U.S. Team Lives Up to Hype, Now Has #ScoreToSettle

June 26, 2015.

Days before the U.S. quarterfinal in Ottawa, Ontario, I concluded that, sadly, I was one of few American soccer fans who had traveled across the border to cheer on our women’s soccer team. As I explored the city, my eyes wandered amongst the pedestrians searching for proud U.S.A. apparel or some sort of “American look.” I couldn’t get a good read, but being the person that I am, I was certain that the stands would be stripped of U.S. stripes.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. A huge grin spread across my face while walking down the steps of my hostel…it turns out us Americans had been incognito (at least, in my mind) or drove just for the game to save some mullah.  My boyfriend and I took off in our simple U.S. jerseys to visit the Ottawa locks, and around every corner, we met the eyes and nod of an approving fellow American or a hearty, “Go, U.S.A.!!!” We were everywhere. The streets were adorned with red, white, and blue — official U.S. women’s jerseys and hipster patriotic tank tops, Uncle Sam shirts and outrageous ‘Merica shorts. On the sidewalks with our huge Nikon cameras, we nearly outnumbered the Canadian locals, who smiled in good spirit or teased us with, “Good luck when you play Canada.”

That evening, we each stood in line to board the free, school bus shuttles with excitement, anticipation, and a bit of fear. The day before, the Ottawa Citizen had printed a biting article criticizing the U.S. team’s “lack of offensive firepower.” They showed skepticism toward the American team’s self-proclaimed shield against the media, and the thesis of the piece was that “winning ugly hasn’t won them much praise.” It was true — we had watched the U.S. play Australia, Sweden, and Nigeria in the group rounds with ambivalence…proud to have moved on to the next game but a little dismayed at the uncharacteristic inconsistency in gameplay. But we believed. Even the skeptical among us still secretly believed.IMAG01207[1]

We stepped off of the buses onto the plaza that surrounds TD Place. Making our way towards the bright orange stadium, we stared in awe at theIMAG01080[1] crowds of people: children playing soccer on miniature fields, red-shirted Chinese soccer fans pounding a beat on drums, U.S. fans decked out in the craziest hats and clothing they could find. An impressive glass cinema towered to our right, and a nice burger joint had a line out the door to our left. Soaking in the atmosphere, I sensed no animosity or bitter competitiveness between the two groups of fans; some arrogant jubilance as if the victory was certain, for sure, but also respect and unbridled energy.

Tickets checked and poutine in hand, our mouths gaped in amazement at the bright, open stadium. It was breathtaking–the camaraderie among the U.S. side was palpable. After some friendly chitchat and crappy pictures of the team warming up, the game began. IMAG01093[1]

The first half exuded American dominance and possession but produced no goals. We took over 15 shots but had few on goal. The threat of the Chinese scoring seemed slim despite their technical prowess. We played hard, perhaps even intimidated the Chinese team, but could not finish. Julie Johnston remained the bastion for the fullbacks as Alex Morgan quickly maneuvered around their opponents, attempting to score. Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux sat the bench, and Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday sat apart from the team due to their one-game suspension. Chants of “U.S.A.!” and “IIII believe that WE WILL WIN!” echoed throughout the stadium and were countered by Chinese songs and battle cries, their underlying meaning still translatable.

Suddenly, in the 73rd minute: Johnston crossed the ball to the mosh pit of players in the goal box.  Carli Lloyd jumped, legs karate-kicking, above it all and powerfully headed it into the right corner of the goal.

By the end of the game, the U.S. had proved that they were still the same fierce team with no thoughts of rolling over during this World Cup. However, their passion didn’t go unchallenged or unchecked.

Flash-forward to the semifinals: U.S. vs. Germany, June 30th. In direct contrast to the stoic strategy of the Chinese, Germany immediately burst into battle blitzkrieg-style, pressuring the U.S. team in every moment and causing mistakes. The first 5 minutes looked disastrous for the U.S. as we played catch-up, disoriented by the fast, aggressive movements of the Germans. To top it off, the U.S. gave a penalty kick to the German team after a heart-broken Johnston held a German player back from scoring. Lucky for us, Germany’s Celia Sasic missed entirely. Even luckier was the fact that Carli Lloyd scored a penalty kick just minutes later. Although slightly relieved, U.S. fans held their breath–Germany was not giving up without a fight.

As the game wore on, the U.S. calmed down, maintaining composure against attacks and (arguably) out-playing their opponents. What some were already criticizing as, if the U.S. won, an undeserved win was completely silenced during the 84th minute. The U.S. weaved the ball fast and Ping-Pong style around German defenders to Kelley O’Hara, who scored the second goal of the game. Germany’s spirit fought back, faded, quickly broke.

Today, the U.S. will play in the Women’s World Cup final against Japan, who beat the U.S. during penalty kicks in the final of Germany 2011. What began as a rocky start for the U.S. team has transformed into a rematch for revenge. The U.S. has a #ScoreToSettle with Japan. And if they keep the fire and ferocity of their recent play ablaze, they are certain to come out victorious.


10 Things To Do in Ottawa for $20 or Less

It’s summertime, and you’ve been looking forward to taking a road trip all year. You want to go somewhere beautiful with lots of things to do and a rich history to explore…you’ve taken one too many trips to Florida and Gatlinburg. Well, look no further than Ottawa, Ontario (Canada)! The capital city of Canada is a vibrant and friendly community with an eclectic mix of activities, restaurants, shops, and attractions. While it’s easy to break the bank eating at renowned restaurants and hitting pricey tourist attractions, one of the fantastic things about visiting Ottawa is that you can spend as much (or as little!) as you choose.  Here are 10 things you can do during your trip to Ottawa for $20 or less:

1. Take a bike ride along the Rideau Canal


The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best way to go sightseeing in Ottawa. A paved, road-like pathway accompanies the 125-mile canal through the entire city.  This is not your average, run-of-the-mill walking path! As you cross over scenic bridges and rush past luscious foliage, the city and all it has to offer will open up for you to explore. The path can be walked, jogged, skated, or bicycled (if that’s a word), which also makes it a cheap form of transportation.

Cost: $20 for the entire day if you are staying at the Ottawa Jail Hostel; $10 an hour from Rent-A-Bike. Includes bike lock and helmet.

2. Eat some Canadian junk food!


Ah, a fattening Canadian delicacy! Poutine (pronounced poo-teen in English) is a hearty dish of french fries slathered in gravy and topped with cheese curds.  Yes, it’s unhealthy, but you just burned all of those calories riding alongside the Rideau Canal! You can find poutine at nearly any diner in Ottawa.

Cost: $10 (I payed this price at a pub, but it can definitely be found for cheaper!)

IMAG01158Beaver what? You heard it right–BeaverTails. This pastry-stand chain is named for what it sells: fried dough in the shape of a beaver’s tail with the toppings of your choice. It tastes a lot like some of the fried food you would eat at a state fair. Some of the BeaverTail varieties include apple cinnamon, banana chocolate, maple butter, garlic butter and cheese, and chocolate hazelnut.

Cost: $4.50 – $7.25 per BeaverTail

3. Jigsaw Escape Rooms


This is a must-do activity for people who love playing games and solving puzzles. After being read a chilling backstory and locked into either “The Cabin” or “The Study,” you and your group have only 45 minutes to escape by solving a series of real-life puzzles. Giving too much away would dissolve some of the allure, so I won’t go into detail about the rooms or the puzzles, but they are challenging! Participants of the Escape Rooms are anyone from couples to bachelor parties to families. As the website says, “failure means imprisonment, impending danger, or an altogether very bad ending.”

Cost: $20 per person. Reservations must be made ahead of time.

4. Yoga on Parliament Hill


A yoga-lover’s dream: every Wednesday at 12:00 p.m., hundreds of people gather on Parliament Hill to practice their downward dog and warrior poses. The session is led by a certified instructor who sends assistants around to make sure you’re doing your poses correctly. The yoga session is flexible so that both beginners and more advanced yoga-ers can join in! If you don’t have a yoga mat, do like many of the Ottawans do and simply bring a bath towel or sit in the grass.

Cost: Free! And afterward, you can tour Parliament for free.

5. Stroll through Byward Market


If you can’t go a day without shopping, Byward Market is a dream come true! The public market is about 4-blocks in size and has everything you could imagine–the best restaurants, unique shops, renowned nightlife, and more. You could easily spend an entire day (or longer) meandering through the market. Of course, shopping comes with a price, and the restaurants in this area are not for cheapskates…but you can stop anytime you want, right?!

Cost: Free! Unless you indulge in a shopping spree or a nice dinner.

6. Learn about Canadian history


So you want to know about Canada, eh? There’s a lot more to the country than maple syrup and moose. You can walk through the development of Canada in what feels like storybook fashion at the Canadian Museum of History.  There is a bit of overlap in information at the Canadian War Museum, but the war museum is for those interested specifically in the war and military history of Canada. Growing up in the U.S., I didn’t know much about Canada, so their perspective and history was interesting to learn while there.

Cost: Free on Thursdays from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.; student price for both museums together is $15; see war museum and museum of history websites for further admission price details.

7. Visit the Ottawa Locks


Like a flight of stairs, there is a group of 8 locks that connect the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River. If you could care less about Canadian history, the spectacular view above is still worth taking in before going on to your next activity. However, if it weren’t for these locks, boats could not have made the 30 foot drop from the canal to the river, and the city of Ottawa would not have been founded (or at least, would not have been nearly as successful). You can visit the Bytown Museum (the small building on the left in this picture) to learn the mechanics and history behind this revolutionary engineering development.

Cost: Free!

8. Indulge in a chocolate-y dessert at Cacao 70


Satisfy your chocolate addiction–I mean, sweet tooth–at Cacao 70, located in Byward Market. Here, you can find nearly any chocolate dessert (or meal!) your heart desires. Chocolate cake, milkshare, smoothie, pizza, breakfast…the most difficult task will be choosing just one!! To the right is a picture of the New York Style Chocolate Shake I bought while there — DELICIOUS! I highly recommend it.

Cost: Depends. See menu for Cacao 70.


9. Tour the old Ottawa Jail


The Ottawa Jail housed murderers and thieves, immigrants and the mentally ill. After a 150-year run, the jail was shut down in 1972 for the inhumane conditions in which its residents lived. Shortly after, though, it was reopened as the Ottawa Jail Hostel, allowing visitors to Canada to sleep in the shadows of its criminal past. Visitors stay in the jail-like renovated part of the building, while the rest of the building has been left as ghastly as it was created. Tours of the old jail are given everyday at 11:00 a.m. and last about 30 minutes.

Cost: Free!

10. See a show at the Ottawa Arts Court Theatre 


Located right beside the Ottawa Jail Hostel, the Arts Center is the epicenter of creativity and entertainment in Ottawa. Depending on the calendar and list of festivities, you can see everything from comedians to magicians to one-woman plays that travel all over the country to perform shows. The Fringe Festival happened to be taking place during my stay!

Cost: Less then $20, but typically ranging from $10 – $15 per ticket


…Of course, there are sooo many other things to do in Ottawa, but this list just includes some of the best and cheapest activities in which I participated while in the city. If you have any questions or reviews, feel free to comment!


A Feel-Good Reflection

June 29, 2013

Today was my last full day in Argentina.  It’s crazy to think that I have spent almost 2 months in South America now.  As I cram clothes and souvenirs into my suitcases, I can’t help but reflect on this entire trip and everything that I have discovered.

Simply put, Argentinos are really living.  They are always doing something fun, whether it be chatting for hours with a friend at a café over a coffee, dancing at a club until 5 or 6 in the morning, or playing a pickup game of fútbol in the park.  They are friendly and affectionate, inclusive and fun-loving.  They are a community.  In my opinion, they value friendship, love, and creative expression over exhaustive work hours and résumés and other daily “obligations.” Nor are they addicted to technology or glued to their couch.  There is an energetic atmosphere that inspires you to laugh, be free, and enjoy yourself.  Life in Argentina isn’t something that can be described or explained—it can only be felt.

It has inspired me.  A self-proclaimed overachiever, I have felt my priorities in life slowly change and shift, morphing with my ever-changing views of the world.  A revelation that is probably only shocking to me: I work too much.  I stress, I put myself through unnecessary pain, and at times, I’m merely a robot spitting out results.  I’m not saying that I’m going to quit working altogether, but how enjoyable is life constantly spent at a desk in the library or in a cubicle?

Life is all about balance—too much of anything is a bad thing, and that applies to both work and play.  I am completely certain that I will continue to push myself—my problem has never been that I “can’t get motivated,” “don’t take the time to study,” or “have the ambition,”—it has always been the fact that I never take time for myself.  One of my favorite quotes—the quote that I try to live my life by—is “you must be the change that you wish to see in the world” (Ghandi).  I can proudly claim to be hardworking and compassionate, down-to-earth and (mostly) honest.  I try to exude the qualities that I admire in the world and hope to see replicated in others—loyalty, optimism, drive, creativity, etc.

However, in trying to be my version of the “perfect” model citizen, I have forgotten one crucial aspect of life: living. Taking time to live. Calling old friends. Remembering birthdays. Leaving work at home. Being present in the moment. Enjoying having nothing to do. Spontaneity.  Laughing at myself…and so much more.

The nugget of wisdom that I have brought back from Argentina after weighing it against my American values? Make time for the things you love to do, the things you have to do, and the things you should do; do it with others, don’t sweat the small stuff, and enjoy every moment of it. Spend time with the people who make you smile, and forget the ones who drag you down.  Use Facebook in moderation, and do things that make you feel alive.  Try new things, because when you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.  Learn about the world around you—the rest of the world certainly knows more about us than we know about them.  Force yourself to enjoy what you dislike, even hate—you’ll be glad that you didn’t just mope your way through it later.  And if you are able to take hold of and practice any one of these ideas, please share it with others.  We need more people who are really living.

Sincerely, Erika

P.S. If anyone would like to know more about my study abroad experience in Argentina, feel free to comment/ask.

Words I associate with Argentina:

ARGENTINA: colorful, vibrant, crazy, lawless, fun, affectionate, nightlife, bread, music, beautiful, dirty, dramatic, restless, creative, proud.

Finding Fútbol (All Over Again)

For some reason or another, we find excuses as to why we can’t make time for the things that are important to us.  Upon graduating high school, we never seem to “have time” to do anything more than work and zone out on Facebook. We don’t have time to travel, to learn how to cook, to do the things we love, or to visit the family that lives far away.

I  am no exception to this.  Since starting college last year, the time I spent writing, exercising, playing sports, hanging out with friends, and just plain having fun has severely dwindled.  In a competitive world of grades and professional futures, financial problems and big dreams, it sometimes seems impossible not to take on a large plate of classes, work, and résumé-enhancing extracurriculars.  It’s all about who can do the most at once and who can do it the best—especially when it comes to preparing for and applying to medical school, as I will be doing in a couple of years.

I rarely take a break from the break-neck pace of life I have chosen.  It is not a choice I necessarily regret—I love to be challenged and stay busy.  But by constantly staring down the same long tunnel, I tend to forget the people that I love around me and the things that I love to do.  My ambitious nature is blessing and a curse.

When I decided to study abroad in Córdoba, Argentina, the ambitious, curious, love-of-learning me thought little more than of becoming fluent in Spanish and learning about Argentine culture.  I knew that I would have a lot of fun, see some cool sights, and possibly make some friends; but I had no idea that the biggest lessons I would learn would be the most obvious ones.

Like the fact that I absolutely positively LOVE soccer and never play it anymore.  Although I played soccer in high school, for one terrible reason or another, my high school soccer coaches wouldn’t play me.  After a few years of frustrating seasons full of small-town politics and drama, I decided not to play during my senior year.  Even though I dearly miss it, I haven’t tried very hard to find ways to play it, save one semester of once-a-week intramural soccer.

One of my last years of recreational soccer

I have always loved soccer because it is one of the few times in life when I am truly in the moment. When I play soccer, I stop thinking completely.  My body moves by instinct, and nothing else in the world matters besides getting to the ball.  It’s a way for me to connect with other people and yet disconnect from the “real” world.  Some of my best childhood memories are of soccer—making new friends and winning the state championship, banquets and awards, playing games during practice and scrimmaging nearby schools.

My boyfriend and I on the way to our soccer games

Since coming to Argentina, I have played soccer every Tuesday and Thursday with members of my study abroad group as well as some locals.  Being that on Tuesdays we aren’t scheduled to play until 9pm, I was reluctant to go and play soccer my first Tuesday in Cordoba.  However, as soon as I stepped out of the taxi and walked onto the soccer field, I could feel the energy inside me, the huge smile spread across my face.  I felt alive again just anticipating playing.

My friend Wilson and I watching Argentina play Colombia

I have played with a variety of new and old faces every time I have played, and every time I have played, I have been told what a great soccer player I am.  It comes as a bit of a shock every time someone says it, seeing that my last few years of soccer in high school were nothing but a wrecking ball to my self-esteem.  The principal of my school and his middle-aged Argentine friends, the members of my group, local teenagers, and passersby have all kindly complimented my soccer skills.

Having people who don’t even know me (or my past) praise my abilities in soccer has made me reconsider why I don’t play soccer anymore.  If I’m so good at it, why aren’t I playing it more? Or at all?  The problem is that I don’t have a good answer, other than “I don’t have time.”  Between rigorous science courses, volunteering, working, and a half-dozen campus organizations, soccer (and exercising in general) seems to naturally fall by the wayside week after week.

However, after almost a month of playing and watching soccer in Argentina, I have finally realized that it is a part of my life that I’ve been missing for way too long.  Life is too short not to do the things that make you happy.

Being the planner that I am, I have already scheduled a jam-packed academic year.  But somehow, someway, I am going to find time to play soccer.  Being on my own in Argentina has shown me what and who is really important to me—and I intend to make those things and those people a priority when I return to the states.

Más Despacio, Por Favor

It is extremely lonely to be in a foreign country that speaks another language.  Not only can I not communicate with people my age to make friends, but I cannot say the day-to-day things I need when talking to a cashier, a taxi driver, a police officer.  Everyday tasks that were habitual and thoughtless in America are now a source of struggle and anxiety.  People are not patient, and they are not understanding.  After a handful of times of being laughed at in a store or scoffed at for not being able to speak Spanish correctly, you begin to find ways to avoid interaction.  I don’t mean to do it, but I do.  I hate getting looks that say “stupid American,” and it’s embarrassing to be in a room full of Spanish-speaking people when you cannot understand a sales clerk or a waiter.  It’s embarrassing because even though Spanish is not my first language, people hear my rudimentary sentence structure and just assume that I’m stupid.  They don’t think, “Oh, she’s just learning how to speak another language, and she doesn’t know how to say much yet.”  No, they laugh—and not in a loving, poor-girl-it’s-okay-we-understand way, but in a you’re-an-american-and-you-obviously-don’t-know-any-spanish,-you’re-not-wanted-here kind of way. Not everyone, of course, but a lot of people. A tip from one of my Spanish professors? Just tell them to speak more slowly so that you can understand them, she said. Más despacio, por favor. For asking them to speak more slowly, I get the double prize of a harsh laugh and an eye roll.

I have always felt sorry for people in America who don’t know how to speak English for this very same reason, but now I can truly feel their pain. People in America scoff, and they like to say, “Why don’t they just learn our language?” Well, I have taken up that challenge in another country, and the answer is this: you can’t learn a language overnight, and many of the people around you aren’t going to help you along the way.  Many of the people around you are going to make you feel worthless and stupid—many of the people around you are going to try to scam you and take advantage of you.  Many of the people around you are going to tell you to go back where you came from, and many of the people around you are going to call you names that they think that you can’t understand.

“So, who cares?” say some people. “Who cares if they think you’re stupid?” Well, that’s a lot easier to say when you’re surrounded by other English-speaking people.  That’s a lot easier to say when you’re not completely on your own, without family or friends, without familiar ways of life and social customs, without a place where you can return to at night and recharge your confidence.

Those people are right—you shouldn’t let other people make you feel stupid.  But that’s a lot easier said than done.

Sincerely, Erika

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.❞*
‒Nelson Mandela

“Learning a foreign language not only reveals how other societies think and feel, what they have experienced and value, and how they express themselves, it also provides a cultural mirror in which we can more clearly see out own society.”**

Chancellor Edward Lee Gorsuch



Argentine Cuisine: Bread, Bread, and More Bread

If you are a lover of bread, Argentina is the gastronomic hotspot for you.  Most Argentine’s ancestors were of Spanish or Italian descent, and Italian-style food has definitely left its mark. Since arriving to Córdoba, Argentina on Sunday, I have consumed bread at every single meal and have eaten meals in an entirely different way than I am used to.

Breakfast is light and usually consists of bread slices (which may or may not be toasted) with mantequilla (butter), marmelada (jelly), and a cup of coffee or tea.  Breakfast does not seem to be of much importance here, and I have trouble staying full until lunch…

Especially because lunch starts at 1:30pm at the earliest.  Many people wait until 2, 3, or even 4pm before sitting down for their midday meal.  However, lunch (as well as dinner) is much more substantial.  Dinnertime in Argentina isn’t until 8pm or later, a fact that’s hard for all-day eaters like me to swallow (ha!).

As I said before, almost all meals are comprised of 90% bread—but they are also delicious and normally made with fresh, chemical-and-additive-free ingredients.  Some of the meals I have really enjoyed here are polenta, milanesa with papas fritas (a flat piece of chicken or beef with French fries), and empenadas.  (As a sidenote, I’m a very picky eater, so these aren’t very adventurous foods.) Even foods that are consistenly eaten in America—such as hamburgers, pizza, and French fries—seem to take on a whole new flavor in Argentina.  The cheese tastes like real cheese, and the French fries are made with real potatoes and typically aren’t greasy or salty.

If you go to a restaurant for lunch or dinner, you can expect a good-sized—if not large—plate of food.  The camarero (waiter) will ask you what you want to eat first.  After ordering, you will usually wait anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour for your food.  After bringing out your delicious meal, the camarero may or may not ask you what you want to drink.  From what my study abroad group and I have experienced, if you ask for an alcoholic beverage like beer or wine, the camarero will immediately bring it to the table.  However, if you ask for anything else, it could take almost an hour to receive your beverage.  (I have actually been to a restaurant that never brought me my drink.)  In addition, “refills” seem to be nonexistent.  You either pay for another drink, or you decide to stick with the small glass of whatever for the duration of the meal. Also, there is no ketchup bottle, salt-and-pepper shakers, or sugar on the table.  You have to specifically ask for anything extra—when I ask for ketchup, it always comes in packets or on a small plate, and I usually don’t receive very much.

The meal, whether lunch or dinner, will last anywhere from 1 hour and 45 minutes to 3 and a half hours.  Here, meals are about socializing.  There is really no such thing as a quick meal unless you go to one of the few fast food restaurants.

From personal experience, the meals prepared in the home tend to be much smaller and much more closely resemble a healthy portion size.  Again, they are not made quickly—the meals are homemade with fresh ingredients.

As far as fast food goes, I have seen a handful of fast-food restaurants in Córdoba—2 McDonalds, a KFC (maybe 2), and a Subway.  I have only had close enough contact with a handful of people from Córdoba to draw any sort of conclusion about their fast-food preferences, but from what I can tell, there is a clear divide of people who love it and people who hate it.  Many people here still believe in old-fashioned, home-cooked meals that take a while to prepare and involve sharing time with loved ones.  However, I have seen and talked to a minority of people who eat McDonalds frequently.

Snack foods are virtually nonexistent. There are super tiny stores located along the streets that sell a small selection of candy and junk food, but there is very little variety and people do not seem to eat it much.  I haven’t recognized any of the junk food except for Oreos, which are only sold (unless you go to el supermercado) in a row of about 4-10 cookies.

Drinks: Bottled water must be bought, and you must choose water con gas or sin gas (with or without gas, or carbonation).  If you order water or Pepsi/Coca-Cola products in a restaurant, you will almost always receive it in a glass bottle. In Peru, a popular carbonated beverage is Inca Kola, which more or less tastes like bubblegum. In Argentina, mate, a brewed herbal “tea” that is served in a gourd with a metal straw, is very common. (Also, the tea here is not sweet tea—it’s typically an herbal tea.) I have been very thirsty since coming to Argentina because the tap water is not necessarily safe and restaurants are stingy with drinks.

Although I have had a hard time getting used to the long waits and lack of drinks, it’s refreshing to eat meals with real ingredients and to actually enjoy what I’m eating, instead of scarfing it down on the couch in front of a television.

Sincerely, Erika

*P.S.  I hope to add more pictures to this post later so that you can more clearly see what I am writing about.