Thursday, October 25, 2007

russia no more

after the game on sunday our agent, michal, informed us that we are no longer going to russia for the next round of the european cup. instead, berlin, germany, will be the host site of our grouping for the semi-final round. while still being very excited about spending a week in berlin, i'm still somewhat disappointed that we will not be heading to moscow. it would have been a historical experience.

we've had a quieter two weeks with only practices during both. this weekend we have just one game on saturday, with sunday off. we're very much looking forward to being able to go to a church service, for once! next week we're back to practicing 3 times with a somewhat smaller team since it's the week of centralization for the national team and the girls will be gathering for that elsewhere.

sara, heather and i are thinking of making a trip to salzburg to take the "sound of music" tour on the friday of next week. little bit of history, little bit of fiction and a beautiful setting with some fun people sounds like a great mix to me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

i kissed a girl...

there seems to be this culture in the czech republic where as a sign of greeting, either to say hello or bid farewell, women give each other a kiss. on the mouth. the first time i saw this in kralupy, playing with the aia hockey team, i wondered if i was entering a team where many of the girls had girlfriend relationships, which is fine, but good to know. but after chatting with my slovak friend, i learned that this is normal here.

my defense partner, Paja, is 16 years old and a completely fun and crazy girl. we've become good buddies at hockey and i know i have earned her respect. the biggest indication to me was after the game yesterday when she was shouting "cau" and "ahoj" to everyone, and she came over and gave me a farewell kiss on the mouth. i was shocked, but i think i played it pretty cool. it was quite the experience! i guess moving overseas really is about moving out of your comfort zone - and learning new traditions!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

a day in the life of...

i'm starting to settle into the rhythm of life here in the czech republic. i know it sounds crazy, since i've been here for almost three months. in 3 days, it will be that time span exactly. and less than two months until i return home for christmas break.

a typical day in my life here can look a few different ways:

workday - on these days, i get up at 6:45AM and get ready to catch the metro/bus to get to work. i need to hit the metro by 7:20, since I have to catch a bus out to Uhonice, the town my school is in, by 8:10. by 8:30, I'm at work, though i don't need to be there until 9. that bus is the only one out to uhonice until 10, so it's a necessary evil. all in all, my travel out there takes about an hour and a half. when we've drive, it takes 20-25mins! killer, that's for sure. then my workday spans from 9am-3pm, when i catch the bus back to the metro at a stop called zlichin. around 4:15, i'm back at home. usually lying on my bed in exhaustion after a day with the uber energetic kids of whom i don't understand.

day off - these are days with no work, so jackie and i attend czech language classes, tuesday/thursday for an hour and a half each day. the classes are growing increasingly fun as everyone begins to relax, get to know each other, and laugh at our horrible pronunciation of czech phonetics. afterwards, we often head to an internet cafe to write home, check email and try and get somewhat caught up on what is going on in the western world. on thursdays now, i've started going to the sport university to the english conversation class that aia puts on. it was a great time this past week and much interesting conversation was had with students from the university.

game day - we often play afternoons, so it's wake up and eat breakfast, often watch an episode or two of "lost" over bfast and then get ready to go to the game. we have to be at the rink two hours before the game, and need to leave to get there 45 minutes before that. so about 3 hours before game time, we hop in the car and drive out to kralupy. after games, we often go for dinner, to see a movie with friends, or just make some food and hit the hay. after especially long games, we're often ready to just crash.

evening activities usually include hanging out with aia friends, going to our bible study on thursday evenings, family night with aia, going to movies with teammates or just having a quiet evening at home. we've pulled out the dice and had a few games of that. we've also had friends over for dinner and both sara and jackie have made some killer dishes. i have yet to show my talents in the kitchen... if they haven't disappeared on me, that is.

we had a great game yesterday with Agordo out of Italy. they came out absolutely flying and caught us a little flat footed. it was the fastest game we've played here and it was fabulous. it felt great to play the game at that kind of speed again. after the second we were tied 2-2. jackie and i were commenting before the opening face-off of period 3 that we've got to put some pucks in the net, as we weren't sure we had enough in us for overtime. the game ended with a score of 8-2. i guess we know how to turn it on when we want to! we play again this afternoon against a czech league team. then tomorrow, the week cycle starts all over again!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

russia, flu shots and toast = happy thanksgiving

after 22 years of thanksgiving meals at home - family, friends, food and much festivity - i experience my first thanksgiving on my own. it was a sorry end to a good weekend. i had toast. the bright spot of the evening was jackie's homemade apple crisp. it was a little taste of home. and i can't say i've ever had that food pairing before. things are always interesting here!

this weekend saw us win our side of the quarterfinals for the european cup. as great as that sounds, don't fear you missed anything too exciting - we won the second game 10-0 and the third 19-0. i almost felt bad for the romanian team we beat by the latter score. then i thought of the teams romania had to beat to be champions of their country - and i felt sorry for how terrible those teams must be! yikes. i'm thankful the czech republic has progressed beyond that level, byfar.

in preparation for our little jaunt to russia in november, we had flu shots after practice yesterday. it went something like this: practice, stretching, shower, flu shot. all right there in the dressing room. kinda crazy. at home we'd probably go to the clinic, but apparently they bring the clinic to you over here. or maybe that's an example of how things roll at slavia - we've kind of got the connections (or is it money?). i'm not sure - probably both.

this morning, i went to the doctor. in our little sauna episode of last week i seemed to get a little bit of water in my inner ear. it persisted in calling my ear home and over the past 7 days has caused me a substantial amount of grief. a teammate accompanied me to the ear specialist today and i discovered that i just might not have the medical coverage i thought. when the doctor went to write my prescription (i don't have an infection, just a bad headcold and my ear is inflammed), she wrote down my teammate's medical and personal information so that it would be covered by the czech health care system. this is a bit of a worry and something we will be talking to our agent about very quickly. we want to ensure we are covered on any occasion here.

we have a night off tonite and i think we'll take in a film. thankfully the flicks here are in english, with czech subtitles, so we can enjoy it without it becoming too cerebrally taxing. alas, i say farewell for now. happy belated thanksgiving!

Friday, October 5, 2007

one down, two to go

we played our first game in the champions league tournament today. we are hosting teams from hungary, romania and italy in the first round to qualify for the european cup. slavia gets to be the czech representative because they won the czech league last year. for some strange reason, jackie, sara and i can play with them despite having absolutely no czech relatives. i don't know how that works, but i'm pretty sure slavia is pumped that it does.

we won the game over bolzano (italy), 4-2. i just happened to score two of those goals, so it felt great to contribute on the scoreboard in a pretty important game. the team that comes out on top this weekend will head to moscow in november for the next round of the tournament (it's the european cup, also called the champions league). i can't even imagine how exciting that would be. and different. and scary. but it's looking pretty positive for us having the chance to go, based on the competition here this weekend. bolzano was, apparently, the best we can expect.

this evening we went over to erin and heather's for family night with athletes in action. it basically consists of a GREAT, homecooked, NORTH AMERICAN meal and hanging out with some pretty sweet people.

seeing as you probably don't know who the aia crew is here, i'll take a minute and introduce everyone. billy and adrianne have been here for around 10 years. they are full time and long term missionaries with athletes in action, through campus crusade for christ. they have three kids: Abigail, 5, Levi, 3, and Adam, 3 months. erin is also in the czech republic on a long term basis. she's a coach with the women's basketball team, sparta, after having previously played here for quite a few years. heather is from texas and is short term, which we call a stinter. she's a volleyball gal and helps with english classes at the uni. zach plays american football (NOT soccer) and is also long term in the czech. ernie is a wrestler and is in the czech with a different organization from aia, but is living with zach and we get to hang out with him at family nights, too. then there's us 3 canadians, as we are referred to, that round the group out. there are also others playing on sports teams throughout the czech republic, but we'll probably only see them 2 or 3 times before christmas on big group family nights. it's a great group and one i am very thankful for!

we've also started taking czech classes. jackie and i attend on tuesday/thursday for an hour and a half; sara and heather go monday/wednesdays. there are usually around 10 people in our class. so far we've worked on a basic conversation when you are introduced to someone new, and the numers from 1-100. i feel like everyday i'm learning new words and interacting with my teammates helps to reinforce things in my head. the language is really cool and i'm exciting to continue learning it. it's complicated, but simple at the same time. pronunciation is really simple as every letter you pronounce exactly the same way, no matter the usage. the whole grammar thing is a bit tougher. you'd have to be a lifer here to master or perfect the language, i'd say. it is similar to french in some ways, and for my two month stint in quebec in 2005, i'm very thankful for now. even just having the discipline to stick with learning a language and knowing some of the hurdles to expect in doing so are both very helpful.

speaking of the language, i learned a helpful phrase today: delam si srandu. it means, "i'm just kidding". as there are many jokes and much laughter in the dressing room, it's a great phrase to know. the girls in my corner of the room were totally pumped when i pulled it out today!

that's all for now, i'll keep you updated on the status of the rest of our games... and whether we're headed to mother russia!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

dobrou chut!

or bon appetit, as we like to say in our english speaking world. which makes complete sense, seeing as the phrase is in french. alas, i do not seek to understand, simply to explain that this blog is finally about everyone's favorite subject: FOOD.

czech cuisine is... interesting. we can see traces of it throughout canadian culture, actually, being the multi-cultural bread basket we are. meat and potatoes with sauce, goulash, sausages... etc.

a typical czech meal includes some type of meat, a starch or carbohydrate and a small allotment of vegetables (on a good day). and of course, it starts with a steaming hot bowl of soup. sometimes it's broth soup, sometimes it's creamy. it can have chunks of potato, meat or even balognie. generally, the soups have been quite good. but unfortunately, i'm often full at this point.

it continues though... for example, at the czech school i work at, the following are possible menu scenarios:
-one of rice, potatoes or dumplings (essentially, potato bread)
-one of beef, pork, or sausage (the sausage we've had there has this sort of gellied, glazed, gooey coating to it... and the kids LOVE it, it's probably their favorite meal).
-vegetables might be a steamed assortment, cooked spinach, or pickled cabbage. the latter is my personal favorite. it's quite good actually.
-lastly, a generous portion of sauce covers the meat and sometimes the rice/potato/dumpling. it's usually pretty tasty.

another czech favorite is a chunk of cheese, battered and deep fried. it comes with a plate of fries and some ketchup (not the north american version, mind you).

food i've heard of from fellow foreigners, but not tried (and probably won't be):
-blood clot soup
-stomach, stuffed with random items

when dining at a restaurant, you don't have to tip, funny enough. it almost feels unnatural not to, seeing as we tip 15% or more at home. so usually i do, even just a little bit. when they bring you your drink in a bottle, they poor half of it into the cup sitting in front of you. the restaurants are full of smoke, as everyone here smokes.

lastly, it's cheaper to order beer at a restaurant than a bottle of water. beer is $0.50 for a pint of draught, believe it or not!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

naked is normal

so we had a bit of a new experience yesterday. instead of a full practice we had half a practice, which was great fun, and then headed over to the sauna for a little lactic-acid removal. we entered this change room-type area where all the girls removed all their clothing and headed into the showers. the door to the sauna then opened, everyone dropped their towels, and there we were, sitting with half the neighbourhood (all female, thank the Lord). jackie and i looked at each other and bust out laughing. it was just one of those moments. there were ladies there, out for an evening at the sauna, socializing and chatting with their friends. for some reason, i don't think a sauna of this type would fly in canada. us canucks did bring our bathing suits with, but were told not to wear them. haha. we're making an effort to fit in, i guess. what's normal to them, hmmm, not so normal to us.