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)!

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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Did You Say Zucchini Toss?

The first weekend in Finland was anything but uneventful. I am a sucker for the quote section in Pinterest (super soft confession), but one of my favourites is the quote that goes something like: “you should do something for the first time every single day.” I have rollover first-time-somethings for the next couple months. I’ll try my best to give you the best, most efficient recap that I can!

First, on Friday I moved into my apartment. Ville took me to the apartment, I dropped my things off, then went to lunch with my coaches, team manager (Marina from the airport), and another practice player who is also named Ville.. (I definitely could have heard that wrong, as I have heard many wrong things these past couple days). This lunch was one of the most overwhelming things I have experienced as my coaches speak Italian, Ville and Ville (I’m sorry that’s super funny to me) speak Finnish, and Marina speaks Croatian, so there are a ton of conversations going on around me that I cannot understand at all.

After meeting the team, I realized that many of them speak a minimum of 3 languages (Finnish, Belarusian, and English are pretty common), so I told some people I speak Spanish (which I kind of do, but am not fluent in any regard) to fit in. So far, they buy it. But, the team was very nice when I met them and I felt super welcome. Before the sauna party, there were a ton of speeches (all in Finnish) and they all helped translate for me, which was super clutch.

I am going to go on a tiny tangent, because this is just one of the many little stories that are hilarious to me. So, first, this man is taking all these pictures of me, but seriously, he is maybe 6 inches from my face. He just kind of walked right up and held the camera up and asked me all of these questions in Finnish, I think for an interview, so if he posts it to Facebook, it may just be me smiling and looking really confused (the translators weren’t there for this). Then, this other man starts telling me this time next week he is going to be gone, and I ask him where he is going and he says what sounds like a zucchini toss. I thought of Spain and that holiday where they throw the tomatoes, so I am very interested, asking if they throw zucchinis at each other! (In my head I am thinking that this would hurt, but it may be a thing in Europe) It took me 5 minutes to figure out this man is going to Zakynthos in Greece. First impressions are my specialty, people.

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