Monday, October 29, 2012

Injury to Insult

Player introductions.

  I don't quite know how to tackle this week's game recap. None of Saturday's game versus Reims went as expected. I guess that's what makes sports exciting, and always keeps us coming back for more.

  You can never predict how things are going play out. That's why we play. That's why we watch.

  As I sit here with an achy lower back and a feeling like I've been punched in the gut, you can probably determine how the game went on those words alone.

  Here are the quick and dirty details from the game:

  -We lost by 5.

  -I hurt my back at the end of the first half. After trying to loosen it up during the 15-minute halftime and the entire third quarter, I went back in for the fourth quarter. Bad decision.

Head up.
  Not that I hurt myself further. But worse yet, I didn't do my team any favors.

  The competitor in you always wants to test out an injury because you never know how it's going to feel when you're on the court, out there playing. Especially mid-game. That's what makes it tough. But it's definitely no fun not being 100% when it counts the most.

  After a great week of practice, it's even harder to swallow this loss. It was probably our team's best week since we've been together. After you have a good week of practice, of course you come into the game with a good feeling.

  It goes to show however, that good feelings and preparation don't get you anything. You still have to play the game to the best of your ability, and put the finishing touches on it.

  We, and I, have no choice but to bounce back. We have two very difficult road games looming in the following weeks, so we'll have to do it quickly. Outside of providing motivation and something to learn from, past games are just that, in the past.

  Summing up a Charles Swindoll quote: life is mostly how we respond to what happens to us. As bad as the taste I have in my mouth is, I must show my mettle and bounce back that much stronger.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Above the Rim?

**Originally appeared on SLAM Online October 26th, 2012**
  Thanks to UCONN coach Geno Auriemma, there's a new-found debate in the world of women's hoops. Should the rims be lowered in the women's game?

  When the headline first come across my Twitter timeline a few days ago, I dismissed it with a 'no', as I shook my head. And quickly moved on.

  Then I saw it again. And again. And now that the subject is clearly going to linger longer than first anticipated, I just had to throw my two cents into the debate. As a female basketball player, of course I'm going to have an opinion!

  First and foremost, I find it disrespectful. The question insinuates that women can't play the game, with the same rules as men, just as well. But maybe that's the competitor in me talking.

  I get a little peeved when I hear complaints about the level of skill in the women's game, and their solution is to lower the rim. You don't search for a short-cut, you work even harder to improve your skills. Lowering the rim isn't going to make anyone handle the ball better, pass the ball better, or shoot better.

  People complain of missed layups. Don't lower the rims, practice finishing at the rim!

  People complain of missed jump shots. Don't lower the rims, practice your jumper!

  People complain of sloppy play. Don't lower the rims, practice your ball-handling!

  And no, I'm not delusional either. I am well-aware that the athletic ability most men possess exceeds that of most women. 

  Yes, the dunk is exciting and fun to watch. If I had the ability to do it, I would be dunking at every opportunity. But I realized at a young age (even to my dismay), that the dunk wasn't going to be a part of my basketball repertoire. So I worked on my skills! That being said, I think comparing the excitement level (based on dunks and athleticism) of the two games is a little unfair.

  But let's be clear, there are certain people who will never be a fan of women's basketball. I have come to understand that, and they are entitled to their opinion. Those non-fans will always have complaints about the game, no matter what you do.

  We cannot compromise the game in an attempt to garner the fandom of a certain group of fans who will never come.

  Be honest, if you aren't already a fan of women's hoops, will a handful of rather-pedestrian dunks entice you enough to watch on a regular basis? I don't think so.

  So my only question is this: what do you hope to accomplish by lowering the rims?

  Do you hope to increase its popularity?

  Do you hope to make the game more exciting by increasing the number of dunks?

  Do you hope to improve the quality of play?

  Improving the quality of play should be the only motivation. And by doing so, the other two matters will take care of themselves. Increased talent, fundamentals, and yes, athleticism, makes for a more entertaining game to watch. That's how you increase popularity. You improve the product.

  Focus on developing fundamentals at the youth-through-high school levels, to actually improve play. Don't just aim for what-seems-to-be-improvement via superficial means. That's like resorting to liposuction to lose weight instead of changing your diet, training, and working hard.

  There will always be comparisons between men's and women's basketball. Even with lowered rims, comparisons are unfair. Until everyone realizes they are two vastly different games, the women's game will always be searching for ways to appeal to the 'common' fan.

  We cannot continue to look at what the women's game lacks. If improving the quality of play, improving the product, is truly our motivation, the 'lowering the rims' question would never be asked. 

  It will take time, and a lot of effort. But one thing's certain, the skill and fundamentals can be improved across the board. How can we do it?

  That's what we should be debating.

  So no thanks, Geno. Lowering the rims is a bad idea, and would do nothing to improve women's basketball.

Dr. Oz's Take on GMOs

  Maybe I'm beating a dead horse, or preaching to the choir. But I'm just trying to be thorough. I've tried my best to explain what GMOs are, and the health effects that may come along with them.

  But maybe you'll believe Dr. Oz and friends more than you do me (though I can't imagine why). ;)

  I can't embed the video here, so you'll have to head to their official website to check out Dr. Oz's take on whether GMOs are safe, the arguments FOR them, and how to avoid them.

    Here's to the visual learners. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Be Quick, But Don't Hurry

Slow down, make good decisions.

  When a player known for her patience, even keel, and the ability to see one-step ahead of the play finds herself playing at a frantic, rushed pace, she may as well be a fish out of water. Flopping around aimlessly on the court (ok, maybe I'm exaggerating. But it's not a good thing!).

  In basketball, speed and quickness are widely regarded as huge advantages. Everyone is always trying to become just a little bit quicker. If you have even a half-step advantage on your opponent, it can be the difference between an uncontested lay-up, and tough shot over a defender.

  Now I've never been confused with someone who has a great deal of speed or quickness. I'm not going to beat too many people in a foot race, or blow by them with a quick first step. I succeed by relying on my fundamentals, being versatile, and being one-step ahead of my opponent mentally.

Play with a quick pace!
  With me, if anything works quickly, it's my mind. But still, you want to be as quick as you possibly can be on the court.

  There's a huge difference between playing quickly, and playing hurried.

  Playing quickly means playing with a sense of urgency. Playing with good pace by not holding onto the ball too long when you get it. Receive the ball, make a decision, do it.

  When you hurry, things are done poorly. Fundamentals go out the window. Feet aren't set on your shot. Nothing is in focus.

Coach John Wooden.
  So your goal is to play quickly, without rushing. Without compromising the quality of your play. I think to succeed in basketball you play to your strengths. You don't play to anyone else's strengths but your own.

  In analyzing my own play recently, I realized I've been doing the opposite. I haven't been playing to my strengths. I'm trying to be quick. But in reality, I'm playing hurried, and the quality of my play is suffering.

  That's when the great John Wooden's quote came to mind: 'Be quick, but don't hurry'.

  My goal this week is to re-focus on playing the game to my strengths. By slowing the game down mentally, playing free, and playing with the right sense of urgency!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Close, But No Cigar

Line-up introduction at La Roche.

  Saturday night in La Roche Sur Yon (on the Western coast of France) featured a match-up between two win-less teams. Both 0-2. Both desperate for a win. After all, no one wants to be 0-3! 

  While DMBC Dunkerque (my team!) had played two quality teams (and one on a difficult road trip), we still were disappointed not to come away with a win in either of our first two games. 

  Our goal on Saturday was to be in the game after the 1st quarter, and then again at halftime. Since in our first two games, we had put ourselves in a giant hole the first 10 minutes of the game, it was important to get off to a good start. We knew La Roche was a tough team. Athletic and well-coached. But we had had a pretty good week of practice, so we were confident coming into the game.

  After a semi-slow start, we recovered quickly enough in the first quarter to bring La Roche back into range. Once both teams got comfortable, and got a feel for the game, you knew it was going to be a close match til the end. 

First half action.
  It's always interesting how the first six to seven minutes of a game play out. The two teams getting a feel for one another. The rhythm of the game, the pace each team likes to play with, and their strengths and weaknesses. It's where you set the tone for the rest of the game.

  At halftime, not only were we in the game, but we had the lead. Our first halftime lead of the season. Question was, could we hold on for another 20 minutes, and eke out our first WIN of the season?

  Right off the bat in the third quarter, we gave up our six-point halftime lead, and were faced with a three to four point deficit less than five minutes into the 3rd quarter. But never the less, we regained our composure, and stayed in the game. 

  That's one thing I can say about my team this year, is that we don't give in. We may give up a 10-0 run a little too often, but we always fight back. There's a lot to be said for a team with that spirit. If we could only learn not to give up those runs. 

  Continually being in a hole is tough to come back from, and requires a lot of energy. So if we can avoid deficits to battle back from over and over again, we'd be much better off.

  Mid-way through the 4th quarter we found ourselves down several baskets. But we scrambled defensively, and made a few plays to get the game back even with just over a minute to play. It was then we made one too many mistakes. A turnover, missed free throws, missed open shots, and giving up multiple offensive rebounds was too much to overcome against a good team down the stretch.

First half action.
  On one hand, it's a good feeling to have been in the position to with the game against a talented team, on the road. But it's also incredibly frustrating to think about the many things you could have done better, or differently, to affect the outcome of the game. 

  One more play here, one more defensive stop there, we might be looking at a close victory instead of a heartbreaking four-point loss. 

  Going on the road, sleeping overnight on the bus, and then coming up just a few points short, for our third consecutive loss, is extremely disappointing. But let's hope we learn from our mistakes, continue to work in practice, and come out on the winning side next week.

  If our team spirit wins out, I have no doubt we'll do just that. One thing's for sure, I can't wait to get back on the court. Nothing cures a loss faster than getting back on the floor, competing, and winning! 

  So stay tuned for next week!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Euro Living, Part V: Lifestyle & Night Life

Duomo in Milan.
  Last Spring I started a series on Euro Living. A collection of the things I find interesting, cool, funny, annoying, etc about being an American living in Europe. I made it all the way through four blogs, and then I got distracted -- I went home! 

  There was one more post I wanted to publish, but I didn't get around to it this summer. 

  So a few months late, here's the conclusion of my Euro Living series! For the rest the entries, check out the links below.   

Social Life and Alcohol

  Going out in Europe is a whole different experience than it is in the States. Clubs and bars routinely stay open until 6am throughout Europe, if not later (or is it earlier??). With a few exceptions, everything closes by 2am in the US -- usually when people START going out in Europe.

  I think it's more normal for kids (mid-to-late teens to early 20s) to start going out at a younger age in Europe than American kids do (though I hardly know what's normal, and never did!). In the US, if a kid says he's going out, it has a negative connotation. That usually people take it as, he's up to no good. In Europe, it's just a part of growing up, and partaking in the normal social life.

Post game festivities in Italy.
  Of course, alcohol is looked at drastically differently in Europe in comparison with the US. Between the drinking ages (21 in the US, across the board, and 16-18 years old in varying European countries), and differences in culture, it's my observation that Europeans develop a different attitude towards alcohol than Americans do.

  Because Europeans have a younger drinking age, it seems that kids learn how to 'deal with it' earlier in life. It's not taboo, so kids aren't hiding it from their parents (as happens in the US). They're at an age where they're still living under their parents' roof, so there is supervision. Because of this, parents can teach their kids a few lessons about what they believe to be appropriate behavior.

  Having wine or beer at lunch (even during the work day) is not seen as a big deal in many European countries. That can hardly be said for the US. I've also observed women in Europe drinking an occasional glass of wine or beer while pregnant without hesitation. In the US, witnesses to that would look at the mom-to-be in horror.

Heading out for some fun in Sweden.
  Legal blood alcohol limits (to drive) are much lower throughout European countries. .08% is the legal limit in the US. Whereas .05% is commonly seen in Europe (Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Austria, and so on...). In Sweden, and a few other countries, the limit is as low as .02%. With lower levels, driving after just one drink is not worth the risk, so people do not drive. Period.


  It's no secret that Europe as a whole has a more of a liberal way to life. Cursing in songs on the radio is not a big deal. The same can be said for television. 'Adult' language and nudity is commonality on standard cable channels.

  In fact, in France, during their Presidential election this past May, Francois Hollande (the eventual winner) used a Jay-Z/Kanye West song (you can probably guess which one) for one of his campaign ads. If President Obama, or any other politician in the US, touched that song, or anything like it, he would be crucified! (Didn't the Obamas, pretty ridiculously, take heat for fist-bumping?)

  Even with all the big, beautiful churches and cathedrals that cover Europe, they're mostly seen as tourist attractions by the locals. I've found that not many Europeans go to church on a regular basis. The ONLY time I remember a European talking about going to church was in Italy in 2005 when the Pope passed away (and it was just to go light a candle for him). Another time was when my Italian team went to Mass at the start of our playoffs the same year. I guess we needed a little more help than usual that year! (I'm not Catholic, but the majority of my teammates were.)

Yes, I'm sloppy and lazy.
  Smoking is far more common in Europe. Just like the US though, you can't smoke inside much anymore. My first two years in Italy, I came to associate the smell of cigarettes with Italy. Thankfully, in the middle of my second year (2004-2005), they enacted a law banning smoking indoors. But still, I see far more smokers in Europe than I do in the States.

  Sad to say, but the sloppy/lazy American rings true when it comes to fashion and clothing. I find that Europeans dress up a lot more than Americans do on average. The US, for the most part, dresses much more casually than they do in Europe.

  I've grown so used to wearing what's convenient, or what's comfortable, that I really don't pay much attention. So I find it funny when I get the 'you're an alien stare' if I go to the store in sweatpants or shorts -- which happens quite often.

A Little America, Abroad
NikeTown London. Had to visit!
Starbucks in Braunschweig. And in my sweats, no less.
  Even though I've been in Europe, off and on, for almost 10 years, I still get excited when I see an American brand store or restaurant -- ala Starbucks, Nike, T.G.I. Fridays, Subway, Hard Rock Cafe (unless it's in the town you live it, then you get used to it. But that hasn't happened very many times for me!).

  I may not go into the restaurant every time, but just seeing it usually makes me smile, or at least think of home for quick second.

  There are a few stores, no matter when or where I see them, that I can't stay out of though. If I see the Nike swoosh, or the green and white Starbucks logo, I will surely be inside the store a few moments later.

  The downside though, is that the items inside are extremely overpriced (compared with the price in the US), so I usually refrain from buying anything other than a cup of coffee.

  I also enjoy bringing American things to Europeans. I have been know to share Thanksgiving traditions, Halloween, pancakes and maple syrup, s'mores, and the Super Bowl with my teammates and friends in Europe! They usually are a big hit.

  Hopefully you've enjoyed my Euro Living series. It really is fascinating to sit down and think about all the differences between everyday life in Europe versus the US. They are two vastly different places, and there are tremendous differences between the two cultures (if you can lump the European culture into one!).

  I think both the US, and Europe as a whole, are very special, unique places. I try to embrace the things I see as positives in both places, while trying not to let the 'negatives' bring me down too much!

  What are some differences you have encountered?

Euro Living, Part 1
Euro Living Part 2
Euro Living Part 3
Euro Living Part 4

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Game Day = Test Day

France '12.

  If there's a day of the week I need to be at my best, it's Saturday.

  It's the equivalent of test day back in our school days. We put in the work during the week, to hopefully earn that passing grade, a win, come Saturday.

  It's game day.

  That's when it all matters. Why we put in the work. Why we get paid. Fans are there. Family and friends are there. Media is there. It's your one time during the week to show your stuff.

  With so much on the line, you obviously want to be at your peak, both physically and mentally. Not to mention it's your job to be at the top of your game. If you're not, you're letting your teammates down (not to mention yourself!) and your opponents will quickly take advantage.

  Nothing frustrates me more than not playing my best come game day. Unfortunately it's been known to happen. So I do whatever I can to physically prepare myself for Saturday. If that means I need to do a little extra work, so be it.

Balancing Act
  Each, and every week, it's a constant battle to find the right balance between preparing yourself, while not over-doing it.

  If you do too much over the course of the practice week, you find yourself sluggish, with tired legs on Saturday. Hardly at the top of your game. If you take it easy during the week, on Saturday you're soft, lethargic, maybe even getting winded too easily. Again, far from your best.

Germany '09-'10/
  But if you find that balance, the sweet-spot, you feel like you could play forever. You have a rhythm for the game. Your legs are there throughout, and you recover quickly when you get tired. It's your goal to feel like that every week.

  For me personally, I need to be ready to play anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes a game (of a 40 minute game). That means I need to be in great shape. It's tough to play at a high level for 35+ minutes!

  I've found that taking it easy during the week, and saving your legs, is not going to cut it. For me anyway.

When Practice Doesn't Cut It
  In a perfect world, you get all your necessary preparation in practice. And there would be no need for extra work. But I've found in the last few years, I don't always get what I need out of practice.

  For example, sometimes we don't have 10 players. When that's the case, we're unable to go up and down the court and play five-on-five. There's not a drill in the world that can simulate playing full-court basketball at an intense level, so obviously that is the best way to prepare physically for games.

Sweden '08-'09.
  On those days, where I feel like practice didn't get me ready for Saturday, I have to do a little extra work on my own. That might mean a day of extra shots at game speed, or extra running/cardio, or maybe an extra session in the weight room. Or maybe all of the above.

  It depends on the week, and it depends on how I'm feeling. Over the course of my career, I've learned to trust my body. And think I have a pretty good idea of what I need to be at my best.

Training For a Game, Not a Marathon
  But sometimes it's about mental health and happiness too.

  Since I love running, the easy thing for me to do would be to go out and run 20, 30, 40 minutes. Nothing makes me feel better than being outside, clearing my mind, working up a sweat, while on a run.

  While that might give me a good workout and a mental release, running long distances isn't the most efficient way to train during basketball season. It's probably not in my best interest to be out there pounding on my legs day in and day out. That would be overdoing it. And my time and effort could be used doing something more-applicable to basketball.

  So I've come to realize that I might have to sacrifice wanting to go out and run everyday in order to be ready to play on Saturdays (even when I look out my window and see runners racing by!). While running might make me feel better in the short term (that day), a few days down the line, I might find myself tired. And I can't have that.

2012-2013 team.
  Outside of a recovery run early in the week, I'm trying to stay away from pounding the pavement. And instead, I'm giving interval training a try. Either on a bike or an elliptical machine, simulating short sprints (like you find in a basketball game) with even shorter recovery time. It's a sure fire way to get your heart rate pumping fast (without the wear and tear and pounding)!

  It's something new for me, so we'll see how it goes!

  I'm always experimenting and exploring things I can do to make myself better. I want to be in tune with my body, and always do what's right in order to be at my best come Saturday. I realize it's important to allow time to recover after physically demanding games. And it's an extremely long season, that we've only just begun!

  So I'm working now to find that balance -- to earn that A on game day!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Voting Time! Yes on Prop 37

  Election season is here. And shouting at us. If you're like me, you grew tired of the political ads, and the back-and-forth bickering long ago.

  But it's time to get on with it, and exercise our right to vote. (I actually voted last week -- my absentee ballot should be making its way back to the Election Office any day now!)

  As I wrote a few months ago, California is voting on Proposition 37 -- the GMO Labeling referendum. Since election day is fast-approaching, I wanted to issue a friendly reminder before votes are cast.

  California is trying to become the first state in the US to label genetically engineered ingredients in foods. As much as I wish this were a national vote (or one I at least could take part in), it's not. So it's up to voters in California to get the ball rolling.

  No pressure.

  Truth is, California's vote on Proposition 37 impacts the entire country. If the legislation passes in California, other states probably will follow suit, or the food industry might very well decide to reformulate their products nationwide, in order to avoid the liability that these labels might carry. Resulting in the removal of GMOs from their products and replacing them with alternatives, much like they have done in over 50 countries around the world, where GMOs are already labeled.

  As it is now, GMOs have zero regulations and were never even tested before they entered the market in the early-90s. GMOs quickly became a fixture in our daily diets and now makeup nearly 80% of the food in supermarkets. Even worse, GMOs have become nearly impossible to identify and avoid on a daily basis.

  Unforeseen consequences on both human health and the environment have pushed this issue to the forefront in recent years. The time is right to do something about it.

  It seems that there is a food movement on the verge of occurring in the US. We're questioning the food supply. We're reading labels. We're concerned about where our food comes from, and what we are putting into our bodies. We want real food.

  So isn't it time?

  Public polling shows that 90% of Americans want to know exactly what is in their food, and want GMOs labeled. We need to make that a reality.

  If you're a voter in California, please vote YES on Prop 37 (and if you have friends or family there, please pass this along to them!).

  After all knowledge is power. Knowing what is in our food allows us to make informed decisions!



Friday, October 12, 2012

NYC -- As a Tourist


  You have five days in New York City. It's your first visit. What do you do?

  I probably should have given that question a bit more thought before I boarded my flight for Newark this August. As it was, I can't say I prepared for my tour of NYC very well. But I knew I'd find my way. And I figured, whatever I did, it would be nothing short of amazing.

  So I hardly had an itinerary. Instead I had a rough list in my head of things I wanted to see. But really, I had no game plan set for when
I arrived in the Big Apple.

The High Line.
  First and foremost, I wanted to get a lay of the land. So I took to the streets on foot. Once I understood where I was, and started to see where some of the attractions were, I was surprised by how close everything seemed to be. I knew Manhattan was not a large island, but I guess I had to see it to believe it.

  So what did I do? Here's a quick run down of the highlights: 

My Favorites:

- the High Line: It's a former elevated railroad line that has been transformed into an elevated park on the Lower West Side. The park runs for over a mile, and allows you to quickly get away from the traffic and clutter of the streets below. After walking the park, I stood and watched commercial being shot from above.

East Side Waterfront. Had to stop mid-run for a picture.
- East Side Waterfront: After a long afternoon of sightseeing, I really wanted to get a run in before dark. So I joined in what seemed to be hundreds of New Yorkers who had the same idea. It was quite refreshing seeing so many people out, enjoying a late-summer evening run. It was a beautiful run along the water, with views of Brooklyn and the bridges in the distance. 

The Bronx: New Yankee Stadium.
- Baseball game at Yankee Stadium: The Yanks had an afternoon game versus the Orioles (perfect, given the playoff match-up we're watching this week!). Since I didn't want to spend three-plus hours watching baseball, I hadn't necessarily planned on actually attending the game. But given the drizzly weather, it turned out to be a perfect activity for me.

  It wasn't raining hard enough to postpone the game, but it definitely wasn't weather I would have been out sight-seeing in! So I sat under the cover and watched Jeter, Cano, Ichiro, and the rest of the Yankees beat Baltimore.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
Views of the city from inside Central Park.
- Central Park: I visited Central Park numerous times during my five days in Manhattan. Twice as a runner, and a couple other times just enjoying the paths. Any runner who visits NYC has to go for a run in Central Park. Since it was hot and humid August, I planned one run for the morning. Unfortunately, I had to take a short subway ride to the park entrance.

  After an exhausting run, that found me dripping with sweat, I had to get back on the subway to get home. I don't think I've ever sweat so much in my life. I tried not to touch anything, or drip on anything (or anyone!), as morning commuters stared at the sweat pouring off my head. It was then I realized I probably should have finished my run towards home.

  I found the park to be a refuge among the madness. Where you're able to find a little peace and quiet in the everyday hustle and bustle. If I lived in NYC, I think I would spend a lot of time in Central Park. It's a pretty amazing space, with baseball fields, open grassy fields, a swimming pool, a reservoir, a zoo, and quiet. I think you could visit it everyday for two weeks, and never repeat you're route.

- Grimaldi's Pizza: The famous pizzeria had a lunch-time lineup outside its door 10-15 people deep. I was hungry, hot, and tired. So I kept walking. But then I thought to myself, 'this might be your only time in Brooklyn, you have do this!' So I got in line and waited.

  Close to 40 minutes later, I found myself seated at the bar looking at the menu. To my dismay, the menu clearly said 'no orders by the slice'. So I was forced to order an entire pizza, for myself! Luckily, I could take the rest to go.

Brooklyn Bridge & Manhattan from Brooklyn.
  The pizza was delicious. And worth the wait! The staff was incredibly friendly, and I enjoyed every bit of my experience at Grimaldi's.

  After I finished my two slices, I packed the rest in my bag, and made my way to the Brooklyn Bridge (nothing like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with 3/4s of a pizza in your bag on a 90 degree day!!).

On the Brooklyn side of the bridge.
- Brooklyn Bridge: I took the subway from Manhattan into Brooklyn. My plan was to spend some time in Brooklyn Heights, have a delicious lunch, and then walk the bridge back into Manhattan. It was perfect.

  I loved the views from Brooklyn, and then again, the views from the Brooklyn Bridge. There is a pedestrian/cycling walkway in the center of the suspension bridge that is above the traffic below. While you do have to be on the lookout for cyclists whizzing be, it's nice not to have to worry about cars as you make your way across the bridge. While simple, it was one of my favorite activities while in New York.

- Statue of Liberty: Like Central Park, you can't visit NYC, and NOT take a trip to Liberty Island. It was one of the few 'tourist' things I planned on doing. But it was here where I got my fill of frustration with tourists as well.

I made it off the ferry, & loved seeing Lady Liberty!
  To board the ferry for Liberty Island you first have to wait in a tremendously long line, and go through airport-like security. While waiting in line (again, in the heat and humidity), one pushy tourist, with a stroller, took things a little too far.

  If I wasn't at the end of my rope by his constantly running into the back of my legs (with his stroller), I definitely hit my limit when he ran over the toes of my white shoes (several times) on purpose, while looking directly in my eyes. It's as though he thought by getting past me, he would somehow move to the front of the endless line.

  The second now-comical event with a fellow tourist took place on the ferry. I don't quite know how to describe this encounter, other than saying a French girl sat ON ME. And didn't move for several minutes. I was not happy. I think I'll just leave it at that. :)

  I loved seeing the Statue of Liberty up close and personal. But the trip took a lot longer than I had expected. So unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for me, given my first two tourist stories) I had to cut out the stop at Ellis Island.

Other Sites I Visited:
-Empire State Building
-Walked 5th Ave.
Looking up the Empire State Building.
-Flatiron District
-West Side Waterfront
-W. 4th Street Courts
-Battery Park: the Southernmost tip of Manhattan, with views of the Statue of Liberty.
-Grand Central Station
-FAO Schwartz and the BIG Piano
-Radio City Music Hall
-Times Square
-Ground Zero Memorial
-Union Station: a little quirky. Reminded me of downtown Portland. 
-Madison Square Garden: Would love to take in a game there one day!
-Baked by Melissa: bite-sized cupcakes that are to die for. Near Grand Central.
-Lexington Ave. Street Market

World Trade Center Memorial.
  And no, I didn't go to a Broadway show. So sue me. :)

  I wish I could have visited everything. But you only have so much time, and so much patience as a tourist. Not to mention everything costs money! So you have to put a value on things. What are the places you MOST want to see up close and personal?

Next Time

  Of course, there are several places I wish I could have explored a little further, but only got a chance to do a 'fly-by' this time around.

    Had I planned a little more in advance, maybe I would have jumped on a tour, or researched seeing a show or two. Guess that will have to wait til my next visit.

The streets.
  Now that I've visited NYC, I find myself watching the background of TV shows filmed in Manhattan, looking for sights and streets I recognize from my short time there. It's fun trying to picture that place on the map, or remember what I did or saw when I was in that very spot.

  But I had a good enough time taking in the handful of sites I did see, and experiencing the atmosphere of NYC to garner a return trip. Hopefully to be made sometime in the near future!

  In the meantime, maybe YOU should tell me the things I missed!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Visitors in Europe: Mom & Dad Visit!

Mom & I on one of our many walks during the week.

  It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's a special time. Whether it'd be friends or family, anytime someone comes to Europe for a visit, it's always marked on my calendar with bright colors and multiple exclamation points.

  Coming from the States to Europe is a difficult trip to make. It's not cheap, it's a LONG day of travel (especially when coming from the Northwest), and it requires a decent amount of vacation time to make the trip worthwhile. So I understand; it's a major commitment.

  Last week, I had my parents visiting me in Dunkerque. Both of them, at the same time, for the first time since my second season in Italy (2005, for those of you keeping track).

Dad & I in Bruges.
  While having visitors is always a great time, it also presents a few challenges as well. I'm in the midst of my basketball season, and that doesn't take a pause just because I have visitors in town. I have to find a balance between entertaining, and continuing to be prepared to do my job. I have to try to keep my legs rested, but you don't want your visitors to be bored. So many times, I end up on my feet a whole lot more than I'm accustomed to.

  Though, I can tough through having tired legs during practice, if it means a few familiar faces come for a visit.

What to do?
  If you have the opportunity, you take your visitors to the best sights around your area. If you happen to have a little extra time off, you might be able to travel a bit further outside your day-to-day radius.

Dunkerque harbor.
  But your week continues status quo. You are at the mercy of your coach, and your schedule. When my parents were here last week, we had practice two times a day most of the week. So I went to work, came home, and then tried to get out and show them something around town. And then went back to work a bit tired.

  With not much free time during the day, it made entertaining somewhat difficult.

  On my off day, we enjoyed the sunshine on the beach, and drove to the Belgian town of Bruges when I had a free morning during the practice week.

  For me, here in Dunkerque, I have it easy. When in doubt, go to the beach. There is always something to interesting to watch. You can always go for a little walk, assuming the weather is just a little bit cooperative. 

  But also within driving distance are Bruges, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, and London (though, that's a bit more tricky to travel to).

Game Day
  When game day rolls around, it's even more exciting when you have family/friends in the stands. It adds a little bit of pressure because you want to play well. Having people from home in the crowd makes it feel more real, or count more for you on a personal level. 
Early morning walk!

  Many times, no one from home sees any video, or pictures, of your games. With people in the stands cheering for you, it feels a tad more important because they are there in the flesh. You can't just dismiss the game with, 'oh, it went okay...' and then change the subject when Skyping. Your family and friends are there, and can judge for themselves how the game went, and how you played.

  It's kind of like: "If a tree falls in forest and no one is around..." Here it's: "If you play a game, and no one from home sees it..."

  So you want to perform well, and give your friends or family a good show.

  You always look forward to visitors coming. It gives you something to put on your calendar to look forward to (besides the weekly Saturday games). But the time always goes entirely too fast. 

Bruges, Belgium.
  It's fun to show friends and family a bit of your lifestyle and your day-to-day life abroad. I don't find my days too exciting, but it's fun to show them the things you have to adapt to while living in a foreign country. And it's always nice to have them meet your teammates, see the streets you drive everyday: it gives them a reference for when you say, "I'm going to the store" or what the gym looks like when you have practice.

  I am always very thankful when family and friends are able to visit, and never want to take it for granted. I love being able to share my experiences in Europe with them, and spend some special time with them.

  If you're ever in the neighborhood, my door is always open!

Bruges. "The Venice of the North."
At the dunes.
At the dunes.
WWII bunkers. Just a mile down the beach from my apartment.
 A pretty rainbow one afternoon.
Always something on the beach.
The North Sea.

Atop the dunes.