Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ohhhhhhhhh My Hoofers!

Just FYI - I'm watching Scoobie Doo in French right now and IT.  IS.  AWESOME.

After walking everywhere so much this week in my flip flops, last night the right side of my foot started to throb.  I should've thrown an ice pack on it right away, but instead I shrugged it off and decided a night of rest will probably do enough good for it to feel better in the morning...  WRONG!  How many times do I have to learn this lesson?!?!?  When it hurts, put an ice pack on it!  It makes me want a version of this Portlandia skit for injured athletes:

Ahahaha...  PUT.  AN.  ICE.  PACK.  ON.  IT.

Today, the President accompanied me to see my dream apartment, I finally got my FIVB international transfer number, and started my temporary long-stay visa paperwork for France.  All this bureaucratic bull on top of my nagging foot pain kinda put a kink in my outlook on the day.  So, while Laurent made lunch, I blasted some of my favorite music: King Crimson's Walking On Air, Erik Satie's Je Te VeuxSimon and Garfunkle's Greatest Hits, and this Bell Chant.

The music sparked a deep conversation about the incredible life of Laurent Cahu.  We ate and talked.  He's been really great about opening up his home and sharing everything with me...  He's also been a very  patient French teacher at every opportunity he gets.  He takes the time to explain expressions and words to me - for example, well, every bad word in the French language, slang for "cops", the word "mothballs", etc.  Ahaha!  :)

I can't say my foot or my mood had fully recovered by the time we rolled up to the gym, HOWEVER, by the time I laced up my shoes, every thought from my day just completely faded away into team thoughts.  Volleyball practice has a way of quieting the mind that I just love so much...  Once that ball is in the air, the team is all that matters...  A lot of the credit for this feeling goes to the coach of course.  She's doing a really good job setting the tone, working us out, and starting to get us to think as one.  Oh man, just typing this gives me such a good feeling!  Love my team!!  Love this sport!!

The Head Coach gave me a lift back to Laurent's place.  It was a real privilege getting a chance to talk to her.  She told me her volleyball history (she's my hero) and I told her about how much I love hot yoga.  She said that if you buy the TGV tickets for Tours-Paris far enough in advance it can be as cheap as 20 euros!!!!  I said, "GET OUT!"  I'm stoked...  This means that I can go practice bikram in Paris - maybe as often as once a month.  This is great news!  Can't wait!

Opening the door to the house was like walking into a scene from Ratatouille - ha! - Laurent had cooked up a specialty of his, a very meaty sausage and vegetable stew.  So, I made an exception and tasted it.  Delicious!  This is the first pork I've had since May!  I sauteed some zucchini on the side and ate while icing my foot and then almost fell asleep on the couch.  So beat!!  Bed now.

More later!

Our Schedule!

Here it is:

We're Reveil Sportif de Saint-Cyr!  Yay!

... But Who's Keeping Score?

I'll admit I've got a reputation for keeping the wrong score in my own favor at home.  Some people [ahem/ahem/Billy/achoo/Gesundheit] call it "cheating".  I simply call it keeping score.

Anyway, I've been keeping this score sheet in my head since I got here.  I hope this doesn't make me seem ungrateful, because I really have been enjoying every single minute here... Just - part of that is keeping score, that's all...

Bay Area        Tours
bikram yoga 1 0
cappuccino* 1 0
coffee 1 1
wifi on train 1 0
diversity 1 0
farmer's markets 1 0
professional volleyball team 0 1
affordable organic food 0 1
dog shit everywhere** 0 1
easy public transportation*** 0 1
bike routes 0 1
nail salons**** 1 0
yoga studios 1 0
food 1 1
volleyball fans 0 1
affordable housing 0 1
total 9 9

*  France does NOT GET the cappuccino.  When I get a camera, I plan on devoting an entire series of blog posts to the hilarity that they call cappuccino here.  When asked about it, they will say - that is the french cappuccino.  It is sad.  Italy needs to start a "Save Good Coffee From Becoming A Bad French Cappuccino" campaign ASAP.

**  Dog shit.  Ahhhh, France!  La merde everywhere.  Nothing against dogs (obviously, le petit chien can't do anything about his/her bodily needs), but dog owners leave their dogs' shit just lying around everywhere: sidewalks, streets, pathways in parks, you name it!  It is part of DAILY life here stepping in dog doo doo.

*** Sorry, BART, it's not that you're not easy, it's just that you don't connect to any major transportation routes easily from MY house.  The train/bus stations here are in the center of town.  Everything revolves around them...  BART, I love you, but you've still got a long way to go (literally).

****  I wouldn't have even noticed this three years ago and I'm not saying this is a good thing, but there are 20 nail salons on Park Street alone.  There are ZERO here.  Like, none.  I haven't seen one.

So, it's a dead tie right now 9 to 9 (including the nails salons and poodle poop), but who's keeping score?  :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Yoga In Europe

Maribor, Slovenia

Hotel Habakuk
11AM everyday
Language: Italian*
Level of Difficulty: Easy flow, poses, breathing exercises, and meditation.  Level was tailored to the group.
Location: Outside of town.  Best if you're already nearby (Ex Hotel Arena, Hotel Dras, or Hotel Habakuk).

*Teacher speaks five languages fluently and customizes her instructions based on the group.

Vienna, Austria

Bikram Yoga Wien Schottering
Daily Schedule Online Here
Language: English and German.
Level of Difficulty:  It's your basic bikram beginner series.  26 postures, 105 degrees, 45% humidity.  So, in other words, it's hell here too.  ;)
Location: Downtown Vienna.  Easy access to metro and bus lines.  15 minute walk from the center of town.

Tours, France

Ella Fit
Tuesday 9:30AM, Thursday 6:15PM, Friday 6:15PM
Language: French
Level of Difficulty:  Advanced, but not cardiovascularly. This class was difficult on a metaphysical level*
Location:  Tours proper, but more specifically, Les Halles.

*Can't quite describe it...  This teacher was extremely in touch with the intangible.  He really encouraged us to LET GO and explore our curiosity and acceptance of the unknown.  He kept saying stuff like "sense this, experience it as if it's for the first time and the last time", and we'd be doing something as simple as ankle circles.  Ahaha!  This was really good for me, but I miss the challenge of Bikram.  I'm gonna have to get into Paris very soon...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Good Finds and First Official Practice

Today, I set out on foot again, this time really determined to find this farmer's market and post my personal chef flyers around Tours.

Good finds:

1.  Simply - grocery store right on the bus line where I know I can buy Nutella, the coffee capsules I've been using non-stop at the house, and also price out shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste against the organic brands here.

2.  Farmer's market - one farmer!  That's right.  The farmer's market was comprised of one farmer.  I bought six apricots, four carrots, two lemons, two gigantic summer squash (one green, one yellow), and a bunch of chard (which would spend the rest of the afternoon wilting in my bag unfortunately) - all for just five euros!!!!  We spent a while talking and he told about his family (his wife and daughter) and how he grows his produce.  Really beautiful stuff.  I gave him one of my personal chef flyers.  He said his wife works on the radio and that he can pass that along to her.  Woohoo!

3.  Bike shop - I tried out a bike that was only 93 euros, but it was too small for me and the handle bars were all whack.  Everyone likes to ride upright here...  Bleh!  In one shop I met a guy from Poland (whose household employs a personal chef from Thailand!!)...  He works as a specialist in the whisky and spirits industry.  He's in Tours learning French and researching the wine industry.  Not a bad lead...  I gave him a flyer!

4.  APARTMENT!  There is a really, really perfect apartment for rent in Les Halles (an amazing area on the perimeter of downtown Tours) that I checked out today.  The manager showed me around and it really seems like exactly what I need (except that there's no bedding, cookware, laundry, etc., hmmm...)

I returned home triumphant today.  After a week here, I finally feel like I'm organizing my life and settling into France in my own lazy-American-accent-driven sorta way.  :)

I went shopping to the little organic market and got home at around 4pm ready to cook!  On the menu today?  Quinoa with almonds and raisins, sauteed salt and pepper carrots, and roasted garlic and rosemary summer squash (in hindsight, I'll admit I should've roasted the carrots and sauteed the squash...).  I guess they have a convection oven here, so it cooked the shit outta that squash in twenty minutes flat!  We didn't eat until after practice (11pm-ish) anyway, so I planned on blaming any faults on the microwave...  Hehe!

Tonight, was our first practice with the entire team.  There were ten girls in all.  Maggy sat us down all together.  We introduced ourselves and listened to her philosophy.  Looking around, it felt like a team we can invest in and be proud of!  If we miss a practice, the girls agreed, we have to bring snacks for the entire team (Isn't that awesome?!?!  I love them!).  I have been tasked with coming up with a pre- and post-practice cheer for our team - OH MY GOD THE PRESSURE!!!!  Anyway, we had a hard practice (a lot of running and passing and jumping).  I'm going to be sore as hell tomorrow and I can't even imagine how the other girls must be feeling right now...  Ey!

Here are a couple of fun words I've encountered recently and their meanings:
piquer - to sting/to be spicy hot (like food)
grignoter - to snack
clignoter - to blink
une cloque - a blister
la sueur - sweat
respirer - to breathe
transpirer - to sweat
s'égoutter - to drip
pleuvoir - to rain
la tonnerre - thunder
le coup de foudre - lightning

...and YAY, yoga tomorrow, so I'm quick studying body parts vocab - you had it coming!  ;)
to stretch - s'étendre
head - la tête
back - le dos
neck - le cou
chest - la poitrine
shoulder - l'épaule
shoulder blade - l'omoplate
arm - le bras
armpit - l'aiselle
elbow - le coude
wrist - le poignet
hand - la main
finger - la doigt
stomach - le ventre
belly button - le nombril
hip - les hanches
leg - la jambe
knee - le genou
calf - le mollet
ankle - la cheville
foot - le pied
arch - la voute plantaire
heel - le talon

That's all I can think of for now!  More later!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Musee des Beaux-Arts

I never made it to the market on Sunday!

Today, I set off on foot to find a farmer's market.  I didn't get lost per se (haha!).  I just went in a direction and tried to take in all the details (the sights and sounds and smells) of my surroundings.  There's something about the way laundry hangs out to dry here, the way hedges grow behind mossy stone walls, the narrowness of the streets and the way they weave through the town that just gives the impression that the people came first, then the homes, then the roads.  I can't quite describe the architecture, but it's uniquely French.  Structures are built with a concrete creativity.  The patterns in the bricks, the contrasting colors of the shutters and the doors, and the artistry of the rot-iron fences display restraint, but still seem at ease with the cycles of natural life around them: the rust, the rot, the browning branches...  It's hard to put into words, but I will take some pictures eventually to show you what I mean.  I already have a portfolio of entrances coming together in my head.  Blah blah blah there is beauty everywhere here blah blah blah!

I ended up snaking through the circuitous streets and staircases of Saint Cyr only to arrive smack dab in front of an organic beauty salon that I google mapped yesterday as a possible place to ask about hot yoga.  It was closed - boo!  So, I crossed the bridge into the center of town and stumbled into the Musée des Beaux-Arts.  For five euros I was able to roam freely through the gardens and up and down the magnificent staircases of this impeccable building.  I admired the permanent installations, but really enjoyed the exposition and the artwork of Olivier Debré.

This guy is a serious PIMP.  He paints outdoors with a broom!  I whispered words to myself such as, "formidABle, SUper, GENial" and really meant them.  There were maybe seven or eight huge wall-sized abstractions of emotion and poetry on canvas.  In the same room with his work was a mobile hanging over a brightly painted piano.  I walked meditatively through this room for a while thinking deeply about Billy, his work, and our life together.  I can't say I wasn't moved to tears...  :)

The museum closes down for lunch at 12:30pm so when the clock struck noon, the volunteers were almost shooing me out the door.  Haha!  Maybe, also, I looked a little lost or out of place in my gym clothes, but I seriously got asked 3 or 4 times if I was looking for the exit - LOL.  I bought another batch of postcards (which went out already) and asked at the front desk of the museum if there was a farmer's market (un marché en plein air) in the area that day.  Snobby pants said it wasn't until tomorrow...  I spent the next four hours wandering the cobble stone streets of the artist quarter.

Good finds:

-Creperie - Seriously smells like heaven...  I can't wait to go!
-Printshop - YES!  Finally printed/photocopied/prepared flyers for being a personal chef.  
-Women's fitness center - Ella Fit! - where they're giving me my first yoga class FREE on Wednesday

Made my way back home by bus, and, in the evening, met with the entire staff of the Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire Volley Ball Club.  The leadership asked me to coach the men's team.  The two guys I've met so far on the team really love the sport of volleyball, so I'm looking forward to it being a fun and rewarding experience.

First practice with the entire N2 team tomorrow...  More later!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Open Air Market

Sunday morning!  The sun is shining!

Here's my vocabulary lesson for the day!

Vocabulaire Alimentaire:

water - l'eau
sparkling water - l'eau gaseuse
orange juice - le jus d'orange
coffee - le café
milk (whole, skim) - le lait (entier, écrémé)
wine - le vin
salt - le sel
pepper - le poivre
basil - le basilic
ginger - le gingembre
cinnamon - la cennelle
oregano - l'origan
parsley - le persil
dill - l'aneth
cilantro - la coriandre
mint - la menthe
vanilla - la vanille
garlic - l'ail
honey - le miel
sugar - le sucre
bread - le pain
eggs - les oeufs
granola - le muesli
yogurt - le yaourt
rice cake - la galette de riz
grapes - les raisins
raisins - les raisins secs
apple - la pomme
pear - la poire
peach - la pêche
lemon - le citron
lime - le citron vert
avocado - l'avocat
beet - la betterave
corn - le maïs
lettuce (iceburg, romaine, butter) - la salade (la laitue iceburg, romaine, batavia)
peppers (green, red, yellow...) - les poivrons (verts, rouges, jaunes...)
potato - la pomme de terre
spinach - les épinards
rice - riz
pasta - le pâte
almonds - les amandes
hazlenuts (very popular here) - les noisettes
walnuts - les noix
organic - bio

Words that are the same (or close enough that you can just get away with saying them in English with a strong French accent - haha!):
apricot - l'abricot
banana - la banane
carrot - la carotte
cereal - la céréale
cumin - le cumin
nutella - la nutella
onion - l'oignon
orange - l'orange
quinoa - le quinoa
sauce - la sauce
tofu - le tofu
tomato - la tomate

Things I haven't seen yet, but I want to know how to say as soon as I do see them (haha!):
swiss chard - la bette
brussel sprouts - les choux de Bruxelles
sweet potatoes - le patate douce


peanuts - les cacahuètes
peanut butter - le buerre de cacahuète
pineapples - les ananas
grapefruit - le pamplemousse

In general, I've been very satisfied with the quality of the food here in France!  The organic market down the street has tortilla chips and avocados!  :)

Anyways.....   Today, I'm working on a flyer to advertise myself as a personal chef in some of the more hoity-toity areas around downtown Tours.  Ideally, I'll find some rich artists who can pay me handsomely to make delicious organic vegetarian meals for them a couple times a week.  

Oh oh - the title - today is the open air market in downtown Tours, so I'm off to go scope out some good spots to post my flyers next week.  

That's all for now!  More later!

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Yesterday I jogged a 5k with my bro here.   After that, he took me shopping to an organic market where I spent around 22 euros of my own money on a few days worth of food (even though the president is putting me up/putting up with me (haha!) I think I can manage to contribute a loaf of bread and some peaches here and there).  When we got home my bro left to kick off his Friday night and I attacked the kitchen in full force!  I made a garlicky quinoa tabouli with raisins, almonds, tomatoes, onions and mushrooms.  Mmmm...

The president and his girlfriend took me to a BBQ at the team captain's house for dinner, so I brought the dish along to share and everyone seemed to like it okay...  Even though they know I'm having difficulty integrating with my level of French as it is right at this moment, everyone was really nice!  The captain of the team has two children and a beautiful house with a garden outside of Tours.  They showed me a real French meal, with an aperitif, starter, main course (vegetarians get crudites), cheese, pie, digestif - voila!  We dined under a wide French sunset and then the group talked and laughed until dawn.  I mostly listened and tried to pick out as many words I could (not easy!)...  This was my first real language challenge and I can't say with confidence at this point that I passed.  One on one I'm okay for now, but when the conversation is moving along quickly in a group I'm not confident enough in my ability to speak concisely within the context of the conversation to just jump in.  I'll be honest - I ended up being the quiet creeper at the end of the table who everyone could poke fun at for dozing off.  In any case, they had fun and we made it home safely, so all is well.  What a night!

Today, I went online to search for apartments and to contact some local cyclists about maybe getting a bike and latching onto some group rides.  I NEED TO RIDE, but it just rained a little and it smells amazing, so maybe I'll run instead.  That's all for now...  More later!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

First Practice

Welp!  After our first practice, it's clear that our Head Coach has her work cut out for her.

For two solid hours straight we focused on getting in quality touches.  Coach said no jumping at this practice, which reminded me of some good advice Naoto gave me when I was going to try out for the dream team in 2012 - "stay grounded".   :)  I didn't jump once!  Haha!  Oh, and my serving looked a lot better today (thanks to Coach's focus points)!  For a lot of reasons (but mostly to protect the privacy of my coach and teammates) I don't want to write too much here...  Coach stopped us about fifteen minutes early to do partner stretching and massages.  A great way to end the team's first week back!  So far, I feel great about the team, the work, and the community.  Everyone is really really nice and hard working!  Possibly my favorite combination!!

Vocabulaire du Volley Ball

ball - le ballon
net - le filet
court - le terrain
team - l'équipe
coach - l'entraineur
game - le match
practice - l'entrainement
serve - le service
to pass - balancer
to set - passer
setter - passeur/passeuse
to hit - attaquer
hitter - attaqueur
to block - bloquer
to go block - aller au bloque
to dive - plonger
to jump - sauter
in - dedans
out - dehors
short - court
deep - long
mine - laisse
sorry - désolée
good play - bien joué

Linguistically, I'm following most of what is said around me, but when I try to chime in, all I do is joke and my vocabulary and grammar is all wrong, so I'm getting a lot of blank stares - which I'm kinda used to anyway - Haha!  I'm gonna keep at it...  Right now, I'm just reading everything I can get my hands on and enjoying my silence.  I've always envied introverts - so I'm mimicking a little bit of that and trying to observe and listen more: skills I've been wanting to hone more for about as long as I can remember!  :)

There are still some players on vacation, so we won't have the whole team until our next practice on Tuesday night.  We have private meetings with the Head Coach (Maggy Paes - yes, she's a badass - google her!) on Monday.  

More later!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Power Animals

This is a weird little video trial run for this blog...  An introduction to the puppy (Vance) at the president's house and a little spider (my power animal!!!!!) who weaved a web in my window last night to wish me good luck for today - our first practice!

You might need to turn up the volume...  Lemme know about the quality and if you can hear it okay??

To All the Long Shots!

Music Credits:  SF based Mahgeetah off their "State" EP "Long Shot", Video Credits: Ryan Ovadia 

Day 13 - My Lucky Day

Today, I accepted an offer to play for Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire Volleyball in Tours, France.  It feels a little like jumping off a cliff because I haven't even gotten used to the light switches being on the outside of the doors!!  Ahahaha!

My to do list:

1.  Cancel flight - Sorry, Amsterdam...  Until we meet again!
2.  Cancel phone service - Nice knowing you Verizon Wireless...
3.  Defer student loans - ACS, please burn to the ground.  ;)
4.  Find a yoga studio in Tours.
5.  Find an apartment in Tours (Yes, in that order...  ha!).
6.  Fill out a copious amount of forms for visas, USA Volleyball fees, insurance, etc.
7.  Find a side job (so I can eat like an athlete, not just some regular Jean-Paul off the street)!
8.  Get more clothes shipped from home so I don't look like a schmuck!
9.  Send a batch of post cards - this time - to all my enemies...  Ahahah - jk jk!!
10.  Keep working hard...  cause that shit works!  :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 12 - I Had a Dream

I awoke in a wet warmth on the pavement outside a Target store. When I came to, there were workers spraying psychedelic graffiti art of targets all over the walls outside, turning doors into walls, and covering up secret compartments… A sliding glass door opened nearby so I wrapped myself in a thick, rough white cotton blanket and ran deep into the hospital-white hallway. I sensed some movement behind me, so I dodged into a women’s bathroom. There I found a locker room and a shower where many women of all ages, shapes, and sizes were engaging in what looked like post-game clean up. I joined them and nobody noticed that I didn’t belong (including me). When we were ready, the owner of Strauss Carpets called us into an adjacent room to talk to us. As we entered the room I noticed the girls’ faces more… Some were plump with darker skin and hair, some were very young and skinny, some were older with wrinkled leathery skin and light hair. The owner of Strauss carpets, a short, fit older man with tanned skin and white hair, looked at us through wire glasses and spoke in a confident tone. The team had a tentative, scrutinizing air... I forget what he said, but he was looking right at me and I was immediately overwhelmed with the thought “I’m here because of his generosity”. My eyes welled up with joy and shame and fear and I couldn’t help it – the tears just flowed…

I woke up in the spare room where I slept last night - sunlight pouring in through the window. My whole upper body was covered in sweat and the deep sense of gratitude from my dream was still strongly present in my mind and body. The generosity of others has brought me this far. I wouldn’t be here without my incredible friends and family. I can’t believe this is happening… I tryout tonight. Wish me luck!


I ate breakfast at the house and then spent the day sight seeing in Tours. It really is beautiful here and there is so much that reminds me of home... Seriously, don't laugh, but I was super stoked every time I saw a gay couple (like absurdly glad that people are out here). Haha! I walked to the City Hall where there was an exhibition on the new tramway they've built here. Cool artist, Daniel Buren, conceptualized the whole project and he has some amazing ideas. You can read about it here:

I checked out the town, the shops, the markets, and the churches. At 8pm, I met six girls on the current team and started working out with them. Everyone is white, which bums me out a little, but at least we're all different ages (13-36!!!!)... And, yes, you probably guessed it already, but I was, in fact, aced by that thirteen-year-old!

Seriously though, I hit well, showed off my fitness and my attitude, but didn't exactly give them the best example of my serve-receive passing and serving. The coach is SO AMAZING. She's perhaps the fittest fifty year old I've ever met. Very even keel. Knows her shit... I know I would be so so lucky to be coached by her. After practice, I shared a snack and a drink with the leadership and gave them my terms: an apartment, a bike, health insurance, visas, USA Volleyball fees, a salary, and possibly a ticket home. They seem interested in my ability to coach. The work required would be two practices and one game a week until May of next year. Obviously, I would have to put the extra work in to improve my game. They are going to counter offer tomorrow before the last train back to Amsterdam...

Very exciting! More later...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 11 - The KLM Counter

Welp. I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not single enough, young enough, quick enough, strong enough... The reality is that I’m supposed to be getting on a plane home right now because I wasn’t good enough in anyone’s opinion to play professionally on this continent with any success… and let’s be real here. I’m not. I’m not good enough. I know what good looks like and I’m not it!!!!

But life, it seems, is not that simple. I’ve found that if I keep pushing, negotiating, thinking positively about my future, and meditating on the things I want come into being around me, the hard work works. And I’m not fooling around when I say that sometimes the hardest part has been letting go of what is.

… Because so what!?!? Maybe I’m not good enough, but I’m not going to let some stupid idea my brain made up hold my body back from what I know I’m capable of: working harder and getting better. The blind faith of others and a few bold decisions have brought me to the KLM ticket counter in Amsterdam this morning… I’m postponing my flight home until the 22nd and catching a train to Tours, France where I will attend a pre-season practice to tryout for a team there.

If the coach likes what she sees, I could be spending the next nine months incubating this hungry little caterpillar into a freaking beautiful volleyball monarch butterfly!!!

Stepping off the train in Saint-Pierre des Corps, I’m very travel weary. I stink and my shoulders are aching from carrying around these two big huge bags all day. I barely made my connection in Paris. The metro has changed since the last time I was here – there are no longer attendants selling tickets. It’s all electronic… Had I taken any longer to figure that godforsaken machine out it would’ve been a 50 euro train ticket from Montparnasse to Tours down the drain! Close one.

Finally settling into my seat for the last leg of my journey from South Paris to Tours was SUCH A RELIEF. Neither the Thalys nor the TGV had electricity or internet!!!! I guess we are spoiled with the trains in the states??!? This is news to me… I guess I’ve always generalized about the trains in Europe – thinking they’re the best. Even though I felt like I was a little stuck in the Middle Ages without the world wide web, I was able to utilize those six virtually uninterrupted hours to finally write and stamp the post cards I bought in Lake Bled. They are in the mail today!!

The treasurer of the club met me at the train station and took me straight to the home of the president of the club, where I’ll be staying tonight in a spare bedroom. He speaks perfect English. His demeanor is friendly and professional, and this won’t make sense in the context of this sentence, but he just screams FAMILY.

The president’s house was about ten minutes away. On the way over we spoke about the men’s club here and women who have played for the club from other countries in the past…  The president greeted us with a joke and a smile at the door. The walls of his two-story apartment are painted lime green and grey and decorated with zen photography and art (bamboo, leaves, rocks, you get the idea). His dog and cat are freaking adorable. His 21 year old son came out to say hello. We all sat in the backyard talking about me and them… After all the chaos of traveling, this moment was nice and casual and a little surreal...

After a while, they invited me to dinner in Tours to show me around and discuss more about the club. I accepted (Duh). They took me to the Italian restaurant in town where, they explained, the team goes for post-game dinners and parties. We sat at their usual table and ordered a bottle of wine. I ordered the Insalata Melanzane (a Mediterranean salad with eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella). I talked about Billy a lot and our life back home. How supportive he is. How difficult this is for him and I. They said there is a four week break from December to January and that “when he comes to visit he must bring WINE!” Ahaha! YES!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Day 8 - Bad News!

So, today, we had individual meetings with Cory, the main agent running the August Firesale for BIP.  It was very sad news...  The first thing out of his mouth was the first thing that Tim said to me too, "You're thirty and you're married and I don't think we're going to be able to find you a team."  Oh man, I felt so crushed inside, but I contained my emotion and gracefully accepted his advice to start the next chapter of my life.  I love Cory!!!!!!!  This was hard to hear, but I felt that they let me down pretty easily.  I appreciate everything they've done for me here.  This entire experience with these girls was so inspiring and amazing - I've met some incredible women who I hope will be lifelong friends.  I start to plan my departure tomorrow night.  Back to Italy, then Amsterdam, Minneapolis, and finally SFO.  Tonight, the remaining group is hitting the bar and tomorrow we're off to Lake Bled for a recovery day...  :)

Day 8 - Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Happy anniversary to Billy - the most supportive, compassionate and loving person I know!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Day 7 - Vienna!

Today, at 9AM we left for Vienna in two big vans with Nick and another driver.  We arrived in no time and got out to sight-see a little in and around the museum district (smack dab in the center of town).  I stayed with a group of four girls to check out Stephensplatz Cathedral and then grabbed lunch in the square there.  I had bottled water (without gas), a plate of vegetables and a grilled cheese....  If you stick to the touristy places, the vegetarian options are mostly french fries and milk shakes.  There were a lot of tourists everywhere and I wasn't really feeling that vibe, so I ventured out on my own to hunt down Schottering Bikram Yoga studio!

It was amazing.  The class was taught in English and German.  Here's the link:  In addition to being bilingual, the instructor was also very good!  She would narrate the poses first in English and then repeat in German.  "Locke der knie [kuh-nee], locke der knee, locke... der.... knie!"   :)

I love Vienna!  I can really see myself living in this town.  There is a lot of diversity and the culture appears to be very alive and rich!  On the way back from the studio there was a huge film festival and outdoor dining event rocking out in front of the University (next to city hall downtown).  I didn't get to see any of the movies they were featuring, but it ended up being a great place to people watch on my way back to meeting up with the group.

We loaded in the vans to go to a gym in Vienna to play a scheduled match against a league there at 8PM.  Even though the Viennese league is not that strong, Omar, their head coach seemed like a super passionate guy (he even stepped in to set one game!).  Nick told us that there was a chance that we could be placed purely based on our performance in the game (IF we were able to play well enough to impress Omar of course).  I started for the American team!?!?!?! Our setter (Nevena sp?) was only seventeen and a refugee from Serbia!  She seemed very nervous, but she started to warm up to us by the second set.  At the end of the night, Omar actually requested that I play with his team - How cool is that?!?  Proof - real proof - that someone actually noticed me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  When Nick looked at me from the end of the bench and waved me over, it was like a cartoon...  I first looked at him to check that he was actually looking right at me, then I looked around to double check that he wasn't actually looking at someone else, then I pointed a myself, and mouthed "ME!?!?!?" to triple check that we were indeed looking at each other....  Ahahahahah!  Yay.  Cue the heart palpitations, shaking, pit in my stomach, etc etc.  When I went over there the coach introduced me to the team and asked me to play middle.  I almost just dropped dead right there.  Thank God I had already been to bikram and had forty mini heart attacks, so this one didn't feel that bad...  Ahahahah!  All this was fine until I realized that Nick, who is such a master fakester, was setting on the other side - Nooooo!  The pit in my stomach just kept getting deeper and darker.  We lost by a lot, but it was still a really fun time.  I ended up sucking in the middle, but at least someone finally noticed me!!!!

The fun continued at a Pizzeria across the street together with the team from Vienna (it was cool getting a chance to ask the girls about their lives in Vienna - they seemed very happy!).  After the most amazing vegetarian pasta and pizza, we said our goodbyes and loaded into the vans to leave.  We didn't get back to the Dras Center until after 2AM.  It didn't take long for me to fall fast asleep...  Life is good.  

That's all for now...  More later!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day 6 - Make it Rain

We practiced this morning at 11am.  Not my best performance (my left achilles is feeling better, but now my right shoulder is starting to ache a little).  Aches and pains aside, I actually feel pretty healthy right now and I'm still enjoying every second being on the court with the remaining ladies...  I know it's idiotic to hold up hope at this point since the odds are stacked against all of us getting contracts, but I still feel strongly that we're all good enough to play professionally...  I find myself wishing that the states had a pro volleyball league like they do here so that these incredible American women could play volleyball together on their home courts and not feel so culturally displaced.  The PVL is coming along, but it's going to take a long time to develop that circuit to match what the adult female athletes have here.  They are so lucky!!

After practice we ate and showered and I jumped on my bike to run down to the store to pick up some odds and ends (first aid, air freshener, etc.), then it was off to Ruse to play a division one professional team here.  They were all ages!  Girls fourteen to forty!!  So cool...

Thankfully, they let us borrow their amazing setters (Anna and Ulska (sp?)).  We won three out of four games against them.  In the game I played outside hitter, we were behind the whole time, but then came back to win 26-24.  Close one!  I got aced by a fourteen year old - haha!!! - :(  That little girl could SERVE!  I got one great kill down the line and one good one sharp angle.  My digging and in-play passing was good, but my serve-receive?!?!  Choked again!  While I wasn't on the court, I was head cheerleader and just had a blast cheering on the sideline for our amazing team!  A couple of girls really had outstanding performances - low errors, high sideout percentage, aces, etc...  This team was not easy to ace (unlike me - hehe...).  Anyway, came up with a couple great nicknames and cheers for people (I know they love me so they don't mind how crazy and loud I was).

Oh oh - the title!  It rained and drizzled all day - and I guess it's supposed to freeze again tomorrow, but we're off to Vienna to play another team there (fun fun fun!).

Also, the American men arrived for their tour today!  Gotto run now.  More later...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Day 5 - Incredibleness

Today, a coach who is tight with some Nordic team coaches arrived to check out the remaining players on tour.  HOPE!  We had no morning practice, so I was able to get over to the five star hotel right next door and do some yoga and jump in the pool...  That made me a very happy girl!!!!!!  The yoga class was in Italian - which really got my brain excited to learn a new language!  :)

We practiced at 3:30pm and then took the evening off.  The BIP staff decided that our group needed a break, so we loaded onto a bus at 5pm and drove about thirty minutes to Doppler Vineyards for a full-on catered dinner with wine pairings and everything...  It was absolutely incredible!!!  

The Dras Center staff greeted us with Sparkling Wine, currants, blueberries, and melon (mmmmmmm!).  We ate, and drank, and laughed atop the most beautiful vine-covered mountain with a 360 degree view of the surrounding valley and mountains.  The sunset was incredible.   Second course was Sauvignon Blanc served with homemade cheese, dried apricots and apples, and rustic bread.  The main course was a buffet with grilled vegetables, salad, and kabobs with a red pepper spread paired with their muscato (which was surprisingly dry)...  So, yeah - we ate well and got to forget about volleyball for a while (which made many of us very happy - a little too happy at some points - haha!).

Rasco (the main server at the Dras Center) gave us a tour of the winery and really just treated us like royalty all night.  Seriously, I felt like I was on the Bachelorette for a second.  It was just too good for words.

Another practice at 11am tomorrow and then we're off to a game versus a local pro team here in Maribor.  Our last setter was placed in Denmark and left this morning, so hopefully there is someone willing to take her spot in our match!  We'll find out soon no doubt.  

More later...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Day 4 - Road to Discovery

PS - I forgot to mention in my Day 3 post that when I wasn't thinking about Gordon Ramsay's encouraging words, I was actually belting out bars from Sound of Music's "Climb Every Mountain"...  (So funny how things come full circle because Heidi Bell taught me to play volleyball and if I recall correctly, she played Mother Superior in her high school play - ha!)


After yesterday's let down of not making the top 14, I woke up determined to play my best today...  I was so jazzed that at 6am I was lacing up my shoes to go for a jog through the hilly paths just south of Hotel Dras.  The forest here is dense, but the early morning light was cutting through the trees in fabulous shades of pink and gold.  I actually stopped and stared - no, not to catch my breath! wink wink - to admire many of the little details about this place...  The wildflowers are in full bloom.  I spotted two deer and whole duck family (they "kvak" here - ahah!)...

In addition to the ski runs here (which double as mountain biking paths in the summer time), there is a ropes course, a golf course, a slide down the mountainside, two gondolas, a soccer field, an outdoor bounce house, a resort with yoga, swimming pools, a spa, and bike rentals...  Oh my gosh - this town has so much to offer!  Blah blah blah - Maribor is great!

After doing some yoga on the edge of a little reservoir outside our hotel, I went into the hotel restaurant for an early breakfast.  (Have I mentioned how amazing the food is here??)   I knew this would be my first morning that required coffee because I was up SO LATE and then woke up SO EARLY last night - I think my brain just needed to process the reality of hanging out at the bottom of this incredibly impressive lineup of skillful players/leaders, and thinking about how I've got to be ready for my close up today!  :)

Right after breakfast, we said goodbye to two of our roomies - and five became three.  Such mixed feelings!!  I'm so excited for them and the adventures they are about to embark upon, I'm jealous of their success, I'm so so sad to see them go...  Ahhh!  It's so confusing...  One second we're picking a girl up off the floor and telling her she has the next ball - the next second you're fantasizing about breaking her legs - haha!

ANYWAY - got ready really really carefully just to be sure my pre-game routine was done to a tee.  It was.  Unfortunately, we arrived in the gym to some bad news - that is - no more coaches are coming here to watch us...  The bright side??
1.  We are going to get some much needed down time tomorrow
2.  We will receive more personalized attention from our agents/coaches at trainings
3.  While we continue to improve, we buy time for the agents to drum up the best jobs that are still out there
4.  We might be embarking on a little road trip of our own to visit them

Even with this disappointing news, I felt good as soon as I stepped on the court.  No joke - I played the best volleyball of my whole entire life for the next two hours!  I know the other girls noticed, and of course, ha! I could barely recognize myself, so I noticed, but it's really hard to say if anyone else noticed...  My mission over the next week is to just keep doing things that get attention for the right reasons, and to continue to forge bonds with this incredible group of women...  Oh man, I am impatient for the fulfillment of all of our dreams of making a team.

In the afternoon, we practiced again and after lunch, I rented a bike and ventured into Maribor on my own.  It felt so so great to be on the bike...  (More on this later - hehe!)

It's only the fourth day here and I already feel like I have truly experienced a lifetime range of emotions.   I have laughed till my face is sore...  I've shouted "let's go" more times than I can count...  Sang "Climb Every Mountain", sat quietly, meditated, sobbed like a baby, and screamed YAY! like, well, like a school girl - which is how young I feel to be playing the highest level volleyball I've ever played right now.  This experience is like a roller coaster off the tracks...

It's very late, so I must be going to bed now...  More tomorrow!  Good night!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Day 3 - A Day to Forget!

I started out great today!  Had great butterfly passing and nice hitting lines.  But later on, during the six on six scrimmaging, I really started to see my dreams fading for the first time during this trip!!!!  I lost confidence on serve-receive and never really recovered...

After the live streamed inter-squad match I was feeling down for not making the top 14 remaining players.  So, I took a long beautiful hike up the ski run behind the hotel to clear my mind and relax a little...  It was so beautiful!  Breathing in the fresh mountain air felt amazing and at the top of the hill was this incredible view of the whole valley.  It really gave me some perspective on what I'm here to do.  I hope it helps me do better tomorrow.

The whole time - I don't know why - I just kept thinking about this quote from a Gordon Ramsay interview where he said about Hell's Kitchen something like, "They're all great chefs, but it's about getting through the process, winning challenges, and gaining experience along the way..."  Something like that...  Anyway, I just hope I can get my confidence back and put forth my best effort tomorrow.

Sleepy time!  More later...

Support From All Sides

This tryout trip was made possible by the kind donations of friends and family!  Check out the video below for more information:

Special thanks to Derek Dockendorf of  Left Coast Digital and Scott Gibson Paul of Six Sided Sounds.

It's not too late to help!  You can fund my tryout trip at the link below just by clicking donate:


Friday, August 9, 2013

Day 2 - Culture Clash

I feel at home here in Slovenia.  It's not that the Slovenian people are exceedingly welcoming, but I still just feel good - like I belong!  That said, there are definitely some differences here I've noticed that are fun and interesting...

1.  Here they keep the peanut butter next to the nacho cheese sauce in the junk food aisle!  Not next to the jam, honey, or nutella...  Nop.  It's next to the cheez whiz.  Ahahaha!

2.  Scrabble is green:
(Quit looking at my letters, cheaters!!)

3.  Ice ("led" in Slovene) is served on the side in a separate glass with it's own ice-cube-sized serving spoon.

4.  No Bikram   :(    .... yet!  Although I have met some other Bikram yoginis on the tour, and they are awesome!

Well, that's it for today!  The volleyball players here are really amazing...  I wish it could just stay like this and we could be paid to play with this group of ladies because they are a spectacular accumulation of both talent and personality.  I'm feeling the love and lovin' it here so far.

Tomorrow, here I come!  9AM practice and 6:30PM game, which will be live streamed here:

Catch Our Live Stream Match from Maribor!

The most exciting news of all time...  We're live streaming a match tomorrow from the DRAS Center, Saturday, August 10th at 6:30 PM (Central European Time).  California time that's 9:30 AM.  Tune in!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 1 - First Impressions

Welp!  After leaving SFO early yesterday morning and laying over in Atlanta (which was the bomb by the way - really really amazing terminal!), we finally touched down in Venice today.  The flight was empty (which explains why it cost an arm and a leg - haha!), so I snagged a whole row of seats to really get my money's worth outta the seating situation.  Unfortunately, that did not result in a copious amount of sleep, but anyways...  WAH!  Here's Louis on complaining about the plane situation...


Hahahaha!  Once we landed, Tim Kelly and I plus two other girls took off in a Meredes-Benz Mini Van for Maribor.  Here in Slovenia, the terrain is a lot like California.  On the way up we passed farms, vineyards, lots and lots of old growth HOPS, and many beautiful forests, mountains, and exposed limestone rock faces.  The countryside looked dry from my car window, but it was actually HOT and WET (my favorite!!)

On the way up, we stopped to pick up snacks...  Mmmm... fresh cantaloupe, pineapple, and a mushy granny smith apple.  Everyone speaks English here!!  Haha...  I asked our driver who speaks Slovene fluently how to say "Hello.  Excuse me.  Where is your bathroom?"  He replied, "You just say, 'Hello.  Excuse me, where is your bathroom?'"  Ha!  

Once we got to the hotel, reality started to set it...  About half of the women who are trying out are here at the DRAS Center already.  We ate dinner together in the hotel restaurant (which has these two big wall-sized windows that look onto one of the indoor courts here).  The girls are all really nice, but it's clear what we're all here to do.  Everyone is still a little shocked from all the travel and getting used to things!  Can't wait for more!!

Well, it's lights out here.  Open gym tomorrow morning.  First meeting tomorrow evening, followed by a training session.  I'm very excited to be here...  More tomorrow.

Lahko noč!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Does It Mean to Be Devoted?

Sitting here at 3am all packed up and ready to leave for SFO...

Volleyball has been what wakes me up in the morning (and what keeps me up at night) for a while now (mostly because of sore muscles - haha!), but lately, I've been contemplating what it means to really be devoted to something...  I mean really, really devoted - to the point where you would sacrifice just about anything to get what you're after.

So, that is why I'm sharing the definition of devotion below:
*Check out superdevotion (awesome!) and "see love" at the end!  Haha... :)


profound dedication; consecration.
earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.: thedevotion of one's wealth and time to scientific advancement.
Often, devotions. Ecclesiastical religious observance orworship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.
1150–1200; Middle English devocioun  (< Anglo-French ) < Late Latindēvōtiōn-  (stem of dēvōtiō ), equivalent to Latin dēvōt us (seedevote) + -iōn- -ion

pre·de·vo·tion, noun
su·per·de·vo·tion, noun

2. zeal, ardor. See love.

Volleyball is why I strive to be a better person.  When I decided to pursure my dream to play volleyball professionally *with devotion*, so many positive changes in my life were just waiting for me...  As I'm writing this I'm realizing how cheesy this probably sounds to most of you, but I really believe this!  Whatever that thing is for you, just decide today that you'll be devoted to that and see what positive changes are waiting for you!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Clear Your Mind - Wipe It Clean

Photo used with permission of Mr. Lyle.
Starting Bok Fu at West Wind Schools was a decision I made a year ago today because I wanted more self-discipline, self-control during confrontation, and better mind-body awareness.  Now, looking back over the last year, West Wind School has given me so much more than that...  The teachers there made me feel like family from the get go.  I am so thankful to my sensei Mr. Lyle for everything he's taught me over the last year.  He has encouraged me to push my limits!