Family. Though only one word, it carries a lot of meaning. It’s hard being away from home for long periods of time, especially when from a family as close knit as mine.
Sometimes, we unintentionally take things in our lives for granted. In the offseason I think nothing of routine family dinners, meeting my dad at the gym, going out with my brother in Vancouver, or taking early morning walks through Steveston with my mom, while drinking coffee and chatting about life. These are some of the little things I miss when away, feeding the ever-present pangs of homesickness in Europe. However, I’m very thankful that I come from an extremely loving and supportive family that though far away, are in my thoughts everyday.
Whenever heading across the Atlantic for a new season abroad, I’m full of excitement and subconsciously repress the sadness of leaving my family. I know I’ll be back at Christmas, so the thought of being away doesn’t bother me much. However, once returning East after the holiday season, it’s the second half of the year that is always consumed by thoughts of home. Sometimes I find myself counting down the days until I board a plane to back to North America, whereas other days I can’t imagine not living the European lifestyle everyday.
This season has been unique. For the first time in my 3 years abroad, I really feel I have a family away from home. In my first 2 seasons, I became quite close with my (North) American counterparts on both the men’s and women’s teams. They essentially were my European family. We’d spend almost everyday hanging out, watching movies, celebrating or cooking dinner. As a unit, we reminded each other of home and kept homesickness somewhat at bay. However, as mentioned in previous posts, this season I’m the only (North) American on my team. Thus, when I first arrived in Luxembourg, I was extremely nervous - knowing I didn't have a teammate who was experiencing the same things I was while away from family.
Thankfully, these nerves were put to rest almost immediately. The Basket Esch community has far exceeded my expectations from a club. Not only have they welcomed me with open arms, but they have made me feel like one of their own. I’m a part of a family in Esch. Every team (men/women, basketball/handball), supports one another. Players and parents alike take care of me and look out for my best interests. It’s almost overwhelming to feel…so loved. Other American pro players in Luxembourg constantly tell me how lucky I am after they see and experience how close knit the Esch family is. Whenever I bring an American to the Esch gym/bar or visit with them after games, they witness first hand how friendly and genuinely caring the people of Esch are. This group of people constantly ask about past injuries and if there is anything I need. They ask about my brother and his university team and if my mom is excited to come visit at the end of April. They don’t forget details and always make an effort to be sure I’m enjoying my time in Luxembourg.
I’ve become close with my Luxembourgish teammates, their families and people surrounding the organization. However, I’ve become quite attached with the Slovakian family that owns/runs the bar in our gym. Dana and Otto are wonderful people. Caring, kind and thoughtful are just 3 of the characteristics that come to mind when I think of them. After practice I often sit in the bar to chat about a football match playing on TV or discuss how I spent my weekend. When I request it, they'll play my favorite songs over the bar’s speakers. They remembered my birthday and spoiled me with gifts. Pictures of their son and I are on display behind the bar – next to the Canadian shot glass I gave them at Christmas. When I injured my knee earlier in the season I stayed at their house, where they helped me through my physical setback. Between the 3 of us, none are fluent in any of each other’s languages (English, Slovakian, French, German, Luxembourgish) yet, we are still able to communicate well enough to share meaningful conversations and show our respect for one another. It’s really nice.
These two people hold a special place in my heart, but no one in Luxembourg does more so than their 10 year old son Ben. I love Ben. I don’t know any other way to put it. He’s my little brother. He’s at the gym almost everyday and brings a smile to my face the moment he tries to trip me or scare me from behind a door. We shoot hoops, joke around and tease each other while speaking in our own mixed language. He attends almost all my games and in warm-up I always look for him in the crowd to exchange the thumbs up sign. I watch as many of his games as I can and like a proud sister, cheer loudly when he does something great on the court. He’s befriended my American friends, so much so that when in Esch, they ask where he is and make sure to ruffle his hair when he’s around. Though Ben and I don’t share a common language, he’s always sure to bring up Washington or Canada in our conversations just to make me smile. Of course he could never take the place of my (real) brother (Kyle), but he’s mon petit frère. We have a strong, mutual bond that I’m very thankful for. He’s a great kid and the thought of perhaps never seeing him again when I depart at the end of the season makes me feel ill…
Basketball Update: With no games scheduled Easter weekend, my friend Jordan and I took a road trip to Munich, Germany. On our short vacation we were able to visit Neuschwanstein Castle (the inspiration behind the Disney’s sleeping beauty castle), Dachu Concentration Camp and the city of Munich. It was a fabulous trip full of good food and boisterous beer halls! The following week I played in the All-Star game which, as always, was a fun-filled, lighthearted event. The attendance was close to 2,000, packing Dudelange’s gym to standing room only, which made playing that much more fun. Sunday we began the second round of playoffs. Winning, we guaranteed ourselves a spot in the league semi-finals (even though there are 4 games left to play). Ugly and turnover riddled, we managed to pull out a 14-point victory. I played terrible, but hit 70% of my 18(!) attempted FT’s to fill up the stat sheet.