Monday: A long blog for an eventful day…

After an Argentinian immersion weekend, we returned to the turf this morning for practice with our Casi coach, Mary. We focused on defensive skills, continued to work on shooting, and tried to implement new techniques into our field play. A pretty typical morning until… the ride home. As we pulled out of the parking lot, pedestrians were madly waving at us. We thought it was funny, but when they started chasing us we figured we left something behind. Nope, flat tire. And as someone said¨”It wouldn’t be a Bowdoin FH trip without a bus problem” (we have bad bus karma I think).

Eventually, the problem was resolved with a bus switch, but not until we 1) tried to drive on the flat until our tire shredded 2) our driver tried to change it with some very nice guys in yellow jumpsuits, aka Argentine Triple A and 3) we sat patiently on the guardrail of a major highway entertaining ourselves.

The flat tire, though, only set us back a half hour and a few showers, as we went from practice to our community service afternoon. The trip that followed was absolutely eye opening and rewarding due to the abject poverty that exists in Argentina, and we were so grateful to be able to make it part of our trip. The afternoon began with a tour of the community center and church in a very poor area of Tiger (a town outside the city).

The center was so welcoming as they showed and told us about the work they do. It is a fantastic resource for the locals, as they act as an after school, homework help center, and play space for the areas most disadvantaged children. They also teach carpentry and furniture decorating skills to the older kids and teens to give them a trade to practice if they cannot find other work. Amazingly, the center also doubles as a special needs school for about 30 kids, and a medical and dental clinic run by volunteers. The free care gives children and their families access to critical medicines, check-ups, and even teeth cleanings, that they would not have otherwise.

After the tour, we then spent time talking and playing with the kids. Unfortunately, our 20 gifts were not enough for the 80 plus kids at the center, so we left them with the adults for communal use. Some of our Spanish speaking teammates put their skills to work garnering admirers and new best friends, while others simply joined in obstacle courses (Go Nicky!), dodge ball, futbol, and tag. Everyone, though, had their own favorite moment to share when we left the center. After playing for a while, we held a FH demonstration, which was a huge hit!

The afternoon ended with snack time for all the children, and then our own snacks inside with the volunteers (again delicious pastries and top notch hot chocolate) during which we were given candy and hand painted thank you notes for our visit. It has always been said that th less someone has the more giving and generous they are, and this became quite evident today at the center. I know we all felt a renewed sense of gratitude leaving the kids and the area despite it only being an afternoon.

Back to FH though… quick food pit stop and an hour later we arrived a CUBA (Club Universidad de Buenos Aires) for our 8pm match. The team was by far the best competition of the trip as we fell 4-3 after trailing 3-1 at the half. Some sore muscles and a brisk night made for a tough warm-up, but we definitely rose to the teams high level of play by making defensive adjustments and including many of our new skills. CUBA´s goals came from two corners, a reverse chip shot to the top corner, and a shot from the top of the circle that grabbed the corner of the goal. Lindsay scored the first goal for us off a great sequence from Ashley to Maddie. The second goal was all Maddie at the stroke mark after Julia and Kate brought it into the circle. And the third goal came off a beautifully executed defensive play by Jessie that allowed Maddie and Jessie to combine for a potent offensive play.

The after-match reception included our usual gift giving and food, but this time we received some great CUBA banners to each hang in our room. Anyways, we are off to bed…as they say in Buenos Aires, not adios, but Cioa!

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Sunday at Estancia Santa Susana

We met for team breakfast at the hotel and made our way to the Estancia (ranch) where we would spend the majority of our day. On the bus-ride over, Romena describe traditional Argentinian ranch life and prepared a traditional tea which we all tried and enjoyed. Gauchos (cowboys) greeted us with epanadas and drinks as we stepped off the bus. The weather was perfect and compounded the beauty of the estancia landscape.

We rode horses around the ranch and explored an old ranch home. We then enjoyed a lunch in a large hall with many other tour groups from various other countries. The gauchos served us various salads and meats while we watched a small tango show and listened to traditional Argentinian music. Afterwards, we were ushered outside to watch a horse and gaucho show. The gauchos held short, thin dowels in their hands and road full speed under a wooden overhang from which hung small metal rings. The gauchos were able to spear the rings with the dowels every time!

When the show was over, many of us hopped on the horses with the gauchos for a quick ride around the field where they performed. Even Nicky joined in the fun! We were all exhausted by the time we arrived back and just grabbed a small bite to eat and completed a little more shopping on Florida street.

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Enjoying Buenos Aires

Our tour guide, Romena, arranged for a van to take us to a leather and cashmere factory in the neighborhood of Recolleta. Many of us bought silk and cashmere scarves while others bought sweaters and leather jackets. We then walked a short distance to an artisan market where we found local hand-crafted jewelry and leather items. We grabbed a quick lunch and met back at the hotel to depart for a men´s field hockey match at local athletic club. The match we saw was an annual match between the Argentinian club team vs a Chilean team. The weather was chilly, but it was worth seeing such a fast-paced competitive match. Afterwards, Ms. Mercer treated us to ice cream.

We then split up by class and went to dinner at various restaurants in Buenos Aires. The senior class went to a local favorite which was recommended by Ms. Mercer´s Argentinian friend. The sophomore class dressed up and went to an exciting Tango show which featured the famous Argentinian Tango. The junior class returned to Recolleta to enjoy an amazing meal at an intimate Italian restaurant. We all made it back to the hotel to watch Micheal Phelps win his 8th gold medal!

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First Match and Day Three

Last night we started off the pre-season on an excellent foot… a 1-0 win against a under-18 club team called Casi. Casi is the largest club system in Buenos Aires and a number of their players are currently in Beijing. The game was very even, and we had about 5 or so shots on goal. Maddie McQueeney tapped in the game winner off a feed from Lindsay McNamara on a fantastic offensive rush.

The real treat, though, was the post game social at the hockey clubhouse with the opposing team. The girls were so welcoming and nice, and spoke very fluent English (lucky for us!). We had funny, interesting, and informative conversations comparing our cultures, and obviously we exchanged names so we can friend them on Facebook (aka keep in touch). We also gave them small Bowdoin mementos to remember us by, which they really appreciated.

This morning, after a longer night of sleep, we trained with a top Casi player at a local field. The practice was very helpful, as we are beginning to work on the key pieces for our season- powerful shooting, defensive skills, and spacing.

We just returned from lunch at a unique local restaurant that lets you write on the walls. We think it may have been a set up, but Colby and Trinity recently visited Argentina, and had left their mark at the eatery. We simply wrote: Bowdoin Field Hockey 2007 National Champions. Enough said, right?

Tonight we are playing a team at the University of Buenos Aires… scores to come!

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Day Two – Polar Bears Take the Field

Today we were all startled at 745am by a friendly wake up call from our concierge, and headed downstairs to another pastry breakfast. This time, though, it included eggs, yogurt slash milk (think danimals drinkables), pear juice, and luckily cornflakes. Practice was definitely the highlight of the trip so far. It felt great to get back on the Turf, and the Argentine coaches were so knowledgeable. The coach running the practice, Lalo, is also an international field hockey star in Argentina, so thats a bonus. He made all of the drills worth points, and awarded them for good execution and goal scoring. Congrats to Tamlyn, the t shirt winner, and Lindsay, who won an Argentina jersey for learning to drag flick. The goalie´s consolation prize was an invite to the National Holiday party next week.

Soon, we head to our first match, an we hope we make it on time. The city has tons of traffic, none of which is guided by lights or lanes, yikes! Stay tuned for the results of our first game.

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Day One – Polar Bears Arrive in Argentina

After a long overnight flight and lots of finished books, we finally arrived in Argentina. yesterday just in time for breakfast. the cafe accommodated our strange request for omelets and sandwiches, as well as serving us their traditional pastry breakfast- delicious croissants. The next stop on our two-story tour bus (Mr. Ward, we would like one for our next road trip) was the national cemetery. The beautiful mausoleums are packed into a gated maze, but luckily no one got lost. We all snapped pictures just as tourists should, including extras at the burial site of Evita Peron. Our tour guide maria laura then talked us through the various Buenos Aires neighborhoods, and gave us an insightful country history and explained the architectural influences. Right before we arrived at the hotel for much needed showers and naps, we made a final pit stop at the white house equivalent (its pink in Argentina!) and fed pigeons in the city square. Dinner came quickly. We ate the country´s favorite, steak, with puffy french fries and flan with dule de leche for dessert…. yum. On our way home we ran into a number of curious Argentines, including three boys who held hands and tried to close-line our group… funny! Romina, one of our Victory Sports tour guides, walked us home safely, though, where beds have never felt so good.

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Polar Bears Leave for Argentina

The Bowdoin College field hockey team left for Buenos Aires, Argentina on Tuesday, August 12. The team will enjoy seven days of sightseeing and field hockey clinics, including four exhibition matches against local squads.

Over the course of the next week, this blog with be updated with contributions from team members. Check back for the latest info!

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