Memorial Day Weekend in Downtown San Jose: Fanime + SJSU Graduation

Memorial Day weekend in Downtown San Jose is full of costumes and characters. Black robed and regalia decked grads and their families share the streets and local business with cosplaying anime fans. The convergence of Fanime and SJSU’s graduation is a yearly reminder that San Jose isn’t an overgrown suburb; it’s a city of over a million characters.

Here are some highlights from my SJSU graduation and Fanime photoshoots.

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NCQC @ SJSU Photos

I feel like I’m plateauing as a photographer. I’m getting more comfortable in Lightroom, I’m not afraid to crop my photos to get the composition I want, but the blur problem is still very real. I haven’t had much time to put a lot of work into improving my skills before I get to the uploading and editing photos phase. I also wonder if my current setup is good enough to get the crisp shots that my friend and inspiration, Seabass Photography, does.

Excuses. I hate them.

I’m planning on testing some new things at local practices before I head out to West and Northwest Regionals to shoot (and in the case of the former, get some play time, too). I’d like to shoot at US Quidditch Cup 10 but I don’t think my skills are there yet. I still have time to improve, but not much.Until then, here are some of my favorites and some musings on how I can do better.

Until then, here are some of my favorite shots from this weekend and some musings on how I think I can do better. Find the whole NCQC @ SJSU gallery here.

carlos-flying

It’s always a thrill capturing those moments when players look like they’re flying. Harry Potter doesn’t keep me in this sport, but it did get me here in the first place.

candid-steven-and-forrest

Candid moments just off the pitch are some of my favorite subjects. I’m a big fan of the human element of the sport. Forrest recruited his fraternity brother Steven this year.

damnit-clike

This could have been an amazing photo. Damnit, Clike!

matt-and-ra

Call me vain, but I always wished for more photos of me when I was running tournaments. So I decided to do Ra and Matt a solid for going above and beyond this weekend.

jose-dunk

Jose always gives me great drive to the hoop and dunk shots. I just wish I could shoot them better.

pfenning-dunk

Ryan always gives me great aerial dunk shots. I still wish I could shoot them better.

 

A Return to Sacred Ground

This is it. This is what I came back to quidditch for. Not to let the cold damp of Sacramento sink into my bones, not even really to play at regionals (and maybe nationals) one more time—though that would be sweet.

No, this weekend I am taking to the field to live one of my dreams. I am playing quidditch at SJSU’s Spartan Stadium. (Yes, I know they changed the name this year. No, I don’t care.) I never dreamed that it would happen. I’d accepted quidditch’s place as a nerd sport on campus, I knew that SJSU Athletics was stingy about their facilities, and I was just happy to have been a part of the transition from club to club sport at SJSU.

So when I heard that my kids managed to book Spartan Stadium, I was overjoyed. Never mind that we’re not playing in it all day. I wore my quidditch jersey the last time I set foot there, so it just feels like it was always meant to be.

spartan-stadium

If you look closely, you can see my jersey under all my grad regalia.

And because fate is cruel (and so is Chris Lock, who wrote the NCQC schedule this year) my quidditch homecoming also marks the first time I play against the team I poured so much of myself into. As I packed my things to move out of Casa Barcelos and into Casa Gold Bar, I kept unearthing pieces of my SJSU Quidditch history. Binders full of quidditch players (aka my trading card collection). Newspapers. All the artifacts of my quidditch life are marked with the blue and gold of Sparta.

 

While playing at Spartan Stadium was always a dream of mine, beating the Skrewts was one, too. After graduating, I decided that if I couldn’t beat them, I might as well join them. Considering that I’m still winless as a Skrewt, I’m going to be pretty invested in not letting that happen this time around. No matter how the game ends, it’s going to be one of the hardest postgame hug lines to walk through.

I hate to say it, but I’m still more emotionally invested in my college team. I put so much effort into running and growing that team that it’s hard to switch gears. Every time one of them calls me Mom, my heart grows three sizes. I want them to do well but I also want my team to do well.

I can’t be the only college to community player that feels this way, right? I love the Skrewts, they’re my people, they work harder than I do (please don’t ask me how much I’ve practiced lately), but I still feel like a Spartan in Skrewts clothing. I imagine it’s probably easier for people who move away from their team, like the Spartans who headed north to play for the Seattle Admirals or the University of Richmond contingent we have on the Skrewts. Still, I think most players making the college to community transition have it harder than you’d realize.

 

skrewts-richmond-west

I dare you to find a college -> community player that doesn’t identify with this photo.

 

Tyler’s Graduation!

I’ve picked up a camera in an effort to be a better blogger. After shooting Silicon Valley Showdown (a post for which has been living in my drafts for over a week), my friend Tyler Barton mentioned that he was in need of graduation photos. So, I decided to try my hand at some portrait photography…

…and be reminded of what a rank novice I am. Ah well, I’d be bored if it came easy. Here are my faves, but you can find all of them here.

tylergradmarked-2

Captain. Rival. Secret Superhero.

 

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The Kids Are All Right. Am I?

I went to my first SJSU Quidditch game (okay, it was unofficial preseason scrimmage) where I was a spectator and only a spectator. Not a ref, not a TD, just a Quidditch Mom with a lot of feelings and love for my kids that I know are gonna have a great season.

A great season without me. While SJSU had a version of the community/college split rule already in place before this season, this year I’m joining a far larger pool of players than ever before that are being forced to transition from a college to a community team. As a college player, I believed this was a necessary transition. Having the same players on a team for four years and more would stifle the player pool, keeping new players from ever making a roster. Turnover may not have been great for individual teams, my own included. but it was necessary for the pool of players as a whole to grow. Now I’m on the outside looking in, missing the team that I still slip and call “we” or “us.” Yes, even around my new team, the Skrewts.

choices

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

The funny thing is that at this time last year, I thought I had a whole year of undergrad ahead of me but that I was gonna transition out and do as little as possible. I definitely practiced as little as possible. (And boy, am I paying for that now!) Last fall, I played only one tournament because we were desperately shorthanded. Then I started focusing more on being a referee, tournament director, conference commissioner, and regional coordinator. I was looking forward to graduating in the spring and transitioning from being a player to a non-playing volunteer.

I went to Snow Cup saying that I’d stop playing when I graduated, that I would never join a community team. A friend replied, “This just in: Elizabeth Barcelos announces that she’s joining the Silicon Valley Skrewts!” We laughed about it but I would soon regret it. Before I even got home from Utah, SJSU decided to graduate me a semester early without telling me. My first thought was, “I can’t play for SJSU anymore?!”

There’s nothing like losing something to make you realize how much it means to you. Luckily, I was able to get back home and sign up for credential classes, making me an SJSU student once more. I still didn’t practice nearly as much as I should have, but my team indulged me and let me get some minutes in, including letting me keep for a few possessions so I could say that I had played all four positions before I left SJSU Quidditch. I even managed to play not terrible at the NCQC Championship, doing my small part to get us a fourth place finish. I had been expecting us to finish sixth. My kids proved me wrong.

keeper

What is this strange ball in my hand? Can I hit people with it? No. Damn.

I did a whole lot more not practicing this summer, telling myself that I would totally make up for eating my feelings all summer. Well, September is here and PSL season is upon us along with the new USQ season. Time to pay for my sins.

eek

This is not an attempt to get on the Gambits roster. Really.

This is the most out of shape (or most round shaped, I guess) I have ever been in my life. I hit 160 pounds when I was twenty-five, decided to make a change, and worked my down to 130 in about six months. I’m thirty-one now and I just tipped the scale at 170. I contemplated making this the new normal before accepting that I am too eternally displeased with the status quo to take anything lying down. Yeah, even if lying down and watching YouTube makeup tutorials (ugh, who have I become?) sounds so much more appealing than running around with some of my favorite nerds for a few hours.

I’m not on a team that’s just gonna allow me to do what I want because I’m #TeamMom anymore. I know that. That’s one of the biggest reasons I chose the Skrewts; year in and year out, they keep taking the roster they have and developing them to their highest potential. Fucking off is not an option. I need to work harder. I can’t just accept that being the oldest woman on a USQ roster (until proven otherwise) is an excuse to settle. If Michael Phelps can keep winning gold medals at my age, the least I can do is go to practice is not complain. Too much, anyway.

It’s gonna be a good year. The Skrewts are good people and a great team. Soon I’ll be able to say “we” and “us” about them instead of calling them, well, “them.” I’m not there yet, though. But I’m working on it.

Graduation Hurdles: A Dialogue

Part One:

Me: Hi! I have my graduation paperwork for my minor to signed.

Office aide: Great, I’ll leave it for Professor [Redacted].

Me: Thanks! (leaves office)

*phone rings on elevator ride down*

Me: Hello?

Office aide: Yeah, your paperwork is incomplete. You need your unofficial transcript and a personal statement.

Me: But I didn’t need that for my major paperwork!

Office aide: Professor [Redacted] won’t sign anything until you bring it all in.

Me: Seriously?! Ugh, fine.

Office aide: We apologize for the inconvenience.

Part Two:

I had to ditch a class to make it to my Portuguese advisor’s office hours to get my minor paperwork signed. It feels like a defeat because Portuguese was supposed to be my second major. However, SJSU’s jungle gym of bureaucratic obstacles killed that idea last spring after I had already committed myself to staying an extra year to get that second major. Not that I hold it Professor Adão: she did all she could to make it happen for me. Instead, she soothes my calm nerves and signs my pile of paperwork (minor form, substitution forms for all the independent studies classes I took) so I can take it to the foreign language office for the chair, Professor [Redacted], to sign.

I don’t even want to see him. He tried to talk me out of a second major, talk me out of grad school, and then didn’t lift a finger to help when I decided that’s what I wanted anyway. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some of the hurdles I had to jump were his doing. Portuguese is only a minor at SJSU, but the World Languages and Literatures department website said (up until I started asking) that a special major could be provided if a student took extra classes and built an approved program.

Professor Adão gives me a hug as I rise to go and she sees the paperwork trembling in my hands. I make my way to the World Languages office, make small talk with the office aide, and internally cheer as I walk out, the last hurdle between me and graduation nearly overcome.

So, you’ll imagine my dismay when I pick up the phone and realize it’s the WLL office. “But I didn’t need that for my major paperwork!” You know, the important part of graduation.

“Professor [Redacted] won’t sign anything until you bring it all in,” the (probably overworked at this crucial time of year) office aide replies.

But I’m livid. Professor [Redacted] STILL WON’T STOP GETTING IN MY WAY. “Seriously?! Ugh, fine,” I snarl into my iPhone, nearly knocking over a girl as I stomp out of the elevator. I don’t even listen as the poor aide tries to offer an apology. Instead, I hang up, just needing to lash out at someone.

A Charter to COLLEGE

In East San Jose, passing the Tropicana Shopping Center on Story Road, bumping over the potholes on Alum Rock Avenue, or following VTA Route 22 on King Road, there’s no mistaking the charter schools if you know where to look. Typical examples include: a collection of bright yellow portables set up outside a preexisting elementary school, a closed post office repurposed and repainted green and purple, a former public school covered in murals of college mascots.

I’m bombarded by college as I walk into the garishly purple and green building. Pennants from schools across the country are plastered on the walls of the narrow hallway to my classroom. Purple banners printed with a Comic Sans-esque font hang from the ceiling, bearing imperative slogans like “Rocketeers are RESPECTFUL,” “Rocketeers are LEADERS,” and, of course “Rocketeers are going to COLLEGE!”

I’m here to work in an after school program that focuses on linguistics and literacy, and my thoughts go from being concerned that the subject matter is too much for the kids to an unwelcome sense of inadequacy. I’m a thirty-year-old college undergrad. I went to college… eventually.

I soon discover that all the classrooms have a college theme. Mine is the Notre Dame. There’s a Fighting Irish banner next to the teacher’s desk, her rocking chair is covered in a Notre Dame flannel blanket, and there are shamrocks stamped with ND scattered across the walls. A peek next door reveals cardinal red and redwood trees: Stanford. I think I might have seen an SJSU pennant amongst the clashing colors pinned on the walls, but maybe a state school isn’t a lofty enough goal to get a classroom dedicated to it.

My unease slides away when I meet my students. I went to school not too far from here, so these kids feel like the ones I grew up with. If anything, I soon begin to feel sorry for them. Their day is far more regimented than mine was, down the street in a public school that’s since become a charter. I hear low enrollment was a problem, but there are just as many kids now as they were then. More and more parents, parents like mine who are new to this country and want opportunities that they never had, are drawn in by the siren song of COLLEGE.

Oh, I forgot to mention: my kids are in the third grade.