It’s funny how sometimes, timing is everything. I made it no secret that this season in Ferrol was not the most enjoyable. Unfortunately, playing in Spain will always have an asterisk beside the memory. Despite residing in one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world and playing in one of the most respected women’s basketball leagues internationally, I never had the chance to appreciate the country the way I wanted to.
Basketball is only a fraction of the life of an overseas professional. With so many differences and excessive amounts of downtime, it’s essential to meet people and make friends in order to integrate into the culture. In my previous 3 seasons I was very successful at all of the above and flourished not only on the basketball court but, in my social environments. Here in Spain, my social life outside basketball was almost non-existent. The reason: team chemistry. A professional athlete’s network abroad stems from the relationships you develop with your teammates and those associated with club. Sadly, the foreigners (non-Spanish players) were alienated from the beginning for some inexplicable reason. Though I tried to integrate and associate with the girls on my team, they did not want any outsiders to be a part of their group. The foreign imports were treated terribly by our Spanish counterparts, to the point that I sometimes thought I was in some sort of high school nightmare. It was brutal. Though speaking Spanish is not my strong point, I understand it at a very high level. Imagine how it felt sitting in the locker room, riding the bus and running up and down the court everyday, constantly hearing my teammates talk about me (and Jhasmin) while we were right beside them. I’m not stupid. But, I’m also not a confrontational person. With age and experience I’ve learned how to deal with and manage various types of personalities. Instead of being goaded into being 'the problem', I chose to ignore these ridiculous girls and the uncomfortable situations they tried to put me in. I did my job everyday and then made sure not to associate with these teammates off the court. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this. It was…sad.
When your teammates are not your friends, it’s very difficult to branch out, associate and build relationships with others in a foreign land. That’s not to say I didn’t try or it cannot be done. However, when you do not see familiar faces everyday, it makes befriending someone much tougher. My first step towards fixing this problem was connecting with our men’s team - which ended up being more difficult than anticipated. Most did not speak any English, they practice at another gym and there were no American imports. With one strike on the board, my next step was looking up English speaking consulates in Ferrol (UK, CAN, USA, AUS, etc). I was ecstatic to discover that there was in fact an Irish office in town. Entertaining the thought of being able to hang out with other Anglophones, I visited the consulate with high hopes, only to have them come crashing down. Only one person worked there. He was 65+ and despite holding an Irish passport, barely spoke a word of English. Strike 2. Starting to feel the inklings of failure creep in, I refused to give up and soldiered on. On campus at the University of Ferrol one day, I decided to inquire if there were any Americans studying abroad. Once again, I came up empty handed. My final option was spent searching the Internet and completing random searches on facebook. This too was unsuccessful. Ferrol is a small city and very few people have it listed it as their ‘current city.’ Every name that did come up was definitely Spanish. Luck was not on my side. Extinguishing the last of my options, I accepted that for the most part, I’d be keeping myself entertained for the next 8 months.
Before our last home game of the season, I encountered a cruel twist of fate - meeting 4 Americans during my last week and a half in Ferrol. Not only that, they had been here since October!!! Are you kidding me?! Apparently there are 10 in the city teaching English/learning Spanish at a small college on the outskirts of Ferrol. Not only were they all SUPER cool, but 2 lived a few blocks from my apartment! How does that happen? How did we never bump into each other?! Of course they also frequented the same bars I could be found at on the weekends and cafes I often drank coffee at during the week…unbelievable. Not understanding how we never crossed paths, I spent my last days hanging out with each of them in various settings throughout the week - dinner, coffee, drinks, homemade meals… We all had quite a lot in common and enjoyed doing the same types of things. One of the guys even attended my last home game to cheer me on. What could have been…
Though I’m more than excited to leave Ferrol, I’m kind of sad that fate was so unkind in its timing. I think what is most upsetting is the fact that I did make an effort to get out there and meet people, but due to an extremely bad stroke of luck, I found them too late. I’m certain my experience in Ferrol would have been much different had I connected with this great group of people in October. Ironically, I probably would have loved my time Galicia.
Nevertheless, this is life. These kinds of experiences make me more resilient. The fact is, life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. It’s something that I can’t dwell upon, I just have to be thankful that I was able to meet these people and we were able to enjoy each other’s company in the short time we had together.
That being said, my 4th season abroad is FINALLY over. We finished in 6th place (out of 14) in the LF2 ‘A’ Division with a 16-10 record, missing playoffs. I leave today for a 9-day trip throughout Spain (Madrid, Granada, Seville, Cordoba) with a friend before flying home April 28th. Once settled at home in Vancouver, I plan on posting my annual pros/cons list about the season and share thoughts on my post season trip through Spain.
Until May, Hasta Luego!
Sidenote: These photos were take from a day trip to Doniños, a beach 30 minutes outside of town. It was a beautiful day, but very cold and windy!