I love Vimeo! Its like YouTube for people with talent and (more) serious subjects. I was just rolling through their HD channel and found this vide0:
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That is not a statement I would have made two years ago.
I can no longer deny it, however, as yesterday I found myself throwing my arms up in the air in the middle of Chick-fil-A as I watched the Arsenal vs. Chelsea match on my laptop. I thought about how crazy I must have looked. I can only imagine what people must have been thinking… “Hmmm, that guy must be watching something either exciting or important to get that worked up.” And then they see my screen… “Soccer? Really? That is so boring…” Which is exactly what I would have thought two years ago: Soccer = Boring.
Growing up in America, football has always been king, followed by college football, baseball, college basketball during March, basketball… I would even have watched bowling before I would have watched soccer. But that all began to change a couple of years ago. I look back now and try to dissect how the change occurred and I think it began simply with the realization that soccer was the most important sport in the world and so I knew there had to be something to it. Then I remember my friend Josh confessing at some point to liking soccer and he was watching the 2006 World Cup. But who cares about two countries endlessly kicking a ball back and forth and praying to get lucky once?
Then I went to Seattle in the summer of 2009. I was there interning at Q Cafe and I know there are a few posts on here about the trip. One Saturday I decided to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and rode the bus into the city which dropped me off at Qwest Field at
about 8 a.m. Unlike every other morning that I passed by the stadium, the place was buzzing! There were parking attendants and tailgaters everywhere. The sidewalks were flooded with people wearing Sounders gear. I couldn’t believe how early these people were for a game that I later found out didn’t start till noon. Then as the ferry arrived hundreds of people got off decked out to go to the soccer match! I was astonished. Later I found out that they were playing Chelsea (sounded like a good team) and had something like 35,000 or 40,000 people there. A couple weeks later they played another match against Barcelona. Little did I know each of their opponents would go on to win their respective leagues that year. To this day I can say I truly regret not going to those matches! So I immediately became a Seattle Sounders fan and credit that community of fans and their enthusiasm for the game for truly bring me into the soccer realm.
Next came the 2010 World Cup! Even though I wasn’t quite the fan that I am now I was certainly looking forward to the tournament and began doing a lot more research. By the time the first game was played between South Africa and Mexico I had a pretty good idea of the rules, favorites, and the stars to keep an eye on. Luckily I was a teacher at the time and therefore was off for the summer so I could watch the matches. Overall, I think I saw about 70% of all the matches played and since then I have been absolutely hooked! I will forever have, along with every Englishman in the world, Robert Green’s botched save burned into my memory as well as the horrible calls that led to the draw with Slovenia. I gained a passion for the game and no longer saw it as boring. Instead, every moment was a fast-paced, never-a-commercial-break opportunity to witness an impossible pass that lead to an impossible goal that was every bit as beautiful as it was improbable. I was hooked and captivated by the intensity of players like Clint Dempsey and Diego Forlan, the precision of Xavi and Iniesta, and I even liked the way the game was hopelessly flawed by the lack of instant replay.
Once the World Cup was over I knew I needed to pick an EPL team to support, it just seemed like what a budding soccer fan was supposed to do. So I wanted to find a team that had the opportunity to win but was not the overall favorite. The team had to be exciting to watch and so I went with Arsenal. I mentioned that I was an Arsenal to an Englishman a few weeks later and he said “but they have no English players.” Why should I care? (But let me point out that we have your two most promising players for the 2014 World Cup in Wilshere and Theo Walcott!)
Finally, we moved to Chattanooga, TN who happens to have the best and most well supported NPSL team in the country, Chattanooga FC! I went to every match I could once we moved and we won every single one except the Championship match against Sacramento Gold. Where the average NPSL has the support of about 600 fans per game, CFC averaged somewhere over 3,000 this year.
So now I find myself watching more soccer matches than football games and throwing my hands in the air with joy and frustration in the middle of suburban restaurants. Chattanooga FC, Sounders FC, Arsenal, and U.S. Men are the teams I support. Perhaps that is one too many, but I figure none of them will ever play each other and so my loyalties will never have to be compromised!
If you still think I am crazy, here are a couple tips to help you become a fan of the Beautiful Game:
#1 – Understand the Game – Before I use to think it was just boring kicking back and forth. Now I understand set pieces, formations, and fouls. My biggest frustration when I first started watching the Sounders was not having a clue what offsides meant. You can never be in front of the defender? How is that fair? But now that I understand the rules I see patterns and skill in passing, defending, and scoring.
#2 Pick a Side – I believe soccer can still be incredibly boring if you have nothing invested in the match. However, when you care about who wins, suddenly a 1-0 match will put you on the edge of your seat to see if your team can score the equalizer in the final few moments!
This past weekend Amber and I decided to make our first trip north of Chattanooga and see the Great Smoky Mountains! We decided it would be best to leave at 5 in the morning to get up there as early as possible and try to be on the trail by 8. Unfortunately we didn’t anticipate how slow traffic would be going through Gatlinburg. The fact that we went through Gatlinburg to begin with probably showed we had not been to the area before! We got into the park around 8 am and ended up stopping all along the way to our destination, which was the Andrew’s Bald Trailhead at the Clingman’s Dome parking lot.
It was 9 am by the time we got to the trailhead. The mile and a half hike to Andrew’s Bald, the highest bald in the Smokies, is just under two miles and mostly down hill the whole way there (though not on the way out!). The trail was relatively quiet as we only ran into a hand full of people on the way there and at the bald, which is excellent for the Smokies at this time of year.
It took just over an hour to get out to the bald. The leaves had fully changed on just about every level of the mountains. The tops of the mountains were actually a little sparse, with the best color being seen in the middle to lower levels of the park. It was a beautiful sight and an incredible place to sit and relax. We probable spent about 45 min. and ate lunch before we decided to hike back out.
Once we got back to the parking lot it was like we were in a different world! When we arrived there were about 25 cars in the parking lot to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Smokies and one of the biggest tourist spots. Once we hiked back out there were hundreds of people everywhere and cars waiting a half mile back just to get a parking spot! We couldn’t believe how busy it was and couldn’t have been more happy about coming as early as we did (admittedly in complete ignorance of how crowded the area would be later in the day). But it was a great trip and we can’t wait to go hiking again some time soon!
Here is a link to more photos of our Smokies Hiking Trip!
It has been one crazy first week in Chattanooga! First of all, we left Spring Hill, FL last Friday night (June 25) after all of our friends helped us pack up the truck and say goodbye. It was by far the hardest time and I almost cried giving everyone a hug (but not final cause they will all be up here soon!). We drove to Lake City, FL to stay the night and get up early to push hard to make it to Chattanooga in time to see the USA vs. Ghana match.
Now a little background on our apartment situation. We thought we had an apartment secured for the move up here. We had been talking to a great leasing agent at an apartment complex that we found online. Amber had sent in a holding deposit for the apartment so we assumed it would be waiting for us. Therefore we changed all of our bills and banking address and gave the address out to all of our friends and family. Then, two days before we were to leave, we got a call from the apartment complex (from someone other than the leasing agent who was on vacation) telling us that there was something wrong with the apartment and had to move us across the hall. The situation was annoying but we were still willing to work with it. We got another phone call as we were packing the truck next Friday informing us that they had to move us again – but this time into a bigger apartment that would be more money! We pulled into the complex the next day and immediately were uncomfortable with the whole situation. I had made plans with a friend to see the USA match and while I was there Amber went with our friend Chris to find a new apartment. Somehow by the time the match was done Amber had already signed the lease on an awesome apartment in North Chattanooga!
So, after that long story, we love our new place and are only a mile from downtown!
Amber’s parents met us here that day and, along with our friends Josh & Ashley, helped us move into the new place. There was only one problem with the new apartment – it is a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom. So we had to keep stuff piled in the hallway for awhile.
Amber’s parents, Tim & Terry, stayed for a week and we did all the fun tourist stuff in Chattanooga – Rock City, the Incline Railway, drove to all the parks, and ate at the Pickle Barrel!
Yesterday we were able to walk down to Coolidge Park for Pops in the Park – the annual orchestra and fireworks festival in downtown Chattanooga!
Tonight – Chattanooga FC match!!
I will add some photos when I have a better internet connection. Email me if you do not have our new address.
At the end of this week Amber and I will be moving to Chattanooga, TN!!! This is a move that we have thought about for a long time and are now ready to pull the trigger. So the biggest question we get is why Chattanooga and there isn’t just one answer.
Right from the start we are excited about the city. It is an old industrial city right on a river that is going through a lot of renovation – from the buildings to the economy (VW just opened a plant there). Second, the location is superb. After living in Florida we are too spoiled to being able to drive less than two hours and doing what ever we want (i.e. – here we can go to Disney, the beach, a Rays game – all less than 2 hours away). In Chattanooga we are within a 2 hour radius of Atlanta, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nashville, etc… Third, seasons. Down here in FL we tell people we want to go back to where it snows and they think we are crazy! But that is because everyone here is from New York, Michigan, Chicago, and Ohio where it snows for 6 months. But Amber and I are from Arkansas where we get snow a couple of times a year and that is it. So, I am sure if I grew up way up north I would stay as far away as possible too. Finally, it is half the distance to home. From here in FL we are a 16 hour drive away but from Chattanooga it is only about 8 hours. Now we can wake up in the morning and be in Mountain Home in time for dinner!
On a sad note – today was our last Sunday at Crosspoint Church. We moved here 3 years ago to be a part of the Church and it has been quite an adventure! Amber and I have learned and grown a lot since then and most of the credit has to go to everyone at Crosspoint. We will certainly miss all of our friends but fully expect them to come and see us soon and often!
Please keep us in your prayers as we will be rolling out of Florida at the end of this week and starting the next journey of our lives in Chattanooga!
This past year I had the pleasure of going to several cool places around the country! So here is the list of my favorite trips:
1) Seattle – At the end of the summer I got to spend three weeks with my wifes family in the Great Northwest! I was welcomed up there by Q Cafe in order to do a small internship and learn more about running a nonprofit coffee cafe. While I was there I, of course, learned a lot about the coffee industry and making espresso beverages. I spent a lot of time in the Q and in other great coffeehouses in Seattle – Caffe Vita, Stumptown, Seattle Coffee Works, Cafe Vivace, Victrola, Zoka, and Bauhaus Coffe & Books. But other than coffee, I loved riding around the city, walking for miles downtown, visiting Bainbridge Island, hanging out in the public library (sounds nerdy, I know, but the building was amazing), reading in Elliot Bay Books, eating at the terriyaki place across from Q because it was the only place that would take my plastic, riding the 194 for a few hours everyday, watching people fish at the Des Moines pier, visiting Mt. Rainier with my wife’s uncle… Only part that really, really sucked – Amber wasn’t with me! You can read more about the trip here, here, and here.
2) Chattanooga – During Spring Break last year Amber and I visited Chattanooga. We stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo – a historic train station turned into a hotel. We had a great time and the first day we arrived it snowed, in April! Right now that probably doesn’t sound too great to most, but at that time we hadn’t seen snow in a while so it was a lot of fun! We spend a week exploring the small city. Our favorite spot was the North Shore area. It has an amazing park right on the river, a nice row of restaraunts and shops, and a warehouse district on the far end that has a lot of shops and condos. Chatty had a lot of charming little neighborhoods and plenty to do – aquarium, museums, and the popular Rock City! We are going back again this spring break! You can read more about the trip here and here.
3) Mountain Home – Yes, going back to our hometown was the third best trip last year – because we did it to surprise our parents on Father’s Day! We decided about a week before to drive home and that we would do it as a surprise. So we drove through the night and pulled up to my house at about 7 a.m. It was great because my dad was still sleeping and we woke him up! Next we surprise Amber’s mom and dad, both at work at the time! It was a fun time but it only lasted a weekend!
4) Florida Keys – This past fall the 6th grade at Explorer K-8 taught an interdisciplinary unit on coral reefs. So as a
group some of us teachers went down to the Keys to “study” coral reefs! We did some snorkeling and really did learn a lot about Florida’s coral reefs, got some real coral from a few shops, and took lots of pictures of the corals off of Key Largo. But we took the rest of the weekend to explore the Keys for ourselves with our friends the Fickleys (the trip was out of our own pocket by the way!). The picture at the top of the blog is from a sunset at the hotel we stayed at in Key Largo. If you are ever going through Key Largo then I would highly recommend stopping at Mrs. Mac’s (Amber would recommend the mimosa!). After staying a night in Key Largo we drove down to Key West. On the way we saw a water spout a few miles off shore as well as beautiful blue and green water! At Key West Amber and I rented a scooter and rode around the island. We ate at Sloppy Joe’s, stopped at the southernmost point where we were closer to Cuba than to Miami, saw Ernest Hemingway’s home, and had a margarita at Margaritaville! And just some FYI, if you ever go to Key West the ghost tour sucked!
5) Cocoa Beach – Amber and I actually went to Cocoa a couple of times but I loved it everytime because of the waves. You can ask Amber, I could ride the waves back in for hours and hours everyday. I am always stiff the next day of course but it is worth every minute of it!
Ahhh, finally I get to sit and write about the reason I went to Seattle in the first place!
I first had the idea of a non-profit coffeehouse a few years ago. About a year later I looked up “non-profit coffeehouses” and came across Q Cafe in a Google search. Since then I have followed Eugene Cho’s blog and have been interested in the Q. So this past spring, as I decided to give the coffeehouse a serious look, I decided to try to spend part of my summer at the Q to get a feel for the non-profit cafe and coffee in general (Seattle is, after all, the Mecca of coffee). I shot Eugene an email asking to be able to come up there and if you watched the interview from a couple posts back you’ll realize that I was pretty persistent! It wasn’t until late May that I got the thumbs up and it wasn’t until June that I found a place to stay (the whole time my wife had family there!). So on July 15th I hopped on Alaska Airlines headed for three weeks of coffee, public transportation, and unexpectedly hot weather!
So my goal for the internship was to learn as much about the coffee industry as possible and to figure out the hardships of doing it all as a non-profit. I was disappointed as the guys at Q and some other friends at The Green Bean, another non-profit, were very open about ANY questions and what made business difficult for each of their unique situations. But that is kind of getting ahead of myself at this point…
The first few days I was there was just focusing on the coffee world. Jake, the Q manager, gave me a packet from Stumptown, their supplier, full of great info on each of the farms that they have relationships with around the world. It was also an intro to different espresso drinks, basic maintenance, and fair and direct trade practices. Jake and Matt gave me a whole list of coffeehouses to check out while I was there (here is the Google Map I created with each of them and some comments) and it wasn’t uncommon for me to take off early to go check them out.
After a couple of days Jake taught me how to pull shots out of their La Marzocco 3 group (Eugene told me that for the longest time it was the most valuable asset Quest owned!). The first few were terrible, of course, as they came out either too fast or way to slow, trickling out of the portafilter. But eventually I nailed a few between 25-28 seconds! After I mastered pulling shots as well as can be expected in only a couple of days I was on to steaming milk, a much harder process. Jake, Matt, and Josh helped me to learn to steam whole, 2%, skim, and soy milk. Stayed mostly with the whole but I tried a soy latte for the first time, a little sweeter and thinner than what I am use too. The hard part about steaming milk is hitting the right temperature and getting the microfoam that is critical for a good latte all at the same time. Usually if I got the right temperature then I would have large bubbled foam that was no good or if I got the foam right the temp wouldn’t be quite right. But when I nailed it I was pretty proud of myself! So by the second week I was able to come in and make my own lattes in the morning! I was also trying to make cappuccinos (the Italian way 2 oz. espresso, 2 oz. steamed milk, 2 oz. foam), mochas, and breves.
I helped out with a few other things at the cafe, like putting lights together and helping with live shows. But I also learned the struggles of the cafe as well as some of the hopes and dreams of their employees and patrons – which isn’t that the point of working at a coffeehouse! As you can tell from the video I learned the importance of knowing your product, equipment, market, a business plan, and everything else that goes with running a business involved in the service industry.
My best day outside of Q was spent at Stumptown up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Everyday Stumptown does a cupping (like a tasting) at 3 pm. I showed up early one day and was able to just hang out with the roaster until things got started. He filled me in on the roasting process and I was able to watch him go through about 3 batches. During the cupping we smelled, sipped, and swished about 6 or 7 different coffees from around the world, all single origins. It was amazing having an Ethiopian side-by-side with a Honduran and actually tasting the uniqueness of each! The Africans were clearly more fruity than that others while the Central American coffees differed from each other but as a whole were more mellow and balanced. The staff at Stumptown was great and if you ever are in Seattle visiting you should definitely stop by around 3 pm!
One other experience that can’t forget to mention is the slow bar at Seattle Coffee Works. I had met one of the baristas, Eric, who had invited to come by for a vacuum pot of a Kenyan coffee they had just received. Seattle Coffee Works had just opened a new store right off of Pike Place Market and installed a 20 or so foot man sipping a cup of coffee above their front marquee. The store is great but I really loved the slow bar counter. It was made of a map that highlighted the coffee growing region of the world. The slow bar is really an educational experience as you get one-on-one with a barista who tells you about the coffee s/he is preparing. If you are ever at Pikes Place Market skip the original Starbucks and head over to Seattle Coffee Works. I guarantee you will get a greeting from Sebastian, the owner, and enjoy a much better experience!
I really enjoyed my time in the Emerald City but I was glad to finally be back with Amber! I gained invaluable information that will continue to help me and challenge me in this mission. If you have any questions about my trip then please let me know or leave a comment.
Follow the link to see more of my Seattle coffee pics.