Thursday, December 13, 2007

Solomon Islands Hoops, Gabe & Ime, I Gotta Blog More About N-B-A

Note: I’ve been on vacation recently. Sorry that I forgot to blog here. To make amendments, in the next few weeks I’m gonna blog like maniac. NBA, be ready. I know, a lot has happened in my beloved league... and being blog-free for 20-or-so days is simply disgraceful. Here is my Solomon Islands vacation’s roundup. Stay tuned, blogs are coming... next week. I promise. ...Spurs, Manu’s 37 back-2-back games, TD injured (SCARY!!!), Red Rocket Matty stepping it up... Hawks, Josh Smith’s game... Celts, Kendrick Perkins’ heavy bed... Cavs, LeBron’s fantastic year... Mavs, Irk struggling... Nuggets, AI on the way up... Pistons, Jason MAXiell’s boost, Warriors, S-Jax’s CMVP (Crazy MVP) year... Cats, Emeka Okafor forever off the screen... Bulls, Kirk Hinrich, what’s up with him?... Rockets, Luis Scola should have stayed a Spur... Pacers, Jamaal Tinsley’s rides, Clips, Chris Kaman is a beast with no hair... Lakers, Jordan Farmar’s MIP-like year... Grizzlies, Rudy Gay’s athletic game... Heat, Chris Quinn actually playing... Bucks, Andy Bogut is solid I mean... Wolves, Craig Smith mystifying... Nets, Richard Jefferson’s career season... Hornets, C-Paul’s stardom... Knicks, Starbury on the way to hell’s hell... Magic, D-Howard excellent!... Sixers, Willie Green still keeps surprising me... Sonics, KD35 starting gear it up... Suns, Nash’s tooth… Raps... TJ Ford’s bad luck... Blazers, Travis Outlaw, a hidden jewel... Jazz, Ronnie Brewer’s rise... Kings, Beno Udrih’s steady hand... Wizs, Agent 0’s hospital time... and MORE! See ya soon.

Last two weeks I had the unique chance to visit the Solomon Islands (NY time zone 4:00PM - 12/13, CS 10:00PM - 12/13, SI 8:00AM - 12/14), leaving there as a basketball-seeking guy and returning as a basketball-seeking guy. Damn, it’s actually a difference! How come? Keep readin’ and ya shall find out.

So last two weeks I was given the opportunity to take up research in one of the countries of the “Third World” with my buddy Valdes. You ask, hoops research? Yep, too. This research was done in missionary-like conditions with the help of the local missionaries, the Salesians, who work with young people.

I couldn’t resist the offer, so I began my “Melanesian Dream”. Why Melanesian, you might ask? It’s simply because my destination was the Solomon Islands. The place of my two weeks’ stay was the island of Guadalcanal with its missionary center, a Salesian secondary school located near the capital of Honiara.

With great impatience we waited for the moment when we’d meet the first descendant (*Look, he’s tall like Earl Boykins!*) of local cannibals, wearing a short grass skirt and coral necklaces with body painted according to their local traditions (*Looks like Deron Williams’ skin, baby.*).

After four days of travel, I had gone from one part of the world to the other.

The Solomon Islands, an independent state, is also an independent territory of the British Commonwealth.

First news of the islands came to Europe at the end of the 16th century, heralded by the sea father and discoverer Fernao de Magalhaes. Among the discoverers of the Solomon Islands, Alvaro Mendana de Neyra (1541-1595) is considered the most prominent. Soon the Portuguese, Spanish (*Yo hablo espanol, amigo.*), Dutch and English continued in their footsteps. The most famous Dutchman was Abel Janszoon Tasman, who discovered New Zealand’s South Island, the Tongo Islands, Fiji (gotta love this name) and the Bismarck Archipelago. In 1722 another Dutchman, named Jacob Roggeveen, explored Easter Island and discovered Samoa. James Cook, the most famous English explorer (something like MJ in hoops), discovered the islands today known as the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and the Hawaiian Islands (*US, can you hear me Arnold?*)

Due to the vast territory of Oceania, the differences in geological structure and the typical tropical climate with its representation of fauna and flora, the character of the environment is very rich.

There are three types of islands in Oceania - the so-called continental islands that form parts of the continent while being parted from it by sea. The islands of New Guinea and New Zealand belong to that group. On the other hand, the volcanic islands were formed by the hot magma coming out on Earth’s surface. The islands of Tahiti and Hawaii belong to this group. The coral islands are of continental or of volcanic origin. They are divided into atolls and coral reefs. Atolls have a circular shape and stick out only a few feet above the sea level. With the fall of the original island under the sea level the reefs continued to grow and formed their outer layer. Their age is estimated to be two to eight thousand years old (*A little bit older than Sam Cassell.*). There are approximately 3,300 inhabited islands in the Pacific Ocean. The coral reefs are covered only by a thin layer of mould in which some plants can be grown - for instance coconut palms, pineapples, papayas, mangos, bananas and lots of other kinds of tropical fruit as well as various kinds of sweet potatoes.

The climatic conditions of the Oceania islands correspond to their location in the tropical and subtropical area. The average temperature is 30°C and 40°C. A typical characteristic is abundant precipitation and strong “trade winds”. During the summer, dangerous cyclones and typhoons are formed in that area.

The richest fauna can be found in the Papuan region, especially in the Solomon Islands. There you can find many sea birds, crocodiles and various reptiles and turtles.

For their beauty, the islands are called the “Untouched Paradise”.

Oceania’s first inhabitants moved there from Sunda Islands about 30 thousand years ago, settling first on the island of Melanesia. After the Europeans discovered the islands of the Pacific Ocean, the population was enriched by the Europeans, Americans and inhabitants from Southeast Asia - the Philippines, China, Japan and Vietnam. The aborigines of Oceania are divided according to ethnic and linguistic features. You have Negroids (dark with curly hair), Melanesians and Mongoloid-Melanesian (with more pale face, straight hair and skewed eyes), as well as Micronesians and Polynesians.

The official language is English or rather, its modification - Pidgin English.

We got to know the Solomon Islands through the “Distance Adoption” program. This program enables families to directly help children of the area by ”adopting” them and so financially supporting their education. This allowed us (BAFS Team) adopt an 18-year-old, 6-3 youngster named Danny - and we’re gonna bring him to CS someday. We were able to meet with our adopted friend.

In the Solomon Islands we were greeted by beautiful nature; a genuine jungle full of unfamiliar sounds (NBA should install their microphones for ESPN's national cable telecasts here, that would make a nice all-access), but silence, too. We met the islands’ wonderful people; pure and innocent (*Isiah’s ancestors?*), hiding nothing away: without pretense. They can listen, feel and give everything (*Ty Thomas should have gone here to college.*).

Families consist of 5-12 children on average (nice package for pick-up games, but they got no balls). However, education is inaccessible. Children can dedicate only a small amount of time to playing; their childhood is filled with a lot of work and babysitting their younger siblings. If they’re lucky and can attend school, they’ve to learn to take care of themselves very quickly.

We’re most familiar with the adolescent Solomon Islanders, since they represent the category to which our research pertained. We observed their behavior and opinions about their own lives. When I was talking to them, I was interested in discovering the principles by which they were guided and what motivated them.

Through our interactions with these people from such a different culture, I gained many deep and unique experiences. I felt their feelings of helplessness when they were not able to solve their existential problems. The Solomon Islanders have taught me there’s no difference between giving and receiving (Do you understand, Mr. JR Smith?). They were happy that I was there just talking to them.

In the chocolate-colored faces of our friends, I discovered a lot of goodness and a sense for simplicity that have been forgotten or lost in our culture. We, the over-civilized people, often lack these wonderful qualities.

And... there’s no Solomon Islands hoops.

p.s.(extra): i have a new blogger favorite, gabe muoneke, a hoops journeyman. i’m posting here his story about spurs’ ime udoka, because it’s funny and cool. gabe, keep on blogging, you’re very good! read quickly!

The Ime Udoka Story

It’s a trip when you get to know people. Ime was so quiet and I figured he was just some guy who could play with a Nigerian father. Well, folks in S.A., don’t be fooled. That dude in an Afr-I-CAN! I mean damn! The only thing non-African about him is his accent. We went to Nigeria, man... When they brought out the food I figured uh oh... He aint eatin’ th... What the?! Ime was tearing that Fu-fu (thank Jay-Z for everyone knowing what that is now) to shreads. I asked him about his adornment of the vittles. He said that’s all he ate growing up. Imagine my surprise when I saw he must have grown up doing the African ju-jitsu too.

When the National Team went to Algeria for the African Championships in Algiers, every team was on edge because the Top 3 squads got the invite to the World Championships. So after we lost to Angola in the semis and had to play Algeria for the third spot, they knew, we knew, everyone knew they had no shot. First quarter... Tactics. African ball, man. Trust me: as corrupt as can be. Despite all the cheating from the three-man (North African) refereeing crew they just couldn’t beat us. So the coach sent in their best player, who was injured but came in with a purpose. I think his name was Ali Bidane or something. We had the ball out of bounce under. He guarded me. As the ref handed us the ball, he turned, looked at me as if there was not a game going on. And pop! Not an elbow, not even a signature yours truly gutter. He decked me right in the jaw. I couldn’t believe it. And come on. I freely admit when I throw cheap shots. I wouldn’t hide it if I started to. I mean, I’m in the middle of basically middle eastern country playing the local team. I know better (read on to see my contradiction). He nailed me, we turned it over, and yes, my Rodman 101 class did well. I looked up court, saw both refs back and calmly asked him in by most polite French, *Pardon me sir, I object to you striking me.* Next thing you know... Both teams on the court going at it. Wow.

Imagine my surprise! (My cheeks hurt). That wasn’t the real brawl. After we won was the real issue. After the game, they were waiting for us to come out of the locker room. And seriously, I didn’t start it. Kingsley Ogwudire was in front of our team in an all-out tirade in his best Arabic. The next thing you know, there were three Algerian players on him. Everyone was engaged in combat save me, if you can believe it. And lo and behold... Ime! He was taking people out like in Mortal Kombat. Finish him! Incredible. I was so out of it as I had five guys I was fighting (oh yeah, the crowd jumped in as the fight spilled over to the court of the championship game of Senegal and Angola).

In the middle of the whole thing I heard Ime, literally in mid-swing of another opponent say,*Watch back, Gabe* and he calmly, I mean calmly, smeared a guy who, as I turned to see his warning, jumped from the stands with a chair to probably kill me or knock me out to where the crowd would have. I mean, Ime caught the guy in mid air with a fist and calmly continued his dispacthing of oncoming people. He and other guys (yes, me too) were whoopin’ so many people the crowd backed up. True to the letter! But Ime had the most notches by far. As we retreated to the locker room to kind chants of, *You cudly blackies! We highly doubt your ability to leave this gym with lives intact* in French, (it might have been a bad translation) all I could do was marvel at Ime. This guy, I thought, was a quiet American guy was standing there - all his stuff gone (gym bag, wallet, shoes, jersey) - with a stick in his hand we tore off the walls of the locker room in the middle of North Africa quite literally with our lives on the line... laughing. All the while I was texting my wife that I loved her and might have a hard time seeing her again while she was watching the whole incident on BBC News. And Ime... laughing. He is and always will be my 9ja broda. Ime... Wetin happen bros? Abi na notin. Notin dey happen. To this day I don’t know how we got out of there. But that night we ate like kings at the Nigerian Embassy. And Ime was with us… Killing his Fu-fu.

Tell me how I could have seen a thing like that if I had made the NBA out of college! You just can’t make this stuff up.


p.s.: *i'm averaging two blocks a game and shooting zero percent. just call me ben wallace,* said robert horry, after his 2007-08 nba debut vs. t-blazers.
p.s.2: *i've never been known for a lot of good language,* said jazz coach jerry sloan.
p.s.3: *dallas is in trouble, man. they gonna have to do something,* said tnt’s analyst chuck barkley.
p.s.4: warriors are the single greatest argument for ordering league pass (and, for you east coasters, picking up a case of red bull). (-j.a. adande)
p.s.5: james dolan is czar nicholas II to zeke’s rasputin. or else dolan suffers from a rare form of dyslexia and thinks the knicks are 14-6 and in first place. (-charley rosen)

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Dec 13 2007 10:57PM

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