Female Volleyball Players = Expert Wedgie Pickers

A few weeks ago, my roommate, an ice-hockey player, came to my game. The reaction she had to possibly her first volleyball game ever was: “You guys pick your wedgies a lot.” I really didn’t think about it before she had mentioned anything and then I realized, having to wear spandex all the time creates a lot of situations for picking wedgies (your spandex ride up, move around, etc.) I then thought about how routine picking a wedgie has gotten for me in all aspects of life, at any given location: formal or informal, which ultimately made me realize that maybe I should be more private about picking wedgies.

As I write this post, I am feeling like I may be giving you all too much of an inside look into my life, but so far my life has been volleyball and sleeping, so little details become very exciting for me.

The end of regular season is approaching, as we play our last match on Sunday before playoffs begin. It is crazy to me how far I have come from the beginning of the season. I have gotten close, really close, with some of my teammates as I have seen them twice a day almost every single day I have been here. So close that now we all notice even the tiniest, most minuscule changes in each other’s lives. For example, I got new sweatpants for myself for Valentine’s Day (not your basic huge sweats.. classy, sleek, and modern sweats). The first day I wore them, everyone said something about the new sweats. If someone dyes their hair or gets a trim, it really is noticeable. I, for some strange reason, always end up with one sock right-side-out and one sock inside-out. I am a lazy laundry lady, so I never really take the time to change all the socks to their right side, but my teammates have picked up on that. One day a few weeks ago, I must have had both socks inside out and it was like everyone and their mother noticed it. I didn’t even notice it, and that is saying something about how observant my teammates are. I can count on them to notice everything from a new pair of shorts to a new thong, and that is how close I have gotten with all of them.

Not much is new in my life, so I thought I would give you an inside scoop into some of the language barrier situations I face on a daily basis. First, I want to say my coach tries very, very hard to speak English, and I know he is not the most comfortable with the language. Sometimes he mixes things up and it gets confusing, but you learn to just nod your head and try to figure out what he means, sometimes after being yelled at multiple times, but you figure it out nonetheless. Maybe telling you won’t be as entertaining as it is in person, but a few situations stick out in my head. First – when my coach explains a drill that requires a complicated points system, for example, we will play a game where running certain plays get you more than 1 point, so you can work on those specific plays, but also scrimmage normally. I have never been so confused in my life during the explanation of these drills. My coach will start to explain (“one point for this, if this happens, you get 3 more chances to score, if you lose the other team gets two chances to score, etc.”) and we all look around after he explains to see if anyone knows what is going on, and we all have no clue. Second – the mix up between today and tomorrow. My coach tends to mix these two terms up, which makes it challenging to understand when certain events and practices are going to happen. (at morning practice, my coach could say practice tomorrow at 16.00 and that could/probably means practice today at 16.00)  Third – the mix up between yours and theirs. During video, my coach will tell us if the team we are going to play has gotten better or worse since we played them last. He will say things like “your level go very down” which means “the other team hasn’t gotten better since we last played them”, but it sounds like he is telling us we suck. We have figured it out as of late that the your means their level go very down. Fourth – and my all time favourite – my coach says LEX instead of LEGS, which can make me paranoid when I am not paying attention and I hear the word “lex.” A few months ago, the passers were doing a drill where your partner chunks a ball and you have to shuffle backwards, get your body around the ball, and pass it to the target. My coach was yelling “move your lexi’s” and it absolutely made my life.

Finally, I got sick for the first time and I have been surprisingly not soft about it. I figured this is the time I would get all homesick and yes, I really wanted my mom to bring me food to my bed, but without a caretaker, this means you can create your own sick people diet. Today, to make myself feel better I had loads of honey nut cheerios, honey-chili almonds, tiramisu covered almonds, dried coconut, chocolate covered almonds, toffee, 3 loaves of rye bread, carrot soup, and a lot of ibuprofen. I do believe I am the best caretaker I have.

More life updates to come after playoffs begin. Until next time!

Advertisements

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)!

All-You-Can-Eats make me smile

As I start to write this post, I realise that last night I snap chatted me eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s, so it really doesn’t help the credibility of this blog post about my eating, but everyone can have cheat day(s) and it was the Greek yogurt kind, so it was the good fats (all 46g of them).

First, I will talk about the Finnish food/food culture in general. The food here is really not that different than food in the US, however; from what my teammates tell me, food in Europe is much healthier than the states because of the stricter food regulations. Pretty much everything here is all natural, for example, they don’t have a big selection of the fake butter, anything “fat free” or “diet” because they don’t use a lot of chemicals in their foods. The typical Finnish meal, from what I am told, is: bread, salad, POTATOES, and beef (sometimes reindeer), and the people put jelly on the beef. Salmon is also really popular and cheap, as there are a lot of lakes, it is more popular than chicken. There is always a salad bar! It is awesome. Wherever you eat, once you order your meal, you can hit the all-you-can-eat salad buffet. My teammates know I love buffets more than most other things (especially breakfast ones), so every time we eat at a buffet they all ask me how excited I am. Things that all Fins eat a lot of: bread. There are always baskets and baskets of bread before every salad bar. Coffee: I love this part of the culture and will bring it back with me. After every meal, there is coffee time. This is the part of the meal where you get your coffee, sip it slow, and get to catch up with whoever you are with. Pineapples are eaten with salad, chicken, pizza, everything. Cottage cheese is this new thing I am really into, except from what I remember in the states, people usually eat it with fruit, kind of like a dessert. Here, it is what you put on your salad. Dessert Pudding: this is harder to explain what this actually is. After the meal, restaurants usually have a mixed berry cream pudding, but I think someone told me it is made from cottage cheese. It tastes like a sweet berry cloud if you could imagine what a cloud tastes like.

A huge part of Finnish culture is the candy culture. I have never seen so many candy stores in my life, and I am a sweets fanatic on a mission to seek out any and every sweet shop available to me. If I have to choose a last meal on this earth it will be an entire carrot cake with cream cheese icing, Zingerman’s size. So, I love sweets and so do the Fins. There are candy dispensers (the ones where you use the scooper and weigh your candy) in grocery stores, in gas stations, pretty much everywhere, and the worst part is they strategically place them right before the checkout. (I am becoming addicted to chewing gum in the grocery store, so I resist the temptation of the sexy chocolate covered toffees staring right into my soul). Another sweet that I love from Finland is pullah. Pullah is this pastry that is kind of like pull-apart bread with jelly inside.

So, this is how Fins eat, but I became aware my first couple weeks here that this is not how volleyball players eat. We had a meeting with our coaches in the first few weeks about food and how our body and what we eat is part of our job. They also said we eat way too much bread (LOL). I never thought about this before because at Michigan if I wanted cheesy bread, I ordered it. If I wanted Franzia (you know you’re broke when you want Franzia), I drank it. I never really understood this concept, until now. If I eat shitty before practice, I feel really shitty in practice. If I don’t eat enough before practice, I feel like a zombie with no brain and the slowest reaction times ever. It’s funny to me, because some of you may be working all day on whatever you work on in an office, but because we get our body fat measured pretty often, eating is my work. Kinda cool, kinda weird. (And yes, on saturdays I eat 5 donuts if I want to.)

I am realising this wasn’t my funniest post, I apologise, but here are some highlights of my past weeks. I gambled for the first time and won 3 Euros. I got really nervous after I won twice (betting a whopping .20 cents) and decided to stop. I played badminton with these 3 guys and it was a really hard workout. Badminton is no joke and there is a lot of trash talk! I won one game and the other games I lost 21-6, they really had no mercy on the noob. I am have really been thankful for my family lately, who, even when I am not feeling my best, remind me of my strengths. A new bar opened in the city and it is much more age appropriate for my teammates and I. I am also looking forward to when we actually make it to the karaoke bar, because I made a promise that I would sing the Finnish National Anthem for my song. We play in Austria in 2 weeks and I am really excited to travel and see a new country!

Time to catch up on The Mindy Project! Moi!

 

My yoga pants fell down in practice today

Something that is different here than in the states: you can wear yoga pants in practice. I resisted for a long time because I love spandex, they are like a comfy pair of underwear that covers your love handles. However, my legs get cold in practice now that it is snowing here, and today I tried the yoga pant trend. The problem is I tried a pair that were not exactly the skin tight material you need for ultimate coverage in all situations. I am warming up like normal, and then we start to do this drill where you stand on the court with the coach and he just throws a ball barely off of the ground wherever his heart desires and you have to just kind of dive and somehow manage to get the ball back to him. (Apologies for the run-on.) Well, I dive and realize that my ass is way out, only because I hear tons of laughing. Think twice before following the crowd and stay unique people.

Last weekend the team flew back up to Santa Claus Village and this time I got to meet up with an old friend from Michigan Volleyball camp, Joe. It just so happened we didn’t fly home until Friday afternoon and were done Thursday, so my teammate and I met some of their team at karaoke. It was a blast, and now that I think about it, Joe and I were the only ones who actually sang any of the songs. I was really nervous to sing at first, I guess it has been a while, the last time I “sang” was The Jug in June when Sabol and I rapped Candy Shop. So, naturally, Under The Bridge was a song that hit the low notes, the super high notes, and got the good singing vibes going. (Maybe some shots of whiskey, too). There even was a cougar who dedicated her song to one of the guys and had some very sexy words for him after the song, thank goodness for the Finnish guys who could translate! It was a really fun trip altogether, and I am glad we got to meet up!

Another big thing: Noppi and I are going to see Usher on February 23. I am beyond pumped because I honestly haven’t been to that many concerts in my life. My grandma works for a Christian Radio station, so I grew up at Reliant K and Switchfoot concerts, which are great no doubt, but a chocolate R&B concert?!?! It is a beautiful thing. We have a countdown going. I am also trying to convice Noppi to go to a nude beach with me (sorry Mom). I am not going for the naked people, but I think you should say yes to new experiences at least one time (not everything… but most things), and I have heard it is freeing to just completely put yourself out there. Maybe we should make a bucket list.

Continue reading

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.

The Good, Bad, and Funny of my last week

It is really easy for me to portray my life here in Finland as amazing and as my Italian coach would say “with no problem girls,” BUT I want this to be an accurate portrayal of my life, so this blog may be a little more real than the past. I promise I will keep some funny stuff in, because being serious is very difficult for me.

I gotta start off with something hilarious, though. So, every week, we have practice every other morning and then lifting (we call it gym) the other mornings, and then practice every night. I want to give you all a little taste of what this gym is like, because it is not like most gym experiences I have had in the past. First, it is called Sportimekka, the sports mecca, a temple, if you will. Second, there are these women who lift with earphones in, and when things start to get harder for them, if you close your eyes, you feel like you are at the OBGYN and there are at least 5 women giving birth to very, very large children. Third, there are these posters all over the gym, and I wanted to add them to this blog for you:

photo 1-3 photo 2-2

Continue reading