"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Little Things in Life: Overseas Essentials

I consider myself very lucky to make a career out of doing what I love, playing basketball. Of course, there are always positives and negatives to every situation. Living overseas for 8-10 months a year makes you miss some things in America that aren't available here. A common conversation with my fellow American teammates is talking about what we miss from back home, usually centering around the foods we crave. Right now, nothing would make me happier than to devour a double chicken burrito with rice, black beans, salsa, sour cream, and extra cheese from Chipotle! PizzaHut is right down the block from my apartment, but a large pizza costs 3,000Yen (about $40!). Heck, I’d even settle for finding a restaurant that serves a regular American breakfast. This being my 4th season living overseas, I am very used to adapting to a new country, it’s lifestyle, and food. Eventually you get used to not being able to read ANYTHING, from road signs to food labels. You get used to using a public restroom and having to “pay-to-pee” in Europe, or banking on no paper towels to wash your hands in Japan. You also get used to watching only CNN on TV, because that’s the only channel in English. These are just a couple examples of everyday life overseas. I've got a list of essential items that I pack every year that make living away from America a bit more manageable. Most of mine center on technology and food/drink.

1. Slingbox
Slingbox may be one of the greatest inventions ever. It connects any cable box in the world to your laptop or iPad. Basically, I can control my home DirecTV in Minnesota from my laptop in Japan. This makes it easy to catch my favorite shows like SportsCenter, PTI, The Office, Entourage, etc. With the 15-hour time difference, it makes it a bit complicated, so you may have a remote battle with those back home trying to watch the same TV! It allows me to catch my little brother's basketball games who plays for the Air Force Academy, and of course our Marquette Golden Eagles! I'll just have to set my alarm in the morning the next day here to catch the live tip-off.
2. iPhone
The club here in Sendai gives us a nation-wide cell phone, but my iPhone comes in very handy. Paired with our portable Wi-Fi device here in Japan, we are always connected online, making our long road trips much more enjoyable. Basketball players these days can’t seem to go anywhere without access to their Facebook and Twitter, and I am no different (FOLLOW ME at DanielJohnFitz!). Also, I downloaded a translation App that works great at the supermarket. It translates all languages, and converts currency too. Do you know how much 4,000 yen is in dollars? “Wakaranai.”

3. iPad

This is a new addition to my "must-have" list, but it was the best gift my wife has ever given me! I no longer have to bring a case full of DVDs, CDs, books, or even a laptop on all these long bus trips. The iPad is a one-stop shop for all my entertainment needs. As you can see, I am certainly on Team Apple! RIP Steve Jobs.

4. Skype

Skype allows me to make voice and video calls over the internet. I can call or chat with anyone who has Skype on their computer for free, or for a very small fee, I can call any landline or mobile phone in the world. It is the best way to stay connected while away from friends and family. I have it on all my devices, iPhone, iPad, and laptop. Paired with my portable Wi-Fi, I can reach anyone back home anytime. Of course, you have to coordinate a good time to call, as Japan's 15 hour time difference makes it challenging. The video function is especially awesome, check it out if you haven't already as it is even useful in the states.

5. Camera

So far, I've been to a dozen countries and have seen a lot in my 4 years playing professionally. That's a lot of memories that I want to remember, and of course people back home want to see how my wife and I are living. Fortunately for me, my wife is a talented professional photographer, so she takes all the pictures. Check out her picture blog at DominikaIrminaPhotography.com.

6. Hot Sauce

Every new country brings new adventures with their foreign cuisine. So far, Japanese dining has been the biggest change for me compared to any other place I've lived. I'm not a seafood fan, so I'm at a serious disadvantage here. Check out this basic Japanese kids’ box lunch.
I love all hot sauce, but my go-to brand is Frank's Red Hot. It goes on everything from eggs to pasta, to whatever the heck that stuff is above! Some different foods I've had this year in Japan include seaweed wrapped rice balls with raw salmon inside, curry rice and beef, baby octopus, and a Sendai staple, grilled cow tongue! Frank's Red Hot makes all these taste better(or at least, edible)!
7. Gatorade powder

I love Gatorade, I drink it all the time. It's not nearly as popular as it is in America, and sometimes nonexistent. If the country does have it, they have one flavor sold in a tiny bottle. It will also be expensive. I haven't seen any Gatorade sold here in Japan, so I stocked up on Gatorade powder before I left home. Living overseas, you find that they won't have your basics from home, just something that's close to it. Japan has a sports drink that is close to it, called Pocari Sweat (not the best connotation, right?). It's similar to Gatorade, just not quite the same.

8. Deodorant
Before coming to Japan, I was told to bring deodorant. Apparently, they don't use it here as much as we do in the states. Our sticks are bigger and much stronger. I never would have thought I needed to bring a year’s supply of SpeedStick, but every country is different. So, do your homework before you head abroad, no one likes to guard the smelly guy!

I love my job and it has made my life a lot of fun and an exciting adventure! But there really is no place like home. The place where you can get breakfast at 3am, a Hot ‘N Ready Pizza for $5, watch Monday Night Football, on monday night!, identify what you’re eating before you eat it (I've had mystery meat plenty of times), read and fully comprehend street signs, and buy a liter of Riptide Rush Gatorade at a gas station with the change in your car’s ash tray! God Bless the good 'ole US of A!
GO Marquette!
-Daniel Fitzgerald '08

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