After taking some time off in her native Brazil, Storm forward Iziane Castro Marques has headed to Europe to play with Storm teammate Janell Burse for USK Praha in Euroleage and the Czech League. She'll periodically update Storm fans on her exploits.

The Latest From Prague
Posted on January 25

Hi everybody!

The last time we talked, I was heading home to Brazil for Christmas break. My team in Prague had two weeks off, so I went home for what turned into a very busy week. My sister had a party for her graduation from college and I was given the honor of presenting her with a sports award.

Now, for those of you who do not know anything about Brazilian culture I am going to share with you what Christmas is like in Brazil. We are very similar to you guys in America with our traditions. I think that the biggest difference is that Christmas in Brazil takes place during the summer and there is no snow or cold weather. We have a big ceremony at one of our family member's house. Most of the time it is at my grandmother's house. We eat lots of food that my mom and my uncle spend all day preparing. The entire family gets together to celebrate and at midnight we hug, wish each other health, happiness, a Merry Christmas and drink champagne. The next day we get together again to open presents and hang out to see what everyone got. Christmas in Brazil is also a celebration of the birth of Jesus (just like you) and many people go to church before getting together with their families. We eat turkey, panetone (an Italian cake) and drink champagne. Also, at midnight there's a visit from Santa Claus with his winter clothes on. I know this sounds funny, but it's true. We tell the children that he is coming to give them presents.

After Christmas I went to Miami. I needed to get my winter clothes that I had left at a friend's house. I had 10 bags when I left Seattle after Storm season and I didn't have enough hands to take them with me to Brazil. This is why I had to leave some behind in Miami. Okay, Coach Donovan! I know I did a lot of shopping, but you've also got to remember that most of those bags were with me because I came straight from Russia at the beginning of the season. Anyway, it was good that I went to Miami. I went to a Miami Heat game and saw some friends and I had some time to go to the beach and of course, do some more shopping! I can't resist shopping in America. I then headed back to Brazil for New Year's Eve.

I got back to Brazil on December 30th so I had some time to get myself prepared for the New Year celebration. In Brazil, we celebrate the New Year at the beach with lots of music. Different bands perform at the beach and at midnight there is a fireworks show. Following New Year, my friends, is Carnival, the biggest party in the entire world. We spend the first day of the New Year getting prepared for the big party. The tradition now is that everyone dresses in all white (most of the time) and we have different meanings for the different colors worn. White is for peace, green is for hope and pink is for love. We eat lentilha (a type of Brazilian beans) for prosperous life and money in our hands. And, you guessed it, more champagne to celebrate. There are a lot more traditions, but what is most important to Brazilians is that we are celebrating life. ... One more year that has passed and one more year that is coming. We usually stay home until 11:30 p.m. and then head to the beach until next morning. After Carnival, we have to get back to reality, back to life and back to basketball.

On the 2nd of January I prepared to fly back to Czech Republic, but this time I was not going alone; my parents came with me. I was tired of being by myself and decided to bring them with me. Plus they can enjoy some time off, like a winter vacation for them. We got here on the 4th of January. It was a very long trip. We missed our flight in Sao Paulo because of a delay in my city Sao Luis. We had to stay a day in Sao Paulo and when we arrived in Paris we almost missed our flight again! When we finally got to Prague our bags were missing. I had a game that same afternoon, but couldn't play. I had no shoes, no clothes, nothing. The bags finally arrived at 1:00 a.m. and we finally could rest.

Now that we were all settled in I can get back to my routines, practices, games, etc. My parents are also getting used to the new life and the routines here. My parents have been able to watch my team play and win! We recently flew to Russia for a Euroleague game, but my parents stayed in Prague. They decided to stay home while I was away with the team, but weren't ready to do any exploring on their own. My team lost against Samara and lost again after we returned to Prague. After a stressful week the team had a day off, so I took my parents sightseeing. We saw the city and the Astronomical Watch (every hour the same number of apostles show up so at 1:00 p.m. one will appear, at 12:00 will appear the 12 apostles, etc.). It was very nice and a lot of people where there to see it. My parents liked it too. We also walked through the old and new parts of the city that day.

The next week (9th-13th) we had a very important game, a Euroleague game that we had to win. But we lost. We played hard but came up a little short. Our team has been eliminated from the Euroleague. JB was sick all that week and didn't practice. She played, but of course she was not feeling well. She is one of the best players on our team. We played again on Saturday. All we do now is play in the Czech league since we are now out of the Euroleague.

Outside of basketball, I have been busy with my parents doing a lot of sightseeing. We've visited the Prague Castle, the Carlos Bridge, the little Jesus of Prague Church, the Venceslau Square and the National Museum. My parents are really enjoying themselves here, especially my mom. She is having a great time! She loves the city, especially when there is snow. It is first time for both of them to see snow. My dad is having a hard time adjusting, but he thinks that Prague is a pretty city. Maybe I will take them to Seattle and show them how beautiful it is there also? They can also teach Coach Donovan some Portuguese since she has to go to Brazil for the World Championships. Congratulations on being selected coach of the USA team! I already sent her an e-mail, but I can congratulate her again, right? Anyway, I am going to finish now. Wishing everybody a Happy Valentine's Day!

Love from the Czech Republic,

Posted on December 13

Hey everybody, greetings from the Czech Republic! I know you heard that I was going to take a break this season, but after two months off from basketball I realized that I couldn't be away from basketball any longer. I missed it, so here I am back on the hardwood. Plus, I think I was driving my mom crazy at home. Since I started playing, I have never been home for more than 15 days at a time, so I can only imagine how my mom was feeling. She was constantly asking when I would be leaving. Just kidding ... she would never do that, even if I did drive her crazy. She is already missing me and I have only being gone for a month.

So let's talk about Prague. I got here and things were already going, so I felt like I was a little behind. I catch on pretty quick, so after two days I played in my first Euroleague home game against the best team in Europe, Samara! For those of you that don't know, Ann Wauters, Svetlana Abrosimova and Maria Stepanova play for Samara. I couldn't believe it! The same week I played my first game in the Czech League too.

We are in second place in the Czech League, but tied for fifth for our six-team group in the Euroleague. Our team had its first win last week against the Belgian team, Brusom. We're not doing too bad because we still have a chance to make it to the next round, but we still need to get back on track for that. We are really trying hard, but from what I heard we just couldn't finish some of the games. JB is on my team and has been here since the beginning. She could tell you what it was like before I arrived.

Let's talk about the city now! It is a very pretty city with lots of things to do. There are many tourists from everywhere and lots of shopping! Hey, Coach Donovan, I only have three bags going back for Christmas, so I am not shopping that much! Actually, JB and I go shopping every day we have off ... he he he he. :) Anyway, Prague is a really pretty place to be and do some sightseeing, but it's a little too cold for me. So, I just keep shopping at places inside so I don't have to spend too much time in the cold.

We have our Christmas break in a week and I am very excited about it! I will get back to you guys with more news after Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone I miss and all of the fans in Seattle! You all definitely have the fans in Prague beat!

Izi :)