Saturday, June 28, 2008

On the way home.

I know. I know. It has been far too long since the last post.

I spent most of the last week trying to figure out......"Am I tired/hungry/delirious? What time/day is it right now?" Luckily, I have found my way out of the Ambien induced jet lag recovery plan I was on, just in time to start training again. (We have 38 days left till the Games start!!!! Back to work for us!) So my schedule has been quite messed up, leaving little time for downloading photos and blogging. Bad Petri. That will change now.

Here is a story from our trip home.....

We began our journey last Monday. 3:45 am Athens time.
Alarm went off. I thought it was a joke. Nope. Eyes still half closed we dragged our bags downstairs to the lobby to meet the team. We had stayed in the hotel across the street from the airport to make it easier to make our 6am flight. More dragging of bags and we were across the street and checking in. If you have ever been in a line in Europe you know that, well, lines do not exist in Europe. It is more of a crowd up to the front in a huge mass to see who can squeeze in first type of thing. Here is where traveling in a pack of 18 comes in handy. Begin a "line" while the rest of the people set picks and block the random people trying to cut in front of you. Throw a few dirty looks. Continue until your whole party has made it to the front. Doing that while sleepy is always entertaining. All checked in we had time to grab some juice, get through security and board. Now I thought that at that insane hour of morning I would sleep like a baby from Athens to Frankfurt. NOPE! Awake and becoming very delirious. I sat next to teammate Alison Gregorka who was just as loopy as I was. We found a few free postcards in the back of the plane and decided to write to people at home. I know you wish YOU had gotten would have brought tears of pure joy to your eyes....maybe.....but at the time we thought they were hilarious. Must have been the altitude, right? Who knows. Arriving in Frankfurt we realized that we had been awake for 8 hours and had not eaten enough. That for an athlete spells disaster so we headed for the nearest place selling food. Slightly disheveled, puffy eyed, matching bags and all we settled into some seats next to a cafe. Next we all pillaged our stuff for as many Euros we could find. You never like getting home with a dollar left. Can't use it at home and that amount is never worth the hassle of exchanging. The drill: Go purchase as much stuff as you can and then bring back the change. Deposit it on the table for re-evaluation. We had been through Round One. Coffee, pastries and sandwiches ingested, blood sugar rose and so did our voices. We were laughing and chatting away when we were interrupted by a man in line at the cafe. He asked us if we needed any money? Holding out a 20 Euro note. Us? Huh? We all looked around at each other trying to see ourselves as he did. Were we looking particularly skinny? Or in need? All at the same time our eyes fell on the small table we were surrounding. Jessica had been counting out our remaining change. Separating it into dollar amounts, to be used in Round Two, for spare water bottles or further snacks. It looked as if we were starving student travelers scraping together our last pennies to make it to the next destination. OOOPPS!!!! No, no, no we gushed. The offer was much appreciated but we explained that we were just trying to use up our last Euros before getting back to America. He smiled and continued on in line. About 5 minutes later he stopped by and laid about $20 in loose change and small bills on the table! He told us that he too was going to America, he would not be able to use all that money and that we should use it to get more snacks. We thanked him profusely and got in line for more snacks. (We can always eat more) Not before Jessica ran after him with a USA Water Polo pin for him to remember us by and another "thank you". As we ate the new pile of snacks we all commented on how incredibly giving some strangers can be. He did not know who we were, or of what nationality, or that we were a team when he offered to help us. That kind of blind generosity is rare. And when you are the recipient of that love it makes you feel special and hopeful. Happily full and lost in thoughts of appreciation, we looked up and there was our stranger again! Only this time he was pulling American money from his wallet. Saying he was proud of us and wanted to make a donation to our team. Oh my! Most people's mouths were hanging open. Dumbfounded. Again we thanked him but we could not accept this kind of money! We urged him to make a donation on the USA Water Polo website. He laughed and said he rarely used the computer. He told us he was a soldier coming from the Middle East. We told him his kindness and support was more than enough!!!! After many more thank-you's we all watched his back as he wandered off into the airport to find his gate. 

At that point we still had a good 20 hours of travel to go and yet that man rejuvenated us all. I think now about how there are so few words to express to the people we love and the people we do not even know, how much their support means to us. We could not do what we do every day without them. 

So one more time. THANK YOU! 

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thoughts on a bus.

Yesterday we left Chania and rode a bus with the Greek team along the coast of Crete to the town of Heraklion. We will be playing a four team tournament called the Thetis Cup in the coming days.

The drive was beautiful. The road followed the coast most of the way, making only a slight detour inland, once, over a forested rocky pass before opening back up to the blue Agean Sea and the sparsly inhabited shoreline. I found myself wondering about the houses that popped up here and there. Some were older. Almost worn right into the surrounding rusty red and white rocks. Vines of grapes or olive, creeping along the house rooting it to the spot. Who lived in those houses? Had it been passed down through generations of Greek families? Was it just a summer home or somone who had lived on this island their whole life? Occasionally, a brand new "modern" looking home would be proudly standing on a cliff with the most amazing ocean view, terraced vines planted adjacent to it in a square garden plot. These homes stood out to me. While beautiful and certainly of the calibur of someone's dream home, immediately I thought "Was it a wealthy American who built that?" I hoped that whoever did build it, lived in it and appreciated the amazing setting they had aquired for their home. It would be sad if it were just a possesion for some foreign person to say they have, but rarely use.

I have come to enjoy the atmosphere here on the European islands. While things are worn and used well beyond their intended can tell that the land, homes, cars, churches, everything really, is loved. And that comes through in the locals hospitality and friendliness. For example, most people here do not understand our intrest in the internet. The hotel we are staying at does not have a computer or wireless connections. Things are simple. Bed. Toilet. AC. :) When we asked about internet they simply pointed to the left and said, "But the beach is only half a block away. Why do you need this?" We politely said ok and decided to go on down to the water to cool off before afternoon practice. It is HOT here and they were right, sitting inside is not where we wanted to be! When we got back to the hotel later that night, sitting in the corner of the lobby was a computer all set up and connected to the internet. So while I'm sure the owners of the hotel will never use the computer, for this hotel is what they love, it was incredibly generous of them to make us feel more at home. :)

Lucky for me so I can post while I am here!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Getting connected on the road.

Lately I have had an overwhelming urge to just throw my computer against the wall. Stupid thing is not cooperating. All my teammates are writing e-mails, chatting on IM, posting on blogs or Facebook. While I battle with the Network Diagnostic settings and pray that this time the server will actually connect to the four strong bars of wireless nothing I am connected to. I feel like I have tried everything and am still no closer to my goal of contacting everyone at home.
That wall is looking enticing again. 
I know the flying bits of plastic and computer innards would give me an instantaneous bit of joy, but then I would realize I no longer have my favorite toy and my ridiculous display of aggression had really accomplished nothing. For the internet gods will NEVER tango with a pile of broken computer parts. 
So I bit the bullet. Swallowed my frustration over being unable to master the computer skills I needed to simply connect to the net on my own computer and borrowed my teammate's that is working like a charm. I guess that is the spectacular thing about traveling with 14 friends. There is always someone there to prevent you from doing something stupid. Like throw your computer at the wall. 

We have been on the road for a little over a week now. Last post we had played one game of the Super Final. Loads have happened since then. With the "hit or miss" internet, games and travel I have fallen seriously behind. But here is a short recapitulation of our adventures since then. 

1. Beat Russia, China, Canada, and Spain in the preliminary rounds of the tournament.
2. I turned 30!!!! (On Friday the 13th! It was a great need to think that day is unlucky.)
3. Placed second in the tournament after loosing to Russia in the Final 8-7. :(
4. Visited Puerto De La Cruz, Tenerife. Highlights- black sand beaches and salt water pool resorts!
5. Spent half a day in Madrid, Spain.
6. Flew to Chania, Crete, Greece -where we will train against Greece for a few days.

So that about brings you to right now. I love to post pictures and will do that if I ever get my computer to cooperate with me again. I'll stop threatening to throw it at the wall and see if that helps! Back to training......

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ocean Views

We are staying at a very nice hotel here in Tenerife. And much to my pleasure, when the keys got handed out to all the pairs of roommates, mine belonged to a room facing the Atlantic Ocean. So a deep blue band of water reflects and beckons to us from down the hill below us. We are not located beach side or anything.....but the glimpse of the sea in the morning is a treat. As you look out our window you can see the nice terrarium built full of sun loving plants and cacti, and in the distance the sweet band of blue.

It is hot here during the day. And cools off a bit in the afternoon when winds begin to pick up and bring cooler air from the ocean. Our games have been at 4pm or later every day. Good thing because without the breeze, warm-up (which happens next to the pool under the white tents-see below) would feel like being in a Bikram Yoga Class! But I suppose this is great preparation for being in China,in August. It will be sweltering then!
The pool is just a short walk from our hotel and also has a great view of the ocean!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Let the games begin!

Our first game of the Super Final was today. We played Australia, and won 10-9! (If you would like to read a more
version of our games, please visit the USA Water Polo Website or Brenda's blog) That style of writing is not my I will stick to giving you all the other fun details.

Last night the city of Tenerife hosted an Opening Ceremonies extravaganza at the pool. They announced all the teams to be playing in the tournament this week and then presented a show of the local Carnival dancers. Words will not do these people justice. So you can watch a sampling!!! The energy, the costumes, the dance moves!

AHHHAAAHHH! The video is not uploading right now because the internet is sooooo slow.....check back and witness the spectacular!!!!


Monday, June 9, 2008

28 hour travel day....

LAX to Chicago. Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany. Fankfurt to Madrid, Spain. Madrid to Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. One of our longest travel days to date! But I have never been here and the destination has turned out to be well worth the trip! We have come here to play in the World League Super Final. Which is just the final stage of a round robin tournament that is held every summer, to give the teams from around the world a chance to play against each other. Great place to hold the final....Thanks Spain for hosting it!

Right in the middle of our journey here, while some were passed out on the most uncomfortable of airport seating, the rest of us allowed the delirium to take over. Jamie got out her apple and we had some fun with photo booth.

The only way to get through a travel day like that is to laugh.....uncontrollably....even if everyone stares at you. :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bonding Bonfire

Most of our days are filled with little else other than eating, sleeping and playing water polo. I am lucky if i get a load of laundry done once in a while. (A half an hour laying on the couch catching up on a recorded episode of CSI or Survivor seems way more appealing than sitting on a bench in a laundry mat watching clothes tumble round and round. Good thing I have at least 40 t-shirts to cylce through.) With a schedule like that, day after day, for months things can get a little monotinous. So it is imperiative that we stay focused on our goals of playing well come game time. In order to do that we MUST stay together as a group and enjoy what we do and each other. Good team chemisty does not just happen. We have to work at it and spend time getting to know each other away from the pool.

The latest team bonding session was a post practice bonfire. We roasted hot dogs and sausages on skewers, made smores (try an exotic flare and use reeses pb cups or butterfinger instead of plain chocolate!) and we wrapped bananas, with chocolate and marshmellows in the middle, in tin foil and roasted them in the flames! DELICIOUS!  Try it!!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'm a Lenovo Olympic Blogger!!!!

I was recently asked to be a part of the Lenovo Olympic Blogger Program. What is that you ask? 
Well, Lenovo (a Chinese company, based in Beijing, that mainly manufactures personal computers) has asked athletes from all over the world to blog about their experiences leading up to the Olympics. They will feature our posts on their "Voices of the Summer Games" site. So, everything I post here will automatically be posted there as well, allowing people from all over the world to read about my life leading to the Olympics! You can find athletes of many different countries and sports on the site as well. Giving everyone an unfiltered, real life account of what it is like to be an Olympic athlete. 

You can easily find the website by going to the right hand side of my blog and clicking on Summer Games Blogger in the blue box, underneath the Olympic rings. (I also included the link in this post. But for future reference.....) Lenovo also sponsored a web page of all things Olympic. You can find that by clicking in the bottom of that same blue box. 

I am really excited that my blog may be getting a little bit more traffic....thank all you family and friends who have been faithful readers of my randomness....and, WELCOME NEW FOLKS!!!!!  To get ready for this I decided to enlist my good friend and computer/photo shop extraordinaire, Darcy Couch, to help me spruce up the look of my blog. She helped me....ok, she pretty much did it all...make a new header that looks AWESOME. All I did was offer a few creative ideas and send her the photos. In an hour or so she produced the masterpiece up see at the top of the page. Props to you my friend!!! She is Sports Information Director at USC and let me tell you she is the reason their media guide, websites and all things media are so FABULOUS. They are lucky to have her! 

Thanks to Lenovo for letting me be a part of this! Happy reading to all of you!