I have friends

This was the best weekend I have had in Finland so far. (Yes, it is only the third weekend that I have been here and the first with working wifi in the apartment, so things had to improve by default)

In terms of practice, things are picking up, so my body isn’t feeling nearly as fresh as it did two weeks ago.. I walk like a penguin most places and should probably invest in a cane, but I absolutely love what I am doing. In most practices, I feel like a little kid. Today, we did this awesome drill where you do a ladder drill off the court and as soon as you are at the end of the ladder, you essentially are in your defensive position (the ladder leads you there). So you look up at the end of the ladder, and the coach just wails one at you, then you turn and another coach wails one at you, then the third coach chucks it, and you have to run and save it from hitting the ground.

However, this weekend, the Finnish Men’s National Volleyball Team was practicing for some tournament coming up, so we had to work at their practice games Friday and Saturday night. I was in charge of checking tickets at the door, but I didn’t know that people would be asking me questions in Finnish about where there seat was or if they could bring food into the game, so I figured I would just answer every question with “yo” which means yes in Finnish. There weren’t many problems, but sometimes people would either laugh or get really frustrated. Also, fun fact, Fins love their rock music. During the warmup and throughout the match, ACDC, Queen, and Bon Jovi were playing, everyone loves their rock music here, but I don’t know how much I personally dig it.

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Trial and Error

First, this is a picture with my teammates Nopi (on the left) and Riika (on the right). We just got out of our second practice and are taking advantage of the largest cold tub in Finland! It is about 14C (I gotta get with the culture) so about 57F here, and the water is probably at Tim’s (my old trainer) perfect temperature that I always managed to destroy and add too much ice, preventing the cross country girls to not be able to cold tub and also make Tim really, really mad at me. 

Second, Kristina (my roommate) and I have wifi in the apartment. It is not the fastest, but we have a good feeling that soon it will be up and running full speed, and I won’t have an 8 second FaceTime delay 🙂 Kristina is an ice hockey player who played at BC for 4 years and then last year in Salzburg. She is an excellent chef and made vanilla coconut cake in mugs to celebrate the wifi reception. The wifi problem has given us a lot of time to bond whether it was traveling to McDonalds and downloading episodes of TV shows and calling our families (while the locals give us some seriously weird looks), or touring the city of Hameenlinna trying to find a store that would sell us a new SIM card. All failed attempts, but we had a lot of heart and way too much hope. 

Third, the title of this post is no joke. This week of practice (shit, it’s only Tuesday) has been a little more of a struggle than last week. I have said in previous posts that everything is new for me here AND my coach speaks a little English, so I have come to this theory that Trial and Error is the best method to achieving success. It may get you yelled at a little bit more than the average girl, but you don’t have to stop practice to ask what the hell is going on every 5 minutes. To add to the struggle, the outsides have only done serve receive so far in practice, so you volleyball girls (unless you are some psycho who loves getting served at billions of times) can feel the pain of standing back there and getting smoked for 2 hours at the beginning of each and every day. Before I explain how the day went yesterday, I want to preface it with a lesson I learned when I was 16 years old playing for Jeff Ham at Texas Tornados. He told the me that he didn’t want me performing badly, so if I wasn’t going to have a good day, it was better to be invisible than be horrible and welcome visibility for the wrong reasons. Yesterday, I failed at this, and was not invisible, but painfully visible. I used the trial and error method only to hear “Lexi, bague (pass) the ball to the net! No Lexi! STOP THE DRILL! I SAID MOVE DIAGONAL! Not your ball Lexi!” But let me tell you, it makes the sweet, sweet Italian word “brava” paired with my name a smile-inducing sound. Today, it went 100 percent better. I didn’t have to trial and error as much, as I did that all of yesterday, and after many, many errors, I guess I have found the secret to the bague. I woke up this morning and vowed that Omar, the serving master, would not steal my soul today.  

Fourth and final point, we have a new staff member Omar. He is the strength coach that is going to be working with the team, and he is a hoot. He is bald (I am starting to think all of the greatest strength coaches are bald), but he has a sick goatee. He is a jokester and likes to talk smack. Today, (I was doing a lot better than yesterday and he didn’t want to pour salt in the wound at the time, but today it was ok) he told me he was going to start serving balloons at me, so I could have a chance against him. Luckily, I dig that stuff, so I was dishing it right back. Tomorrow, Omar starts our fitness training (weights and cardio), so I can give you a better idea about how I feel about him then! 

P.S. – I FOUND PEANUT BUTTER! You gotta enjoy the tiny things in life, people. 

Kids… Like Tiny People!

I know there was a blog yesterday, but today was an exciting day, so I had to share some of the stories before I forget them! As each day goes by, I am getting closer with my teammates and coaches, which is really making a huge, great difference.

This morning we did not have morning practice, so the two setters, Katja (cat-ee-a) and Noora (we call her Noppi like no-pea), took me around the city to show me the many beautiful spots in Finland. I will add a picture gallery so you can see all of the pictures I have taken thus far. I am sorry mom, I am awful at taking pictures, but thankfully iPhoto kills the editing game. We first went to this spa area in the woods where people swim and use the sauna, which led us to a tower that we hiked to. This tower was high up, so when you looked out from it, you could see the city which looks like Christmas trees and lakes. It was really an amazing sight. Then, we went to the castle of Hameenlinna, because the translation of Hameenlinna is actually “castle.” It was equally as cool! We got lunch, I got schnitzel and you can never go wrong with schnitzel. (Who doesn’t love a good chicken-fried steak tasting thing before a hard practice?) One thing I did appreciate was when they told me that the people in Finland are usually shy, so I shouldn’t feel bad for being quiet. 🙂

We did have afternoon practice, and as usual it was all ball control. This time, we did all of the drills we have been doing with our partner, but with two balls, instead of the standard one. This makes things very interesting and all I hear as I do these crazy things is CONTROL YOUR HARMS AND MOVE YOUR FEETS! USE YOUR LEKS! EVERY BALL IS BREAK POINT! (which means match point).

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Preseason: Take 5

Currently in McDonalds again as my wifi is really making the Netflix and blogging life difficult! Side note: this picture was taken 2 and a half hours after practice in a gym with no AC, so be kind with your judgements. I wrote this yesterday:
 
Moi! It has been an awesome two days as practices have finally started here in Finland! (and the stories just keep getting better)
 
So, Monday the team met at 15 (which is 3 as I checked on multiple internet websites.. I was a little nervous), and we had a team meeting with the new coaches, Bruno and Luca, who are both from Italy. This was one of the most entertaining/confusing team meetings I have ever been in. Bruno, the head coach, starts off the meeting by saying that his English is not that great (but his italian is great). It is “mas important” that we communicate with him if we do not “comprenti” what is going on. Luca speaks good English, so he is constantly translating if we need him too, but he is more of a quieter person, so sometimes you have to focus really hard to get the two or three words in English that will help you in the current drill. In this meeting Bruno is explaining to us that the first week and a half will only be technical training to get everyone on the same page with his standard, but he did not say any of that in English. He is just talking, looking at us, and will say “you understand?” All of the girls look around at each other, and we are trying so hard not to laugh because we never seem to understand.
 
Then, after the meeting we head to the gym to get started. Here, everything is different for me: the warm up, the lingo, everything, but I always am one of the last to go and have to really focus (if you have ever coached or played with me, my attention span has never been the longest or greatest) on what is about to happen. Everyone is expecting to get a ball and a partner, warm up, and then do some drills putting all the skills together, but that was not the case. Bruno tells everyone to get a ball and go to the wall. For the past 2 days, all we have done is wall work and ball control. If you don’t know the volleyball lingo, setting against a wall is like holding an object above your head for almost 2 hours. We alternate that with passing against the wall, which is like holding a half squat and hitting the ball in the same place on the wall for the next practice. A funny side note, this sounds horrible for the shoulder muscles (my traps are growing, boys!), and I can attest to that, but what is so sore is my jaw. I guess when I set against the wall, I completely forget to relax my face muscles and lock my jaw out. I am sure it looks sexy.

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