally see an ankle down there!! We then had another nice long team stretch of which I was not a part of due to my ankle injury.  :(

The following day was a nice, boring, relaxing day. I was able to walk around and explore a little bit because my ankle was feeling much better. After practice, in which we worked on fast transitioning, we went for a stroll around the mall. I was finally able to get that Starbucks tea I had been craving for two weeks, and let me tell you, I needed it! Then we did another load of laundry in our tub and hung out with the teams in the hallway. As boring as today may have seemed, we needed a day of relaxation to prepare ourselves for the Poland game on Thursday. Almost to the gold baby!!!

Days 7-9: Another Game, Another Victory!

Day seven was another chill day in preparation for our next game against Japan. In training we split into two groups, defenders and midfielders/forward. Defenders worked on their defensive shape, which was something I think we needed to work on, while my group worked on crossing and finishing. It was a very productive day. Right after training, we rushed off to the men's game against Germany. They suffered a disappointing defeat, 2-0, but there were some debatable calls and whiny Germans. It was a very frustrating game! Fortunately our boys still have a chance to advance if they win their next game against Turkey. At the end of the day, we all got together for a little stretching session and had a team meeting to discuss tactics against Japan.

The following day was our second game of the tournament, and we came out with another victory, beating Japan 4-1. I scored the second and fourth goals. One was off of a corner and I just scraped and battled for it. The other was literally at the very end of the game.  It was a beautiful upper 90 shot. However, it was not the team's best performance. No one's heart seemed to be in it, and our underestimation of Japan led us to allow them a cheap goal late in the second half. It was fortunate that we chose to play our worst game against probably the easiest team in the tournament. The team took another spin on our designated victory ride, but we rode one too many times and began to feel woozy.
After a fantastic extra 30 minutes of sleep the day after the victory over Japan, we went down to breakfast to wish the men’s team luck in their important game against Turkey. We had hoped to catch a few minutes of the game after training, but the bus driver wouldn’t take us. Unfortunately, they were not able to get that “W” they needed to advance, and tied 1-1.

Back to the women’s team…Today at training we worked on opening up to the field by finding our targets in a possession game. We definitely needed to work on getting wider, and hopefully we will be able to incorporate what we practiced into the game against Germany tomorrow.

After practice, we spent the day exploring the city of Ankara and bargaining for trinkets and souvenirs. I found that I am not a very good bargainer. Helpful hint: don’t take out more money than you are willing to spend. We then sat down at a cute little cafĂ© and ordered the most Turkish looking word on the menu and hoped for the best. It turned out to be incredible- some sort of spicy, ground lamb in a tortilla, almost like a gyro.

On a side note, I am getting so sick of rice and apple juice. Mother, when I get home, DON’T FEED ME ANY RICE!!!! Dinner and lunch was basically the same thing, and have been for the past week and a half. Our meals consist mostly of soup, rice, some sort of plain meat, a variety of vegetables, salad and bread. Tomorrow I plan to try Turkey’s famous waffle dessert in the mall after a crushing victory over Germany!!

Day 6: Game Day against the Russians!

What a day!! We got up even earlier than normal to eat and digest our food before the big game against Russia. We all quietly boarded the bus, mentally preparing ourselves for an immanent victory. We had to leave our hearing aids in the hotel because apparently if you are seen with them on the field, your team automatically loses the game. After setting our bags in the locker room, we went out to test the field conditions. The grass was reasonably well tended- a bit long for my taste though. We went back to the lockers to discuss the game tactics and then prepare ourselves. If there's one thing I hate about Turkey, it's the toilets, or rather the lack of them! They expect you to squat over a hole in ground and do your business... :)

Before the game, the starting 11, including me and my sister, were expected to line up under the entrance to walk onto the field in an impressive manner. :) I was pleasantly surprised by the number of fans that showed up to watch.  We shook hands with the evil Russians really hard to make them scared. :) We started the game on a good foot, and in the 15th minute, I SCORED A GOAL!! The other forward started to dribble towards the 18-yard box as I began to spin off of a defender, and she slotted me a ball through two Russian defenders and I buried it home!!!! My goal turned out to be the game winner as the match ended at 1-0, even though our defense was a little shaky at the beginning and end of the second half. I thought I played well for the most part, but I feel the team has some defensive issues to sort out.

The Russians weren't nearly as aggressive as people made them out to be. Not that it made any difference to me - I was still going to play hard anyway. :) As a celebration, we all took ice baths and then rode some of the rides in the nearby amusement park. With our hardest game under our belt, I feel confident about our chances!

Until next time,


Days 4-5: Preparation Time!

The days are starting to blur together and I had difficulty remembering what day it was today.  Yesterday was a BLAST! We had training again at 9, but we had to share a field with the men because the opening ceremony was during our practice time, so our time slot was just eliminated.  We worked on quickness and scrimmaged for the majority of the practice, and are feeling confident about our chances against our arch-rival, Russia! :)

After practice we spent some time in the spa tub to loosen our legs, before heading off to the opening ceremony, which was amazing!! We got to interact with people from other countries, including Spain and Greece. I even got a picture with a member of the Greek men’s team, #22. All of us Americans were dancing, laughing, taking pictures, and having a blast! After mingling, we went to the back of the stadium, and we all trooped in behind the American flag. There were cameras everywhere! My cheeks hurt from all the smiling.  :)

We then sat down and were greeted by the tournament organizers. Unfortunately, they were speaking Turkish, and addressing a bunch of DEAF players!!!!! Then we were "entertained" by some Turkish singers and dancers. I can't say I was blown away by the performance, but it was interesting.

The following day, the day before our first game, was a very uneventful, but nerve wracking day. We were anticipating an all-out brawl against the Russians, and needless to say, were quite apprehensive about it. The team and I practiced set plays and worked on attacking, and then came back to an ice bath.

Following practice we went to the mall to buy laundry detergent, souvenirs, and snacks for the room. I got some cool bracelets and a key chain with nazars on them, which is supposed to protect the wearer from the evil eye. It is thought to shield you from the greedy glare of envious onlookers. Such a glare can cause disease and unluckiness, and we don't want that, now do we??  It looks like a ball with concentric blue and white circles.  It represents the evil eye and is supposed to redirect the bad luck. We walked back to the hotel and washed our laundry in our bathtub. What five-star hotel doesn't provide complimentary laundry service!!!? Instead, we got to walk in boiling hot water to mix the soap around. What fun! :)
Our last thought before going to sleep was how many black eyes we were going to collect in the game against Russia the next day...Wish us luck!

Julia's First Installment from July 16.

Hello everyone!

So before I explain what life is like over here in Ankara, Turkey, I wanted to explain a little more about who we are and what this team is about. The U.S. Women's National Deaf team is comprised of about 20 women from around the country with a hearing loss of about 55 decibels or worse in their best ear. We are from all over the US, and the age ranges from 16 to 31 years. All of these players live normal lives just like you, maybe just a little quieter. :)  It is very heartening for us to be able to meet other people who have to cope with the same difficulties we experience every day.  

This year, we are in Ankara, Turkey, to compete in the World Deaf Football Championships and defend our title as world champions for the third straight title in a row. The team has also won the gold medal in the Australia Deaflympics in 2005, as well as the Taipei Deaflympics in 2009. The team will play Russia, Japan, Germany, Poland, and South Korea this year, with Russia as our biggest competition.

This is my first time playing with the team and I am psyched to be a part of such a successful and prestigious team. Unfortunately many, if not all of you, may never have heard of this team. That is why I am writing blog; to raise awareness about all the amazing accomplishments these girls have and will achieve, and hopefully I will be a part of this incredible opportunity!!

If you want to learn more about the team, visit the USA Deaf Soccer website.

Days 1-3: The Beginning of a Great Two Weeks

The first day was a nightmare! After travelling for nearly 36 hours, we finally made it in one piece to our amazing five-star hotel.  I was completely wiped out (and that’s a huge understatement)! The first thing I noticed, though, was that Ankara is a HUGE city, with huge sloping hills surrounding the entire area, and miles of buildings in every direction.  Right next to our hotel is a colossal mall and amusement park. There was also a giant banner on the side of the hotel promoting the Deaf World Football Championship.  :)

To keep ourselves awake, we decided to go explore the four-story mall and see what kind of treats Turkey had to offer. I didn’t notice a big difference in the variety of items in the mall and in fact, apart from the people, it would have been just like any other American mall. One thing I did notice was there were a lot more shoe shops and the people dressed a bit more conservatively- not as conservative as I had expected however. But we didn’t stay for very long. By that point, we were about to COLLAPSE!

After a good night’s sleep, we woke for breakfast at 6:30 before heading out to training at 9. We did some light passing drills with a partner, some possession, and then worked on bringing the ball out of the back. I found it really interesting that we all had to take our hearing aids out while practicing, because come game time both teams will be playing without them. I never realized how difficult it was to communicate with people and tell them (or me) what to do when playing. I did my best to tell people what I thought about something, but it would just take too long to get your point across! Believe it or not, I have one of best hearing on the team :)

We then had a two hour nap/rest time before going to the gym to do some circuits. We focused a lot on our abs - they’re really sore today :). And as a team bonding exercise, we all gave each other sign names because some of the people on the team are completely deaf and can’t talk at all. My name is almost like the jellyfish because I was the only one who could do one of the exercises on the PB exercise ball and it looks very similar to the jellyfish. :) My sister’s is a cradle because she’s the “baby” on the team at 16 years old.

Day three was a lot more adventurous! We had training again at 9:00 and worked on attacking, but practice was cut short by the Greek Men’s team. Right after training, we hopped on the metro train to explore one of Ankara’s historical monuments. We had fun hiking up a small mountain overlooking the city. It was INCREDIBLE. You could see for miles and miles in all directions but you couldn’t see the end of the city, it’s so big.  When we were walking back down, people started chanting a weird chant to gather everyone for prayer. It was really interesting and neat, and it went on for almost five minutes.

We then went to a restaurant near the castle on top of the mountain. I got a simple chicken kebab dish with good soft bread and some sort of grain. We still don’t know what kind of grain it was. The chicken was delicious, but it tasted almost like Mexican fajitas.  Some people also got what they called Turkish pizza, which was also really good. It’s basically the same thing as regular pizza except it’s made with a stronger cheese and some sort of ground meat (I’m guessing lamb) and thinner bread.  Then we came back for the second practice of the day, again focusing on abs.

So far, I have been having an AMAZING time! I am so glad to have gotten to know other girls who face the same problems I do every day and feel I am going to have a great time with all of these wonderful girls for the next two and a half weeks. :)