When home is not home anymore and How playing a 10k in Italy decided my future

28 Mar

When home is not home anymore and How playing a 10k in Italy decided my future

After travelling for 21 hours straight, crossing an ocean and having two lay-overs, I would have expected to drop dead of tiredness not have an epiphany. Yet, as I found myself over Los Angeles, looking through the little window of the plane, I felt a shiver down my spine and a warm feeling inside of me: “I’m coming home” was all I could be thinking.
This past week, I was technically closer to home than anytime before in the past 8 months: in Europe, with my parents. However, that is not my home anymore. In my parents’ house, where I’ve lived for 12 years, stands my empty room and that is a place I’ve been wanting to leave for at least 10 out of those. Seeing my parents for the first time in such a long time, I expected to be at least content. I wasn’t. I was annoyed at their joy of seeing me, at their smiles, at their hugs. I couldn’t stand their poor English and their insistent question and thirst of hearing and seeing me. I didn’t want it to be that way. I certainly felt bad pretending, smiling and telling stories, in order for them to indulge my every wish, which they did, without even thinking, just because they finally had their daughter back.
I don’t know yet if Los Angeles is my home. I haven’t exactly lived in the city for on campus, in a shielded bubble. However, I know for sure that it is not where my parents are anymore. Flying to Italy, I was excited: I would play tennis at a tournament again, I would hear a foreign language, I would eat delicious food and I would admire good-looking Italian men. It was the excitement of discovery. Flying back to the US, I was excited: I would be back, start anew, ready to take on a new quarter, change my life, motivated. It was the excitement of coming home, recharged, with grand plans. 8 months ago, I remember being on the same flight to LA, but having the exact opposite sentiment, the first one I described: the shiver of experiencing something new. I was a bright-eyed little girl going on an adventure, leaving home behind. Now, I come back here, almost an adult, content to have explored something new, but happy to be home.

But now, a little about Italy.

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A lesson in humility

23 Feb

http://dailybruin.com/features/jordyn-wieber-brings-strength-to-ucla-gymnastics-team/

 

Yesterday I hinted to the disappointed I faced when I arrived at my new home, not only not becoming part of the tennis team, but also, not even being given the chance to try out and measure myself  against the girls I could feel I am close to, in terms of tennis level.

I felt I was forced to give up my dream, even when it might not have been required and of course, the alternative, pouring all that energy and dedication into something else, that I didn’t even thought it existed was not very appealing.

I joined the tennis club, only for the opportunity to be on the court, still clinging to the hope of having try-outs at one point. I figured that the only other people whom I would benefit from playing with would be in it. It was terrible for me, seeing that we didn’t have a coach, that nobody was motivated to come out and train, not just hit around and play games, and that the competition was at a much lower level than I anticipated and hoped for.

In all honesty, I wasn’t happy, and I am fairly positive that it could be seen from the outside as well. I was stuck-up, thought myself better than everyone out there and had a diva-like attitude. Do not get me wrong, I worked hard. I only lost to one girl, against whom I also when playing the normal format, was on the court longer hours than anyone else, and had the work ethic I grew up with. They were happy to have me win matches, but I wasn’t part of the club. I didn’t want to. Respectful distance was all there was.

Fast forward 8 months later. We lose in the regional championships against USC and then to UCSB. I say we, but I wasn’t even on the court. It was crushing for the team, it was devastating for me. I did not understand why wasn’t I put to play, why didn’t they use me and my initial reaction was to say to myself that I didn’t lose anything. They did. I was more worried that I would not have whom to train with anymore, that I would be unprepared for Italy, my Italy, my tournament. But then I realized how sad I was for them. Our president is graduating this year. She won the tournament her freshman year and didn’t even qualify for it in her last year. I was hurting for her. And I was hurting for me and the other freshman who will be remembered for the first in history who did not qualify for nationals.

However, it wasn’t until I read this article about US Olympic Gold winner, Jordyn Wieber that I truly realized that not only did my attitude need to change, but that I wanted it to.

http://dailybruin.com/features/jordyn-wieber-brings-strength-to-ucla-gymnastics-team/

Jordyn Wieber is an amazing athlete, sponsored by Adidas, who took the highest stage in the world and delivered at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Now, she moves the mats around for a team that she does not compete for and prepares the girls’ equipment, and she is happy.

Everyone looks up to her, respects her and is inspired by her and while she trains by herself, she does not feel like she is performing any lower duties. Or at least, this is what the article says.

I cannot imagine how someone who has a gold medal sitting at home feels in a small gym with no one to challenge her in it. Given, the gym may not be small, but we are talking about someone an entire country put faith in. I wonder how she stays motivated in this environment and what pleasure she takes in already being the best here, without even trying. I cannot comprehend this situation but I can acknowledge the beauty and honor in it.

I know that she still has access to all the facilities and everything she requires. Plus, she still trains with UCLA coaches, though not together with the team.

But, truthfully, it doesn’t matter. I just felt humbled and ashamed of myself. I will continue to work hard with my club team and for it, irrespective of my private goals and aspirations in the sport. I will hopefully take a position in a club that has allowed me to continue to cling to the prospect of me ever playing tennis at a competitive level again.

 I will honor the friends I made and smile more at practice. I can train by myself, I don’t need to ruin the fun for them. I need to realise that they were not exposed to the same schedule, intensity or level of competition and pressure that I was. And I have no right to hold it against them. For them tennis is a pleasant hobby and I should not intervene or judge.

 I will not.

Now I know that even if I make the varsity team next year, or even if I don’t, when I graduate and look back, the tennis club will be among the first things on my list of activities and organizations that have impacted me and my college life. Some of my friends will be from it. Some of the lessons I have learned will have come from it. And even some of my biggest victories will take place in it. Because I know I will have won them for someone other than me. And those will have their own flavor and place in my heart and story.

All in all, if I spend that many hours with it, I might as well start enjoying it, right? I will continue to refuse to play games at practice though, and that, nobody can hold it against me.

Deciding my future or Writing again, though not a rant

22 Feb

I am a strong, independent young lady that has never lost sight of her goals. Of course, I have had detours, of course there were times when I had doubts or felt disappointed. But, in my heart, I always knew what I wanted, how much I need to work for it, what I need to sacrifice in order to achieve it, and I always were able to make that choice. I walked through hell and back for my dream.

Romance especially, has never been able to make me stray from my path. Then, why now, why does this ordinary guy have this influence on me? And for so long. Why have I allowed my mind to drift away from my work, strayed away from my goal, become insecure, clingy, and awkward?

This is not a rant about my latest crush. This is me, reclaiming my life. Acknowledging the problem is always the first step towards solving it. I realise that this has gotten out of my control and I give myself until next Sunday to solve it. Either something comes out of it, or I will push this issue out of my life.

For the past 7 months I have had to deal with a wide arrange of new issues. Packing my life, moving to the other side of the world was not supposed to be easy. But, I probably should not be surprised that the real problems I encountered were not the stereotypical ones, not the ones I was warned of.

I, personally had to deal with defeat. I didn’t walk on to the women’s tennis team as I had planned on. I was not able to call myself a tennis player anymore. I lost my identity. Not having a coach and not affording to pay a physical trainer, I allowed myself to become ordinary. I put on 10 kilograms, and those were not the freshman 15. Since I moved to college and until my supposed “try-outs” I had actually lost weight. I was ready, prepared, fit. It was the disappointment, the loss of a goal and the entire situation with this guy that made me go back to sweets, to chocolate, to avoiding the running track, to avoiding the gym.

Today, I decided I cannot give up. Even if I have to take another path, I am a tennis player. I will train by myself and I will work harder than the others and I can and will still get there. And this starts today, with the first 25 days left until my first major competition in almost a year. A lot depends on it, but more depends on how I prepare for it, and how I change back to who I am supposed to be when entering such a competition.

This however, will turn into a long-term goal. As long as I am not on the team here at UCLA, it means that I am a full-time student, working towards my academic future and my career. Yes, my dream is to become a professional tennis player. But even if that becomes a reality, which I promise I will do anything in my power to make it such, I will still have my career to go to. I will be someone important. I will work at the highest level in government, nationally and internationally. I see myself as a politician, as a delegate to the UN, as foreign minister, as a diplomat. I belong there, and again, I will do everything it takes to take my rightful spot.

I will make the right choices and I will follow my plan. Becoming involved, having those positions on the board of the tennis club, the MUN club, the Romanian club, my sorority will lead me there. Doing the research projects for my Poli-Sci 199, my quarter in Washington will get me there. Getting a job will help me on my way. Interning during the quarter in Washington and during the summer will do its part. Being trained in public speaking, in making friends and acquaintances, in putting myself out there will become the foundation of my highway towards those upper levels.

Yes, I now have another set goal, the devised plan to get there and the motivation to embark on another journey. Until I graduate or make the team, I will still have my personal side quest, tennis, that I am all in for. I am in no way giving up on that there or not even putting it on hold. I am officially making it a well guarded secret so I can work on it without pressure or distractions. The goal is to maintain and slowly raise my level of consistency, confidence and experience until I will allow myself to fully dedicate my time to it. Even if this means the next 2 years and a half. I have the patience and the determination to pursue something like this. Becomes it will make me feel special and it will provide me with the incentive necessary to put in the hours that I will have to put in. And those are long hours that await me. Hitting with people, running in the mornings and going to the gym, all as side-notes to doing homework, preparing my lessons, doing the research and becoming as involved in extracurriculars such as a job, a club and my sorority.

I realise it is a lot, but this is exactly what I need. Give me a free day ahead, I will accomplish nothing for all those 24 hours and feel disappointed. Provide me with an impossibly challenging schedule for the day that awaits me, I will get everything done and feel empowered. This is me, and I embrace it. I rejoice in being so.

 I am taking a stance.

 I am back.

And this time, I am neither stopping nor slowing down.

US College workload and course-work from an international perspective (Day 2 of NaBloPoMo)

2 Nov

I know this shows that i posted twice 2 today, but it’s just because i changed the time zone of my blog. I’m still going through the challenge of posting every day this month.

This is probably one of the most approached topics when being questioned about my experience at UCLA as an international student. How difficult is the school work? Is language a problem?

And, as vague or as cliché this may sound, what I have learned over the past 3 months in the US is that college is indeed what you make of it.

To begin with, in a short answer that I know many are looking for: No. College coursework is not this incredibly difficult, unachievable task. And I’m not even talking about barely passing; I am talking about getting good grades. On the other hand, it is definitely not an easy endeavour and you can always chose how hard or easy you want it to be, which is probably the appeal of a us college in which there is no fix curricula.

What do I mean by this possibility of making it as difficult or as easy as you want?

There are several aspects to it.

Firstly, and probably the most striking difference to the university system back in Europe, is the fact that you can and sometimes even must take courses from across different fields. Some of you may not know, but European universities are specialised, meaning you apply directly after highschool to medschool, to law school, to architecture school, to engineering school, to political science university, to psychology university, etc. You usually have an exam related to the subject and the coursework you will have to do in order to graduate is fixed. Should you decide to switch your career after a year you usually have to start all over at a different university compared to simply switching a major in the US. This liberty that the US college system gives you is empowering and liberating as you can explore different fields without pressure to pursue them and even get a minor in a secondary passion of yours. On the other hand it is definitely tempting and easy to choose only the easy classes, especially for the General Education requirements most colleges have. This is the first aspect in which college education is what you make of it. Challenge yourself and choose your classes based on your interests and passions or go with the flow, and choose the ones that are known to have indulgent teachers, nice TA’s and easy finals.

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Is forced writing good writing? and Culture Shock. Am I weird for not experiencing it?

2 Nov culture shock

It’s November 1st! Time to get your NaBloPoMo on! Oh, the excitement.

Or not.

For some, November is that time of the year when they finally get the motivation to write their big novel, or even commit to simply write more.

I, personally have always wondered about this obsession with writing more. Does an increased quantity of words bring anything to your style, your posts or your audience? Perhaps I was just too lazy to accept the challenge and was just finding excuses. After all, as an athlete, I should know that practice makes perfect and even if perhaps reaching a quota of words per day or month will not automatically transform you in a better writer, there is no way it can hurt you.

I did experiment with writing everyday for a while last year and it worked fine as long as I felt inspired. I quit when it got though, when I actually had to find a subject to write on and not just pour my soul out. I also experienced a negativity and self-doubt when asking myself why n earth would anyone want to hear my opinion on everything.

But here I am, November 1st, ready to accept this challenge once more, as I again came back to my conviction that Writing is more for yourself than a desired audience. I have also not written in a long time, and perhaps the transformation that I’m inevitably going through needs to have a documented proof. And I miss writing. There, I admitted it.

So, short update on where I am now. 6565.42 miles or 10565.74 km away from home. Foreign continent. North America. Foreign city. Los Angeles. Alone. Or actually, this is a more accurate description of how my journey started exactly 3 months ago. I know it’s early, but I feel I could easily call this home and I’m pretty sure there was not a single day in which I felt alone after arriving to UCLA.

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How the international community reacted to Romania’s stray dog scandal or How easy it is to insult an entire nation from behind the screen.

6 Sep

I have rarely, if ever, expressed my opinion on a country or its people, simply because fighting in words with ignorant people is pointless. I do cringe when I see stereotypes portrayed in the media, or hear ignorant comments about matters that are so far from being clear and true.
This article is another story though. Leaving aside that it is obviously biased against Romanians and generally portrays a hateful attitude, the inaccuracies and lies in it are enraging, as are the comments that follow.
Romania has a PR Problem, 3rd September 2013.
To begin with, stray dogs, contradictory to what the article states, is still a major problem in Romanian cities. The following statistic provided by the Anti-rabies “Matei Bals” Institute, which mostly serves the capital of Romania, Bucharest, show that the number of person bitten yearly by stray dogs has increased in the past years:
*in 2008 – 11.500 persons
*in 2009 – 11.800 persons
*in 2010 – 12.800 persons
*in 2011 – 12.500 persons
*in 2012 – 16.192 persons
*in 2013, until July – 8.610 persons
“The cruelty by the majority of Romanians towards its stray population unimaginable and the world should be weeping for the dogs.”
How does one define and come up with the term majority? Has the author of this article witnessed any Romanian displaying cruelty towards an animal? Where does this term come from? Impressions from an article, news from friends?
“Most children will learn early to kick, beat and kill puppies and kittens for fun.”
I cannot even begin to explain why this sentence is wrong. Again, what does “most” mean and is it based on any study or statistic? I would love to say that no Romanian teaches its child to beat or kill anything or anyone, but I cannot generalise. I can say however, that we Romanians are generally perceived as a loving, caring nation and no barbaric treatment is taught or encouraged in this country, as in any European one.

http://www.wspa.org.uk/Images/Pet%20ownership%20and%20trade%20-%20Global%20report_tcm9-10875.pdf

According to such reports, Romania appears in the top 20 countries with most pet dogs, is acknowledged to have welfare and registration laws. Citing from the article,” Some reports of veterinary services also suggested a higher number of post operative complications including wound breakdowns, haemorrhage and infection in countries such as Armenia, Romania and Ukraine. Romania and Ukraine specifically requested assistance in training vets to neuter animals.”

This not only shows, that Romanians do own pets and care about them, by having a welfare legislation, but also acknowledge the stray dogs problems and asked for assistance. This portrays a rather different picture than barbaric, murderous men, women and children.

“Most people walking the streets will not even give a bowl of tap water to a thirsty dog. ” And why is this shocking? Does every citizen of the word or even of the European Union, stop on its way to work to feed a stray dog? And even if that is the case, would that still happen when the dog population in the city reaches 64000? That meaning, a stray dog for every 30 persons in that city? I believe not.

And even if there is money allocated to solve this issue, whether from national or international funds, bureaucracy is a much more obvious and true problem of the Romanian Administration. Funds for many other causes fail to reach their targets every day and no one seems to bat an eye about those. Causes such as orphanages, schools in rural regions, hospitals, waste management, and many other fail to receive the assigned funds.
NGO’s whether national or international ones are great at creating media stir, apparently “raising awareness” on this issue, but how many come with follow up stories and studies? Providing shocking pictures is easy, but not releasing dogs after 2 days in a shelter back into the streets is not.

Leaving numbers and proof aside, I just want to express my disappointment with the international community and the average reader in general. How easy it is to judge a country that is far away and of which you have incomplete information. How easy it is to say that it is obvious that killing dogs is not the solution, when it is not you who fear walking on the streets. How easy is it to call an entire nation murderers, butchers, criminals, when you hear of one such case and there are 20 million people in that nation. How easy is it to turn your back on a country that has requested assistance with a problem?
Readers who leave comments such as this:
•    “Shame on Romania! I will never ever visit such a heartless mean corrupted country. what kind of monsters lives there, horrorble!” show an incredible ignorance and narrow-mindedness when referring to a country. Romania is a beautiful country, especially to visit, and declaring that monsters live there based on one story does not portray them as superior to the Romanians. It portrays them as ignorant, perhaps even worse.
•    “this is terrible; the children need proper education too, how to treat animals well otherwise nothing will change”. Does this person know anything about the education system in Romania? Does it know about the education system in its own country? How many countries actually address this problem through formal education?
•    “They did not ask to be born or to be treated in such a barbaric way by rumanian butchers and sadists who enjoy killing, kicking & beating animals to death” Incredible ignorant generalisation of an entire nation and a hurtful comment to most. I doubt that Romanian doctors, teachers, lawyers or even not professionals can be called in such a manner, without it being a completely offensive remark. This would be as calling all English pukingly drunk football fans;
•    And the worst: bringing other political issues into discussion: “I am disgusted with the way these “people” treat their animals and am   also horrified of what they will do to our animals when they are allowed to come to the UK at the end of the year!”
Firstly, these are not their animals. Romania has one of the highest rates of pet-ownership in Europe. People definitely love animals here and teach their children to treat them well.
Secondly, why are you bringing the issue of migration up in an article that has nothing to do with it. Countless EU predictions have shown that there is no likelihood whatsoever that Romanians will invade UK. The average man would not desire to come to a country that displays such blunt hostility and ignorance towards them. Worst case scenario, college – educated people, especially doctors will be the only ones coming and there is no way you can believe such a person would mistreat a stray dog.
And thirdly, “your” animals? Do you consider stray dogs on the street of English cities your animals? Or do you think a Romanian will come into your home and kill your pet?
•    Last, but no least: “aand.. lets not talk about the fact that the grandmother of the child was supposed to watch the child while he was playing. She left him alone for like an hour… he run away from the park where he was supposed to be, and after that… BOOM… all dogs are supposed to die” Are you supposed to die, bitten by a dog, just because you wander off from your grandmother? What if the grandmother was with him? What should she have done to protect the child?
•    “These romanian people that left a comment here, are educated egocentrically and are all specisits. They fear dogs because they don’t know how to establish any connection with a domesticated, or wild animal. Don’t even bother believeing in their fears. They deserve it” Romania has one of the highest pet-ownership rate in Europe and are more than loving towards them. The fear is real only because the danger is real. If children end up dead because of any reasons, anyone would fear that particular reason, in this case, stray dogs.
In the end, I am terribly disappointed with how this entire scandal has affected Romania’s image in the international community, as well with how the situation has been handled. I do not in any way excuse the killing of animals, but I do ask that all factors are taken into consideration when throwing accusations. Not only should generalisation not be made, but even an enraged small group could be not slammed down when reacting to a death of a little, innocent child.
And to all those, sitting in front of the computer, slamming Romanians, how many of you could or would live in such conditions: fearing walking the streets, fearing leaving your kid play in the park, having a scar from a dog bite etc?

These shoes were made for winning or Daily Promt: These Boots Were Made for Walking

24 Aug IMG_0636

Daily Prompt: These Boots Were Made for Walking

Tell us about your favorite pair of shoes, and where they’ve taken you.

To start off with, yes, I am that type of girl. The one who has at least 100 pairs of shoes and still feels that none matches her outfit for the day perfectly. I love heels, I love flats, I love running sneakers, I love sandals, and I love boots. But there is no pair of shoes in the world I love more than my tennis shoes.

It’s not that they are the most used ones, which they definitely are. And it’s not that they are Adidas or that one pair I had used to have Swarowski diamonds on them:)).
It’s the fact that when I put them on, I change. In my white, hopefully redish form clay, tennis shoes I feel I can take over the world. These shoes have seen me in victory and they have seen me in defeat. But, they have also seen me in countless hours of practice. They have seen in setting a goal and working for it.

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