It's funny how when you travel to a new country, or live in a new environment, all the things you took for granted become wants and needs. Whether it's enjoying your breakfast while reading the morning paper (in English), grabbing your drink of choice at Starbucks, watching Husky football, asking for directions (in English), or enjoying peanut butter spread on toast. Oh peanut butter...now there is something I really do miss! It's thick texture, sweet taste and the creamy completeness it brings to a sandwich. You don't realize how much you miss peanut butter until you can't have it. It's got me bad. Peanut butter ceases to exist in Finland. I've found a condiment that pretends to be peanut butter, but it ain't fooling me!After living out my first full week in Finland, I already find myself missing friends and family. It's a strange feeling to not be able to hangout with my parents and bro, meet Ado for coffee in 15mins, make a late night run to QFC with Kat, talk about life with Amy, run Greenlake with Brian, sit in the basement with Jason or make up dances with Kelly. These are little things that we take for granted when surrounded by the ones we care about most. I don't like the idea of not being able to call those close to me to just say hi and talk about nothing. So whatever you are doing right now - stop it. Call someone you care about and tell them how much they mean to you.
That's not to say my teammates here aren't great. All the girls are very outgoing and friendly. They've made me feel comfortable on and off the court by speaking English as much as they can. It's actually quite impressive, as I've only been able to master words such as kiitos (thanks), moi (hello), tyttö (girl), hyvä (nice!), yo (yes), mennään (let's roll!), allettavaa (gross!) and a couple of swear words. My favorite phrase so far is moi tyttö (hey girl)! It's not a phrase that is used over here, but I've decided once I leave Jyväskylä at least half of the population will be using it! Other than the few words I have absorbed, I don't think Finnish will become a language I will ever master. It isn't like French and English where most words have some sort of connection. My teammates admit that it is one of the toughest dialects to learn, making the language barrier an amusing thing. Mikko conducts our practices in English, but sometimes will switch over to Finnish. This leaves Charlee, Lizanne and I making confused faces at one another. When he yells at us, we can't help but laugh out loud - not understanding a thing he is saying! Mikko will catch on a few seconds later and smile while we get everything sorted out.
Practicing two times a day, lifting twice a week, while also playing 1 or 2 games every weekend keeps us busy - which is nice. If we didn't have something to do everyday I think I might go crazy in this small town. It's a great city, but it doesn't quite have the character I was dreaming of. I often thought of playing somewhere like France where I could stroll down the cobblestone streets, buy a baguette from a street vendor, while practicing my French on the city folk. Wait, does that even exist? Ha ha, maybe next year...
When not doing something related to basketball, I find myself talking to friends and family on Skype, reading, studying for my Personal Trainer Certification or downloading recent TV episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, Smallville and Dancing with the Stars. I'm normally a day behind when they air - so don't tell me what happens or who gets voted off! My teammates and I also go downtown on the weekends, where it's neat to see the different nightlife (and dancing styles - wow!)
One of the things I want to do during my time over here is travel, and I already have some tentative plans. Our team has Nov. 29 - Dec 2 off. Since Lizanne is going to visit her boyfriend in Lithuania, Charlee and I were thinking of either flying to London, Stockholm or taking a boat cruise to Estonia. Estonia you say? Well apparently it's one of the prettiest areas in all of Europe...at least that's what the locals say. Any other suggestions? We can't go too far in our short time span. I'm also planning to travel for 5 days before I fly home at Christmas. The club releases us December 17th and flies us out, giving us 2 weeks off. However, I plan to defer my ticket until the 21st and fly out of Germany. I hope to meet up with a friend in Prague and then travel to Vienna, while finally making my way to Cologne by the 20th - where I have 2 tickets to the Spice Girls concert! I know right? I mean who wouldn't want to see that concert live in Europe? ☺ The only problem is I have to find someone to go with. I have quite a few friends overseas, but most are flying home before the 20th. Any takers?
Back to basketball - we had two tough games this weekend. The first was away against Helsinki YMCA. They are the only team in Finland that doesn't have any foreign players. Instead, they have 5 Finnish national team players. After a 3.5 hour bus drive and an extremely physical game, we found ourselves 3 point victors over this veteran laden, skilled club. They are one of the better teams in our league and were not supposed to lose to us. It was a great victory, as it will help the confidence of our younger players. Since I've been fortunate enough to play quite a bit of international basketball before becoming a pro, I was prepared to face physical basketball. Refs over here let almost anything go, but Helsinki was just a dirty team. There is a difference between aggressive and dangerous. I must have been purposely elbowed in the face at least 4 times (i love you mouth guard!), shoved hard in the back almost every time when jumping for an offensive rebound, had my arms pinned down while posting up and literally being football tackled away from the ball. All without ever receiving a pity whistle from the men in stripes. Its tough to keep your cool when the European players are allowed to abuse you, but if a foreigner (read: Canadian or American) so much as breathes on a European player, its an automatic foul followed by a stern warning. Lizanne had to get stitches in her head after the game, as she received an elbow to the temple with less than 20 seconds to play...wow!
On a brighter note, we did go 2-0 this weekend and our confidence is riding high right now. My body is battered in bruised, but it was all worth it for those two W's. With the day off tomorrow and a reason for celebration, Monty (American from the men's team) and Gavin (pro volleyball player, also Canadian) came over and we all toasted our successes as professionals in this foreign land.
sidenote1: Happy Birthday Kayla and Court! (and Merry Christmas KB...lol!)
sidenote2: Nice win Dawgs! (Husky WBball and Football - BOW DOWN!)