As summer turned to fall and the warm weather started to chill, I once again found myself packing my life into 2 bags. Another signed contract, another new team and another 7 months in a foreign land.
This is my life in a nutshell. And I love it. I love change. I love meeting new people. I love assimilating to new cultures and learning about different parts of the world as I travel it. I’m fortunate that my job takes me different places and that I get to experience new things everyday. At times it’s tough and can be lonely, but those moments are few and far between. For the most part, I wake up every morning excited to see what awaits and what I will discover that day.
Preparing to leave this season was different than the past 2. I wasn’t nervous. I was just ready to go. It was that time of year. As I set foot on the plane I had only one regret and that was that I didn’t get to spend my last days at home with my parents. As fate would have it, they were traveling Australia - while I was signing a contract, jamming my bags full of necessities and jumping on a plane to another continent.
The 9-hour flight was quite uneventful, other than being trapped in a window seat next to two very large men. Having to go the bathroom more than once, I decided to pass on drinks. I didn’t have the heart to wake them or negotiate room out of my small crevasse. Once landing in Amsterdam, I set foot to my final gate and prepared for the flight to Luxembourg; a quick hour on a 20-seat “city hopper.” Never a fan of small planes, I gritted my teeth as we bounced through the air, exhaling with relief when the wheels finally hit the pavement.
While the plane was descending into Luxembourg City (the largest city in the country with approximately 80,000 people), I found myself looking out the window searching for the downtown core. Turns out, I was looking at it! I’ve been here less than a week, but have quickly learned that just like on a map, everything is small in Luxembourg – even the ‘big’ city!
Collecting my bags, I walked into the arrivals hall hoping someone would recognize me and be there to pick me up. Sure enough the team’s secretary, Pit, welcomed me with a big smile. With my bags packed in his car, I was off to my new life in Esch-sur-Alzette. Conversing most of the ride, I learned that everything in Luxembourg is ’20-30 minutes away.’ The country is only 82km (51 miles) long and 57km (35 miles) wide, making a commute anywhere fairly easy. So easy, that people from France, Belgium and even Germany cross the borders everyday to work in Luxembourg. Approximately 40% of the people that live in Luxembourg are foreigners. An amazing statistic if you think about it.
After signing my playing license at Federation Headquarters, it was off to my apartment to settle in. This season I have my own flat and it’s really nice; queen size bed, washing machine/dryer, entertainment center and fully loaded kitchen. Everything I could need or want is available to me. On top of that, I found my fridge fully stocked, bed made up and every room squeaky clean. Very professional. With my bags unloaded, Pit handed me a set of keys and pointed out the window to my car. Like everything in Luxembourg, it’s small – only rivaling a Smart Car in size. Everyone stares with jealousy when I drive around town in my Renault Twingo… Thank goodness I’m not a couple inches taller, or I might not fit! Nevertheless, it gets me from point A to point B, so it’s all I need.
As Pit left, he reminded me that practice was in 2 hours. I always find it funny that no matter where you are in Europe, you’re always asked to practice within hours of landing. Forget the day of travel you just endured, the fatigue that is setting in and jet lag that won’t dissipate – get out there on the court and perform! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger I guess… After 45-minute power nap and a jolt of caffeine, I mustered enough energy work up a sweat and meet my new team.
Before arriving in Luxembourg, my biggest concern was not having an American teammate to converse and share the experience with. The past 2 seasons I have had awesome American/Canadian teammates to rely on and go through the adventure with, two of which are still close friends of mine to this day. How would I manage this season without someone in the same position? I can’t really explain how fortunate I am. Some players go abroad and have horrific experiences - unprofessional organizations, insufficient living conditions, broken contracts and teammate segregation of foreigners and nationals. However, I’ve been lucky to have only been in great situations. As stated earlier, though I’ve been here since Tuesday, I can say this club ranks high as far as professionalism. I know will be treated well with Basket Esch. If I had any worry about not having an American by my side this year, it was quickly erased when I met my new team, club administrators and people surrounding the organization. Everyone I have met has been SO friendly and considerate. It’s almost overwhelming. Sometimes it’s tough adjusting to a new environment, especially when you don’t know anyone and don’t have any friends. It sounds corny, but I immediately felt welcomed and that people cared about me. Though shy at first, my teammates and I quickly developed a rapport that had me joking and speaking to them in fragmented French. The team is divided in the sense that including me, there are 6 ‘older’ girls ranging from 24-31, with the rest being very young (ages 16-20 years old). This is fairly typical of most European clubs and I don’t think it will be a problem within our team. So far, we get along quite well.
The ‘older’ girls are awesome. We hit it off right away and they’ve already invited me to various events, meals and friendly gatherings. I’ve met many people in my short time here and already see my social calendar filling up. I couldn’t be more grateful. From handball games to Oktoberfest and trips to Luxembourg City with fast friends, I’m finding myself busy, and it’s only just begun…
Basketball Update: Just 4 days in and Basket Esch has its first victory, a 90-66 decision over Amicale Steinsel. It was a good win for us and important for team chemistry. Since I’m new to the team, we need to get comfortable playing with one another. I thought we did a good job of that and after working out a few kinks in practice this week, I think the team has a lot of potential - it’s exciting! Stat line: 22pts 14rbs 5stls and most importantly, the ‘W!’