The voice of a Contradicting Accent

When you ask me where I'm from, I don't really know how to respond anymore. Do you want the real answer or do you just want to know where I most recently lived? And then when I respond, "London" you laugh or raise an eyebrow as if I'm not telling the truth. Honestly, I don't blame you for your ignorance because my accent is pretty deceiving, but quite frankly I do take offense. 

Although you know where I was born, you always call me 'American', which I don't understand at all. I was born in Greenwich. I lived in Vauxhall throughout my early years enjoying a Londoner childhood filled with hot Ribena, Wheetabix, strolls along the South Bank, and a weekly pack of Polo Mints. If you watched me in my childhood homevideos you wouldn't believe I was anything other than a Brit because of my Londoner accent. But for some reason, the fact that I have an “American” accent makes you think there’s now way I can be British. But really will you stop discriminating against me and my accent.

Yes I have lived in the U.S., and yes I have been influenced by the Bay Area culture. In fact, I am very proud of my Californian hipster vibes. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not ‘from’ London. You asked me where I'm from right? A very simple question but you don't seem to believe me. Do I have to prove it to you? Would you like my passport? How about my birth certificate? Even better, why don’t you meet my entire family then hang out with me for about a day, then you will see my British mannerisms.

Please stop asking me everything about the British government and all about the history of London because although I do know a decent amount, I don’t know specific dates of everything. And just because I don’t know these things, doesn’t make me any less of a Brit. If you want me to break it down even more, I was born in London but my family is from up north in a place called Wetherby. My mum is a world-traveler and so I lived in Australia for my kindergarten year before moving back to London (a little shout out to my Australian kindergarten bestie Millie). Then when I was about to go into year 3 we moved to the states to fulfill one of my mums dreams. That is when everything changed, in your eyes, I became an American. In my eyes, I was fitting in so I wouldn’t get teased by my classmates. 

After moving to the states it took a good 12 years just to receive my permanent residence. But even with that, I’m still not an American citizen. I am a British citizen, and only a British citizen. For all of those of you that are still confused, I played for Team GB in the London 2012 Olympics because It is my home country. And no, it wouldn't make sense for me to play for the U.S. because I am not ‘from' there. So in case my voice seems to confuse you here is some clarification. Sorry if this may sound a bit more confrontational than most of my blogs…but actually, I’m not sorry. Because this is important. So next time, ask where I’m from, and accept me for me. 


Check out my recent travels across the western region of America. We traveled across 4 states to see some of the hottest places in the U.S. It was an amazing experience and a wonderful cleanse.

A New Season

As some people know I have been off my legs for a few months now, recovering and exploring other interests of mine including photography, writing, and film. I have also had an opportunity to do some fitness modeling which I have always wanted to do. I have been lucky enough to sign with a fitness modeling agency, and this past month I got my first big job working with Adidas. This was extremely exciting and rewarding, and I am hoping that I can continue to explore this field of work because I never realized how fulfilling and empowering it would feel.

Another exciting change that I have made with my life is dedicating more time to my creative self. I was accepted into a summer program at USC where I studied Music Video Production. Now when I tell people that they are surprised, music videos, really? why would you ever study film? I thought you loved volleyball. My answer is yes, I do love playing volleyball. But I also have other loves, and the arts is one of them. This music video production course inspired me in ways I never imagined. I not only made my first music video (watch it on my website), but met a group of kick ass people that taught me so much about the business and the film industry. Challenging my capabilities with brutal honesty and providing me with support and hands-on experience. I couldn’t be happier that I spent all the money I made in Puerto Rico on a summer long film course. It sounds crazy, but It was exactly what I needed. I know you're thinking, ‘you should have saved that money’ or ‘you should've invested it’, ok yeah thats probably what the smart, financially responsible adult would have done. But I genuinely wanted to learn in a field I have always wanted to study. I remember learning at San Jose State that I couldn’t be an illustrator due to scheduling conflicts with the athletic and art departments, this changed everything for me. And since then, I have been eager to get back to my creative self. If you knew me in high school, I rearranged my schedule so that I was working the majority of my time in the art studio; creating my own work in independent study art classes. That was me, that has always been me, and now I miss that. So I have decided to do everything in my power to get that side of me out again. 

In my time off, I have also volunteered at the San Francisco Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival. These amazing places have brought me closer to people like me; people that enjoy watching movies by themselves, going to talks about careers in film, going to museums, exploring cities, drinking tea at the botanical gardens, and ultimately creating art in all forms.  Whenever I would tell my fellow athletes about this they would often laugh, thinking I was weird and unusual. But this is something I’ve always loved, even if I was too afraid to love it. For a long time I kept these desires a secret, in fear of what people might say. But recently, I have stopped caring about what people may say and began creating. I want to create so many things from film, photography, design, and music. It sounds like too much, but at this point, I don't think anything is too much for me to handle.  This does not mean I don’t love volleyball, because I do. I really, honestly, enjoy the competitiveness of sport. I have grown as a person through volleyball and learned how to fight despite all odds against me. I often welcome a challenge, and when people doubt my motives, it drives me even further. But right now, I have shifted my focus towards another career aspiration of mine. 

My career so far has been hectic, unlucky, and yet, extremely beneficial. I have had a diverse group of coaches, all teaching me in unexpected ways. In the two most recent teams I have played for I have had unfortunate endings, and a rude awakening to professional sport. My first coach asked me to leave within a week and while on the second team, I was told to leave due to injury. Through these experiences I was left confused at my goals, what does it mean to be a professional athlete? who do I aspire to be? can I be the best in the world without being on a national team? why am I still not satisfied after making it to my ultimate athletic goal, the olympics?  I am still confused, where do I want this to go? This past month I found out from my doctors that I will be out for at least another 3 months. Although I had signed a contract to play in France, the coach was extremely understanding and taught me a lot about the importance of recovery. At this time, I am just not physically fit to play, so I am not playing for a team. It is best to give myself a break, because that is what my body is telling me at the moment. If I listen to my mind, I would play to fight against belittling expectations, to reward those who have supported me (my mother, you, my coach), and to make the right financial decision. I would also be able to travel, something I have always enjoyed doing while playing a sport I love. From a financial standpoint, I need the money and the stability of volleyball. But for my wellbeing, I need rest.

I know these words are jumbled like my thoughts, and I know the alternative to playing volleyball seems ridiculous and unreliable. But what other time than now should I explore this? I’m 21 and I’ve already experienced the peeks and lows of one career, now I have the opportunity to put the same time and effort into my other interests. I feel more clear in that I now know financial stability is not what I want out of life. As cliche as it sounds, I do seek a life more meaningful and my wellbeing is my highest priority. I hope I can continue to see that as I continue my journey in life and my responsibilities become greater. 

Moving forward, I don’t know what is next? I booked a flight to London not knowing whats in store for me. All I know is right now I can’t walk away from the arts. I love work; I’ll give everything I have just to improve my craft. Quite honestly I’m very far behind my peers; I do not own a rediculously expensive camera, I don’t have a degree in the arts, and I’m not a techy person who can tell you everything about computers, lights, and cameras. But what I do have is determination unlike anyone: if I make a goal, I will achieve it. I have experience in a diverse range of things from sports, to psychology, to traveling, to teaching, to art. I have books of my writing; from poetry that has never been read allowed, to blogs, to short-stories, and treatments. I have a unique, creative eye, and I know what looks good and what looks bad. I can communicate problems and I can work in team environments. I am open-minded yet firm in my beliefs; I am willing to listen but I won’t always agree with you. I know I have what it takes and by writing this now I am making an agreement with myself and anyone reading this that I will make it in the arts industry. Whether it is 5 or 10 or 20 years down the line, I will become a director and I will win awards for my work. Taking this leap of faith and trusting in my work and my capability, is all part of the dream.

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." ~ Steve Jobs

Working Out Work Outs

Dealing with a stress fracture has been an interesting experience. I have never had to monitor the pressure I put on my legs, and for some reason this was quite difficult for me. Another important factor in the process of getting back into shape has been my diet. Although I do feel that I have been eating quite “healthy”, I have realized that perhaps my new way of eating has contributed to the weaknesses in my bones.


I decided that the swimming pool would be the first place to begin working back into shape.I am slightly ashamed to say that it was only recently that I learned how to swim with my pals back at the University of Miami. Perhaps it was the time when I was in Kindergarten living in Australia that stopped me from fully learning how to swim. I was quite traumatized when my best friend and I went swimming in the ocean and I was pulled by a Blue Bottle JellyFish ‘down under’. Or perhaps it was the time when the waves swooped us and we couldn’t catch our breath without choking on sea water. Or maybe it was in elementary school when I felt helpless after being knocked off my partners back playing that stupid water wrestling game (I don’t even know what it’s really called). Whatever it was, I have been scared to swim, and it wasn’t till recently that I realized I couldn’t live the rest of my life avoiding the water. Especially because I find such a peaceful bliss in the ocean. After overcoming my fears, I realized this was the perfect time to both improve my swimming skills and stay fit without putting pressure on my tibia.

I initially learned and gained some confidence with the breast and back strokes, and then I was faced with a more difficult task to hold my breath under water and consistently remain afloat. When I got back from PR, I swam for about two weeks almost every day at the Plunge in Point Richmond. To my surprise, swimming was more than just a cardio exercise. After about 15 minutes I would not only be completely out of breath, but also physically worn out to the point where I felt close to drowning in a 3 1/2 foot pool. As I would push myself to finish a lap, the grey hairs of my neighboring swimmers would swiftly move past me. Not that I was at all embarressed, but lets just say, I definitely didn’t feel like a professional athlete. It took some convincing and I finally came up with a workout that allowed me to work efficiently and effectively, without looking like a complete ammeter. I swam 30 X 25m with 15 second rests between each stretch, then got out and did 20 sit ups and 15 side crunches both sides twice. Now this may seem like a really simple workout, but for someone like me, having never swam for more than one length of the pool, this was extremely tough. I found myself often having to use a paddle board often to give either my arms or legs a rest. After two weeks were over, I realized two things, I was slightly fitter but I needed on land training to work up to performance-ready shape. 

Next, I hit up the gym. I started off doing bike for cardio and only a few arm/ab/legs workouts. I mainly worked on body weight exercises because I have always struggled with them and they seem to be most important for overall strength. In order to become the best athlete you first must know how to control your body. So I began with chin ups, pull ups, push ups, ab roll outs, ab circuits, bodyweight squats, and glute exercises. Over the course of a few weeks I have increased the intensity of these workouts by adding light-weight shoulder exercises, TRX exercises, and kettle bell exercises. I have been really struggling these past couple weeks, not because I’m in pain from my injury, but because I feel so out of shape from taking time off.  I often find myself laying face up on the gym floor out of breath, drenched in sweat, and pleading to stop. But something about my mindset won’t let me give up. I end up rolling over and doing even more than I expected for taking a short break. It’s like I’m competing with myself, and punishing myself for wanting to take a break. I’ve always believed in that quote that goes something like, “when you want to give up…work harder!"


After avoiding milk for almost a year now, and drinking coconut or almond milk as a substitute, I have realized that my calcium intake has been quite low. I am not saying this is at all the cause of my injury, but I do think that increasing my calcium intake will allow my bones to gain some strength. So I have bought some supplements and I am taking them daily. I’m trying to maintain that clean way of eating because I know it will help my overall health mentally and physically. But I often find myself sneaking a few vegan donuts and cupcakes because I have these weird cravings and obsessions over the Oakland Donut Farm. Hopefully my slight sweet tooth won’t get in the way of my healthy living lol. 

Overall I think this stress fracture should have a speedy recovery. I am feeling really good and I am just waiting for the OK from my dr. to clear me to get back into running, jumping, and ultimately playing volleyball. 


Dear Young Brown Boy,

A poem I wrote which turned into a short film. I wanted to express something that is really important to me, and I hope it comes across. This is a With Grace short film, there will be plenty more to come.

Life's a Battle, but its Worth the Fight

My grandmother always tells me, “Life’s a Battle” whenever I tell her about problems I am having. I have pondered on this many times, because every challenge I conquer seems to be greeted with more challenges. I see this in others, and most recently, I have seen this in myself; I achieved so much graduating from University and then entered the professional world like a freshman again. I recently had to leave the team I was playing in Caguas, Puerto Rico due to a stress fracture in my shin. I am very grateful for my experiences in Puerto Rico, but I am also disappointed that I wasn’t able to finish the season and demonstrate my full potential. Disappointed too that my first pro experience in Turkey was terminated before it had even got started because they wanted someone else. I now am nervous that this will hurt my next season, putting me at a disadvantage from the start. But through my experiences, I know that if I am willing to take a few hits, I will gain something worth fighting for. 

In University I learned the hard way that there is glory in every battle. Its tough being an athlete because you witness the worst and best of people. While some can challenge you and become a new member of your family, others can make you hate what you’re doing. There are those I’ve met along the way that have single handedly and in a moment made me want to quit what I’m doing because of their relentless hatred for me. Whether it was giggles, teasing, bullying, or simply a look of disgust, they almost broke me down to the point where I didn’t want to continue being on a team. At times I would fake strength and try to stick up for myself, but at the end of the day, my confidence was distorted. 

In sports you are constantly fighting; every bone, muscle, thought, and particle of energy in your body is pushing and shoving you to be ‘the best’.  You're fighting with your teammates to be the best on the team, and you're fighting opposing teams to be the best in the league. And the hardest part of it all is that you’re fighting yourself; everyday you wake up and have to remind yourself its a war and you have to be ready to battle. Some days you’re telling yourself you aren’t good enough, and to be honest, the majority of the people around you want to see you fail so they can succeed. Unfortunately, every ounce of doubt brings you even closer to failure. Imagine a force of water pushing against a wall, if the wall cracks even slightly, the water has the ability to sweep down the entire wall down. I’ve often felt like vulnerable prey as wild animals take turns to attempt to bring me down. 

Life's a battle, and the only way to rise is to fight. When you allow others to have power to control your confidence levels, then you have lost the battle. Fight!! Once I decided not to allow others to control me, I had won. Don’t get me wrong, this alone has been extremely hard and I still can’t even say I do this on a consistent basis, but this is what I am working towards. I see this in so many people and have been often shook by the lengths at which this can seriously hurt people. But I am so happy when I read blogs and hear stories about how people are taking charge of themselves with confidence, not letting others bring them down. And when we achieve that sort of power within ourselves, we will see the best outcomes. For example, when I was fueled by doubt by those around me, I finally achieved what I had been trying to achieve since day one at University. I was Player of the Year, Academic and Athletic All-American, Senior CLASS Award Finalist, Magna Cum Laude Graduate, and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. It was almost like a ‘Fuck You’ to anyone who ever doubted me, and a ‘Thank You’ to anyone who supported me. I now try and take on life with a fighting attitude, I won’t rest until the battle has been won. 

Modeling with Steph Segarra

In Puerto Rico I met an amazing photographer named Steph Segarra. She has a very unique style and I really enjoyed working with her on a collaboration between fashion and sports. We wanted to do a shoot that showed both of our experiences: Steph being a stylistic photographer that makes the mundane beautiful, with myself being an experienced athlete and artist. I really love the outcome because it's very different to other photographs of me, and we had a lot of fun shooting it. I genuinely wish her the best in her future endeavors. Check out her blog here  (

With Grace on Alcatraz: Ai Wei Wei

Check out my latest video With Grace showing my recent travels to the exhibition of Ai Wei Wei's work on Alcatraz. I was grateful to have traveled to such an amazing show this week. There were so many aspects of his work that spoke out to me and I hope to portray most of it in this short video.

Part 5: A New Chapter

It wasn’t until I found myself in the Turkish airport, walking past a bookstore that I came across the title of a book which completely put me back on track. It read, “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be,” by Paul Arden. It’s probably one of those best-selling airport books because it’s an easy read that captures your attention and questions your motives, and for me, it was exactly what I needed. I asked myself, how good do I want to be? Where do I see myself? Is this where I want to be? I flipped through the book and read one chapter entitled, “Getting Fired Can Be A Positive Career Move.” That was it. A defining moment. For me, this was the career move I needed. As much as I didn’t want to be ‘let go’ from my first job in Professional Sports, I wasn’t even happy there anyway. Maybe this was what I needed, Turkey wasn’t right for me at that moment in time and I needed to be in a place that would allow me to thrive as a rookie.

My next stop, Puerto Rico. Although I had offers initially and had turned them down to play in Turkey, I am so grateful that they were happy to pick me up again. I signed to Criollas de Caguas, after journeying for almost 24 hours across the world and arriving on the island. The first day I arrived I was greeted with open arms, and told that I could take a day or two to adjust to the time change and relax from my flight. The whole community was eager for my arrival, and my teammates and staff were more inviting than I ever could have asked for. Although I was not confident yet, I took a sigh of relief. It was refreshing to feel wanted again. And with the sort of encouragement I needed, I knew I could get back to my high level standard of volleyball.

I jogged out on the court with my new red volleyball uniform on as the announcer yelled, “Numero qatource, Savanaaaaah Leeeaaf”. An echo of claps and cheers rang throughout the arena, and I ran out to give high fives to my new teammates. Although no transition is an easy one, this change brought a new positive light to playing professional sports. I felt a different sort of determination, and began training every morning, just so that I could perform at my best not only for myself but for the people that had worked so hard to provide me with this opportunity.

My mum told me the other day, “If anyone is good at adapting to change, it’s you. You have had 3 different head coaches at University, and each year in high school you went to different clubs. You know how to handle this.” She was right, I needed to stop moping around telling myself, “I can’t do this” because really I have done this, and I will continue to have to do this so I may as well get good at it. I know that with my enthusiasm and relentless fight I will achieve the goals I have set out for myself playing professional volleyball. And with this motivation, I will continue to build on the confidence that I am creating for myself.

Part 4: Breaking into the Business

After practice, one of my teammates told me the coach wanted to talk to me. I was finally getting back on my feet and starting to play well so I thought maybe the coach was going to give me some positive feedback. I certainly was not expecting what happened next. The assistant coach translated for me, “We are pleased with your passing. You are doing a lot better than we expected. We think you have a lot of potential, but we need more. We will talk to your agent about moving you somewhere else.” I started breathing heavily, I tried to keep myself from tearing up. I felt like they hadn’t given me a chance. I didn’t understand. Maybe with one more day they would see my talents. “Do you have any questions?” I stood still - not saying a word. I thought to myself, what the fuck did I fly out here for? He told me again, “You have a lot of potential but we need someone better now. Ok, you are ok? You can go home.” By this time any tears that were about to start falling dried instantaneously. My sadness shifted to anger. My business mentality started to kick in as I came back to reality. It was not a personal attack, they didn’t want me for some other reason. I didn’t do anything wrong, “I need to talk to my agent, and he will talk to you.” Enough was enough, they could’t treat me in this manner. “Ok, we are looking for a flight home, ok?”. I repeated what I previously said with a smile on my face as I knew they were in the wrong, “No, I am going to talk to my agent.” I turned around and left for the locker room as I shook his hand.

As much as I wish I could say that I handled the situation appropriately, I didn’t. I was engulfed in emotions with my face stuck against the cold window. I sat in the back seat on the way back to my apartment; my confidence had been destroyed. Over the years watching the best succeed, I have noticed one thing that stands out amongst the elite; confidence. You may be completely crap at the task at which you are setting out to achieve, but with confidence, you can make success a reality. This was the trait I was lacking at this point of my life. My confidence was down, I second guessed my talents, and I questioned the purpose of setting out on this journey. Broken, and hesitant to pick up the pieces.

The next few days were a mess, but luckily with the support of my friends, family, and agents I was able to get myself back on my feet. Ensuring me that this was not my fault, this is the name of the game, I managed to encourage myself to look at other options. I initially wanted to give up and leave the pieces on the floor, but my personality hates to give up. I think it was ever since I gave up playing the piano in 5th grade, or maybe it was giving up basketball my Sophmore year of high school, or perhaps it was giving up art when I came to University that really shifted my perspective. I am not a quitter, if I have to stop doing something it will be on my terms, not someone else’s. Every time someone has told me I can’t do something, I have come back harder. So from that day forward, I confronted my doubt, and although still not confident, I managed to practice in Turkey until we came to an agreement on how the situation was going to be handled. Even with every phone call trying to push me out of the apartment and all the gossip about the girl that was taking my spot, I could now look at the situation with a more level head instead of taking impersonal statements personally.

Fail. Fail Again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett

With Grace in Puerto Rico: Part 7

One of my good friends Misty came to visit me for the weekend in Puerto Rico. We decided to explore El Yunque together since I had not been there yet, and she had always wanted to go. Here is a quick video of the places we visited.

Collaborating with Monica Day

I recently connected with an amazing photographer out here in Puerto Rico. She has not only taken some amazing photographs of me, but has also supported both my sport and art. She comes to almost every game now in Caguas and can be seen rooting for me in the stands. I am so excited to continue to collaborate with her on future projects. Check out her page (, she is full of energy and her talents can be seen throughout work…. Also, she has an great name, definitely think it should be trending on Twitter by now. Special thanks to MONICA DAY for her guidance and support out in PR.

Part 3: Adjusting to Change


 Yes, it had been 3 weeks since my final game of college volleyball, but I didn’t think they would be expecting too much from a jet-lagged foreigner who had barely slept in the last 24 hours. I was hesitant on the court. My timing was off and my connection was a mess. Luckily my serve and pass was consistent because it was the only thing I could do that solely relies on myself. I played the first half of the game, then was told to do some fitness on the side of the court with one of the assistants. He would check my pulse after which I would do sets of jump rope and sprints back to back while the rest of the team finished the game. He raised his eyebrows and while looking concerned told me, “You’re a bit out of shape.” I thought to myself, well of course I’m not 100 percent right now I just arrived. I’m not sure what they were expecting but at a first glance they didn’t seem too happy with my performance. I took it quite personally when they said I was out of shape. If anything, I never let myself get that out of shape. I have always been athletic, and I pride myself on my hard work and determination on and off the court. Although it wasn’t verbalized, I took it as a personal blow to my self esteem telling me, “You’re not good enough”.
If anyone knows anything about me, they know that every time I have received doubt from others, it has been used as fuel to the flame. I woke up the next morning determined more than ever to prove myself. I wanted to show him that I was the most fit person in the gym. I knew for a fact that they had the wrong impression of me. I arrived at the gym ready to be better, faster, and stronger. I felt a little uneasy for some reason, but thought that if I just pushed through it, the unsteady feelings would go away. The beginning of the workout went well, although all eyes were on me as I went through each task fighting through any jet lag in my system. Then for a grand finale, we had this jumping circuit on a bench in the corner of the gym. I was jumping up and down on the bench when all of the uneasy feelings in my stomach began moving up to my head. I grew dizzy. Before I could catch another breathe, I ran to the closest room,  placed my head in the closest thing that resembled a trashcan, and threw up everything I had eaten in the last 24 hours. Even when there was nothing else in my stomach to throw up, I could not stop retching and certainly could not move from the bathroom floor. All I could hear was the distant sounds of my name being screamed from outside the room. I watched as my coach came in and asked if I was ok. Of course I wasn’t, but I tried to act tough responding, “Yeah, Yeah I'll be out in a second.” He responded, “This is the men’s bathroom.” My eyes widened and palms became moist, completely embarrassed at what I had just done. I looked around to see a few men changing in the lockers beside me. Fuck, really? Did this really have to happen? I tried to play it cool, and washed my hands in the sinks beside me and then said, “Sorry, I’m fine now.” The coach and I walked beside one another as he tried to comfort me and reminded me that I shouldn’t drink the tap water. 
After another practice and more episodes of vomiting, I finally built up the courage to tell the Physio that I needed to see a doctor. I didn’t want to seem weak or ‘out of shape’, but at this point I couldn’t hide the fact that I needed help. I was taken to Emergency Care where the nurse couldn’t speak any English. The Physio relayed most of the information about how I was feeling and then the nurse and him began laughing. I stood there thinking to myself what could possibly be so funny. The nurse handed me a cup and hesitantly told me to ”take a stool” in a Turkish accent. I smiled and said, “a urine sample? ummm pee?”. She shook her head and began to laugh then pulled out her phone out, the screen read, “shit”. I sat back, feeling quite violated I asked, “you want me to shit in a cup?”. She smiled and nodded, “Yes.” I sat there for a few seconds, thinking she must be confused with the language barrier. I looked at her again and received a confirming smile. I had no idea this was a customary in any medical facility. 
For 3 hours I was asleep and hooked up to an IV in the emergency care waiting for my test results. The doctor finally arrived and confirmed that I had a bacterial infection. I was slightly surprised because I had been very careful not to drink the tap water, but they told me that it could have come from the food, brushing my teeth, or even simply rinsing vegetables. I was given about a weeks worth of pills in three different forms, and was told that I must take them three times a day. I was weak, I think I may have lost about 10 lbs from the vomiting, and I was in no shape to participate. So I took the rest of the day off then started up again the following day. Luckily we had a free day coming up so I could wear myself out and then relax a bit. I wasn’t anywhere close to my regular volleyball self, but I was slowly progressing. After a few days being back on the court I finally felt like I was starting to feel more comfortable. I had recovered well from the infection and I had made my home a little bit more hospitable by posting photographs of my family and friends across the bland walls. 

"The person who is unlikely to make mistakes, is unlikely to make anything" ~ Paul Arden

Part 2: Arrived in Turkey

Airports are ambiguous places: vacuous and impersonal yet teeming with emotions. It is familiar to me; I have departed from them many times, but this departure was different. I knew how to handle leaving the people closest to me. That part was routine; I say my goodbyes, cry a little, then once I pass security I grab hold of my ticket, wipe the remnants of the tears from my cheeks, and move on. Yes, I am one of those emotional types who cries over pretty much anything, and I’ve learned how to deal with it, but moving to Turkey was different.  I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready. The whole thing happened so fast, I didn’t feel prepared. How would I handle this new situation on my own? Would they treat me right? Would I fit in? Did I forget anything? The next thing I knew, I was looking out of the airplane window. squished between two passengers, thinking to myself: There’s no turning back now. 
I arrived on Turkish soil with the utmost enthusiasm. I had finally made it. Fifteen hours of journeying and I was where I was suppose to be. I knew it would all run smoothly until… I realized I needed a visa just to get into the country. Not to worry, according to my contract, my visa would be taken care of. I figured it was already in the system and they just needed to look it up online. After waiting about 30 minutes in line at the official front desk, and another 15 minutes for an English-speaking officer, I was told that there was no visa in the system and I had to go purchase one. Luckily, a temporary visa was only 30 dollars so I figured the club would just reimburse me. But when I got to the Visa desk, after arriving with my complete wallet transformed into Turkish Lira, the manager told me that they only accepted American Dollars. Confused, I told myself, Ok, I’ll just go find some dollars. I went to a special cash point and drew out 50 of the 80 dollars left in my bank account, and then returned to the visa desk where I finally received my 90 day visa. Trying to maintain my positive attitude, I walked through security and baggage claim, and was hoping to see my name printed on a piece of paper with a friendly driver eagerly awaiting my arrival. I came out, searching for my name amongst the 30 plus drivers but, couldn’t see anything close to mine. I stood there, flustered and a little disappointed, but waiting on someone to pick me up. After a few minutes I moved to the closest cafe where I could plug into the wifi.  I was sitting at the airport for 2 hours before they picked me up. 2 damn hours!! Pissed . . . waiting . . . waiting . . .  not speaking any Turkish . . . waiting . . . hoping that someone would walk by with a sign. . . .any sign . . . please?

Long after all my enthusiasm for arriving in Istanbul had faded, a man walked up.”Are you Savanah?” he asked, I nodded, and said that he didn’t recognize me with my hair? I thought I looked pretty similar to any picture he could have pulled from the internet but oh well, I was happy to finally get moving to my apartment. I tried to use a bit of the Turkish I knew, “Merhaba” I said. He didn’t really respond but we exchanged laughs after realizing both of us didn’t understand one another. It's a funny thing when you are ‘lost in translation’ as they put it, hoping one of you will somehow piece together the broken language the other is speaking. Traveling through the city, passing the lights of the skyscrapers made me feel comforted that I had made the right decision. We stopped at a grocery store so that I could pick whatever food I wanted, then we stopped for a local chicken fajita, and finally we arrived at my new apartment. At a first glance it was perfect: a 'two bedroom' apartment for one, with two bathrooms and a relatively large living room. There was a decent sized TV and the internet was already working so I felt secure. I said my goodbyes to the driver and then quickly hooked up my computer and cellphone to the wifi. I was content, although the desolate house felt quite lonely. 

The next morning I woke up rather late and went straight to the fridge to grab milk for my cereal. I reached for one of the dishes that was left in the sink. Thinking to myself, why are there plates in the sink?  I washed it, but then turned around and realized the place hadn’t been cleaned. It was as if I had walked into someones home and was using all of their stuff. Attempting to maintain a positive outlook, I washed the dishes and disposed of all the trash to make the place feel more homey. I was greeted by the Physio who enthusiastically took me to have a medical exam. 

Another 2 hours of waiting around and doing various medical checkups like blood tests, urine tests, orthopedic tests, and cardiovascular tests. And when all was completed, I went home for a few hours and then was picked up again to go to practice. The Physio told me to bring my running shoes. I wasn’t sure why; I definitely didn’t think I would be playing the first day I got here, still trying to orientate myself from the jet lag. They had a friendly match against one of the local second division teams. As I arrived, the players told me to get ready.  I thought it was a bit weird to prepare to play volleyball before having met any of the staff, but I refrained from asking questions and got dressed, met a few of the girls who were very friendly, and walked out onto the court. I didn’t even know who the coach was, but then a man introduced himself and told me I was playing. Surprised, I began to jog in place, smiling to save my ass from pouting. I was drained and dizzy and ready to drop. I was hoping for a day to recover, but that wasn’t the case. Oh well, I wanted to impress them so I decided to suck up any hesitation I had, and give it my all. I could be that young, eager, determined player that everyone is excited to have on their team. 

"Life has no limitations, except the ones you make." ~ Les Brown

With Grace Part 6: Vega Baja with Fefa

Took a Mini Trip to Vega Baja and ended up happily surprised by the beauty of nature. I love the fact that there are so many natural surprises everywhere you go. Words can't describe how amazing the environment is! It's wonderful to escape from society sometimes and see mother nature at work!

Part 1: From Amateur to Professional

I have written a 6 part series to describe my transition from Amateur to Professional. I know many of you are eager to hear how I arrived in Puerto Rico because I haven't really spoke on the subject at all. I have written this to shed light on a personal story of my journey. Stay tuned for each part of my story here!!!

PART 1: From Amateur to Professional

I’m taller than the average woman, yet smaller in the volleyball world. I’m always having to prove myself as a volleyball player because my competition usually stands at about 6 ft 4. I’m not afraid of what's on the other side of the net. I just give it my all every time I step out there and then my abilities show themselves. But I am afraid that my hard work, and what I do, won’t be good enough. 

I spent the last three and a half years on an unstable roller coaster. The funny thing is that  after I graduated I thought I would suddenly gain some clarity as to which direction I should take in my life. In reality, graduating gave rise to more confusion and swept away the only stability I had. A situation like this could terrify some, and although I was a bit fearful, I was also very excited. I was inspired by the possibility that I could choose whichever direction I wanted to go; I could choose my next goal in life. Being young, fit, and willing to take risks gives me a sense of empowerment. Not everyone is given the opportunity to make these kinds of decisions with a bachelors degree in one hand and a resume in the other, and that is why I felt that it was almost a duty to take advantage of the opportunities that had been given to me. After leaving the University of Miami, I decided to throw myself in as many of directions as possible to see what sort of feedback I would receive. I set myself as many short term goals as I could, simply to give myself some drive for the next few unsteady weeks. I told myself to draw as much as possible, write emails everyday, design and create t-shirts, set up a website, read 10 books, write 2 screen plays, eat healthier, photograph everything, and although it was a little unrealistic, I figured it would keep me busy until opportunities arose.
After a few weeks of reaching out, and gaining only a handful of responses, I decided it was time to weigh up the pros and cons of my options. I had opportunities in both sand and indoor volleyball, and then another alternative to give myself a break from volleyball and dive into the creative field. As I was wrapping up my decisions, I realized I couldn't walk away from one particular opportunity, the opportunity to play in the top league in Turkey, competing against some of the best players in the world. Excitement doesn’t quite explain the volatile emotions I was feeling. I’ve heard horror stories of people going overseas and playing, never getting their money or signing to a club that folds within the first few weeks, and I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to check every box, so I asked everyone in my life (and more) for some advice. When talking to those more experienced and wiser than I, everyone said that this was the best option. They all told me that it was a win/win situation: playing for a team in one of the top  leagues in the world, making an amazing starting wage, and in a culturally thriving city. I’d be crazy not to go. After long discussions, I came to the conclusion that, worse case scenario, I hate it but leave after 3 and a half months with a nice check in my pocket. It was the right decision. 

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future" ~ Steve Jobs


With Grace in Puerto Rico: Part 4

Just messing around with some of the swimming action shots I took on the GoPro. For some of you who don't know me, I only recently learned how to swim, so I have been working on my breathing underwater. It is pretty exciting to see yourself learn things and grow as you learn. I still have to practice and get loads better but I am super happy with my progress.

With Grace in Puerto Rico: Part 3

Check out my most recent video where I paddle board and swim in the winter. I am trying to take full advantage of my surroundings out here, being in a beautiful country with great people. I hope to show a little of what I am doing on my off days, but it't not all fun in the sun. Soon I will be posting a video of what the hard work and games are like out here! More to come on my adventures in PR!

Print's for Peace

I'm making a line of clothes called With Grace. Each image will represent different social issues that have influenced me directly and indirectly in my life. It's my contribution to bring awareness to topics that are important to me, perhaps also a bit uncomfortable to talk about. So far I have two designs up on Society6, check them out and purchase them if you are with the movement!!! ....

With Grace in Puerto Rico Part II

After a week of hard work with two big wins against some top teams out here in Puerto Rico, it was time for some relaxation and fun in the sun. I met up with some of the girls from the All-American conference on the beaches of San Juan. We had a blast eating amazing food and renting the jet skis. Here's a little snap shot of what this weeks day WITH GRACE was like...

With Grace in Puerto Rico Part 1

As some of you know, I have now moved to play in Puerto Rico. An amazing opportunity arose that seemed to fall into place at the right time. I will tell you more about the transition to Caguas at a future date, I am currently working on a video that will reveal my journey in detail. But for now, I have made a little film of my first day in Puerto Rico and my early adventure. I am so excited to see myself develop as an artist and athlete in this wonderful island and with my new team, Las Criollas de Caguas.

Fall Together With Grace

I made this little short because I love this song by Childish Gambino and I also felt that I had a little story to tell about my early journey overseas. It is never easy to be away from the ones you love, and every phone call, FaceTime session, letter, and text makes all the difference. I try to show a little of what it is like to feel distant and alone when you initially embark on a new journey in this short musical piece. I hope to share these emotions through this little film titled Fall Together.

This film was inspired by the Marilyn Monroe Quote, 
"I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together."

First Day off 'With Grace' in Istanbul

I have decided to start creating little films of my travels here in Istanbul to give you all a visual of what I have been up to. Follow my journey at "With Grace in Istanbul" on YouTube. I will be exploring the city, meeting people, and hearing their stories. Please let me know what you think!



Vote Now to help me achieve the Senior Class Award. I have made it to the final 10, but now you can vote every day till December 8th to help me win the award! VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

Savanah Leaf is a senior with a double major in Psychology and Human and Social Development with a 3.877 cumulative GPA. She earned distinction on the President’s Honor Roll in Spring 2013 for her perfect 4.0 semester GPA, as well as the Provost’s Honor Roll (3.75 GPA), Dean’s List Honor Roll (3.5 GPA), Athletic Director Honor Roll (3.2 GPA) and UM’s Book Buster Club (3.0 GPA) in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. Savanah is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Furthermore, she was named to the 2013 All-ACC Academic Volleyball Team and is a two-time ACC Honor Roll student-athlete.


A team captain for the 2014 season, Leaf leads by example. The rising senior can frequently be found working on her craft and routinely brings her teammates along to work out together. A tireless worker, Leaf has taken the eight newcomers under her wing to show them what it takes to be a Hurricane student-athlete. Beyond the court, Leaf has organized team-building activities that have helped the 2014 Canes bond as they prepare for the upcoming season.


Leaf has been instrumental in making in impact in the Miami community and in her home state of California. The rising senior has worked as a volleyball coach at the Jose Gandara Volleyball Camps in Coral Gables the past two summers and she has been a summer volleyball coach for the San Francisco Juniors VB Club. Leaf also got the Canes involved in a service project that helped revitalize inner city parks in the Miami area.


Leaf was a first team All-ACC selection following a 2013 season in which she led the Canes in kills (442), aces (38) and points (524). She ranked second in the ACC and 41st nationally in 2013 with 4.52 points/set. A career-high 25 kills helped Miami beat No. 12 UNC on Nov. 3, giving the Canes a victory over their highest ranked opponent during the 2013 season. The team leader with 14 double-doubles a year ago, Leaf was a key contributor in getting the Canes to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year. She has also represented Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics and at the 2013 Continental Cup."

My First Beach Experience

So I started playing some beach volleyball on May 5th ; on a road to my next Olympics. I jumped right into an intense two week try out against some of the top beach volleyball players in England. I had to adjust to the change in climate, and also the switch from indoor to beach. I had to get some “sand legs” as they put it. Moving quickly within the sand was no easy task, and I needed to adjust to 'the elements' - jumping less high and having factors like weather affect me. The six weeks of training were nothing compared to the years of experience our opponents would have, so we had to get up to a competitive level by speeding up the learning process and taking accountability for our own progress. CEV's continental Cup, hosted by England, was fast approaching so our coach, Kirk Pittman, attempted to cram in a training schedule with the necessary skills to be successful.
I was very impressed with how the Bournemouth Leaf Academy prepared the venue for the tournament. Various people joined together to build the sand courts we played on, and which the school would use for future development of young beach volleyball players. Engineering students worked to build the outside foundations of the court, and then athletes, coaches, and administrators used barrels and spades to even out the gravel and sand. It was a legacy in itself to see so many people working together to better the future of beach volleyball in England, a place where volleyball is still a rising sport. After building the venue the same people worked extremely hard over the weekend to make sure the CEV Continental Cup ran smoothly. Students were liaisons and ball boys, helping all the athletes with anything and everything. I have never seen so many members of a community come together to back up a lesser-known and lesser-supported sport, and I thus felt proud to be representing this avid community in the tournament.
In the last week of practice, our partners were selected, and I had the great honor of playing with beach volleyball Olympian, Zara Dampney. With her experience and guidance, I quickly learned how to take advantage of my mental and athletic strengths. We improved with each game, learning one another's skills and abilities. We were a little unseasoned at first because I hadn’t played in any competitive beach games before, and Zara had been in retirement for about a year. But after a hesitant start we quickly learned that we actually had a lot more potential than most people were expecting. We won all of our games on the opening day to secure a spot in the finals of the tournament, against a top European team. The next day after a good nights rest we played the top teams in the tournament. After winning the first one we found ourselves playing a golden match against the opposition's top team. In a nail-biting 3 setter we lost 18 to 16 after gaining match point multiple times. Our energy was high and we had family and friends cheering vibrantly throughout the stands. Our performance exceeded our expectations and I gained comfortability and confidence playing different shots and blocking in a variety of ways. Our game plan seemed to be working, but at the end of the day we made a few too many errors and didn’t pull through.
Although this wasn’t the end of the tournament I felt that it was our last one because I still can’t stop thinking about it. I am not good at handling losses, especially when I know we could have won and snatched up first place in our first tournament together. It was sorely disappointing, and what made it so different from an indoor loss was that my mistakes weighed more heavily on the game. I missed way too many serves, and I believe that cost us the game. However, there is strength in knowledge. With knowledge, there are no excuses, I can’t hide from the obvious and blatant fact that I need to do better. I may have played my best game yet, but I know I can do better. What excites me is that so many people have told me that they were so impressed with how we played, but I felt that we had more in us, and especially in my own game. I can do more, I have so much room for growth, and I am eager to show everyone how great I can be.

“you cannot afford to live in potential for the rest of your
life; at some point, you have to unleash the potential, and
make your move” – Eric Thomas

Dear Maria,

Sometimes people walk into your life for reasons you don’t realize until it’s too late. I wanted to write this blog to thank you, Maria, for being my inspiration and motivation. You have brought so much light into the lives of the people you have met through your energy and positivity, and I’m sure we all only wish we could be half the person you are.
 From the moment I met you, you always gave me compliments and encouraged me to go after my dreams. You always told me how proud you were that I got into an academically prestigious high school and was working towards attaining a collegiate-athlete scholarship. As a young girl, I always looked for a person that I could aspire to be like, and you were one of my greatest inspirations. I never had the chance to thank you for being the role model I’ve always wished for, and I am forever grateful for your presence in my life. I have always looked at you like a second mother to me, and I hope to repay you by living up to your expectations and dreams, as one of your many children.
I hope I can one day emulate your bubbly spirit. Looking back, you were always the loudest person in the Gym screaming for Kenny, even though sometimes you didn’t know what you were cheering about. I remember one time, you were yelling, “C’mon Kenny put your hands up! Hands up! Defense! Defense!” I couldn’t help chuckling, because Kenny had the ball in his hands and was actually playing offense. You asked me, “Why are you laughing, c’mon yell at Kenny, he needs his hands up!” So I just attempted to join in for the cheer, knowing that it wasn’t the right call. But after seeing Kenny playing even harder, I realized it wasn’t about yelling or screaming to tell Kenny what to do, it was really all about how to do it. I learned through your enthusiasm that bringing the right energy to whatever you do, even if you are doing the wrong thing, can make all the difference. Your smile and spirit was contagious and made everyone in the Gym more energetic and excited to play. Through your energy I have learned to take on every task with high spirits. Although I am not always eager to do things, I try to imagine you screaming in the stands for me, and it gives me a boost to accomplish my tasks.
I remember when you graduated from the College of Marin. Kenny sent me pictures from the graduation, and I was thrilled by the excitement and pride. I remember you telling me everyday how you wanted to see Kenny graduate, and how you wanted me to do the same. You were always so eager to remind me to keep working hard at school because, “no one can take a college degree away from you”. Seeing you work hard to graduate, despite all of the challenges you faced, inspired us all to do the same. We haven’t and will not give up on your dreams for us to graduate, because you have instilled in us the dedication and motivation to achieve academic and athletic excellence. I have recently heard that Kenny has received a full scholarship to go to a University in Utah. I honestly can’t help but tear up at writing this because I am so proud of him for accomplishing this goal. I know you are looking down on him and praising him for his diligence and growth, and I too look at him as an inspiration for myself. Although I am not always around to tell Kenny, I want to thank him too for being like a brother to me by always encouraging me to work hard in my sports and academics. Ever since I met him, Kenny has been stuck in the Gym only to work towards his basketball and scholar goals, and I can’t begin to express my happiness for him to finally get to where he’s always wanted to be. I want to thank you Maria, for being the guidance we have all needed to get to where we are today.
 When I first heard about your passing, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for not being closer to you and Kenny in the last months of your life. I was off trying to work at school and volleyball, and I never gave back to you for helping to motivate and inspire me. I didn’t realize how big of a part of my life you were until you were gone. I was angry that someone took your life and didn’t realize your value. I never had so much hate for gun violence until your passing because I felt that your life didn’t deserve to end with something so heartless and cold. You are the definition of livelihood, and your passing just never seemed possible. I felt guilty when looking at your open casket because I didn’t cry then. But after leaving the funeral I understood why; when I saw you lying there it was not the same Maria I had always known. It was a different person because the person I knew was saved in my memories with contagious smiles, unforgettable laughter, and enthusiasm. Through reflection of your story and Kenny’s story, I have learned the importance of appreciating the people in my life that have influenced me positively in various ways. I want to thank you, Maria, for showing me the importance of gratitude.
I don’t believe I would have ever made it to the Olympics without these lessons, or even built up the courage to transfer from San Jose State University to the University of Miami. You have taught me to aspire to get better in everything I do, and I hope I can make you proud. You are a mother, teacher, and friend, and you will never be forgotten. Thank you, Maria, because I couldn’t have gotten here without you.

Savanah Leaf