I Love People

I get a lot of mixed emotions when I tell people that I’m a professional volleyball player. Most of them think of it as one of two things: not really a profession OR the coolest thing in the world. Well, this is how I see it: my job is to basically go to another country whose native language is not my own, play a fun, indoor sport with 8-12 different strangers under the supervision of an older person whose ideals and morals could clash with mine, living 5-7 time zones away from my friends and family, all while trying to “fit in,” stay in shape, and avoid injuries and illnesses. I love my job. I love every second of it (most of the time) which is really weird, I know. I am a weirdo.

One thing that most people who go overseas (study abroad program, work, just want to get out of America, etc.) don’t exactly get that I receive upon arrival is an automatic group of girlfriends. The absolute BEST part about my job! NEW PEOPLE! I land in a country completely jet-lagged and already have 8-12 people super pumped to meet me. I’m lucky. I’m lucky because I basically already have friends. Do they ALL become friends? No. Absolutely not. Some have a conflicting work ethic or they are just down right mean and I don’t want to associate myself with them.

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The point is that I put myself in a huge and uncomfortable situation with a bunch of strangers who don’t understand me when I talk at my normal conversation speed! Strangers: the people that our parents/elders/older siblings warned us to stay away from and not talk to. And yes, some people should be avoided but the more I venture out, the more I believe that people are beautiful. The strangers I meet sometimes impact me more than the forgettable figures I deal with daily.

Quick story:
I arrived in Paris around 10:30 at night on a Monday, alone. I can’t read any French and all I can think about is the movie Taken and I start praying on the metro that I don’t get abducted and sold into the sex trade. Instead of checking into my hostel first like a normal person, I decide to go straight to the Eiffel Tower to see the light show. As I try to navigate my maps and figure out where I’m going, a large group of young people hop onto the metro. They are speaking English and they are very loud, two things I identify with immensely. I eavesdrop trying to figure out if they’re Americans or what types of accents I can decipher. I finally muster up some courage to ask them where they’re from.

“Well, we have four Americans, a Serbian, a Mexican, a Canadian, a Brazilian, an Aussie, and a Kiwi.”
“How do you guys know each other? School?”
“We’re in the same hostel!”
“Oh wow that’s cool! Where are you headed?”
“Eiffel Tower. We’re recruiting. Would you like to join? We have wine and champagne!”

Instead of thinking of what 7 year old Kristin was once told, which was to stay away from strangers, I excitedly accepted their invitation and that’s how I got to hang out with 10 of the most random and diverse people I had ever met. It was that simple. Let me tell you something, it was one of the best nights ever. We screamed, we danced, we bantered, and we drank below one of the most iconic forms of architecture in the world. I actually had an aha moment where I just thought to myself, this is my life right now. All of my insanely unpredictable and sometimes careless choices had led me to this one moment…with a bunch of people I didn’t even know. One of the guys actually said out loud, “I wouldn’t want to spend this night with anybody else,” talking about our random group and he couldn’t have been more right.

New friends around the Eiffel Tower

I know my personality has never been scared of talking to people but being overseas has really put another take on that. Besides my Swedish and Greek eight month visitations, I’ve participated in other events where I knew no one and no one knew me. In Germany, we went on a beer garden hike with 10 people from all over Europe and weirdly enough, no Germans were in that group. I was introduced to a dozen new people in Amsterdam after meeting up with an old teammate. I met up with four random Penn State frat guys and toured around London with them a couple weeks ago. I have dog sat and babysat for strangers in the UK. Last but not least, I had some girls I met at the park take me to a pub for “day before my birthday” drinks after knowing me for about an hour after I started petting their dogs.
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The past two years I’ve had to go into a country as a stranger and leave as a friend and then not know when I’ll see those people again. When people ask me what the best and worst thing is about my job that’s what I say. I love people and I love meeting new people…but leaving sucks.

So to all of the strangers I have met, thank you. Thank you for being nice, for speaking English, for being rude, for teaching me all of the curse words in your language, for sharing your world and listening to mine. Also, thank you for not abducting me and selling me into the drug/sex trade. I really appreciate that. Starting with a smile, strangers can turn into friends…it’s literally that easy. Life is pretty much trial and error with the people that you meet and those you like, you keep. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to someone and don’t be taken aback when someone does that to you. You never know what good could come of it! I’m a firm believer in that you’re the average of the top five people you associate with…make them good ones.
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Today, I did something terrible…

So like I’ve said before, volleyball is almost nonexistent in the rainy country of England. It makes zero sense to me. Nonetheless, instead of not playing volleyball, I’ve reached out, made some new friends and now we’re going around schools teaching P.E. teachers and kids this wonderful sport! It’s pretty great actually. I love it. The kids love it. Something happened today unfortunately, that might just haunt me forever. Here it goes:

I get introduced to the kids today as the American, who has won national championships and is a professional (it’s still super cool to associate myself with those types of accolades by the way). We have about 30 students, ages 14-15, mostly boys with a handful of girls….and their eyes get super big when Carol (the lady that I house/dog sat for after 4 hours of knowing her) completed my CV. I give ’em a big ol’ “What’s up?!” as a normal, loud, enthusiastic American would do and then we warm them up. Everything is normal. They are quite athletic and just a bunch of sponges. They are soaking up every little piece of advice and technique that we throw at them. It. Is. Awesome. I love when kids “get it”. I love when they want to learn and don’t mind getting sweaty and hurting their forearms. I also love when they respond well to my normal self; I don’t have to overexert myself or make sure I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. They think I’m funny which is even more perfect because I myself think I’m hilarious. Great group of kids.

We get into serving and I want to split them up into three groups where one group is serving, one group is at the net feeding the volleyballs to servers and the third group is collecting the served volleyballs. As I am explaining this to them, I tell them “Okay, this group go to the other side, y’all are shagging. Next group, y’all get at the net. And you guys, just stay here.” In normal American English, this is not a problem. This is normal. I said no curse words, I wasn’t racist, I wasn’t politically incorrect….nothing in my head was wrong. However, I look around to the first group of kids and their eyes are actually popping out of their heads. There are girls in the back snickering. Of the two P. E. teachers, the girl has fallen off her chair from laughing and the guy just has his hand over his mouth. I start thinking that my leggings are actually see-through and people can see my underwear.

Shagging in the American dictionary is defined as: to fetch, to retrieve, to pursue (also, apparently, a really bad hair cut?) but in the English English dictionary it means to have sex. I start thinking about all of the movies that I have watched that have loads of English actors in them and yup….the light bulb went off. I told a group of high school kids to go have sex on the other side of the net. Not intentionally of course….but still. I did it. I also turned about 20 shades of red and apologized close to 50 times.

Luckily, I was forgiven and dubbed the “cool” coach and possibly gave those kids a fantastic story to tell their friends. Surprisingly I was invited back by the P. E. teachers and they want me to present some athletic award at the end of the semester. Life is weird like that sometimes.

As I was leaving, I told the kids to stay in school and don’t do drugs…and I heard one of the boys whisper, “yeah, and no shagging.” Well, hopefully they’ll remember some of the volleyball technique that they learned today. For the last day of me being 23 years old, I’m not sure I could’ve done it up any better….

Happy Thursday everyone!

Extra list of words you need to know if you want to visit England (the list grows everyday)
1. Rubbish: trash or something that isn’t good
2. You alright?: How are you?
3. Pants: underwear
4. Torch: flash light
5. Boot: trunk of the car
6. Dodgy: shady
7. Wee bit: a little bit
8. Pissed: drunk
9. Lift: elevator
10. Cheeky: rude but cunning; also used as an adjective for anything
11. Up the duff: pregnant
12. Lou: toilet
13. Surname: last name (self explainable)
14. Mate: buddy
15. Brilliant: cool, great, spot-on
16. Fancy dressed: costume attire
****if anyone has any to add, please let me know 🙂

Oops….I’ve forgotten about this Blog thing

I just realized today that I haven’t written a blog in well….almost 4 full months. A whole lot has happened. I’ll try and keep this short. 

Timeline & Order of Events

January: Longest break ever. We have a by the first week of play…so we don’t play until the third week of January. We continue to lose but start taking points off of the top teams. Progress? Yes! And of course, as luck has it, our outside tears her achilles tendon. Gross. There goes our reception. 

 

February: We have like 8 players on the team. All but two (including myself) are under the age of 20. If the struggle bus was real, we would be on it…..speeding without seatbelts because that’s how Greeks do it. Highlight of this month was the massive fight that broke out during one of the island matches because our coach was giving the crowd the finger…but he was really just telling us to serve zone one haha.  
 

March: Well first, I got deported. I went home for literally a weekend which was in all honesty, amazing; seeing the nuggets, surprising my best friend and sister, eating my mother’s food, drinking beer with my dad = absolutely priceless.  I had to go back to finish the season (even though if I had been caught, I would’ve been sent back to the USA – obviously the Greek passport control does not care whatsoever).  Finally we get to the end of the season! We finished up 6th place which is actually a miracle. I’m still not sure how it happened, but I’m not complaining. I said yasas to Greece and HELLOOOO ENGLAND! I now get to date my boyfriend and crush the long distance thing. The first week I was in the UK, I did absolutely nothing. No exercise (horrible idea), no waking up early (also not a great idea), no volleyball (I was okay with that), nothing. 
   

     

April: I officially decided to “not do nothing” because life is too short and well, it’s incredibly unproductive. I am unable to join a gym because I don’t have a UK bank account which sucks but thanks to Ms. Sarah Schall, I’ve got plenty of workouts that I can do in the living room or in the park. Speaking of the park, everyone walks their dogs (haven’t seen a mutt yet) in the park. From small yip yip dogs to huge fluffy ones, the park is the place to go. The people are super friendly here and so are their dogs. I will go to the park just to play with stranger’s dogs. No one minds though which is nice. 
  

Clay and I spent the week after Easter in France. I’m not sure there is a word to describe the sights that we saw. We met the nicest French people (never thought I’d say that), we had some GREAT wine, saw some crystal clear water, jumped off of a super tall snowcapped mountain, had fondue for dinner, and just soaked in the pure natural beauty that God blessed that country with. From Nice to Chamonix….it was definitely a trip for the books. 

   

              

 I got pretty tired of not playing volleyball (I knew it was going to happen). Unfortunately the sport is not very popular over here but I did find a couple clubs that offered to take me in and let me practice with the teams. There is something about this game that is just extraordinarily enjoyable. But it’s not just the game; the people who you get to play with immediately become people that you’ve known for years (even though it was only three hours) and you learn some lingo that other people use to explain areas of the game that you never really thought of. I seriously play the greatest sport ever and I’m constantly learning about it. I really don’t understand how a country that gets SO MUCH RAIN, doesn’t want to play a super fun indoor sport…I’m trying to help them out because honestly, what’s not to love about this game?

One of the ladies I met at a practice asked me to house/dog sit for her family! Everyone thinks that is so nutty but we knew each other for three full hours…that’s enough time right? And with my golden personality, I guess I look trustworthy! So I spent all of last week with her dog, Jake, and their house which was in another town. Cooked broccoli for the first time, WEIGHED ingredients for the first time, picked up dog poop for the first time…it was quite a lovely experience!!

This past weekend we did a full day hike through the Cotswolds which was amazing. We probably hiked around 15 miles total (got a little lost the first hike). Gorgeous day and the views were breathtaking. Spring is definitely here. 

   

       

My birthday is coming up which I’m super pumped about and a quick Germany trip! I’ll be a little better at keeping up with this blog thing, I promise. I want to plan one more trip that I’ll probably be going by myself…right now it’s a tie between Reykjavik, Iceland, Normandy, France, and Dublin, Ireland. Let me know if anyone has any suggestions 🙂

Whelp, that’s a wrap. New favorite English words are: Literally (pronounced lit-trally), rubbish (which means trash or something that’s not very good), and cheeky (an adjective that can be used before just about any noun, ex: Oh, that’s a cheeky hedge over there/ or to be used instead of sassy). Smell ya later, don’t forget to Carpe that Diem!!!

-Kristin

Dear Coaches…

I love having conversations with my coach over here. He’s around the same age as my dad and for some reason that generation loves to talk (and talk and talk some more). I’m not complaining! It’s very entertaining as well as very informative! The stories range from Serbian mafia to different president/player relationships he has had to deal with in the past.

The most recent conversation that we had was about the history of volleyball. When he played, there were a lot more rules than that of today. He was a setter and he talked about all of the famous players he’s gotten to play with and against. We actually ended up talking about Karch (he pronounced his last name as if he was speaking Hungarian and if he hadn’t of said “Karch,” I’m not sure I would’ve known who Keer-a-lee was) and how he was the most selfless and best all-around player he’s ever played against. Coach told me stories of when they were playing against each other in Italy and how he made just one mistake the entire match! I laughed and said that there aren’t any players this day in age who are anywhere close to being like him. And I believe that wholeheartedly. Realistically, there won’t be another player for a long time to even come close in comparison with Karch.

However, with all of that being said, what has happened to the all-around players? Has the game evolved that dramatically? Players who had everything: the ball control to be an outside, the strength and power to be an opposite, the intelligence to be a setter, (the cardio to be a middle)…in a world of specialization, have we managed to get players to underperform? Have we created rules to make the game easier to understand or to make the game uglier? With the increase in athleticism over the years, have we covered up their true potential with the increase of substitutions?

For all of the lovely coaches around the globe reading this, I would be honored if you would answer this simple question: Do you think that the game of volleyball has improved/progressed and why? (ok that’s two questions). If you need the definition of progression, it is a movement or development toward a destination or a more advanced state. I know the sport has changed, that’s obvious, but has it gotten better? Anyone can point out a problem (if there even is a problem)…that’s not my goal here.  I want to know what people are thinking. Consider this a research project that a future coach (me) is conducting that could possibly help to grow the sport that we love.  Any and all comments, concerns, and suggestions are welcomed! Leave them below or email me your thoughts at knc5088@gmail.com. Please share this with any of your coaching friends! Thank you 🙂

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Ten Things I’ve Learned in 2014

So like my sister, I too have made a wonderful list compiling the exciting things I have learned in 2014. This was a year of more ups than downs with crazy opportunities and great people; it’s all in the process of growing up right?

  1. The world is big and way cooler than I expected.
    I am passionately in love with traveling. It has taught me so many things about so many things. I’ve tried foods that I never thought I would ever eat, I’ve befriended people whom I never thought I would even be in the same room with, and I’ve seen places that have more history than little baby America x4. I’ve been out of my comfort zone more than a few times! There are so many other places that are calling my name…I’m honestly just getting started.
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  2. Let God in.
    I grew up in a Christian, church every Sunday type of family. I was in the choir, helped with the younger kids, and of course was in youth group. I went to college and that changed a bit. I didn’t go to church but a couple times a year (if a couple) and was okay with it. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God anymore, it was just a brief hiatus of not really thinking about him much. I prayed occasionally, like when things were going “wrong” in my life but not any other time. Soon after I graduated, Sweden came up to me and smacked me in the face with a great opportunity. Was I ready to move to the arctic circle leaving my family, language, bacon, and small amount of wonderful friends behind? No. But I did it. The beginning of January this year, I decided I was going to start praying for everything. Everything that I was proud of, happy for, appreciated, scared of, the people around me, their health, my health, just everything! I talk to God on a regular basis and it is the best decision I’ve made. It’s attracted me towards a lot of great people and brought me even closer to my favorite people. Luckily He’s everywhere so I don’t have to worry about time zones differences.IMG_1286
  3. Driving is therapeutic.
    I reeeeeeeally enjoy driving. I have this adorable little maroon Mazda (that’s a stick shift because I have a short attention span) that gets excellent gas mileage. In the wonderful year of 2014, I was only in the United States for three full months…and drove over 3,000 miles. I sure do miss driving here in Greece. I haven’t driven since August!! I love driving with the windows rolled down and the feeling of the wind mazing through my blonde arm hairs (yes, I’m pretending I’m tan). I love putting my ipod on shuffle and SCREAMING, I mean singing, every word to every song. You’re alone with your thoughts, thinking about new volleyball drills or calling friends that you haven’t talked to in a long time…it’s so nice to be there on the road.IMG_1280
  4. Thinking negatively is seriously the worst idea anyone could have.
    I don’t think I even have to explain this one, but I will anyways. Whether it’s jealousy (um hello- he picked YOU, not her) or feeling sorry for yourself because you just got out of the hospital and can’t play and nothing is going right (spoiler alert: you get better!) or the horrible emotion of DOUBT (am I even a good volleyball player? Why is God doing this? How am I preparing for my future?)…all negative, all bad. It makes you feel like crap! I remember my new year’s resolution a few years ago was to think positively and to surround myself with good people who were also happy people (I’ve really tried my best to make that resolution more of a life habit). Sure, things happen in life that are sad BUT there is always a silver lining. The burden of negative thoughts can overtake you quickly and unknowingly and before you know it, you’ve eaten two chocolate bars and Taylor Swift’s second album is on repeat. It’s not always easy to find the positive out of unfortunate situations but there’s always something there waiting to make you smile…you just gotta search for it.IMG_1285
  5. My sister is actually a superhero.
    My sister is an awesome mom. She’s a good cook (which means she can read). She’s good at being protected from the bad guys in the kitchen. She’s good at driving people around everywhere. She’s good at teaching her kids and other kids numbers and letters and song lyrics. She’s good at being social with working out, bible studies at church, and selling make up with really great hand creams (satin hands- ask her about it and get it). She’s really good at watching Frozen. Umm…she does EVERYTHING which can only mean one thing: she’s a super hero. That’s actually the only explanation. I know one day I’m going to be a really cool and great mom but I just pray I’m half the supermom she is.
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  6. Gatwick airport is the worst airport in the world along with their passport control staff (slight exaggeration with the passport staff).
    From being strip searched to being asked if I was a prostitute (both very long stories)…I really dislike this airport. Maybe they’re still bitter about the Revolutionary War and they take it out on American travelers, who knows? I’ve never gotten out of passport control in under an hour and I don’t want to talk about it. Gatwick, you suck and I hate that cheap flights fly in and out of your airport. Wolverines-Airport-Security-Inspection_o_92884
  7. Long distance relationships are work:
    I bet you’re thinking about the long distance relationship I have with my rockstar of a boyfriend but truthfully, EVERY relationship takes work when you live time zones apart. Examples:
    a) I’m not physically there to watch my nephews grow up and it kills me. I get sloppy kisses on a phone screen (and dropped multiple times) which unfortunately, isn’t the same as REAL sloppy kisses. Asking them their favorite things and about their days are just better when I am physically there to give them a high fives and cuddles.
    b) My two best friends, including my sister, live in Richmond. One of them works from 9-5 and when she gets a chance to call me after work, I’m usually already asleep. I have to wait half of my day for my sister and the boys to wake up…just so she can eat bacon in front of me.
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    c) When you go from seeing your friends and teammates every day in college and now they’re all over the United States, it takes a lot of organizing and sometimes sacrificing some sleep to be able to talk to them. Also – you find out who your real friends are. People who contact YOU; the people who are genuinely interested in how you’re doing and what’s going on in your life. Sometimes, it’s not the people who you expect and you realize that it’s ok.
    d) Being in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend magnifies everything; fights are more complicated when you can’t physically be with them to talk it out, smiles are bigger when you talk to them, emails with “thinking of you” songs in them mean more, days are shorter when you’re with them, butterflies are just as strong as a high school dance when you see them at an airport, “see ya laters” suck even more when you don’t have another set date to see them next….a LOT of missing them takes place. Missing him so much it hurts – yeah I’ve actually felt that and I don’t like it at all. Lots of communication, trust, and appreciation are just some of the most important ingredients in the LD recipe.

It sucks big time and I’m sure you wondering why in the world I put myself through it? Why move away from home? Why have a relationship with someone who lives in another country? Well folks, that’s an excellent question but let me say this: DISTANCE is TEMPORARY. I’m young and I’m living my dream. I know God did not put me here on Earth to stay in one place. This technology we have makes us literally the luckiest humans in history…family and friends are a click away!! And you know what? Even if I had to send snail mail every day…I’d still do it because I like this guy that much (sorry for the PDA, Clay).
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  1. Travelling is awesome. Travelling with someone you love is even better.
    I’ve already expressed my love for traveling but the only thing BETTER is traveling with a really special someone. I’ve done a polar plunge in the Baltic Sea with my best friend and her boyfriend. I went and saw a concert at the bottom of a small, sweaty, and sold out bar in Denmark with my sister and cousin (thanks for sticking together so we could see you, Sick Puppies). I got lost with my parents in the second biggest city in Sweden and oh yeah, we broke some laws. I had an old teammate who was playing volleyball in France come see me on her weekend off! I traveled allllllllllll over Scotland with my Swedish sister and fed Nessy some chocolate muffins. I’ve drank beer in underrated Brussels, eaten pizza in the non-touristy part of Rome, and hiked mountains in magical Norway with the man who makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Sharing moments with loved ones are one of those things where you don’t realize how great it is until after you experience it. Actually that’s a lie; you know they’re great right when you start your adventure with them.
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  2. Writing down your goals actually works.
    Everyone has heard it’s statistically proven that people who write their goals down achieve them at a higher probability than those who do not write them down. Through sport psych classes and many mentors, I’ve heard it more than a couple times. When it comes to writing down my goals I would start them and then stop early because of [insert lame reason here]. When I got to Greece, I told myself I was going to do it this time and do it right. My first month, I wanted to keep myself busy outside of volleyball. I set up a 21 day challenge (it takes 21 days to make something a habit) and within those three weeks, I had cooked a dozen different healthy meals (thanks pinterest), been social outside of practice (tougher than it seems living in a village), I had finished three books (Bob Goff is the man), and I started a blog. Of course JUST writing goals down doesn’t do anything unless you act on it and set mini daily goals for yourself. Writing them down and seeing what I wanted on paper made it into a reality (I also had a great teacher). Write down your goals people and don’t just chase them…hunt them down. Make them realistic and challenging! Do it for you! It’s a life changer…(let me know if you’re interested in the methods I use).
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  3. Home is where the biggest piece of your heart is.
    There’s this quote that says, “I have left my heart in so many places” and I believe I actually have done just that. My heart is currently living in numerous countries and hundreds of cities. I could travel all around the world but there would still be one place that is home. Home is smelling mom’s fresh lasagna cooking in the oven when walking in the door. Home is my dad playing the air guitar when no one is watching and killing the solo. Home is having your leg broken by the dog’s tail because he is so excited to see you. Home is the constant sneezing because of the stupid cat. Home is having an actual fire in the fire place. Home is holding up a four year old so he can shoot a basketball in the same hoop his mommy and I used to shoot into. Home is a toddler cutting the grass with plastic push mower. Home is hearing “Kris” or “Punkadoodle” or “sis” or “Kwistin” or “Little Sh*t” echo throughout the house. No matter where I’ve been or where I’m headed, the biggest part of my heart will always be off the main road, second driveway to the left with the red door and flaming mailbox.
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I hope everyone has a great and safe New Year’s wherever you are. I’m going to be chilling in Greece (if I leave, I can’t come back for another few months) and living that dream!!! Cheers to more lessons learned, less complaining, being more appreciative, living it up in 2015!

Greece – 1, Kristin – 0

I’ve been dreading writing another blog because well, things haven’t been going as fantastic as all of my adventurous pictures have perceived. But instead of going into the volleyball aspect of my life, I’m just going to skip all of that because no one likes to hear about losing. No great story ends with losing, ya know? I gotta give the people what they want! So…we’re just not going to talk about volleyball. Other things have been going on…

Here’s a curve ball for ya – I was just released from a Greek hospital. I actually wrote the majority of this blog from the hospital. I was there for five days. Yup. I passed out on my bathroom floor Friday morning around 1 am and five days later, I was finally set free. I’ll spare you the details because it’s not the prettiest. They originally thought appendicitis but now it looks like it was a major intestinal virus or colitis (if you were on the PSU women’s volleyball team between the years 2009-2011 that word should just make you giggle) and it literally kicked my butt. Now that I’m out, here’s a review and some highlights from my time spent in room 369.

The last time I was admitted to the hospital was my freshman year of high school when I perforated my esophagus via an ice cream cone (story for another time). Every room had a TV, I could walk around the halls and there was jello. Here, there is no TV unless you rent one, which I thought was interesting. Americans would have a hissy fit about that. I don’t mind not having a TV so I really didn’t care (not that I would be able to understand Greek television anyways). Walking around isn’t really something you do here. If you know me, I always had a difficult time sitting still during class (when I wasn’t sleeping of course) so me being somewhat forced to stay in this bed….not fun. Oh yeah, no jello 😦

I knew this already but wow, my veins suck. This is a university hospital so there’s a bunch of students here helping out. My veins are tiny and roll very easily….let’s just say I look like a heroin addict with the amount of holes and tiny bruises along both arms and hands. Nurses/doctors come in with high hopes and then boom, four tries later they get my vein. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be. I would have to compare it to your coach telling you to serve zone two and you’re serving everywhere BUT zone two. Finally the ball hits the top of the tape to drop inside the 3 meter line barely in the zone and they count it. Frustrating. It doesn’t help that needles are definitely not my thing. Needles, bees, clowns…no thank you.

Communication. Now this goes many different ways. Communications with the doctors are fine because they speak English very well. Nurses and interns…not so much. No one can pronounce appendicitis which is hilarious but then again they can’t pronounce my first name correctly either. No big deal. I respond to Christine/Christina/Kreeeesteeeen. Oh, and when you tell someone that you’re not pregnant, and then they make you do 10 pee tests, 5 different ultra sound tests and a full questionnaire about your menstrual history…it’s a bit irritating. Then, after each test they go “well, you’re not pregnant!” Thank you, Captain Obvious. Another little frustrating point about communication…I couldn’t get a hold of anyone back home for the first 24 hours. No Wi-Fi. Sister was probably freaking out (the only person I honestly talk to or FaceTime every day). Boyfriend was on a trip to Switzerland for the weekend and wouldn’t be in touch for a few days. Dad was going to be waiting by the phone after the game that I never made it to see if the team had figured it out yet. And mom…I’m sure she reached a whole new level of panic when there were several missed calls from my phone and a voicemail from my president’s wife that she just couldn’t decipher. I consider myself a tough cookie…I mean not everyone has the guts to pack up and move to another country (twice) just to see what it’s like (and for volleyball). However, I would have felt a whole lot better if I could’ve just told my mom (or anyone for that matter) what was freakin’ going on. But God knew what He was doing because I have had wonderful moms over here every day taking care of me. They care a great deal for me and I am very grateful for them. They even left their families at home and stayed overnight at the hospital. I’m the 23 year old daughter they never had.

Here are the highlights:
Saturday: I love when old people are affectionate towards each other. My roomie, Analisia, is an old lady who to be honest, I had no idea what was wrong with her….but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. She was pale and had all of the tips of her fingers taped up like she was about to play a volleyball match. Spoke zero English but smiled whenever we made eye contact. Her husband came in and brought her soup (I would’ve paid money for that stuff because it smelled like it actually had flavor). He set up the table like it a date for just the two of them. He helped her out of bed and into the chair all while holding her IV bag in the air. Apparently, he didn’t see the portable metal hook that was in the corner because as she started to eat, he just held that IV as high as he could, making sure it was still working. It was adorable. What was even more adorable was her hitting him and calling him “stupid” because he could’ve just hooked it on the metal rod and eaten with her. I think that’s love.

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Sunday: I came across the nicest Greek nurse ever. She had to take more blood to check my white blood count and enzymes. I warned her about my veins and she turned and smiled at me saying “not to worry, I’m here to take care of you.” Some serious relief came over my body! She tried one vein on my right arm and there was no luck. The look on her face was extreme disappointment, but to be honest I wasn’t exactly surprised. It’s taken 3-5 stickings before nurses/doctors have found my veins all weekend. I told her I was used to it and not to worry…I wasn’t going anywhere. She tried the left arm and NAIIIIILED IT. I was like wow! She was the first one who has done it in less than three tries! Her response with a cocky smirk was “yeah, I didn’t wanna show off too much.” She made me so happy.

Monday: Today was not exactly a good day. My belly pains were at an all time high and it was the first time I noticed how small my legs had gotten. A week ago, I squatted 220 lbs for 8 reps. That would probably blow my back out now. Anyways, I needed to change my IV to a different arm because my left forearm was currently bruised up to my elbow, which I assume is not normal (especially since I don’t bruise easily). This one lady comes in, who is the teacher of the “how to stick people’s veins correctly” class. Finally, someone who knows what she’s doing! Six tries later, she literally gives up. It was the first time in her life that she hadn’t gotten someone’s veins.

IMG_2147.JPG Right now the count is up to 23 times I’ve had a needle in me (successful or not) and I was hoping to get out of here today…obviously not the case. I’m extremely dehydrated, super weak, and I’m pretty sure I smell like bad grandma. Seven hours later and still no requested anesthesiologist, a lady comes in asking if she can give it a try. Before mom #3 can explode on this poor soul I tell her she has one chance, one opportunity (yes, quoting Eminem). She smiles politely, sets up her station, and actually cringes when she sees the amount of failed attempts my (now skinny) arms have endured. I say “okay, there’s a chocolate bar in the drawer that could be yours if you do this on the first try.” She giggles as she replies to me that she likes chocolate! Perfect. She takes probably ten minutes picking her vein of choice. One and done. I was so happy, I told her I loved her in five different languages and reached into the drawer and gave her the chocolate (she thought I was joking…but I’m true to my word). Best night ever.

Tuesday: I had a pretty restless night but woke up feeling more like myself. Today was overall a good day and the night got even better. I got two new grandma roomies tonight! The majority of the Greek population over the age of 50 either doesn’t know English or legitimately thinks they know it, but really don’t. I had been alone for the past two days, minus the plethora of visitors I had received. The first lady came in with her husband and they’ve been very quiet since then. Her dinner looked like something out of a magazine compared to my no salt, no skin, bland chicken breast and yummy plain white rice. Then just a few hours ago I got another roommate. She kept getting up and looking out the door, so in the slowest English I could muster up I asked, “do you need a nurse?” This very Greek woman responds in a very British accent and continues to carry on the conversation after turning up her hearing aid. Finally someone I can talk to without making caveman sound effects. I wanted to have her say Harry Potter, but I figured it wasn’t the right time….after all, we just met.

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Wednesday: Best morning ever. I’d actually compare it to Christmas, which might sound silly but I only woke up twice in the night and had absolutely zero stomach pains. My new friends made a small space for me to eat my breakfast crackers and drink my tea at the table beside them. We talked about my Greek experience so far and they thought it was the coolest thing that I’m playing “volley”. Not volleyball, just volley. They told me about their kids and their kid’s kids and what they were doing at my age (married already – of course). I’ve also made some friends down the hall who’s son is a car mechanic in Michigan. One of the funniest things about my experience is that no one wears hospital gowns. BYOP…bring your own pj’s. It’s amazing. I was required to change from my sweat pants because they’re not pj’s into some awesome sleepy panda pajama pants. On my walk yesterday, this one old dude was in a full silk onesie. Possibly not his first rodeo, but even with the probable previous experience, I still named him Best Dress. The slippers are also elaborate. It’s like a big slumber party at the hospital which makes me happy. Who doesn’t love a slumber party?

I’m out and currently in my own bed with no more beeping, excessive Greek, or needles. Although my “living the dream” was put on pause for a few days, another life experience in the books. I appreciate all of the prayers and happy thoughts that were sent my way.

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Part two: It’s Constantinople NOT Istanbul

Turkey:
So Turkey is uh, how should I put this, a lot different than Santorini. Polar opposites actually. Little history for ya that I learned this weekend (I obviously didn’t learn it in high school because why would we need to know about that part of the world?): Istanbul was once Constantinople. Constantinople used to be a Greek city. During the age of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks had rule over the Greeks for about 400 years. Oh yeah, they don’t like each other. My Serbian coach informed me that the Turks had rule over Serbia for 500 years. This city is almost as old as Jesus. Twice in history it has been the largest and wealthiest city in Europe (now half of the city is technically in Asia). Seriously? This city is so old and so much has happened here. America is an infant compared to just this one city. They’re probably thinking, “1776 is cute. We had already tried taking over the world a few times when you were just being born, America.” Istanbul is still a Greek name (I’m quickly learning that every word is or has been derived from the Greek language) meaning “Into the City”. It’s also extremely diverse.
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The smells of this city weren’t like other cities I’ve been to though…and I’m lucky enough to have a lot to compare it to. You have the busy, industrial smell of New York City, the cinnamon pastry smell of Malmö, the beer and chocolate smell of Brussels, the marinara and wine smell of Rome, the smell of marijuana and tulips in Amsterdam….I mean smells stick with your brain! The smell of herbs, spices and tea will forever be in my head when thinking of Istanbul. It was the most wonderful combination of smells and my nose will be eternally grateful for it.

Oh yeah, I have one word that will probably bring me back to Istanbul just because and that word is BAKLAVA. The. Best. Ever. I know I love food and over the years my stomach has created a slight negative response to sweets (I can’t eat a dozen donuts anymore), but I probably ate my weight in baklava and my belly was like “KEEP ‘EM COMING!!!”

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Most of our meals were chicken or beef, with a different soup for both lunch and dinner. I commented to my coach that it kinda tasted like pork and he looked at me very seriously and said that absolutely no pigs were allowed in Turkey (I really hope he was joking). I then remembered the Muslim religion and that pigs (and lambs?) are considered a dirty animal for them and was overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness for them (respectfully of course). Most of these people have never tasted bacon before. Not that I needed a reminder than I’m one of the luckiest and blessed people on the Earth, but that moment made me and my belly both smile.

Volleyball:
Well, we lost every game. We got a 6th place medal (thanks America for trending medals for participation, dummies) and a big ‘ol handshake from the president of the Turkish club that hosted the tournament. Yes we lost but wow, there was some great volleyball going on. Volleyball that reminded me of winning a national championship or watching 6 All-Americans play together. It was fast, full of at least five or six different languages and full of passion. The best word that comes to my mind when thinking about that tournament is fun. That’s what volleyball is all about! We hung with those teams! It’s not like we were completely stepped on…we made these teams fight. They came in thinking that this little Greek team is just a minor pot hole on their way to the final…sorry pal. You’re gonna need a serious detour playing against us. That was probably the corniest analogy I’ve ever used so I apologize but I don’t feel like erasing it. We did some great things. We also did some horrible things but I’m going to choose not to remember those incidents. Just a quick reminder for all of the middles/crazy opposites out there reading this, please get out of your setter’s way. That’s all I have to say.

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It was nice to see the potential my team could have if we started playing consistently. We still have a long way to go but I think we’re on the right track. First real game TOMORROW! The things I’m learning and seeing (and smelling) are things I’m going to tell my grandkids about one day. Plus, all of my Christmas shopping is done 🙂 I truly am living my dream.