Part 2: Arrived in Turkey

Airports are ambiguous places: vacuous and impersonal yet teeming with emotions. It is familiar to me; I have departed from them many times, but this departure was different. I knew how to handle leaving the people closest to me. That part was routine; I say my goodbyes, cry a little, then once I pass security I grab hold of my ticket, wipe the remnants of the tears from my cheeks, and move on. Yes, I am one of those emotional types who cries over pretty much anything, and I’ve learned how to deal with it, but moving to Turkey was different.  I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready. The whole thing happened so fast, I didn’t feel prepared. How would I handle this new situation on my own? Would they treat me right? Would I fit in? Did I forget anything? The next thing I knew, I was looking out of the airplane window. squished between two passengers, thinking to myself: There’s no turning back now. 
I arrived on Turkish soil with the utmost enthusiasm. I had finally made it. Fifteen hours of journeying and I was where I was suppose to be. I knew it would all run smoothly until… I realized I needed a visa just to get into the country. Not to worry, according to my contract, my visa would be taken care of. I figured it was already in the system and they just needed to look it up online. After waiting about 30 minutes in line at the official front desk, and another 15 minutes for an English-speaking officer, I was told that there was no visa in the system and I had to go purchase one. Luckily, a temporary visa was only 30 dollars so I figured the club would just reimburse me. But when I got to the Visa desk, after arriving with my complete wallet transformed into Turkish Lira, the manager told me that they only accepted American Dollars. Confused, I told myself, Ok, I’ll just go find some dollars. I went to a special cash point and drew out 50 of the 80 dollars left in my bank account, and then returned to the visa desk where I finally received my 90 day visa. Trying to maintain my positive attitude, I walked through security and baggage claim, and was hoping to see my name printed on a piece of paper with a friendly driver eagerly awaiting my arrival. I came out, searching for my name amongst the 30 plus drivers but, couldn’t see anything close to mine. I stood there, flustered and a little disappointed, but waiting on someone to pick me up. After a few minutes I moved to the closest cafe where I could plug into the wifi.  I was sitting at the airport for 2 hours before they picked me up. 2 damn hours!! Pissed . . . waiting . . . waiting . . .  not speaking any Turkish . . . waiting . . . hoping that someone would walk by with a sign. . . .any sign . . . please?

Long after all my enthusiasm for arriving in Istanbul had faded, a man walked up.”Are you Savanah?” he asked, I nodded, and said that he didn’t recognize me with my hair? I thought I looked pretty similar to any picture he could have pulled from the internet but oh well, I was happy to finally get moving to my apartment. I tried to use a bit of the Turkish I knew, “Merhaba” I said. He didn’t really respond but we exchanged laughs after realizing both of us didn’t understand one another. It's a funny thing when you are ‘lost in translation’ as they put it, hoping one of you will somehow piece together the broken language the other is speaking. Traveling through the city, passing the lights of the skyscrapers made me feel comforted that I had made the right decision. We stopped at a grocery store so that I could pick whatever food I wanted, then we stopped for a local chicken fajita, and finally we arrived at my new apartment. At a first glance it was perfect: a 'two bedroom' apartment for one, with two bathrooms and a relatively large living room. There was a decent sized TV and the internet was already working so I felt secure. I said my goodbyes to the driver and then quickly hooked up my computer and cellphone to the wifi. I was content, although the desolate house felt quite lonely. 

The next morning I woke up rather late and went straight to the fridge to grab milk for my cereal. I reached for one of the dishes that was left in the sink. Thinking to myself, why are there plates in the sink?  I washed it, but then turned around and realized the place hadn’t been cleaned. It was as if I had walked into someones home and was using all of their stuff. Attempting to maintain a positive outlook, I washed the dishes and disposed of all the trash to make the place feel more homey. I was greeted by the Physio who enthusiastically took me to have a medical exam. 

Another 2 hours of waiting around and doing various medical checkups like blood tests, urine tests, orthopedic tests, and cardiovascular tests. And when all was completed, I went home for a few hours and then was picked up again to go to practice. The Physio told me to bring my running shoes. I wasn’t sure why; I definitely didn’t think I would be playing the first day I got here, still trying to orientate myself from the jet lag. They had a friendly match against one of the local second division teams. As I arrived, the players told me to get ready.  I thought it was a bit weird to prepare to play volleyball before having met any of the staff, but I refrained from asking questions and got dressed, met a few of the girls who were very friendly, and walked out onto the court. I didn’t even know who the coach was, but then a man introduced himself and told me I was playing. Surprised, I began to jog in place, smiling to save my ass from pouting. I was drained and dizzy and ready to drop. I was hoping for a day to recover, but that wasn’t the case. Oh well, I wanted to impress them so I decided to suck up any hesitation I had, and give it my all. I could be that young, eager, determined player that everyone is excited to have on their team. 

"Life has no limitations, except the ones you make." ~ Les Brown

With Grace Part 6: Vega Baja with Fefa

Took a Mini Trip to Vega Baja and ended up happily surprised by the beauty of nature. I love the fact that there are so many natural surprises everywhere you go. Words can't describe how amazing the environment is! It's wonderful to escape from society sometimes and see mother nature at work!

Part 1: From Amateur to Professional

I have written a 6 part series to describe my transition from Amateur to Professional. I know many of you are eager to hear how I arrived in Puerto Rico because I haven't really spoke on the subject at all. I have written this to shed light on a personal story of my journey. Stay tuned for each part of my story here!!!

PART 1: From Amateur to Professional

I’m taller than the average woman, yet smaller in the volleyball world. I’m always having to prove myself as a volleyball player because my competition usually stands at about 6 ft 4. I’m not afraid of what's on the other side of the net. I just give it my all every time I step out there and then my abilities show themselves. But I am afraid that my hard work, and what I do, won’t be good enough. 

I spent the last three and a half years on an unstable roller coaster. The funny thing is that  after I graduated I thought I would suddenly gain some clarity as to which direction I should take in my life. In reality, graduating gave rise to more confusion and swept away the only stability I had. A situation like this could terrify some, and although I was a bit fearful, I was also very excited. I was inspired by the possibility that I could choose whichever direction I wanted to go; I could choose my next goal in life. Being young, fit, and willing to take risks gives me a sense of empowerment. Not everyone is given the opportunity to make these kinds of decisions with a bachelors degree in one hand and a resume in the other, and that is why I felt that it was almost a duty to take advantage of the opportunities that had been given to me. After leaving the University of Miami, I decided to throw myself in as many of directions as possible to see what sort of feedback I would receive. I set myself as many short term goals as I could, simply to give myself some drive for the next few unsteady weeks. I told myself to draw as much as possible, write emails everyday, design and create t-shirts, set up a website, read 10 books, write 2 screen plays, eat healthier, photograph everything, and although it was a little unrealistic, I figured it would keep me busy until opportunities arose.
After a few weeks of reaching out, and gaining only a handful of responses, I decided it was time to weigh up the pros and cons of my options. I had opportunities in both sand and indoor volleyball, and then another alternative to give myself a break from volleyball and dive into the creative field. As I was wrapping up my decisions, I realized I couldn't walk away from one particular opportunity, the opportunity to play in the top league in Turkey, competing against some of the best players in the world. Excitement doesn’t quite explain the volatile emotions I was feeling. I’ve heard horror stories of people going overseas and playing, never getting their money or signing to a club that folds within the first few weeks, and I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to check every box, so I asked everyone in my life (and more) for some advice. When talking to those more experienced and wiser than I, everyone said that this was the best option. They all told me that it was a win/win situation: playing for a team in one of the top  leagues in the world, making an amazing starting wage, and in a culturally thriving city. I’d be crazy not to go. After long discussions, I came to the conclusion that, worse case scenario, I hate it but leave after 3 and a half months with a nice check in my pocket. It was the right decision. 

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future" ~ Steve Jobs


With Grace in Puerto Rico: Part 4

Just messing around with some of the swimming action shots I took on the GoPro. For some of you who don't know me, I only recently learned how to swim, so I have been working on my breathing underwater. It is pretty exciting to see yourself learn things and grow as you learn. I still have to practice and get loads better but I am super happy with my progress.

With Grace in Puerto Rico: Part 3

Check out my most recent video where I paddle board and swim in the winter. I am trying to take full advantage of my surroundings out here, being in a beautiful country with great people. I hope to show a little of what I am doing on my off days, but it't not all fun in the sun. Soon I will be posting a video of what the hard work and games are like out here! More to come on my adventures in PR!

Print's for Peace

I'm making a line of clothes called With Grace. Each image will represent different social issues that have influenced me directly and indirectly in my life. It's my contribution to bring awareness to topics that are important to me, perhaps also a bit uncomfortable to talk about. So far I have two designs up on Society6, check them out and purchase them if you are with the movement!!! ....

With Grace in Puerto Rico Part II

After a week of hard work with two big wins against some top teams out here in Puerto Rico, it was time for some relaxation and fun in the sun. I met up with some of the girls from the All-American conference on the beaches of San Juan. We had a blast eating amazing food and renting the jet skis. Here's a little snap shot of what this weeks day WITH GRACE was like...

With Grace in Puerto Rico Part 1

As some of you know, I have now moved to play in Puerto Rico. An amazing opportunity arose that seemed to fall into place at the right time. I will tell you more about the transition to Caguas at a future date, I am currently working on a video that will reveal my journey in detail. But for now, I have made a little film of my first day in Puerto Rico and my early adventure. I am so excited to see myself develop as an artist and athlete in this wonderful island and with my new team, Las Criollas de Caguas.

Fall Together With Grace

I made this little short because I love this song by Childish Gambino and I also felt that I had a little story to tell about my early journey overseas. It is never easy to be away from the ones you love, and every phone call, FaceTime session, letter, and text makes all the difference. I try to show a little of what it is like to feel distant and alone when you initially embark on a new journey in this short musical piece. I hope to share these emotions through this little film titled Fall Together.

This film was inspired by the Marilyn Monroe Quote, 
"I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together."