Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Non Verbal Communication

Welcome back to another edition of Overseas With A Carry On!

It's been a few weeks since we last spoke, did you miss me? (Don't answer, I know you did!) I've missed out on so much where do I begin???

If you're a sports fanatic, O'dell Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants just dethroned the damn near invincible Cowboys. Klay Thompson had 60 points in 29 minutes, Russell Westbrook has been an automatic triple-double lately and Chris Paul just became the first player to ever record 20 points and 20 assists without a single turnover...let that sink in for a second. A point guard has the ball in his hands the majority of the game and to think he didn't cough it up or make a bad pass once is remarkable.

In non-athletic news, Kanye West suffered a mental breakdown (Let's pray for a safe recovery). Apple just released their newest MacBook Pro that features a new responsive "touchbar" located on the keyboard, meanwhile, I'm still typing away at the one I've had since college! And for my Torontonians, the first snowfall of winter has arrived...congratulations! Enjoy the next 4 months of shovelling snow and being secluded in the warmth of your home.😀

What's going on with me across the water you ask? A whole lot of the usual. The team has kind of hit a rough spot as we've fallen from 2nd to 4th in our conference. Nothing to stress about though, there's still a ton of basketball to be played; a winning streak here and there and we'll be right back in the hunt.

As you know, I'm a proud Canadian but I spent my high school and college years south of the border. I'm a self proclaimed honourary American -  I just need to remember to pronounce the letter "Z" as "zee" as opposed to British way of "zed".

Thanksgiving just passed and a few folks on my social media timelines were not too thrilled with the thought of celebrating Thanksgiving given what's been happening with the whole 'Dakota Pipeline' ordeal.

Nevertheless, that didn't stop many from posting their plates full of turkey and alllll the fixings! I happened to be in Tokyo for a road game and got together with a friend of mine who had a "little" dinner get-together. It was kind of a last minute thing he whipped up but by the looks of it, you would have thought it was a catered event!


Courtesy of my snapchat story you can see we had "turkey, greens, roast beef, fine cheeses, shrimp, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy - YOU NAME IT!!!!" If you have no clue what I'm talking about, you either do not subscribe to social media or you were living under a rock during Thanksgiving. In either case, give that link a click to see where the hoopla originated. It was pretty funny at its inception but we as a culture just know how to over do things and run it into the ground. It seemed like everyone and their momma created a video meme about it.

In the local news, I finally tried ramen noodles! I like Japan and some of their dishes are pretty good but I, unfortunately, can be a bit of a skeptic when it comes to authentic delicacies. For example, I'm sure you would agree with the statement: I like Chinese food. Well, in 2012 I went to China for a 2 week basketball tour and believe me, authentic Chinese IS NOT Panda Express and orange chicken!


We've all had or at least seen the ramen noodle cups; the ones in your pantry that have been there since the beginning of time and seem too outdated to eat. Well, in Japan ramen is quite the opposite. It's a go-to staple! I call it Japans' fast food. My general rule-of-thumb when overseas is if I don't know what's in it, I'm not touching it. (Actually, that's my rule even when I'm back home come to think about it) But sometimes you have to let go of fears and jump in head first...or nah.

Me: Yeah, give it a try. It can't kill you to try something new
Inner Me: If you think for one second I'm touching that, *snaps fingers*,  may thunder fire down upon you!

The language barrier doesn't allow me to even inquire what the ingredients in some dishes are, so I'm left to play the guessing game and roll the dice. I'm not much of a gambling man (although I did win $45 from the slots this summer in Vegas) so I tend to retreat to the 'lakes and rivers that I'm used to.'
But this time I was accompanied by our team translator and he was able to get the inside of scoop and I decided to live on the edge a bit and well...


This is not your top self ramen! Instead of the usual pork based broth, these delicious noodles are sitting in a sea of curry sauce. Curry is pretty big over here and is normally eaten with rice but some chef decided to make a soup broth out of it and I must say, he's a genius. For 150 yen you can add another helping of noodles to your bowl - I had 2 refills proudly. ðŸ˜Œ





















A question I get a lot is how do I order food at restaurants while not speaking Japanese. In most cases, the menu items are accompanied by pictures of each item. So it's nothing but a finger point and a head nod. They usually spit something back to me in Japanese to which I just pretend to understand in acknowledgement. Although, I'm always left to wonder, "What did I just agree to?"

In other cases, many quick eateries and highway service station restaurants operate with a purchased ticket mechanism. As you see on the left,  menu items are pictured and with a particular number. That number corresponds with the machine on the right.

Simply:
  • purchase your desired meal, 
  • obtain your ticket 
  • hand ticket to store clerk  

And within minutes your order is up.

As I've said to those who have previously inquired, "There are times I go out to eat and I don't utter a word."

Literally, no communication is needed. This is ideal when you're trying to serve many customers at a rapid pace. No small talk with the cashier, just efficiency! In other words, Japan in a microcosm.

I hope you you've enjoyed this entry. I try to keep things relevant so waiting the extra week or two really allowed me to give you authentic content. I appreciate you for staying patient and loyal.  The journey continues. 

If you'd like to follow my snapchat account, the handle is @O_Ash, as is my Instagram.
If you have any questions or topics you'd like me to discuss, do not hesitate to leave a comment!

Until the next time, thanks for embarking on this journey with me. 
#OWACO

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Opposites Attract Pt.2

Welcome back to Overseas With A Carry On, the blog the about nothing!

Haha. That is an ode to Seinfeld, one of my favourite sitcoms. The show was literally about nothing in particular, just the daily life of Jerry and his 3 best friends George, Elaine and Kramer. In a way, this blog mirrors that - minus the 3 best friends. I just tackle these events as they happen, there's no rhyme or rhythm to it!

Dating back to the last post (if you haven't read part 1, I suggest you go back and get up to speed), I introduced to you many inverted practices that the Japanese do. The last thing we touched upon was driving and that's where we will take off.

"Japanese Style"

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Japan a few years back was that it seemed as every car had a television in it. This screen serves as a GPS system. It also serves as a rear view camera. Another thing I noticed was almost everyone reversed parked their vehicle. Regardless of where, how many other open spots were available or difficulty to squeeze in. It was just what they did and continue to do. This photo above was taken at a local grocery store. Each and every single car on that row is reversed in.

So, if you're ever in Japan and you see a car parked head first, it may be a lazy local but it's more than likely an out-of-towner like myself who doesn't know any better!


What's beef?
Last week I went out to dinner with one of my trainers. We went to a local Korean BBQ spot. In Japan, this style of cooking is referred to as 'Yakinku.'


Yaki, as I've been told, essentially means 'fire' or 'direct heat' and Niku means 'meat.' It's by far my favourite meal to enjoy while stationed here in Japan. I have had teammates who despise these type of restaurants.

"Why am I paying to cook my own food? If that were the case, I'd just cook at home. I'm paying to be served."

I understand that logic but I also enjoy the overall experience of going out for yakiniku. You get to converse, cook the meat to your preferred tenderness (I like mine medium-well) and many places offer a buffet style. 'Eat until your heart is content' is the motto I stand by!😊😁

How does this tie into the overall theme of inversion you ask? Let's take a look at these two cuts of beef shall we?


The cut of steak on the left is your normal North American grade beef. After being marinated and thrown on the grill, I don't know a carnivore who would turn it down. I want you to notice the trim of fat that surrounds the outside of the steak in comparison to the meat on the inside. That's grade A cattle right there. That's what you'll find at any butcher shop or supermarket.

Now, the cut on the right is none other than The Mamba aka Kobe beef. It is amongst the highest priced and most sought after cuts of meat. Hailing from the Wagyu cattle here in Japan, the stark contrast of fat strands on the interior is its tell-tale sign known as marbling. These strains of fat give the beef its flavourful, fatty and tender appeal.

There's actually an entire association dedicated to up keeping the standards of "Kobe" beef and ensuring its quality worldwide. But you all are missing the point here. The Japanese found a way to reverse the fat distribution in a particular type of cow. . .and this was done prior to cloning, genetic modification or lab created foods. Are you kidding me?!😲

Reading Japanese

Lastly, reading over in Japan. Obviously I can't read or write in Japanese but I can whip through a basketball magazine and examine the photos of NBA action. Believe it or not, these magazines are read from right to left. Yes, the spine is on the right and you flip the pages from left to right. Each time I grab one, I catch myself looking at the back panel and then realize I need to flip it over.

As far as reading, I have caught some older folks on the train rides reading books that have Japanese characters in columns. These books are also read from right to left and from top to bottom. This traditional format of reading/writing is known as tategaki.

Clearly this is something I won't have to worry about because I don't plan on learning Japanese anytime soon. I've been encouraged to try to learn: "Why don't you learn and pick it up?"

"My friend, do you think "picking it up" is as simple as learning Microsoft Excel? Re-evaluate your thoughts!"

Have you seen those Japanese letters? I have a better chance at becoming the president of United States, and I'm not even American (Not a political jab, I promise).


Well sadly, that concludes our "Opposites Attract" series. I had a good time brainstorming the content for these last few posts. Poking a little fun never hurt anybody right? I hope I was able to open your eyes to some of the backwards practices that force me to use a few more brain cells each day. They say fish is brain food and I do like a good piece of salmon, so I guess I can afford an extra thought or two.

To my loyal readers, thank you for your continued support. If this is your first time, I hope you make a return visit! If you have any questions or topic suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Overseas With A Carry On will be unveiling something special for you in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
"Walk with me through the pathway of more success."

#OWACO

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Opposites Attract (Pt.1)

"And we back
And we back
And we back"

That's the opening to the song "All We Got" Chance The Rapper off his latest project Coloring Book. Overseas With A Carry On is indeed back with another brief look into the day-to-day life of playing hoops across the waters!


Sticking with the music theme, if you don't know who these guys are you're:
A) Too young to have heard their music growing up. 
B) Not a huge fan of old school rap
C) Too old to recall 

Whichever sad excuse you chose (oh yes, I do mean sad), allow me to introduce you to Kris Kross. As a late 80s baby who grew up in the 90s, Kris Kross to me was what Kylie Jenner is to the teenage population today....... Okay maybe not to the same extent, but you see where I'm going with this.

They were young, they were hip, they had their own swag (that typically means style of dress for you Generation X folks) and simply put: you wanted to be like them. The baseball caps & jerseys along with the baggy jeans. Everything worn backwards or inside out - inverted.

Let's take a good look at that word right there, inverted...


invert
verb
past tense: inverted; past participle: inverted
ɪnˈvəːt/
put upside down or in the opposite position, order, or arrangement.

It seems "Kris Kross" was the perfect name for this dynamic duo and if there was any one word in the english dictionary to describe the Japanese way of life, it would without a shadow of a doubt, be inverted.


Uniforms

Let's start with our home and away game uniforms; by looking at this picture, can you identify in which frame my team was 'home' and in which my team was 'away'?


If you guessed left was home and right was away..congratulations. You played yourself. 

In just about every other country, the home team is the lighter coloured jersey (usually white) and the visiting team is the darker coloured jersey. Well, not here in Japan! On the left of the photo above, my teammate #20 Richard Roby is donning our white uniforms but we are the visiting team. Conversely, on the right #47 Tasuku Namizato in our red unis is the on the home team. I still have yet to get a clear cut reason as to why this is, but it is what it is.

Each player on this team is in charge of his own jersey; that means washing, packing for home/road games, etc. My biggest fear is that after all these years of white jerseys meaning home and coloured jerseys meaning away, one day I'm going to lazily pack for a road game and bring my red jersey and be SOL.

Editors Note: I'm currently typing this post as I pack for a road game. No need to worry, I packed my whites.

Driving Ms.Daisy

This is what driving looks like over here. Everything is flip-flopped. 
  • We drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. 
  • The "slow lane" is the left and the passing lane is on the right. 
  • Left turns are short turns and right ones go against traffic.

This is my 3rd year in Japan and just earlier this week I found myself nonchalantly making a right turn out of a parking lot into the right lane. Luckily I caught myself before any on-coming traffic could sense that it was I, a gaijin (Japanese for 'foreigner') behind the wheel.

I couldn't imagine trying to drive a stick-shift over here. Hitting the clutch with one foot, while manning the gears with the opposite hand. All that "left-brain, right-brain" stuff would cause an accident for someone not able to process the changes quick enough. Not to mention, your blinker is on the right of the steering wheel and your windshield wiper is on your left. On the bright side, at least the brake is still the left pedal and the accelerator is the right one.

I hope I've shed a bit of light into the quirky daily experiences that often fall on deaf ears. No one speaks about these minute details, we all tend to focus on the obvious cultural disconnects. I've got a few more things that I find backwards that I'll reveal in the next update! Stay tuned!

As always, please drop a comment if you have any questions or topics you'd like me to discuss. Feedback is always welcome.  If you're enjoying the journey Overseas With A Carry On, tell a friend to tell a friend. Until the next time my fellow followers, wherever you are in the world, keep on keeping on.

#OWACO

To be continued...

P.S. A part 2 of this will be the next follow up..This should be dropping in the next week or so. :-)








Thursday, October 6, 2016

Relax your mind, let your conscience be free...

Hey you - yes, you.  Bienvenido to Overseas With A Carry On. If it's not your first time, thank you for returning.

I've got something I need to get off my chest......

*Dramatic Pause*

Japanese hotels - why must everything be so small!? I'm totally one for efficiency and being compact but at 6'6",  I think it's fair to say I don't fit the average one-size-fits-all. I like a little elbow room; a little space to maneuver. I guess it's safe to say you won't find me driving a Smart car.

If you click here, you will be directed to a breakdown of the many types of hotels and accommodations offered here in Japan. Contrary to the NBA, we do not stay at the Ritz-Carltons, the Four Seasons or any other luxury suites. One would say we're on the modest side of things. According to the link above, we frequent what you would call a "business hotel." Convenient. Practical. When it states it's "small" and "no frills", believe me, that is no exaggeration!

If you're above average height then you know exactly what struggles I'm faced with each road trip. Showers that never reach eye level, door frames that force you to duck or most importantly, miniature sized beds.


I think the perfect bed size for me would be a queen. If I wasn't being bashful, maybe a king...this looks to be about a full. When I slept sprawled out, my feet definitely hung off the edge of this bed. Luckily for me (I think) the majority of the time, I sleep in the fetal position. I mean, how do you really know what you look like when you're asleep?


On the contraire, for those who are (how do I put this nicely) height-challenged, it is everything you want in a hotel. All rooms come with the usual amenities that you'll find at your standard hotel but, many of these business hotels have one perk that (no pun intended) trumps your Holiday Inn Express...
   

My oh my, what do we have here!? This is what the Japanese call an onsen, otherwise known as a hot springs. If you don't care to know the difference, well then, you'll simply call it a hot tub. Traditionally, onsens were used as public bathing areas. The water would be heated geothermally due to, in most cases, the presence of volcanic activity and thus readily heated and available. So in the truest essence of the word, onsens are found outdoors. Pictured above is a makeshift indoor replica that I'm 99% sure didn't receive its water from a natural geyser. 

Just as within the Nordic countries where the sauna culture is very prevalent, onsens are a staple in Japan. A crucial reason for having these public baths at business hotels is due to the Japanese work culture. Simply put, they work tirelessly! Many begin work before 9am and finish much later than 5pm; according to some, leaving "on time" can be a sign of disloyalty. With such hectic work hours, a place to sit back, relax and bask in the ambience of heated waters and peace is more a necessity than it is a luxury. There's nothing quite like sitting in one of these chest-deep and walking out feeling like a new man(or woman); rejuvenation at its best!

What's in store for the next post you ask? Hmmm, who knows, perhaps we'll dive into sushi, or driving on the opposite side of the road.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll teach you how to speak Japanese...Okay, I went a little too far with that.

In any case, peace and happiness until we meet again.

If you enjoy the OWACO blog, please feel free to drop a comment, share it via your social media or just continue to support and read. 

Thank you joining the journey and walking with me Overseas With A Carry On!

#OWACO

Monday, September 26, 2016

That's Gold!


Hello guys and gals, welcome back to Overseas With A Carry On! How is everything on your end? The majority of you are probably over the shock that the summer is over and school is in full swing. Some are continuing to plug away at your job or who knows, maybe you're just getting back from a well deserved vacation. Over here, I'm finally settled in and ready for the season to kick off. Speaking of settling in, this year was most definitely the easiest transition from unpacking duffel bags to looking like I belonged in my apartment...

(And yes, we are all duffel bag boys. I don't know a fellow basketball player that travels with suitcases. It's just the code we live by. Unless one is travelling with his spouse and/or children - that is the way the committee will permit such actions.)

...Usually when I arrive to a new team, we get straight to practice. Us imports are the last to arrive so we're technically behind the local teammates who have been around throughout the summer months training. In addition to jet lag, you haven't a clue where anything in the town is, you're adjusting to a new schedule and worst of all, your refrigerator is empty. There's a simple way to combat all of this and I'm going to break it down for you in a simple 2 step process:

Step 1: Re-sign to a team that you've previously played for.
3 years ago when I initially debuted this blog, I was playing in Evreux, France. It was a great learning experience for me both on and off the court. It had always been a dream of mine to play in France, especially after vacationing to Paris the year before (being bilingual also helped). The following year I made the move to Japan and suited up for Hamamatsu Phoenix. That season, we won the league championship. The town was and still is a small rural city so finding your way around was pretty easy. Moral of the story: Go to a place you're familiar with so there's no learning curve and it's just like walking down memory lane.

Step 2: Invest

Invest in yourself! I literally signed up and purchased my Costco membership the day before departing for Japan. As mentioned in step 1, being familiar and having prior knowledge that a Costco Wholesale store was only roughly 50 minutes away, I paid the cost to be a boss. With this little guy in hand, I was fortunate enough to make the drive the very next day and stock up on a bunch of groceries and necessities. Some items I'll have to buy over and over again and some, I'll never have to spend another yen on. 

I know some of my readers are still flabbergasted that Costco exists in Japan and are wondering if it's the same as it is in North America..it is! The huge inventory, big bulk packaging, exact same layout, etc. The items are clearly tailored to the local taste so, certain items that you are used to seeing back state-side/province-side will not be on hand. But in a land far far away from home, beggars can't be choosers. The only thing that could possibly beat having a Costco is having a military base nearby. Shopping in there literally makes you feel as if you've teleported back home! Here's a list of the US military presence in Japan.

And that's how you get over the hump of getting accustom to your new surroundings; make them your old ones. I've got the same jersey number, same apartment, same parking spot - I didn't even have ask for the wifi password, my devices connected automatically...

Onto more serious business, like the basketball in Japan. I enjoy it. The local talent continues to rise and are relied upon heavily to help a team win. Why is that you ask? Because over the last few years, there have been a number of changes to the rules of how many foreigners a team can have and how many can be on the court at the same time. Stick with me here...


This year in the new B. League (Japan Basketball recently combined both the professional BJ League and  the company sponsored NBL into one body), each team may have up to 3 foreign born players. In most instances these are Americans, in my case, a Canadian or Nigerian or whatever nation you want to peg me to. For 2 quarters of play, you're allowed 1 foreigner on the court at a time and for the other 2 quarters, you're allowed 2.

If you have a naturalized Japanese player, such as someone who is a foreign born player but has lived in the country for a number of years or married a local and has received a Japanese passport/citizenship, he still counts as a foreigner BUT is allowed to play as a "local" when his team is playing 1 legitimatel import. So in other words, his team could essentially play 2 foreign born players the entire game. If I recall from my business undergrad at Louisiana Tech, we call that a competitive advantage.

Oh yeah, this year teams must announce prior to each game which particular quarters it plans to use 1 import and which ones you plan to use 2. Will it be 2-1-2-1, 1-2-1-2, 2-1-1-2? You can come up with whichever pattern you like but this has to be declared and cannot change once it is set. It can though be changed from game to game. Weird stuff!

Last year things weren't so messy - each team had a limit of 3 imported foreigners. You were allowed to have 2 of them on the court at any time. As far as naturalized players went, I believe (don't quote me) they still counted as a full import. You could not have 3 foreign born players on the court under any circumstance. In the NBL is where I believe that player would not count as foreigner. I didn't compete in that league so my word is not gospel, just an educated assumption.

Back to my first year in Japan, each team was allowed 4 imported players but the playing time split was altogether different. The 1st/3rd quarters allowed 2 on the court and the 2nd/4th allowed 3. As you can see, it can be a bit difficult to predict match ups and thus affects scouting, recruiting and so on. A few years prior to that, the league allowed each team to have 5 imports! Over the years, the numbers have dwindled and jobs have become more scarce. I think I speak for the majority of my counterparts when I say it's a blessing to know you are employed come the beginning of September.

Over the years, we've all heard and seen a lot of transitions and changes in food and society wanting becoming as healthy as we can be. First it was becoming a vegetarian (yeah right), then some upped the ante by becoming vegans, others went gluten free and some opted for the "Paleo" diet...


I've had a roller coaster ride trying to balance being healthy, not depriving myself of fuel, being a foodie and dealing with the local menu. On the following entry I'll dive a bit into some changes I've made to my personal diet. Until the next entry, thank you all for reading. 

If you enjoy what the content, please hit the follow button, drop a comment, share it socially, etc! I'd love to interact with some of my readers and hopefully answer questions you all may have. Thanks for reading and stay blessed. 


#OWACO

Special shoutouts go to my trainer back in Toronto, Vlad & Co. at +Real Basketball Training Inc.! He trains the top talent in the city at all levels from youth to such pros as Anthony Bennet, Brady Heslip and  Dwight Powell to name a few. You can check him out at his website www.realbasketballtraining.com 

P.S. We lost 3 greats over the past few months to retirement - thank you to the Black Mamba, the Big Fundamental & the Big Ticket on illustrious careers.
#Legends


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Toronto to Tokyo


"Welcome back to Overseas With A Carry On. I'm your host, Olu Ashaolu.

                                              **Applause**

On today's episode we are going to discuss the immaculate #Summer16 and what lies ahead for the basketball journeyman from Toronto."

 ...........................................................................................................


That would be the intro if I was a television host like Ellen, Oprah or Dr. Oz.

To those of you reading for the first time, greetings & salutations! I'm glad you took the time to inquire about my livelihood and experiences;and to those routine readers who continue to show support, I thank you.

Earlier this summer I ran into a long time friend of mine who I grew up with back, back in the day. (I'm talking early 90s!) We began chatting about life and hoops and how far we both had come giving the circumstances we rose from. He then asked me what the latest was with my blog and why I stopped writing. I always hate getting that question because, well, I really had nothing substantial to give him as an excuse. I promised him I would get back to it and voila, here I am. Man of my word; master of my domain.

Where should we begin? Last season I played my second consecutive year in Japan which was a first. A first in the sense that, prior to returning to Japan, each of my past experiences of playing overseas were in three different countries. In 2012-13 I was in Spain. In 2013-14 I took my talents to France. Finally, in 2014-15 I made the leap out of Europe and decided to stay put the following year. I felt as if I had found my niche in this league. What more could I ask for? A safe environment, a high level of basketball, professionalism and a secure economy that would ensure my payments would be on time. Needless to say, I'm back for a third go round and have no intentions of leaving any time soon.

Okay, I got sidetracked, back to the summer!

So I arrived home in late May and was ready to hit the ground running! It had been a long and tiring 9 months away and as we all know, there's nothing quite like home. Now if you know me, you know food is the way to my heart. As you may or may not know, Canada as a country does not even compare to the United States when it comes to fast food franchises per capita. And yes, I know, I shouldn't be eating "fast food" (or is it good food, quickly), but after a 9 month bid, I think I'm due for a cheat meal or two...or three...mmmaybe four? Who's really keeping count?

                                                           

So upon my arrival home, my 16 year old niece had an AAU tournament down in Lexington, Kentucky and the thought of seeing her(and fast food) entered my mind. I had yet to see her play live and was extremely looking forward to seeing her in action. One of the major setbacks of living this life overseas is missing out on these priceless moments with family. As I enter my basketball prime and she continues to get older, these precious opportunities to watch her play at the amateur level begin to dwindle. So needless to say,  I decided to shake off the jet lag and drive down with her father, my brother, and take in some high school level hoops.

When we arrived in Lexington, it was like a holy food haven. Whatever I wanted was at my tip of my fingers; I just had to make a selection. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong! I decided to go with these four selections as they each resonated with a certain location and time in my life.


Raising Canes took me back to my college days in Ruston at Louisiana Tech University. It was the first time I discovered these finger-licking-good chicken strips. I opted for "The Box" combo: 4 strips, slaw, fries and Texas toast. I'm not a big guy for fried chicken but when it comes to Canes, count me in!

Chick-Fil-A reminded me of my prep school breakfasts down in Atlanta, Georgia. Back then, 2 dollars could get you a moist chicken breast sandwiched between a country biscuit; I'd top mine with grape jelly and be high off life. I know my Canadian and non-southern American readers are probably throwing up at the combination of fried chicken and fruit preserves but, hey - "It's a southern thang," and when in Rome...well, you know the rest.

Jimmy John's! How could anyone ever go back to Subway after the freshness of JJ's. I first tried Jimmy John's in 2011 when I was out in Indianapolis training for NBA pre draft camps. The #16 Club Lulu is my go-to. I actually had a friend whose nickname for me was 'Lulu.' Thinly sliced turkey, lettuce, bacon, piled high [I always get it] on whole wheat with added banana peppers and cucumbers. Throw in some kettle cooked jalapeño chips and you've got a 5 star meal loaded with spice and kick that's in your hands less than 60 seconds after placing your order!

Last but not least, Sonic. You've always been there for me. Whether it was back in the day playing video games on Sega Genesis (#ThrowbackAlert!) or throughout my prep school days in the south, or even up to my days in college, you never wavered. Be it your Sonic Burger specials, pancake sausages on a stick (they discontinued those), Sonic Blasts on the late night creep or your ice-cold slushies at Happy Hour on a hot summer day, you always had my back. I like that.

I must say, 'twas a great weekend after months of rice bowls and limited American options. For those who actually care about the AAU tournament, my nieces' team did walk away victorious. But prior to leaving the tournament, my Snapchat was hacked by a very outgoing 10 year old who happened to be the younger sister of one my nieces' teammates. Take a look...

video
I'm not sure if Lebron actually has that type of range though ðŸ˜

When not road tripping south of the border you can catch me doing a number of things within the great city I call home. Such as getting word the night before that Maxwell is in town to perform and purchasing tickets 20 hours before showtime.

video

This was only my second time attending a live concert, the first was Jay-Z & Justin Timberlake a few years back. They opened their concert tour in Toronto and to say it was epic would be an understatement. I was on my feet for two hours straight rapping just about every Jay song and pretending to keep up with JT and his vocals. Those tickets were were also purchased last minute. I guess I've got to get a better pulse of what's going on in my city huh?

If I'm not at a concert you can catch me on Friday nights participating in the Nike Crown League summer pro am. Basically the 'who's who' of pros, high school talent and everyone in between come back and play weekly games. It's one of the only times you can get a quality run of 5-on-5 in the city so it's something we look forward to. If you're lucky, you end up on the custom Nike Snapchat filter with your patented one handed dunks..


Lastly, when I'm sick of being indoors and I just want to get away from the city, I take a 90 minute drive out to the Falls of Niagara and sit back and gaze at the great piece of nature that I'm proud to call Canadian. The United States does have a portion of the Falls that fall (you see what I did there) on their side of the border but, it's nowhere as breathtaking or majestic as the Canadian side. Just a friendly FYI, hehe.



As you can see, the turn-up was very real in the summer of 2016, or was it "lit"? I'm not sure what lingo you young folks denote as cool nowadays. I didn't even mention attending the DVSN concert, our caribbean parade 'Caribana' or all the food festivals that are hosted throughout. When it comes down to it, I've got to make up a 9 months of inactivity and cram it all into 90 days. I've got to build enough memories to last me the grind of a full season so I'm not becoming homesick or selling myself and my team short by not being out-of-it mentally. To be honest, I've never gotten to that point of just absolutely departure, but there have been some close calls over the years. I'm human. Home is where heart is and Toronto is not an easy place to leave. Well, come the summer time. Come winter, you can have it. I want nothing to do with Toronto when snow is involved. Nothing. Rien. Nada!

Well, that's it for walking down memory lane. Now it's back real life, back to "work." I get to play basketball for a living, it's not exactly work if you love it right? Back to not being able to read signs or speak to anyone but my fellow imports. Back to long nights of watching Scandal, Narcos and whatever drama series lands on my Macbook screen. Back to chopsticks and meals for one. All in all, I don't think I'd trade it in for anything!

Thank you for taking time out to read the first post from this 2016-17 campaign. In the following entry I will let you in on where I am in Japan, the team, it's history and so forth.

Oh yeah...

............................................................................................................


As a token of my appreciation for tuning into today's episode, everyone in the studio audience is going home with a free video. Check the link below and enjoy!

Olu Ashaolu Highlight Clip

Once again, you are watching Overseas With A Carry On hosted by yours truly.
This is Olu signing off, until next time...

O.W.A.C.O.

P.S. If you are not able to watch the videos within the entry on your device, please open this webpage up on your laptop/desktop.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Damnnnn Daniel..back at it again!

Well, well, well.

Where do I begin..How about with those who don't remember who Daniel is...How could you forget?

In other news, it feels like it was just 2014 and I was back in France eating a croissant (or two..maybe even three), Obama still had a few years left in his presidency and the 'Running Man' dance still had some dignity

Fast forward two years and a lot has changed - for example, I'm no longer playing in Europe, Donald Trump is running for President, hover boards came and went & lastly, if you've watched 'American Crime Story; The People vs OJ Simpson', you can't help but wonder how he got off.

But that's neither here nor there.

As for the 2+ year hiatus? All I can really say is, my baaaaad y'all.

No, really, there isn't a reasonable answer as to why.  Perhaps I got caught up with Hello Kitty and anime over here in Japan and I lost my way. Or maybe it was the struggle to use chopsticks that left my hands in no shape to type. Or quite frankly, it may have been the back-to-back games every weekend over a 52 game schedule that left me utterly fatigued.  Whatever excuse you chose to accept, I humbly accept and am indebted to my readers who questioned the disappearance of the entries. Don't get me wrong; ideas and blog posts filled my brain but I just lacked the thrill to translate those thoughts from my head to the keyboard. It was more a case of 'I didn't want to force the issue.'

I didn't want to force the content.

If I was and am going to deliver an entry, I want it to be original and authentic. Genuine. At the time, I simply didn't feel it, was so I decided to spare you my prattle and wait until the time was right - and as the saying goes, "The time is now."

It's a rainy Wednesday afternoon here in Osaka, Japan. This is where I have called home for the past 8 months and counting. As I sit on my 2 seater couch of my 1 bedroom apartment, I relish in the sound of the rain on my window pane. The bedroom and living are separated by a typical Japanese sliding-door mechanism that I find to be absolutely genius. You can close off and separate each or combine both and have large open space in seconds - flexibility at its best!

As I peak out the window to nothing but grey skies, gloom and the sounds of trickling rain, I think about the past season. The ups, the downs, the highs, and the lows. We finished 6th in the tough Western conference of the Turkish Airlines-sponsored 'Basketball Japan' League. A difference from my 3rd place finish on my former team the previous season, Hamamatsu Phoenix.
That Hamamatsu team featured a great group of both local Japanese talent and imported American (and Canadian, hehe) muscle. That team went on to defeat the #2 ranked team in a best-of-three series on the road to punch our ticket to the final 4 in Ariake. The final 4 was then switched from a series set-up to a 1 game elimination set-up à la the NCAA March Madness tournament. We defeated the #4 ranked team in the west and then went ahead and beat a very good Akita team who were ranked #1 in the East.

And just like that, I became a champion on the big stage. Prior to last season, my previous two seasons as a pro in France and Spain both ended in a semi-final loss. But this time, things would be different. It would be me running through the confetti shower; it would be my teammates and I rejoicing and celebrating unbridledly...and we did just that!

Unfortunately we were unable to duplicate that feeling this time around. We came up a week short of the opportunity to play for the title. 7 days. 168 hours. 10,080 extra minutes in our season and we could have been playing for all the marbles. It hurts when you put it into those kind of terms. Although, there's gratitude in knowing we left it on all on the floor. Listening to motivational speaker and workout junky CT Fletcher speak, he says "there's victory & satisfaction(13:07) in knowing that you gave your absolutely best and falling short." We left nothing in the tank, the opposition was simply better on that day - and I can live with that.

As the summer approaches, the usual schedule entails: rest, rehab, recovery, train, continue to develop and progress, kick back and enjoy the weather, eat as much comfort food as possible and get ready for the grind yet again. The summer is short so I've got to pack in as many moments and memories as possible in a 80-90 period. I've done the math and from my calculations, 3 days overseas is equivalent to 1 day back home. So if you look at it in that light, you've got to make everyday worthwhile and productive. You can always get material possessions back but time, time is of the essence. Spend it wisely.

I hope that you all forgive me for Houdini disappearing act. I will definitely be more consistent in the following season wherever it is I end up.

I may even surprise you with a pop-up summer entry or two! Stay tuned..


P.S.

Kobe we will miss you.
RIP Prince.
Thanks Drake for Views.
Twitter/Instagram contacts are posted in the banner but I've recently joined the Snapchat gang: O_Ash

Thank you all for reading and supporting the journey thus far...I'm merely a kid playing the game he loves who just happens to be 'Overseas With A Carry-On.'

#OWACO

Update: I began this entry about 10 days ago. It has sat here on my laptop waiting to be editted and published. Big shout out to the home team Raptors for beating the Cavs last night. Everyone thought we'd simply cave and be swept but that's not in the cities' DNA. You all need to put some respect on our name!