Fun Fact: I spent 15 Euros on candy last Sunday

I realize it has been a long time since I have posted anything.. and so much has happened since my last post. I haven’t really had much time off lately, so I will try to catch y’all up briefly.

First – I got to visit my cousin in Berlin. Long story short, my team made it to the second round of the EuroCup, which was to be played in Russia (against a kickass team that won the thing), but my visa would not go through in time for the game, so I had a few days to travel. This ended up being an amazing foodie adventure. I LOVE food. I freaking love all of it, crazy food, ethnic food, breakfast food, any food. I follow more food accounts than human ones on Instagram now just so I can see the delicious food of America waiting for me (out of those food accounts, most of them are donut shops). Eating out in Finland is not cheap and I think I can count on my hand the amount of times I have eaten at a restaurant. When I went to Berlin, food was incredibly cheap. My cousin and I dedicated my last day simply to going to the Christmas Market and tasting all of the food (pizza, cheesy bread, pancakes, mulled wine, you name it). It was great to get to central Europe and relax, I really enjoyed my time there.

Second – for EuroCup we played the Russian team; first in Russia, then they came to play here. This was by far the best match I have been a part of in my life (and we played Penn State twice every year!). On this Russian team was apparently the world’s top outside hitter, a lot of members of the Russian National Team, and a Brazilian who had won the gold medal in the Olympics. I definitely felt like a peasant playing them, but it was a really cool experience to play such great players.

Third – Christmas. I did not have much time off for Christmas break either, but the time I did have off, my team/staff were so nice to invite me to their houses, so I could celebrate with them. In Finland, Santa comes and the whole shebang happens on the evening of the 24th. Imagine as a kid having to sit through dinner to wait for Santa to bring your presents! (Fun Fact: in Finland, people sometimes hire a dress up Santa to come to their house for their kids!) So, on the 24th, my trainer took me over to her house for some glogi (mulled wine, vodka, and spices) and dinner. It was really nice and I really loved glogi. I loved glogi so much that during the Christmas sauna, I decided to try a typical Finnish swim in the snow to cool off. The next day my teammate, Noppi, picked me up in the morning to go to her mom’s apartment. They recreated the typical Finnish Christmas (as if it was the 24th) for me, which was so cool; I am really grateful for them. The meal (this is the same every year, the foods don’t change): first, we had a lot of raw fish like lox, herring, etc. Since wine doesn’t go well with this stuff, somehow Noppi’s mom already knew I liked beer (I guess Noppi had told her we had drank a few together) and insisted that I have the best Finnish beer there is: Sandel’s. Then the next course was hams and cheeses and salads. Finally, the actual dinner was ham, a lot of casseroles (cabbage, carrot, potato), and beets, pickles, etc. After dinner, I was sitting on the couch when Noppi’s mom was teaching me these Finnish Christmas songs. After we sang a few, out comes Noppi’s sister dressed as Santa and this Santa brought me some sweet Finnish gifts, like a Christmas cookie cutter in the shape of Finland and some Finnish Fazer Chocolate. She also got me a kid’s book with all the Finnish Christmas songs AND it is a music book so if I press buttons it plays the tunes of the songs! Another Finnish tradition is visiting the cemetery. If you have had a family member pass away, you light a candle and say a few words on Christmas. When we went, the cemetery was so beautiful with the snow and the candles. We went back to Noppi’s house and on the table was all kinds of cookies and pastries. My favourite was this date bread. I really have no portion control, so if you leave out 1 cookie, I will only eat 1, but if you leave out 30 cookies, somehow my stomach can handle all 30. It’s a blessing and a curse. Impressive, but dangerous for one’s health. I am really so thankful for the people who made my Christmas here so memorable. Yes, I did get soft talking to my family back home, and my mom made me say hi to every single family member while that was happening, but what can I say? Who doesn’t look hotter when they are crying?

Fourth – the rest is kinda just random. Personally, I can honestly say I have never felt more exhausted (physically, mentally, emotionally) in my life. With all of the injuries on my team, I have been lucky to be healthy, but this also means that I have had a lot less time to recover. With that being said, yes I do workout a ton, but Noppi, Riikka, and her boyfriend Panu find time to celebrate another week of survival by buying candy and drinking wine. I have this limit I usually set at the candy store (my life is so exciting!) of 2-3 Euros because it is by the weight of your candy (3-4 euros was obviously a bad day, 3-4 euros plus a mini ice cream.. you can probably guess). Last Sunday we played a hard game in the Finnish Cup Finals, and so we went to the candy store naturally. The lady told us the store was closing, so we all got really nervous like the world was going to end if we didn’t try everything and our bag ended up weighing 15 EUROS! How does this happen? I tell myself it all went to my boobs or some body part like my tiny calves or head that really need it.

3 months until I am back.. crazy. I cannot say it enough, but I would really like to think I have the best family and the best friends back home, because they have been so great to keep me in the loop with their lives, make sure I am surviving, send me funny jokes (that mean tons, I usually laugh out loud), etc. I am so excited to see everyone in person, but also gonna Finnish strong here (I am so punny)!

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World’s Greatest Practice Player

I started to write this blog and I like to be organized when I write, so usually I have sections of the different things that happen in the week. This past week, the only things that happened were volleyball morning and night, and one night of too many glasses of whiskey with my roommate.

This is the sixth week of 2-a-days, and the three day break is so close. The list of things to do over the break so far: go to Helsinki to enjoy fall’s first (and potentially last) pumpkin spice latte. At Michigan, any time we traveled during Big Tens, we would find the nearest Starbucks to our hotel and get a delicious pre game PSL. Now, I will be travelling an hour to taste the sweet nectar, but I guarantee I will enjoy this more than all of you in America who take PSLs on every corner for granted.

This past week was one of the most physically demanding weeks I have experienced in my volleyball career. We had two a days all week and then had a tournament in Salo, about an hour South, playing 5 matches in 3 days. Playing in Europe, there are less substitutions in a game, so as an outside, you stay in until it appears you forgot what volleyball is, or there are enough subs at the end of the game. It was an exciting tournament for me, because a ton of teams from the FINN League were there and I got to see who we would be playing against when playoffs come.

I am going to go on a tangent and give you a little info about me as a player. I am a great practice player, I always have been. This isn’t me bragging, it’s kind of a weird problem. I love practice. I can kill it in practice, I take risks, I completely blow things and can bounce back for the next play, BUT I get very, very nervous before games. I don’t like when I can see people I know in the stands. In Finland, that really isn’t a problem, though! This weekend was interesting because I got nervous like I usually do (when this happens, I can’t communicate very well, I move very slow, and sometimes I black out), but going from college to professional volleyball, things are different. The coaches in college kind of help you group, they have been with you for 4 years, so they should know how you operate, what your mental strengths are and what the weaknesses are. Their job is to develop you as a person and a player, and win games. Here, that is not the case, you are expected to be a developed player. You are paid to perform and the coaches are not paid to coddle you if you are nervous. I like my coaches here, 1) because they make everything sound so easy (this can get annoying when things really aren’t that easy), but 2) they focus on details. They know that it is hard to win every game, so they don’t put that pressure on us. When we are doing bad, they yell (a lot of Katzos and Putanas), but they like to focus on the system they taught us and the technique that we are supposed to use. It’s very helpful because my first instinct when I mess up is to tell myself “don’t mess up again” (LOL). My coaches kind of cut that part out because they are yelling at me, giving me tiny changes I can make to fix my mess up.

I guess it worked out pretty well because we got second this weekend, losing to the team who wins every year and who has a lot of players from the Finnish National Team. It was a fun tournament, and very humbling seeing women of all ages playing. I got blocked by a lady who was 41! She could have been my mom!

Then, when I got home, Kristina and I decided we would go get some candy. Then we decided we would take a shot at our local bar, The Public Corner. Then, this shot turned into a long night at the bar with many shots and sneaking our candy in. I don’t know why, but I think this is really funny. So, this guy came up and was talking to us about how he was from Helsinki and all that jazz, it was late I don’t remember all of the details. He asked what our names were and my roommate introduced me as “Anastasia, an Ice Hockey player from Canada,” before I could say Lexi. So, this guy kept asking questions about Canada, and I am pretty sure he asked what good beers are from Canada. I, in all seriousness, googled it. I responded with “I think the good kind is called Canadian Beer.” I googled Canadian beer, and it came up on wikipedia, and I thought that it was a brand. It’s more sad, but the guy didn’t even question it. Go Fins.

A Classic Mixup

I have finally arrived in Hameenlinna, Finland. There is something incredibly fun to me about being completely clueless and just figuring out a new place. Clueless is/looks like: 1) Thinking coffee is self serve in the hotel you are staying in, only to find out that you are in the back where only the employees are allowed and you are kinda stealing coffee (I paid for it after I figured this out), 2) Tying all of your suitcases together using your jackets you packed because you didn’t know who would be at the airport to help you and now you are moving at the speed of a 100 year old turtle, or 3) Forgetting everything is in kilos here and wondering how the hell you lost so much weight overnight. I was worried that today went too smoothly and I wouldn’t have anything substantial to put in the blog, but the tables have turned!

First, the flights were awesome. I got these super strong sleeping pills to take (I am terrified of flying and have to physically shake myself in the seat to avoid feeling turbulence, better known as twerking in a seat next to someone you don’t know.. just don’t make eye contact and you’re good..), but they worked for maybe the first two hours. SO, Lufthansa hooked it up with free wine and I was out for most of the flight. I watched Bend It Like Beckham for a little female athlete inspiration and then I was in Frankfurt. Made my flight to Helsinki and then drive to Hameenlinna with Marina who spoke awesome English and was really helpful. I am now in a hotel and tomorrow morning I will move into my apartment! 🙂

Last on the agenda of the day was to meet with my general manager, Ville. Now, I was really nervous about this because I had recently posted a picture with a beer in it and Ville commented saying girls get sent home after a week for breaking drinking rules. I go to meet him (at a bar, ironically) and he asks if I want a beer to which I reply no, because I wanna get out of the dog house ASAP. He tells me that it will help me sleep better, so I get a beer with Ville. He is awesome. His English is really good and I can understand him perfectly fine. It took me a while to bring up the Facebook post, but when I did he told me don’t worry he was just joking (which sounded a little like choking, so it took me a while to figure it out) and trying to be funny to scare me (it worked). They are really honest here, so he had no problem telling me that my hitting was pretty average, but I was lucky I could pass to make up for that. He also told me about the town called Rovaniemi which is the official Santa Claus Village (I will be going there to play, so pictures will definitely be attached to that post). He explained in detail to me that the Finnish Santa doesn’t go down the chimney like the USA Santa does, and he also broke it to me that the USA and Finnish Santas are not real, to which I responded by tearing up… Joking, I didn’t do that. I keep thinking to how freaked out I was that I already messed up the drinking rules, that I couldn’t believe I was getting a beer with Ville. Conclusion: Ville is a jokester. And not going to send me home.

Finally, as I head to bed, I am across from the nightclub of the town called “Up,” and they are blasting Avicii and some Rick’s American Cafe tunes, so its not much different than trying to sleep on Arch St. while the White St. houses blast their music the night before Ally and I have to wake up for serve and pass.

Pictures of the bachelorette pad and the city to come soon! Hyvää yötä!