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!