Thursday, November 6, 2014
After a frustrating summer of not knowing where I would be going next, I must admit it was totally worth all the aggravation I went through because I am in love with where I am now. Last season I went in with the mindset that I was only going to play basketball overseas for one year, assuming it wasn't the lifestyle for me. Four months into my season in Lithuania I fell in love with the experience and my team. My experience last year encouraged me to come back to Europe and play another season.
I am currently in Portugal, a town called Carcavelos, approximately 30 minutes outside the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. Carcavelos is a beach town with many tourists. There are many beaches, palm trees, restaurants on the water, cliffs, hotel resorts, and beautiful people. I honestly think I am the only blonde in this country at the moment, haha. Lisbon, the Capital, is gorgeous!!!! Also known as the city of seven hills. And the hills are no joke. From my perspective they felt like they were 90 degree hikes. Despite the hills it is honestly beautiful and the views from the top of the hills are totally worth the climb because they are breath taking, literally.
I am currently living in an apartment with five of my teammates, in a town called Alges. About a ten minute train ride to the gym. It sounds like a lot of girls in one apartment, although as a foreigner its beneficial for me because they are able to show me the way! I can not complain too much about my life at the moment. My team is awesome, all the girls are very nice and welcoming and we have a great team which is even better. My team is playing in the Portuguese league and the Euro-Cup league, which is similar to the Euro-League that I competed in last season. They are the top leagues in Europe, which is where I like to be so I can compete against some of the best players. In this league we will be traveling to Hungary, France, and Belgium, three countries I have yet to visit. In order for us to advance after Christmas in this league we must place top two in our bracket.
We had our first game Wednesday night against a team from Hungary! It was a fun game to play in, they had a point guard who previously played for Phoenix Mercury on their team as well. Wednesday's game was the first game I have played since April, so naturally I was very anxious to finally play again! Our next Euro-Cup game is next Thursday at Belgium! I am almost positive they are the best in our bracket.
Finally, the weather is amazing. It fluctuates between the 60's and 70's. Although, the first week I got here it was high 70's! It should begin to get a little cooler within the next few weeks!!! And by that time I will be home for Christmas (December 21)!!!
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Yesterday concluded our last trip to another country. We traveled to Belarus and played our last regular season Baltic League game. We were in Minsk and the city itself was very pretty. The one thing I love about the cities in Europe that I have visited is the size. They are large cities but they are not crowded. You do not feel like buildings are on top of one another, and that goes for the people as well. In Minsk we lost our first Baltic League game but we still finished first in the regular season. Finals start in about two weeks.
We drove three hours from Lithuania to Belarus and on our way to and from we had to cross the border. When we first reached the border one of the officers entered our bus and checked all of our passports. Truthfully, it was very intimidating. I wish I could have taken a picture of the man and woman who came on our bus with their uniform, hat and boots. On our way back crossing the border one of the girls told me we had to get off the bus to clean our shoes because of wild pigs that are currently roaming Belarus. I laughed assuming it was a joke, but then a officer came on and instructed us to step off the bus, and sure enough we had to clean our shoes due to wild pigs. Honestly, you can't make this stuff up.
I have officially visited 10 countries during my seven-month stay in Lithuania. I have been to Poland, Spain, Turkey, Russia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, and Belarus. If you count the countries of the airports I have been in, it's probably around 20 countries. Each country was unique in their own way. I have learned something from each country that I will be able to carry with me for the rest of my life. I'll write more about that in the last blog I write in approximately three weeks which is when I will be coming home!
Next week starts our playoffs for Lithuanian league. We finished first in that league for regular season as well but the two teams we are facing in the semis and finals will be tough. The semis start next week and its best-of-three and the finals are best-of-five. But I believe we have the best and strongest team. Regardless of the team I am on I always think we are the best and strongest haha. But we are! And I plan to win two championships with this team before I leave.
I cannot believe it will be a little less than four weeks until I am home. I have finally gotten comfortable living in Lithuania and have made friendships. Eventually things come to an end though, I just can't believe I made it this far. If you would have asked the Hollie five years ago if she was going to live in Europe for half a year she would have said HECK NO!!! But that's the best part, your life is capable of taking you to places you never thought you would have gone five years ago. My life is forever changed because of this experience and I am so thankful every day for it!!
Well, four weeks left and one more blog post to go!!!!
Monday, March 3, 2014
Sorry it has been so long since I last posted, but I wanted to get through the last two months before I posted again. As you know I was home form Christmas break, and it was just what I needed. Although, having to leave home – again – was very difficult. I flew back to Lithuania on the 30th of December, and the next day was right back at it. It took me about two weeks to adjust to the time change. I have officially been in Europe for five months!!!! And I have a month-and-a-half left, which is crazy to think about!!
We have been playing a lot of games and traveling over the past two months. I traveled to Spain, Russia and Turkey, which are all awesome countries. Spain and Turkey were beautiful. I would love to play in Spain. The only problem is that I’m not sure I would ever come home if I went – that’s how spectacular it was. We visited Salamanca, which is a very old and “romantic” looking historic city. I did not get to see a lot of Russia. The only thing I have to say about Russia is everything is HUGE. As my roommate likes to say, "dramatic." The buildings are ginormous. It's almost as if they are trying to make a statement: "Hey, we are big and powerful." So, yeah, that's what I took away from Russia. Turkey was interesting. We were in Istanbul. I got to see the Black Sea and Blue Mosque. As my teammates and I were walking around the city, there had to be about 30 people who stopped to ask if we play basketball. I said I was going to make a sign that said “yes” and wear it on my shirt and point to it as I passed by people (only if they asked if I played basketball, of course). The people in Turkey were extremely friendly and warm. Everyone we saw wanted to stop and speak with us. Out of the 6 countries I have visited thus far, my favorites have been Spain and Croatia. Both are very beautiful and the people made you feel welcomed.
We finished up our Euro-League season last week in Turkey. We played against a lot of great teams and players, and I am thankful to have played against some of the best competition because it has helped me grow as a player and has motivated me to be an even better player. So I have new goals in mind moving forward.
Truthfully, I will be sad when I leave. The first three months here were brutal. I told myself I was never coming back, and I could not do it. But my mom always told me "anything new you must try for at least 6 months to determine if it’s for you or not." Well, like always, she was right, haha. Maybe not always, but nine out of 10 times she is ;). The end of the fourth month things got a lot easier. I started to enjoy basketball more and I started to get closer with the girls on the team. And the fifth month was a breeze. I didn't get upset once or have thoughts about leaving. Of course I always miss home and my family and friends but I am adjusted and I have chosen to enjoy my time here and not take it for granted.
People ask me what I have been doing for fun......watch tv shows. Haha. Truthfully, I did most of the site-seeing in Lithuania the first couple months I was here, and when I am not playing basketball I am tired and want to lay around. We also travel a lot, and seeing other countries is very exciting. Being able to see different cultures and how people live is very enlightening. Also, my roommate and I have gotten close to a Lithuanian family who lives in our building. They come to our games and they also had us over for a home-cooked Lithuanian meal. It was amazing. Soon we are going back over to help them prepare dinner together. They are going to teach us how to make a national dish for when we return home.
Well, I will be home in less than 60 days, I think it's like 55 days, something like that. So get ready :)
ps. I can count to 100 in Lithuanian!
Friday, November 22, 2013
So it is officially one month until I get to come home for Christmas break, and I am so anxious! The past two weeks my mom has been here – she leaves tomorrow actually. It was nice to have her here and spend some time with her and show her around Vilnius a little bit. There isn't too much to do here but we covered a lot of different things. We climbed the hill with the three crosses, went to Trakai Castle, walked around Old Town, visited the National Museum of Lithuania and went to the mall almost everyday. The mall is like the place to go here, especially because the grocery stores are inside the mall. She also got to see four of my basketball games. Three Lithuanian League and one Euro-League. I have gotten used to her being here, and it’s nice to have a familiar face around. The ten days she was here went by very fast, but it was a great visit! I am going to miss her, but I keep reminding myself one more month until I am home!!!!! It’s literally on repeat in my mind.
Also, for the two weeks my mom has been here she has made friends with people in our apartment building. The first day she arrived in Lithuania my mom waited in our apartment for Sophie and I to be finished practice. When we returned there was a pile of cigarette buds all over our front door mat. My mom told me that the people in our apartment building thought that WE were smoking in the building. She approached a lady walking down the stairs to ask why someone would do this, and that is what the lady explained to my mom. So my mom had to explain to her that we were basketball players and smoking is the last thing we would be doing. We found out later that our neighbor had a visitor who was smoking in the staircase, but considering we are new, I guess we are easy targets. But we have been here for over a month already, so why would we all of the sudden start smoking? Beats me…moral of the story, get to know your neighbors, or just don't smoke.
My mom also met another girl, Lina, who lives above us who is my age and is studying to be a doctor. Later that week she brought us down a homemade Lithuanian cake as a welcoming gift. Lina and her mother also stopped by our apartment last night and brought us many Lithuanian desserts. One of the desserts was what they call "apple cheese." All it is basically is chopped up apples with sugar and the texture is almost like a gelatin. AMAZING! Lithuania knows how to do dessert, that's for sure.
On the basketball side of things, in the past three Lithuanian league games we have scored 100 points against the other teams and we are currently undefeated in the league as well. The funny part is that in the three games we scored 100 points, I have scored the 100th point on a three pointer in all three games. The third game I was sitting on the bench at the end of the game and there were 97 points on the board and my teammates were like "Coach, you need to put Hollie in." So she put me in the game and I passed the ball three different times for one of my teammates to score the 100th point, and finally the next possession down the trainer for our team yelled just shoot the ball Hollie, so I did, and again I scored the 100th point. It was very comical. The best part is, I was like 2-10 from the three-point line…go figure.
Wednesday we played our second Euro-League game against Spain. I was so excited for them to come just so I could speak the VERY little spanish that I know, but its more than the Lithuanian I know. All I got to say was Hola though...We won our second Euro-League game which is huge. We are now ranked as a top 10 team in Europe and also beat the team who was Euro-League champs in 2011 and have two WNBA players. One of the girls actually is represented by the same agent as me and we recognized each other and spoke after the game. She has been playing professionally for six years and also plays for Chicago Sky. As a team we are playing very well together, and obviously winning is fun. When I first got here I was struggling a little bit, but I am doing better and better with each game. The more comfortable and experienced I get, the more I am able to contribute on the floor. We were underdogs going into the Euro-League and now we are the talk of the league because of how well we are doing!
Our next Euro-League game is next week in Croatia. I get excited to travel because I get to go to countries I have never been before, and probably would have never gone to if it wasn't for basketball. There are links to watch the game, so I will post it on my Facebook for the next game.
I am trying to find things to do to keep me busy. Sophie and I usually go to Impulse, which is equivalent to a YMCA in America, and workout. There is a hip-hop class that they teach every Tuesday and Thursday nights with a professional male dancer who is great ;) !!!! The class is actually more of a dance class than it is a workout. Don't get me wrong, you still get a workout in, but the focus is more on doing the moves of the dance properly. By the end of the class the instructor has choreographed an entire dance for us to perform at the end. It is a lot of fun. Although I am not the greatest dancer, I love to dance so I am going to pick this up as my new hobby in Lithuania. It's something to do that isn’t basketball. It's nice because I don't have to understand what the instructor is saying because I can follow the moves visually, and he also counts out the steps and I understand Lithuanian numbers.
Well, I will be home in no time!!! For a solid seven days. I am working on getting a couple extra days home even its just a day more. Can't wait!!! See ya soon!
Sunday, November 10, 2013
On Wednesday we had our first Euro-League game! It was very exciting, and the gym was packed! We played against a Polish team who had Janel McCarville, who is WNBA All Star and champion for the Minnesota Lynx. We upset them which was the best part. This is a top team in the Euro-League. We were up by double digits the entire game until the last quarter. They started to come back, but we hung on to our lead and finished with a victory. The fans here really get into the game which I love. After the game the fans were congratulating us, and some waited after to get our autographs. I always find it amusing when fans of the other team do that. What I like most about my team is that we are very team oriented. We play team basketball, share the ball, look for the best shot possible in an offensive possession. Our defense is strong as well, but we are still working on communicating better. After the game we went back to our hotel, ate, then loaded the bus for another 14-hour trip back home. We arrived in Lithuania at 12pm, and then I slept for the rest of the day. I am a sleep-aholic, I am very good at sleeping haha.
The same day we arrived home, Sophie and I went to our men’s game later that night. They are also in the Euro-League. They played a team from Israel. Sophie knew one of the guys on the Israeli team because he played at the same college as her. He also played for Conestoga High School which is right by my house at home. I did not know who he was, but when I told my mom who I was going to watch play she told me that we went to the same pre-school and were friends when we were younger. Such a small world let me tell you.
The day after we got back from Poland, we had a three-hour bus trip to another part in Lithuania to play a game, which we won (we scored more than 100 points). Then we had a three-hour drive back home and did not get in until 11:30pm. So if you total the amount of hours I spent on a bus this week, 34 hours=Insane. I think I listened to every song on my iPhone three times in one trip. I also read a lot. I am reading a new book called Blink. It's about the power of thinking without actually thinking.
The most exciting part of my week is about to begin. MY MOM COMES TOMORROW!!!!! She is on her flight at this moment, and arrives Sunday at 1:40pm and I will be picking her up in my new whip, Camry Prius, VIP style. I respect the Prius, nice and roomie inside, and the gas mileage is AMAZING. I only have to pay for gas like once every two months. Anyway, she is coming, and she is leaving on the 22nd, right before Thanksgiving, ughhh. But the day she leaves marks one month till I get to come HOME! Open house party, all are invited-hahaha. Always wanted to have one of those.
Ok well, I don't think there is anything else left to say. I have two games this week, and another Euro-League game the following week against a team from Spain I believe – guess I need to check that. Still missing home, and still missing everyone back in America, but I like to think I am tough, so I am going to "keep on, keepin' on."
OOO and congrats to my DREXEL BALLER DRAGONS on beating Toledo- you guys are simply amazing, what a great way to start off the season with a solid win!!! So proud of you girlies. Shout out to Foners (Fiona) with a career high of 19 points!!!!!! If you are reading this and you do not attend Drexel Women's Basketball games, shame on you :) haha it's worth your time I promise!!! They take on nova today at 12pm so tune in!!!
Pożegnanie! (goodbye in polish)
Monday, October 14, 2013
So Sophie and I moved into our apartment finally. Our apartment is nice, it is two floors and three bedrooms. I took the room with the childish mouse wallpaper, naturally. We were left without Internet for about a week, which was terrible!! So everyday for a week we would go to the mall once or twice for a couple of hours just to connect with the world back home. We were regulars at a mall and would sit at the Coffee Inn and skype and what not, it was pretty funny. The mall we go to has a movie theater, bowling ally and ice skating rink, it is intense. Sophie and I are also sharing a car but it's stick shift. While my dad was here he taught me the basics of driving. In my head I understand how to drive it but I struggle to remember to push the clutch in while changing the gear, so the car staled multiple times, whoops. I will get it eventually..
The driving here is a tad more agressive and I feel like they make up their own driving rules. The other day my teammate and I were driving to practice and there was rush hour, but it was moving along. We soon realized that we were driving in the middle of two lanes. I guess here in Lithuania when there is traffic they create an extra lane on a 2 lane highway. One thing is for sure, I am bringing that move back to American because I hate traffic. So don't be surprised if all the sudden you are driving in the middle of a highway because I will be setting the trend soon enough. Also, there was a highway biker riding in between the cars...Oh, and since I have been here I have seen ONE stop sign.
When I have free time to myself I try to practice my Lithuanian. I can count to twenty, name all the body parts, a few foods and some every day words (please, thank you, yes, no ect). It's funny because when my coach is speaking in Lithuanian to the team I stand there paying attention like I actually understand what is being said. Some of the girls call me out and tell me to stop nodding my head pretending like I know what she is saying. I do try to see if I can make out any words, but it is a struggle. Usually one of the girls on the team stands next to me and translates everything that is being said. The coach translates in English unless she is yelling at us. I guess that works in my favor..
Also on my free time I have been able to sightsee a bit. I climbed a pretty steep mountain that overlooked the city of Vilnius. At the top of the mountain was also "The Three Crosses," which were built to honor monks martyred in the 14th century. The original crosses that were built were removed by the Soviets, but then were rebuilt in 1989. We also visited The Castle in Trakai Lithuania which was very cool. The Castle sits on an island on a lake. The town the Castle was in was small, but very cute, and looked like a vacation town.
Practices have been going well. We have had a couple two-a-days, but nothing I am not used to. The mens arena is connected to ours and they usually practice right after us. I am assuming they are a big deal, considering that when I left the gym all of their cars were parked outside with their name and number printed on the side of the car. I guess in case they forget which car is theirs...I don't know. Anyways, our first game is Friday, for the Lithuanian League and our Euro-league games start in November I believe.
I am still enjoying myself, but I am missing home which is normal I guess. I mean I missed home at times even when I was 30 minutes away, but now I don't have the comfort of being able to just go home when I want. Oh well...
Alrighty, well I miss you all and until next time..