Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last week in Holland

As I finish up stuffing the last few things into my suitcase in preparations for my flight home tomorrow, there is so much going on in my head! First, I'm running through my packing list to make sure I have everything! It's crazy how many things you can accumulate in just a few short months! Next, I made sure everything is set back home- I have a ride from the airport and even a plan for the weekend already! (It is my Mom's birthday after all!) Finally, I sit down and it all sinks in that I am actually going home!

I have done a lot of reflecting in the past week on my experiences here in Holland. Although I can't wait to go home, see my family and friends, eat familiar foods, and get back to old routines, there are so many things I have learned from and enjoyed while being here. I have gotten to travel around Holland quite a bit and see some pretty cool places. I have gotten to experience the life and culture first hand by not just living here, but by living with a family. I have eaten dutch foods. I learned how to use public transportation. I have learned how to navigate in another language. I learned to make my bicycle my best friend. But the absolute best thing about being here has been all the amazing people I have met. They are what have made my time here and my experiences so enjoyable. I know I will miss them when I am back at home, but I also know I will see them again in a few short months.

One of the biggest things I have learned though is to appreciate everything I have. It's not that I didn't appreciate it before, but being here gave me a whole new perspective on my family, friends, and opportunities I have been given. I appreciate them that much more. Even little things that are often taken for granted, such as being able to just hop in the car and go somewhere, or call a friend on the phone just to chat. If I want to go somewhere, or get into contact with someone at home, it takes a lot more effort: more planning and more time. In the end, it is worth the effort, but it will be nice to be home with all of these privileges again.

So whatever you are doing, wherever you are this holiday season, I hope you enjoy it and appreciate every moment you have with loved ones, family and friends!

That's all for now. I hope all my luggage makes it! Ready or not.. USA here I come!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sinterklaas

This weekend was finally Sinterklaas! As I explained before, it is similar to Christmas. Not only did I get to learn more about the holiday and celebrate with my teammates, but I also got to celebrate with the family!

It is tradition that the children get presents from Sinterklaas (but it is not like Christmas because everyone else in the family does not exchange gifts). As you get older, instead, you exchange poems(and maybe a small gift). So for our team Sinterklaas party, we did it Secret Santa style. (For those of you that don't know, everyone randomly gets someone else so no one knows who has who!) Anyways, we had to write a poem and get a little gift. I had heard many stories about these poems in past few weeks and how they are often geared toward roasting (making fun) of the person the poem is about. Now, I have never done this before, obviously, so I did not want to start my experience with hard feelings, so I just made mine a nice poem!! I also wrote about 20 lines, which I thought was pretty good, until I found out most had written a whole page, or even more.... whoops!! Everyone was understanding though that the foreigner didn't know any better!

As we went around reading the poems, some were funny, some were nice, but all of them rhymed just right! There was a rule that they had to be all in English, so most of them were, which was nice so the few foreigners could all understand and enjoy them too! It was funny when people got called out for things throughout the season; even our coach wasn't excluded! A few did not take the criticism too well, but I got roasted a bit too and laughed the whole way through! All in all, it was great fun and we had a wonderful meal that everyone contributed to! I definitely would love to bring the poem part of the holiday back to the states. It makes everyone be a bit more creative and reminds you of some good times from throughout the year.

I wrote a little poem since I was in the mood to rhyme:

It's that time of year
When Sint comes to bring holiday cheer
He comes along with his Piets
Who bring lots of great treats
Decorated with ribbons and curls
For all the good little boys and girls.


Finally on Sunday, I had a Sinterklaas celebration with the family. A few of their friends and their children came over as well. Sinterklaas and his Piet actually came to the house!! Sinterklaas talked to each child and asked them what they most wanted. He also knew all about them! ;) It was really cute to see how excited the children were. At the end, Sint gave them their presents, and told them to be good all year. It reminded me a bit of Christmas, with the children telling Santa what they want, etc. It was a nice little celebration and fun to experience first hand!

This weekend definitely got me in the holiday spirit, and I can't wait to go home and celebrate with my family!!! I head home in just 8 days!! It's almost like I get two Christmases this year! :)


All the presents and poems at the team Sinterklaas party


Sinterklaas cake!


Sinterklaas at the house


All the kids love Zwarte Piet

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8 to 12

Today was a very busy day!! I had to be up at 8 to help get the kids ready for school. Today was no ordinary day though! It was Lilysky's birthday!!! She turned 6! The table was already set with Hannah Montana decor, balloons were blown up, and streamers were hanging from the walls. In the Netherlands, it is a tradition on your birthday that you bring in the cake for everyone else. So Lilysky had to bring in cake a little gifts for all the kids in her class! A bit different than how we do it in the States!

As Lilysky and Declan left for school, I had to keep a close watch on Quinn to make sure all the decorations stayed in place. Both Sharon and Kees (the parents) were running around town making sure all the last minute details were in place, including picking up the Hannah Montana cake! Wednesdays the children get out of school early, so by noon, all of the kids were at the house. Along with the 15 guests came 15 presents! Lilysky had a blast opening all of them! (I don't think I've seen more presents for a 6 year old in one place!!) When it was time to sing Happy Birthday, I was nicely surprised when everyone sang in both Dutch and English!

After some cake, all the kids were off to BubbleGym (a large playground) and Glow-in-the-Dark Miniature Golf... except for Quinn and Dex. (Dex is 3 years old, but his mother was helping with the party so I offered to watch him as well for the afternoon). Thankfully, he was really easy (even though he didn't speak any English like the kids in the family I help with). I know enough Dutch now though that I could understand what he was saying most of the time. Also, we watched Dora the Explorer and Shrek, and for both he asked me to put them in English! It was definitely nice for me to be able watch them! It ended up being a relaxing afternoon.... until the party arrived back at the house...!!

Imagine all of the children (15) plus all of their parents (another 15), plus some siblings, a few family friends and the grandparents. The house was full of people!! It was a bit hectic and chaotic to say the least. But by the time everyone left... I was just leaving for practice!!

No, the field was not playable. We actually went and played indoor! Indoor sticks, courts, and all. I was laughing as I showed up tonight because the last time I played indoor was about 6 years ago in high school. I haven't even touched an indoor stick since then! Now, I did play all of high school, so for 4 years, so I know the rules and tactics. But the touch on the ball is quite a bit different than outdoor (not to mention I had to borrow a stick because I didn't bring an indoor stick with me!). We just played 6v6 games, and my team ended up winning all but one! And I actually played surprisingly well! Indoor is so much faster, so you have to react a lot quicker and anticipate where the ball is going. It was so much fun though!! I forgot just how much fun it is!! I sure hope we get to play again before I come home... :)

Anyways, so after I finally got home, showered, checked my email and wrote all this... I have been up from 8am and will be going to bed at 12am. What a long day!! Good thing I have some time off tomorrow!!

Happy 6th Birthday Lilysky!!

Hockey game and practice cancelled...

Sunday morning I woke up ready to play. We were scheduled to play Hurley, a team from Amsterdam, which includes Lauren Powley and my roommate/teammate from college Minou Gimbrere. With only 2 games left in season, I was definitely ready to get a few more points before we leave for break. As I biked to the club, I couldn't help but notice the snow that was still blanketing the field. The playing conditions were by no means optimal, but I was still optimistic that by gametime within a few hours, the shining sun would melt the snow away. The officials showed up and announced that we would continue with the game, but not on the main field. The practice sand field was in a more playable condition. Dressed and ready, we attentively listened to our coach, Peter Taylor, give us the game plan for the day. But mid-meeting, we were interrupted. A decision had been made to cancel the game. What a shame! So for the first time since I arrived in the Netherlands, I had no game on Sunday! We all didn't know what to do with ourselves! I can't imagine that we will be able to play next week, or the weekend after (when our Hurley game is rescheduled for) because it is only getting colder, and snowing more!! In fact, practice was cancelled yesterday, and we are playing indoors tonight. I guess we just have to wait and see! But with below freezing temperatures, you won't find me outside unless I have to be!! (Or maybe if I'm making a snowman or snow angels with the kids!!)

Amsterdam and Thanksgiving x2

Friday's weather was not much better than Wednesday's. It was so cold that the field was beginning to freeze. The men's team was generous enough to end their practice a bit early so that we could still get some time on the field. We only got in about an hour and a bit of scrimmaging. It was nice to be done a bit early though because I headed off to Amsterdam with a few of my teammates post-practice. I stayed with Lauren Powley Friday night and it was nice to do a little catching up and story-swapping of our Dutch encounters! Saturday morning, Powley showed me around the markets which I love because you can always find cheap things! We stopped to get freshly squeezed juice, delicious ham sandwiches, and even better warm poffertjes! We were going to bike around the canal streets, but it was just so darn cold, so we just stopped in a café and got hot chocolates instead!

Later in the afternoon I got a chance to meet up with Kim and 2 of our former teammates at Wake Forest! Liza, who is currently a senior, was visiting Kim for her Thanksgiving break and Hilary was Kim’s year, and is currently au pairing and playing hockey as well in Belgium. I hadn’t seen either of them since earlier in the year (in March I believe it was) so it was great to catch up and explore a bit of Amsterdam together. I ended up leaving a bit early though because I had to catch a train back to Den Haag for a belated Thanksgiving dinner celebration!!


......

Although I did not get to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving on Thursday, I did get to have a celebration on Saturday. One of my teammates graciously invited me to her neighbor’s house for dinner. The mother of the family is from America and they have a huge Thanksgiving dinner every year. They always do it on a Saturday because it is too difficult to get everything prepared on a Thursday here in Holland when everyone still has to work since they don't celebrate the holiday here. As all 20+ people gathered around the 20 pound turkey, we had lots of nationalities represented; not only Americans, but Dutch, Canadians, and Kiwis all joined the party. As the turkey was being cut, the cranberries, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn bread, and pies were all being placed around the table. The meal was set, and of course I had to try a little bit of everything! The spread was delicious and included all the dishes I enjoy at home! It was a great way to give thanks with some great people. It was also fun to introduce Thanksgiving and its traditions to a few of the new people attending. The best part though had to be the pie!! There were multiple apple pies, pecan pie, and of course pumpkin pie!!! You can't find pumpkin pie here in the Netherlands, so a lot of people got their first taste! It was delicious!

Fortunately, I live 2 blocks from their house because I could barely move after dinner! (As it should be on Thanksgiving!!!) I cannot be grateful enough for this family opening up their home to me and the many others to celebrate the holiday with them. They put a lot of work into hosting such a wonderful meal and made Thanksgiving fabulous for a lot of people. The whole night, the people and the food (and a little college football on ESPNAmerica!), was just what I needed. I was starting to miss home as the holiday season approaches, but I know I have met some amazing people here and will miss them as well once I do get back to the States.

So, for the last 2 weeks that I am here, I am going to enjoy it! I know it will go by so quickly and I'm going to make the most of it!


The Thanksgiving spread!


My plate :)


A bunch of us at Thanksgiving dinner

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving

First I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!! I hope everyone had a fabulous day with friends and family wherever they found themselves yesterday! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is not only about being thankful for everything you have, but you get to spend the day with loved ones, relaxing and eating!!! I didn't really get a chance to have a normal Thanksgiving here which made me a bit sad yesterday and I really missed all my friends and family back home that mean so much to me.

But I took a step back and thought about how fortunate I am. Although I couldn't spend the holiday with the ones I love in the States, I am still thankful for so many things. The fact that I have people to miss so much, and people that miss me was thanks enough. I also realized how amazing an opportunity and experience I have been given through playing field hockey. I am in another country, meeting new people, learning about another culture, experiencing a new style of play on the hockey pitch, and growing as a person. There is no doubt I am thankful for all of this.

With only a few more weeks before I head home, I can't wait to see my family and get into the holiday spirit! But I am also starting to realize that I will miss a lot of things and people here in Holland too. So as much as I miss home and can't wait to get back to the States, I definitely am going to make the most of the time I have left over here!!

And... I do actually get a Thanksgiving dinner... it will just be on Saturday night! One of my teammates neighbors is American and invited a lot of us over for a Thanksgiving celebration. So I will get to enjoy a feast after all!! Bring on the Turkey!!

The Weather Outside is Frightful!

Wednesday Weather

"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we've no place to go, let it snow! let it snow! let it snow!"

It has finally turned to freezing temperatures here in Holland, which means a lot more staying in the house! Personally, I very much dislike cold weather and am beginning to miss California... A LOT!! But I only have a few more weeks before I head back to the not so harsh winters of North Carolina, then back out to mild California weather. Every day here they keep predicting snow. I figure, if it's going to be cold, it might as well snow! Then at least there is something to play with! But so far, the only thing we've gotten is hail! Yet another thing I know nothing about living in North Carolina and California my whole life.

Wednesdays training began with some running.... in the hail. We managed to get through it and I would say we were even warm by the end of it! The hail stopped as training began, but it didn't take long before a bit of rain was coming down. It must have only been one cloud though, because it didn't last long. At this point, I thought the weather was done spitting down on us for the night. Boy was I wrong!! Halfway through training, the hail picked up again. This time, much harder! It didn't matter- we had to keep going!! I could barely see and I thought I might end up with welts on my face, but once again, it stopped. It was so hard to decide whether I was hot or cold all practice!! Fortunately, it was clear for the last half hour of practice. As we finished up some corners and were walking off the field, I had to laugh, when the rain started to fall, once again. I thought I had seen some crazy weather and storms in North Carolina, but that was nothing compared to what I experienced Tuesday night!

Living in the Netherlands, I have come to expect that it may rain at any point, for any period, on any day. No matter the forecast and no matter what it looks like outside, you must always be prepared for rain! Now I know, as it gets colder, you must also be prepared for hail and snow as well!

We joked... "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get..." to "The weather in Holland is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna get!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Utrecht and Sinterklaas!!!

This past Saturday, Kim and I took the train over to Utrecht to do some exploring. As we got off the train we were welcomed by the biggest indoor mall in the Netherlands. We decided we should go see the famous church, canals, and have lunch before we went crazy shopping! As we walked towards the Domkerk, cameras in hand (just being a tourist!), we were stopped by a lady who informed us that there was a parade going on for Sinterklaas!

(For those of you that don't know... most of you probably... Sinterklaas is in other words the Dutch Santa Claus. Although the holiday is actually not celebrated until the evening of December 5th, Sinterklaas arrives a couple weeks earlier by boat from Spain. Sinterklaas is considered a patron saint of children and sailors. Originally, he was a bishop in modern-day Turkey. In medieval times, the feast was both an occasion to help the poor, by giving them food and putting money in their shoes. Today, the children put out a shoe at night and get little goodies in them from Sinterklaas the next morning. It is said that Sinterklaas was accompanied by a little black boy, whom they call Zwarte Piet. Today, there are many Zwarte Piet's, and everyone seems to love dressing like them! Typical treats that kids receive in their shoes are: Chocolate Letters, Papernotes [small, round gingerbread-like cookies], and small toys.)

So.... Saturday was the day that Sinterklaas arrived with all of the Zwarte Piet's! I knew about the holiday already, but the kids had been telling me all week that Sinterklaas was in Holland, and I was confused as to why until the parade! It was pretty cool to watch because the parade was actually by boat on the canals! As the Zwarte Piet's came by, they sang the traditional Sinterklaas song, and all the children sang along! It was fun to see all the children dressed in their Zwarte Piet outfits as well! Reminded me a bit of Christmas at home. Have to love the holiday spirit!!

After this, we finally wandered over to the church and it's famous tower, only to find the parade had also gathered there! The tower and church were once connected, but a storm took out a large part of the church, leaving a sizable courtyard in the middle. This is where the parade seemed to accumulate, including a band of Zwarte Piet musicians! We stayed for a bit and enjoyed the sights, but eventually decided that shopping was calling our name!

After a few hours and some damage done to the bank account (not that much damage..!!), we had to head back to Den Haag to meet up with some teammates for dinner and movie! We joined Steph, Lizzie, and Becky (who plays at Bloomendaal) to see Due Date. (Review: If you liked the Hangover, you will like this movie. Very funny!) Following many laughs, we went to a local cafe in the middle of town for a nice dinner. It was a very relaxing night in the wake of a busy day. At least I know that if I need to do any more shopping while I'm here... Utrecht here I come!

Canals


Boats with Zwarte Piet's


Me at the Parade, with the Canals and Church in the background


Me and a Zwarte Piet!


Canals again

Games games and more games

This past week we played games on Sunday, Wednesday and again on Sunday. After getting our first win against Kampong that first Sunday, I was excited for the rest of the week. Not only had we got that monkey off our shoulder, our games on Wednesday and Sunday were against Klein Zwitserland and Pinoke, both winnable games. KZ is right down the road in Den Haag and was sitting at the bottom of the Hoofdklasse with just 2 ties. We had known their pain until a few days prior. We weren’t ready to let up though. In fact, we were just getting started! As we took the pitch Wednesday night under the lights, we came out strong, dominating the game and taking a 1-0 lead . Despite our commanding play, we once again were unable to generate a lot of return in our attacking zone. Then, with 10 minutes left in the game, we got a yellow card- just like against Kampong. This time though, we did not hold our composure as well. We got another yellow card just minutes later. With only 9 players on the field, KZ took advantage of our 2-man deficit and earned a corner which gave them the game-tying goal. With just minutes left to play, we were not ready to give up that easy. We fought, despite a player down, to create opportunities, but the time and the 3 points we were chasing seemed to just slip away. It felt like another loss. Although we still got a point in the standings, we knew we let an important win get away from us.

Frustrated and disappointed, we still had to take away the many good things we did in the game. We have to keep playing like that- but for a whole 70 minutes, and we will get results. At times we need to be a bit smarter in attack, including earning more corners and quality shots. Also, we need to be a bit smarter about game situations and the time of game. In other words recognize when we are winning, when we are player down (or 2), and when we need to stay composed to manage the clock.

The last Sunday we played Pinoke, who traveled to our home turf from Amsterdam. Although I thought we were ready to keeping taking a step forward from the last two games, we came out flat in the first half. We gave up a goal off a corner to leave ourselves with a 1-0 deficit going into halftime. Even with a second half surge, we couldn’t find the back of the net. Once again, we left the field empty handed. It can be mentally difficult to see yourself at the bottom of the league, when you know you have the skill to be in the mix of things, competing with everyone. But, it is a team sport, where everyone plays a role, and the discipline and effort must be given for a full 70 minutes. Every team is good in the Hoofdklasse, and no one can be overlooked. That is the beauty of it. You must show up to play every Sunday.

This coming weekend we play at Den Bosch. They are currently vying for the top spot and they have won the majority of the championships in the past 10 years. But we have nothing to lose. We have no expectations. We are the underdogs, and we are going to continue to fight!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sports Weekend

Those that know me, know that I love sports. I love playing them (not just field hockey) and I love watching them. This weekend, that is about all I did!

The past 2 Saturdays I have gone to a local pub with the Kiwis on our team to watch the All Blacks (the New Zealand Rugby team) play. After a heartbreaking loss to Australia 2 weekends ago, they had a strong performance to pull out a win against England this past weekend. Now, I must admit that I never really watched rugby before and I didn't even know all the rules. (Surprising I know!) It is actually a very exciting sport with some amazing athletes. I have a feeling I will be watching a lot more in the near future! (And becoming a supporter of the All Blacks!)

Saturday night, I found myself again watching sports; this time, College Football. Although I can't flip through channels to find the game I want because only one game is televised here on ESPNAmerica, it is still really nice to be able to watch American football at all!

After a good nights rest, it was my turn to display my athletic abilities. My team, HGC, has been struggling a little bit the past couple weeks. We have found ourselves near the bottom of the Hoofdklasse when we feel we are skilled enough to be much higher. On Sunday we traveled to Utrecht to play Kampong, who is ranked in the middle, but we felt we had a good chance to beat them. We went out with a lot of energy and stuck to our game plan. We took a 1-0 lead off a corner mid-way through the first half and rode that lead into halftime. Kampong came out strong in the 2nd half, fighting back. But we got on the scoreboard again before they could finally put in a goal of their own. With 10 minutes left to play, one of our defenders was yellow carded on a diving tackle just outside the circle. It was a fight to the end of the game, but we held our composure and got the win. A very exciting 3 points for HGC!

After our game, a lot of us went to watch our men's team play down the road at SCHC. When I arrived, the second half was just starting and the men of HGC had a 2-0 lead. Similarly to our game though, SCHC found the back of the goal to make it 2-1, and HGC managed to get a yellow card with the minutes winding down. But the Gazelles held on to the lead and added another three points on the day. Always nice to have both teams in good spirits as well!

I was pretty tired once I got home for dinner, so once again I tuned in to ESPNAmerica and some NFL games!! I watched a bit of the Dolphins/Ravens game and then the Eagles/Colts game which was very exciting. Since I am 6 hours ahead of East Coast time, the afternoon NFL games start here at 7pm. It makes it a little difficult to stay up for all the games, and is a little late to watch Monday night football, but at least I get to watch some of it.... even if I never get to watch my team! (Go Panthers!! ...even though we are having a rough season).

The rest of the week should be busy but exciting. We have a game Wednesday against KZ (Klein Zwitserland, the team Rachel Dawson played for the past couple years) and another game on Sunday vs. Pinoke. will keep you posted on how we do!

HUP HGC!!

Playing vs. Kampong:


HGC Dames 1 after the win at Kampong:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Peace Palace

So I have been here about 2 months now and I have seen quite a bit. I've been to a few cities, but find myself in neighboring Den Haag at least a few times a week. As the third biggest city in Holland though, there was still much to be discovered. And as much as I had already ventured through the city, I had yet to be a true tourist and go to the palaces, museums, etc. I decided to do so on Saturday.

It was a lovely day, the sun was shining (which can be rare!) and I had no where I needed to be. I started the day by sleeping in and watching a little EHL on TV. It was the second weekend for first round games and they were being played in Spain. After this I met up with some of my teammates and some other hockey girls from New Zealand for a pancake lunch. I have never seen so many choices for pancakes! There were at least 100! Pancakes here though are not the same as we have in the US. Their pancakes are much thinner, more similar to crepes. They are delicious though! I got mine with fruit, whipped cream, and syrup! After our bellies were full, Kim and I headed out to explore Den Haag. As we rode away from the center of town, we just picked randomly where to turn.

We found our way to the harbor, checking out where all the boats were from and how they compared to ones we'd seen in the US. We then stopped by the Peace Palace, which was closed, but still a beautiful sight to see. Right outside the palace is the eternal peace flame. It was created in 1999, along with 6 others on 5 continents to be a symbol of peace, unity, freedom, and celebration. What I found really neat about the actual monument was that there is a circle path around the flame which contains a stone from every country. Besides the unique design and wide collection of stones, it showed all the countries commitment to the peace flames purpose.

To find out more on the World Peace Flame organization: visit http://www.worldpeaceflame.org/

Although I still have more to see in Den Haag, including the MC Escher museum and Maduordam (mini Holland), this was definitely the coolest thing I have seen so far!

Peace Palace:


About the World Peace Flame:


Me and the World Peace Flame:

Halloween

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween! It is one of my favorite holiday's and I was a bit sad that I missed it since they don't celebrate it over here. I thought about celebrating it anyways and dressing up, but I think I would have gotten quite a few stares... okay a whole lot of stares... if I did that!

Coincidentally though, there is an American school right down the road from where I live. So there were a couple streets nearby that had houses that were decorated with pumpkins, cobwebs, ghouls and ghosts! This came as a surprise to me as I rode my bike past these houses. It put a big smile on my face though! This also meant there would be at least a few people celebrating the holiday!

Halloween was on Sunday this year, but the families here decided to celebrate/take the kids trick-or-treating on Saturday night instead. As I returned to Wassenaar from a day of adventuring around Den Haag, I saw all the kids already out in their costumes! I decided to stop by Kim's house since she lives on that street and the family she lives with was also celebrating and giving out candy. It almost seemed like home with all of the little trick-or-treaters in their cute little costumes! By far the best part of the night though was when the Prince and Princess came by with their two daughters to celebrate the festivities! That was unexpected, but very cool that the children can do everyday things and enjoy themselves without being bothered. And it was really awesome for me to see them right there at our doorstep!

Although I miss Halloween in the states, especially picking out costumes, it's not necessarily so bad that I missed it... because now I won't get sick off of candy!! I hope everyone had a great Halloween though... I've seen some great pictures and awesome costumes from back home! Looks like all my friends had fun this year!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teammates

When I came over to the Netherlands, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know any of players that soon would become my teammates. I didn't know anything about the area I was going to live in. I knew little about the family I was going to live with. In a sense, I just trusted and hoped that everything would work out somehow.

Fortunately it has. In fact, I have been told many times how lucky I am to have joined the team at HGC. Although HGC finished as one of the lower seeds in the league last season, the team this year has quite a few new players and whole new outlook for this season. There is still a lot of potential that has yet to be obtained and although we haven't had the best start to the season, there are many games left to be played and we are headed in the right direction.

What has been most surprising to me though is just how close everyone is on the team. With players living all over Holland and commuting to and from the club, as well as a variety of age ranges and new players, I only assumed that the team would naturally be a bit divided outside of hockey. This is not the case. Personally, I have spent time with almost all of my teammates outside of hockey. Whether it be to grab a bite to eat, go to a movie, go see some other hockey games, or just hang out, I can always find something to do with someone. It has definitely made my transition to a new lifestyle and a new team much easier. Plus, it has been a lot of fun! :)

Another reason I was fortunate to join HGC as opposed to many other clubs was their openness and welcoming of foreign players. It will be the 3rd year that players from New Zealand have been on the team, so all the girls are used to speaking a lot of English. This made it much easier when I came in, plus there are other girls (the Kiwis and a girl from Northern Ireland) on the team who always speak English! There are other clubs that aren't as inviting to foreigners and others that just aren't used to having them, so they forget to speak English. (Good thing for me everyone here knows English pretty well so I don't have to worry too much about communicating with anyone!) So in that respect, communicating with the team is pretty easy. Although, sometimes I like when they speak Dutch so I can try to figure out what they are saying! Occasionally they ask me simple things in Dutch just to make me figure them out! But it's all in good fun so I can learn! :)

All in all, I feel very fortunate to have to opportunity to play in Holland, live with a great family, and be a part of an awesome team. Don't worry, I can't wait to come back and play for the red, white, and blue every chance I get! And I still miss all my teammates from back home!

Just have to give a little shout out to all my US teammates... ik mis jullie! ... or I miss you!!!

A Day with the Kids

After all the excitement of the weekend and meeting up with all of the Americans, I needed a few days to relax and recover. Fortunately, that is just what I got! The family that I live with was actually at EuroDisney in Paris for a few days because the kids had a week off from school for a fall break. Without any responsibilities at the house, I was free to sleep in and come and go as I pleased. Ultimately, I decided to just take the time to relax since most days I am constantly on the go. I also took the time to catch up on some TV shows online that I have missed the past couple months! Mostly Dexter!!

The family returned Wednesday night and although I normally have Thursday off (since the kids are at school and the youngest that I normally watch, Quinn is at daycare), the kids still had off from school so they were home. It was actually a really nice change of pace though because I'm used to chasing around Quinn, who is only a year old, and instead I could actually play and interact with the older two (ages 5 and 8) which I don't get to do as often. The morning was spent drawing. At first we were just doodling, but once the kids found out I'm pretty decent at sketching cartoon pictures, I was then asked to draw everything from Scooby Doo to Minnie Mouse, a monkey, a cat, a dog... and just about everything in between! Finally I convinced them to try for themselves, and I was quite impressed at how well they turned out! My favorite was Declan's Daffy Duck! (say that 5 times fast!) After some grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, we needed to something a bit more active, but of course it was cold and rainy outside! Lilysky then asked if we could go to the pool. I was pretty confused why anyone would want to swim in that weather, but quickly learned that there is an indoor pool right down the street from the house! So we hoped on our bikes and headed to the pool! I was impressed with the brand new facility, complete with a slide, lazy river, hot tub, diving boards, kiddie pool, and separate lap pool. The pool was heated as well! As the kids proceeded to go up and down the slide what seemed like a hundred times, I got a nice little recovery workout in, kicking and shaking my legs out. Just what I needed! I never really thought to go to the pool on a cold, rainy day (especially living in Southern California!), but as it starts to get colder here, the pool just might be where I head on those days!

Although I always seem to find myself around kids, being around them day in and day out gives you a new perspective on a lot of things. They see things very simply, but have a lot of energy and are eager to learn. Ironically, this is the same way I have approached hockey here. Often when things go wrong on the pitch, or in my case I'm playing in a completely new team, if you just keep things simple- doing the simple play or simple pass- the game begins to open itself up and everything becomes more clear. Along with that, I always have to bring a lot of energy and an eagerness to learn. Part of the reason I came here was to become a better hockey player. To do that, I have to put in the work and the effort every time I am on the field. I also have to keep an open mind and learn from the new style of play, different tactics, and players around me. If I can mimic the mind of child, by not over thinking things, there is no limit to what I can continue to do on the field.

So as much as I can teach these kids, every day they teach me and remind me that sometimes it is best just to keep things simple!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

AMERICA!

There are quite a few American's playing over in Europe this year, and I have gotten a chance to see most of those that are in Holland. A few of the men's players are in Belgium (Jon Ginolfi, Kevin Barber, and Will Holt) and as you already know (by following the other blogs!!) Katie Evans is in England. This weekend we decided to all meet up in Amsterdam!

...but first I had a game on Sunday against Rotterdam! Our team had been building a lot for this game and with the Kiwis back, we had new motivation and firepower and wanted to leave it all on our home pitch. I was particularly excited to play Rotterdam because Chilean National Team player Paula Infante plays there and I couldn't wait to take her on again! (She played at the University of Maryland while I was at Wake Forest so I've played against her a lot in the past). It was nice also to see another familiar face!

We came out firing and played one of our best halves of hockey in the first half of the game. We took the lead late in the first half off a counter attack goal, but unfortunately gave up a goal with no time left on the clock on a corner. Although we were tied at the half, we knew we had the game within our grasp. We came out even harder in the second half, but Rotterdam quickly capitalized on a chance early forcing us to fight from behind. Shortly thereafter we found the back of the boards on a corner of our own. With the momentum in our favor, we continued to create chances and put pressure on their defense. With minutes left in the game, we scored, but the officials called it back saying it hit a foot (which of course we didn't agree with!!). A bit of an unlucky break! Although we fought hard and put some good passages of hockey together, we ran out of time before we could add another to the scoreline. Even though a draw is not what we had hoped for, we did get our first point moving us up a few spots in the standings, and it was a big step in the right direction. The season is long and we just need to keep moving forward!

Most of our team decided we should celebrate our first point because it was hard to come by! We went over to a neighboring club (KZ) for a bit because they had a DJ and were hosting a party for the evening. I didn't stay too long though because I had to meet up with the Americans!!! When I got to Amsterdam, Katie, Jon, Kevin, Will, Pat (Harris), Colin (Scally), Lauren (Powley) and Maureen (Daniel) were already there! It was so amazing to see all of us in one place! Pretty cool to all meet up together overseas and catch up on all of our experiences so far! I definitely enjoyed having all English speaking people around for one night as well!! I had to head back early Monday morning, but the others got to spend Monday in Amsterdam! What fun!! :)
... Katie will have a great video coming soon of the weekend!

AMERICA!!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

EHL

This weekend is the opening weekend for the EHL (European Hockey League) and the first round is being hosted at Oranje-Zwart in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. For those of you unfamiliar with the EHL, it consists of the top teams from different European countries. This year's league has 3 teams from Holland, including the men's side from my club, HGC! HGC is also fortunate enough to have their first round games at OZ, so they have somewhat of a home field/home crowd advantage.

Although all the games can be viewed online as well as on television here, I jumped at the opportunity to go see the games live, and of course support HGC! Yesterday I took the 2 hour trip down to Eindhoven with a teammate and our coach and watched HGC blow out a team from the Ukraine, Olimpia Kolos Sekvoia, 9-2. Although not the best game since it was so lopsided, it was still fun to watch our guys score lots of goals! I would love to watch them play again today, but we have our own game at home against Rotterdam!

Hup HGC!


Corner for HGC:

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Kiwis are Back!!

After much anticipation, I walked into the lockerroom tonight to see the two legendary Kiwis, Krystal Forgesson and Emily Naylor, fresh off their Silver Medal performance at the Commonwealth Games. First, I must say congrats to both of them!! Well done girls! I was excited to finally meet the girls I have heard much about over the past few weeks. Only their first day back and I could already see their impact as my teammates began to trickle into the lockerroom. Everyone was excited to see them and I could tell they play a big role in the team. This made me excited as well, knowing that we finally have our full team together for the season!

Although I'm sure they were jetlagged and exhausted from a hard fought tournament down in Delhi, India, of course they still wanted to practice! Emily is a defender/midfielder and Krystal is a striker. Both are very skilled, smart players. I could already see the positive impact they brought even to just one practice.

I hope this is the extra spark that will ignite our team to finally get in the win column this weekend. Another home game with the crowd behind us and our team at full strength, Rotterdam better be ready for all HGC has to throw at them on Sunday!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recovery

Sometimes we just need a little down time to relax. "You call it being lazy, I call it recovery." Funny, but it is so very true for athletes! Last week was a bit uneventful for me and a more relaxed week. After a busy weekend, I decided to take the remainder of the week to rest and fully recover for our next game against Oranje-Zwart. I got a lot of reading done, including finishing one James Patterson book, and starting another! I also made a trip to the beach which was refreshing and very relaxing as well.

Sunday was game day though. I was ready to go. It was time for HGC to get it's first win in our home opener for the season! With the club crowded around the field, we entered through the tunnel of excited young HGC hockey girls. Surrounded by a sea of black and blue, we wanted to leave OZ remembering those colors (on and off the pitch).

Despite the support, we found ourselves struggling to connect throughout the first half. Tina Bachmann, a German National team player, scored off a nice drag flick to leave us chasing a 1-0 deficit at half time. We came out firing in the second half, but still couldn't seem to connect in our attacking third. OZ held on to the lead, leaving us without a win on the season. Although only our second game and a lot of season left to play, it is frustrating not to get the wins we are capable of. You could see the disappointment on our faces post-game and I know personally I don't want to feel that way again. I think it was a little bit of an eye-opener and added motivation for our team.

Tonight we have a game against HDM, who is considered our rival since their club is about a mile from ours. I think we are ready to turn our season in the right direction. I think a night game against our rival is just the game to do it!!

More updates to come!
HUP HGC!!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Season Opener and More....

Saturday: Leidens Ontzet

On Saturday, I went with Kim into Leiden to check out the festival called Leidens Ontzet that I had heard so much about! To give a little background, it is a celebration of the liberation of the city from the Spanish in 1574. The festival lasts for a few days, but always ends on October 3rd. Since we had our first game on Sunday, we obviously couldn’t go then, so on Saturday we ventured on the train from Den Haag some ten minutes to Leiden Centraal. Never having been to Leiden, we were a bit unsure of where to go exactly, but as we walked out of the train station, carnival rides and fair attractions were right there to greet us! It actually looked like a fair or carnival that you would find in the US. They had all sorts of rides, a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, rides that go upside down, mini roller coasters, bumper cars, and more. There were carnival games such as basketball and the water gun shooting, but they had a few new unique ones too. Kim and I liked the one where you had to throw a ball to break the moving plates! Also, they had one with a real bow and arrow you had to shoot to pop balloons. Very interesting! Of course there were lots of food vendors which had a variety of Dutch treats and we had to try a few of those as well! Very delicious… super lekker! There were some clothing, jewelry, etc. vendors as well. You could find almost anything you wanted at the festival! It was really fun until it started to rain, which was bound to happen here in Holland! So Kim and I ducked into a café, met up with Lizzie (a teammate from HGC who goes to University in Leiden) and Maureen Daniel (who played for the US Developmental Team) and had a few drinks before we headed home. All in all, it was a fun-filled, adventurous day in Leiden!


Sunday: GAME DAY!

Game days are my favorite days…. especially when it is the start of a new season! After graduating from college, you don’t really have a season while playing for the US team. We go on tour or go to tournaments, but we also play games in groups. I’ve missed having a game every week! Our season opener was against Laren, one of the top teams in the league. They have 4 Dutch Internationals along with a few from other countries, including the German captain. Naomi van As, who played with Rachel Dawson at KZ (Klein Zwitzerland) last year now plays for Laren as well. The game started out at a very high intensity which never really dropped the whole game. The first half we came out strong, but Laren was a bit more focused. They took the 1-0 lead into half time off a stroke which was called when a corner strike hit our post player’s foot. Still in the game, we came out fired up for the second half, ready to give Laren a run for their money. We picked up our intensity, energy, and pressure in the second half and looked really good for periods. After Laren finished on a beautifully executed corner midway through the half, we found ourselves down 2-0 with a bit of work to do. We created a few chances including a 2v1 on the goalkeeper and a corner, but we couldn’t convert. Laren then took advantage of a mistake in our backfield and put the game out of reach at 3-0. It was a frustrating loss and start to our season, but to a very good team. Indeed, we did some things well that we hadn’t yet done in our practice matches, and although the score line is not what we had wished, I still think it is a good starting point and motivator for the season.

After the game, I got to see Pat Harris (US Men’s National Team player) play for a bit because he plays for the men’s side at Laren. Although I only stayed for the first half, I did get to see him score a goal!! Very exciting and I let everyone know he is an American! 

Sunday night was just what I needed after a hard day’s work on the field. Pizza and Sunday night football!! And when I say football, I mean American Football! There is a sportsbar (which are rare here) in Den Haag only a couple miles from where I live. I went with Kim, Moei, and one of my Dutch teammates Sophie. Even though my team (the Panthers) wasn’t playing, it was so nice to sit and watch ESPN and some football- American style! I will definitely find myself there many more Sunday nights to come!


Monday: Delft

I had some free time Monday morning and decided to do some more adventuring! Delft is a little town just south of Den Haag. It only takes 10 minutes by train. Kim and I decided to go see what this quaint canal town had to offer. Colin Scally (another US Men’s player) and his sister Jackie who is visiting also came along. The cute little town of Delft has a bit of history in the Churches, along with delftware which is the famous blue and white pottery. There are delftware shops on every corner too! The most notable buildings, the new and old church, can be seen from a distance. Town hall also stands across the square from the new church. The best and worst part of the trip was the new Church because it has a tower that you can climb with gorgeous views. The only downside to this was the actual climb. A small spiral staircase of what seemed like over 500 steps takes you to this magnificent panoramic view. It was clear today so we could see both Den Haag and Rotterdam from the top. It was pretty amazing! And in the end…. worth the burn of the climb!


It’s been another busy week/weekend and I am exhausted. I’m off to bed early tonight and going to take it easy the rest of the week in my down time. Have to be ready for next week’s game because it is a must win for us! More to come from over here in the Netherlands… hup HGC!


Canal in Leiden:


Fresh food at the festival in Leiden:


Carnival rides in Leiden:


Canal and Old Church in Delft:


Delft:


View from the top of the Tower:


Me at the top of the Tower:


Delftware store:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Final pre-season preparation

This week has been pretty busy once again. I am trying to make the most of the time I have here in the Netherlands because I know it will go by a lot faster than I think!!

Saturday morning I spent the day in Den Haag with a teammate doing a little shopping. I have been really wanting to go shopping and get into the Dutch and European fashion! I got a few things, including a rain coat for all the rainy days! What I really wanted to find was a nice leather jacket. Everyone here seems to have one and wears it all the time! I found a few I liked, but wasn't sold on anything, so I'll have to keep my eye out for that one.

Saturday afternoon I found myself at the club for the presentations of the first teams of HGC (men's and women's). Every year once the team has been announced, they publicly present the team at the club for all the members to see. The coach gets up on stage, calls us up, and sometimes tells a little story about the team. It's nice to have so much support from the club and it's members. Also, they present the blauwboek (Blue Book) which is like a yearbook for the previous year. It has the pictures and rosters of the teams at HGC as well as a few articles and things about HGC, it's sponsors, and players. It was a pretty fun event.

Saturday evening, I had a great dinner at my teammate Inge's house. Her mother is taking a cooking class, so she invited a few of us over to try out the dishes. It was delicious!! Always nice to get a home cooked meal and for my teammate to open up her home to us!

After all the excitement of Saturday, Sunday was game day. We had our final practice match before the season starts against Pinoke, which is located in Amsterdam. Following a long weeks worth of practice working on tactics: mostly our movement when outletting and our press, we were ready to put it into a game situation. The first half looked really good and I was impressed to see how well we had learned and adjusted that week. Unfortunately, the scoreboard didn't reflect our level of play. It was still just 1-1 at half. I'm not quite sure what happened in the second half, as we became a bit frantic and had a lot of unforced turnovers. We ended up losing the game 3-1.

Although this is not the way we wanted to leave off leading up to our first game of the season, this week's practices have been very positive. We have shown that we are capable of playing well, individually and collectively. As long as we can maintain our focus for a full 70 minutes, we should not only be able to compete with every team in the league, but should do quite well. We know that the games count now, and you can tell that everyone has stepped it up a notch at practice. I have a good feeling about this weekend, even though we play one of the top sides in Laren.

Check back next week for an update!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hockey training with the kids

The oldest child in the family I help out with is 8 years old. His name is Declan and he also plays hockey at HGC. It is a much different culture here in regards to hockey when Declan, like many of the other children, have already been playing hockey for 2 or 3 years. I didn’t even know what the sport was until I was 11! I was asked to help out with the team though because they don’t really have a coach and have had parents trying to run practice. I’ve coached a lot over the years from Futures to summer camps and more. So far, this experience though has been quite different from the coach I'm used though.

First of all, the kids are quite a bit younger than I am accustomed to working with, but at the same time more skilled than I expected. It can be hard to get the attention of a group of 8 year olds! It is even harder when you speak a different language that most of them don’t understand. So a lot of practice I have to demonstrate and show the kids what I am trying to explain. (Often Declan helps me because he knows English and can translate, or there is a parent there helping to translate which helps a lot). Although the children seem to like me, it can be quite hard at times to get them to do what I am asking or trying to explain. Even simple things can be extremely hard to explain, so patience and persistence are very important. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, non-verbal communication can be very useful, and that goes for teaching hockey as well. But working with the kids is also helping me learn more hockey terms! I realize just how many words I really don’t know yet!

I have a funny story to go along with that which happened this week. So while I was helping train some of the kids, I had pulled one of the boys aside and was working with him individually. He was having trouble doing a reverse stick pull because he wasn’t moving his hands correctly. Since he understood nearly no English, I was showing him and moving his hands for him. This strategy was not working so well, but I didn’t know what else to do because I didn’t know how to explain it in Dutch. Just then, my coach from Dames 1, Peter, walked up to the field to say hi. He laughed for a second as he watched me struggle to explain. He helped describe what I was showing in Dutch to the boy and immediately he understood what to do. A little bit embarrassed and frustrated, I thanked my coach and told him I had to get back to coaching. He agreed but replied that he would give me a long list of Dutch hockey words to learn because I needed it! Haha, indeed I do!!

Even though I’ve coached a million times, this is a completely new experience where I really have to get down to the basics and break down the skills. The kids are a lot of fun though and I am quickly picking up a lot of new hockey words which will help me on field at my practices as well! Once again, I just laugh at the language barrier and find new ways to communicate until I can learn more Dutch!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Make the most of it!

Things have been so busy here, sometimes I wonder when do I stop and think! It has been a really nice change to the lack of activities I find for myself to do when I am out in California training full time with the National Team. It's also nice to have the option of relaxing every now and again, but for right now I am enjoying all the new experiences I have been having all over the great country of the Netherlands!!

This past weekend, we had what we call a "team weekend" meaning simply that we spend the weekend together bonding with each other and building on our goals. Friday we had practice, then went downtown Den Haag for a bit before having somewhat of a "sleep over" at the house in Den Haag where a few of the girls live. On Saturday, we spent the morning working out our strengths and weaknesses, goals, and did a few team bonding exercises. All in all it was a very productive morning. The fun stuff came in the afternoon though!! Two of the girls created a scavenger hunt. Split into 4 teams, we had to do a list of tasks and video ourselves doing them to show the rest of the team. With items such as: drive around a round-a-bout 25 times, drive backwards for 1km, teach 5 people how to do the moonwalk, sell 3 cucumbers for a profit, everyone switch clothes, and eat a container of cat food as a group... just to name a few! It was pretty funny to watch the videos afterwards at dinner!

Sunday we traveled all the way to Den Bosch which is in more of the Southern part of Holland about an hour and half away. Den Bosch has won the Hoofdklasse Championship around 12 of the last 15 years. In other words, they are consistently one of the best teams. Unfortunately I think we gave them a bit too much respect in the first half and found ourselves down 3-0. Although a good side, we knew if we challenged them a bit more and put them under more pressure, we could be successful. The second half resulted in a 1-1 tie, but left us with a 4-1 loss. It was frustrating to take such a big blow for our first loss, even though these matches don't count yet. I do think we took a lot out of that game and know now that we can play with anyone in this league if we take risks and play to our strengths.

Just one more practice match this coming weekend before the season starts October 3rd. I'm pretty excited for the season, even though we still have a few things to work out on the field.

"Enjoy it. Nothing good lasts forever. Make the most of it." - good advice from my mom!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Day in Town

Imagine you are riding you bike down a cobblestone road through the line of trees on your way into town. You are in your normal attire (as opposed to athletic wear often worn when biking) and you pull into town to see the line of 30 bikes already parked and locked about the racks. As you venture into the rows of streets lined with shops, foreign signs of unfamiliarity seem to encompass the area. You slowly take in all the sights and sounds: signs in Dutch, new types of fashion, food stands selling what look like hard waffles (better known as stroopwafels), people in every direction speaking even more Dutch. Without hesitation you begin to journey through the unfamiliar into what surprisingly reminds you of home. Around the corner is a McDonalds and around the other is a coffee shop. Brightly colored signs indicate the shoe store is having a sale. Groups of girls with shopping bags laugh together as they make their way into another shop. You even see someone wearing a USA t-shirt. You decide to try one of these waffle creations and find out just how delicious they are! You walk into a couple shops and fall in love with a stylish new jacket. You even begin to recognize what some Dutch words you hear. After an afternoon of adventure, you decide to head home. As you pedal, you think about the day and…

You quickly realize that things aren’t so different here. And even when they are, differences aren’t always bad things. In fact, it is these new experiences that allow you to not only appreciate what you have, but allow you to learn and accept why others do things differently. In time, you learn to embrace the new way of living and might even learn a few things about yourself that you never knew!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two Weeks

Two weeks have passed since I arrived here in the Netherlands. I can hardly believe it has only been two weeks because I have been so busy and done so many things!!

This past weekend we had a practice match against Hurley. Former National Team Player, Lauren Powley, is currently playing for Hurley so it was really fun to see and play against her!! Unfortunately my team did not play very well and the game ended in a 0-0 tie. It was quite frustrating after doing so well in our previous matches, but without a doubt we learned a lot from that game. After our match, we watched the men's team at HGC play in their first official match. The men's team from our club is one of the top teams in the league, so very exciting to watch!! They tied Den Bosch 3-3. After the men's game, I got to spend some time catching up with Lauren as well as visiting with one of my college teammates and roommates, Minou. She is from the Netherlands and it was so nice to finally see her again after living with her for four years!

We had yet another practice match today. This time against HDM, from right down the road in Den Haag. We went over a lot of tactics the past few days in practice and it definitely paid off tonight. We played much better and came out with a 4-2 win, which easily could have been more. It was good to see our team recover from a not so good performance on Sunday and implement some new tactics we have been working on. We have a lot of potential for this season, so I am excited to see what we can do!

I am most excited for this weekend though!! We have a team weekend, which means we go away as a team and spend the whole weekend together. Our coach has planned some fun activities for us during the day on Saturday, we have a team dinner Saturday night, and then a practice match at Den Bosch on Sunday. The goal of the team weekend is to help us really get to know our teammates better and have a little fun away from hockey. I feel as though this will add even more to the team chemistry we have begun to build and should be really good for our team. Plus it will be fun!!

Two weeks have passed. It is amazing what can happen in just two weeks. Two more weeks until our first match of the season. I can't wait to see what will happen in the next two weeks...!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Settling down in Holland

It's been a few days since I last blogged. Still trying to get into a routine over here in Holland. Definitely a lot different living with and helping out with a family. I love kids but man they can be a handful at times! haha. It's only my second week here, so I'm starting to settle into my new BUSY schedule a bit more.

Hockey has been really good. We had another scrimmage on Wednesday against Schaerweijde who are from Utrecht, but play in the second division. We did not play great in the first half, but found ourselves up 2-0 at half nonetheless. The first was a stroke we earned off a corner when the straight strike hit the post player in the leg. The second was a field goal with just seconds left in the half. At halftime we worked out a few things with our press and turned the second half around, dominating the whole half. We came out with 2 more goals, both straight strikes on corners. Overall, it was a pretty good game for us and I was happy to see us trying some things we had practiced the day before. That game showed us as well that we still have a long way to go and lots to work on!

Personally, I am still getting used to the style of play a bit, but more so I am just trying to work out the movements and concepts with the other forwards. At times it seems we all have our own agendas on the field. Hopefully in the next couple weeks we can start to get on the same page with that so we can be even more dangerous in the attack!

Other than that, I have had a lot of fun playing with the girls at HGC. Although we may have a language barrier, hockey is something that brings us together. It's a game that has it's own language. It's been really awesome to see how I can still play and understand the game and those around me, even when we sometimes struggle to communicate with each other. Sports really can bring people from all over the world together. It's a pretty cool perspective if you think about it!!

Well, I must be going, but hopefully I will have more fun adventures to tell of in my next post! Keep following! To see more, visit http://www.mkasold18.blogspot.com/ !!

The downtown street in Wassenaar


Lots of bikes everywhere...


The windmill in downtown Wassenaar

Sunday, September 5, 2010

First Week in Holland

The first week here in Holland has been super busy! From watching after the kids to practicing, I haven’t had a lot of down time! I finally got into town (of Wassenaar) on Friday and explored the shops and the grocery store. There isn’t a whole lot in town, but there is a Bagel shop that I plan on going to a lot! The grocery store is obviously a bit different than back in the states, but there are some advantages. The Dutch are well known for their cheeses, so there are a multitude to choose from at really inexpensive prices. I plan on trying different kinds of cheese every week!

Practices have been going well. I am still trying to get adjusted to the style here and how all the girls play individually. I’m still learning everyone’s names as well. There is someone new at every practice! And the Kiwis aren’t even here yet (because they are still playing at the World Cup). But we had our first scrimmage today against Kampong anyways. I was really interested to see how everything would come together and we did quite well. After we settled into the game, we had most of the possession. We had a lot of chances but only finished the game 2-1. Still a good start for us considering Kampong finished 4th in the league last year and we finished closer to the bottom. There is still a lot of work to be done though! Two more scrimmages this coming week, so lots to look forward to and learn from.

Yesterday I did have the day off though from looking after the kids and from hockey. I meet up with a couple of my teammates at the Bagel shop for lunch then biked over to the next city, Den Haag, to explore. Den Haag is an important city because it houses most of the governmental buildings in Holland. There is a big center with tons of shops (clothing) and restaurants. It is a really nice area that I will have to spend some more time! Hopefully next weekend I can do a bit more exploring; maybe see the beaches or other towns nearby…

Until next time… Doei!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nederland!

I officially arrived in Holland Tuesday morning. After a few hours sleep on the plane I was picked up by the family I am au pairing for. Their youngest son Quinn (he is almost 2) was home, but the older children Skylily (5 years old) and Declan (8 years old) were both at school. Although I was exhausted, I knew it would be best to stay awake all day in order to adjust quickly to the 6 hour time change. I went into the little downtown of Wassenaar with Sharon and Quinn which is only 2 small streets. We got lunch at the Bagel Alley and got Quinn a new pair of shoes. After chasing Quinn around for another hour, we picked up the other children from school and then I was off to my first practice at HGC.

Practice was a little intimidating at first. Although our coach is Australian, he runs practice in all Dutch. (Which makes sense, we are in Holland after all!) That took a little getting used to since I don't really know any Dutch. I followed along and asked the girls a few times to explain. All of the girls were very nice and were always making sure I understood. We had two practices that first day, but it was nice to move around and get to know the girls right away. Best of all, one of my teammates from college, Kim, is also playing for HGC and is an au pair just a few blocks from me. It is amazing to see her, catch up, and play with her again!!

After a good nights rest, Wednesday was just as busy! I watched Quinn for most of the morning before going into Amsterdam for Sharon's nieces 1st birthday party. All the kids were so cute and the cake was delicious! Once we got back, I was off to practice again. This time we had running before training. It was not too difficult for me besides the fact that I was still a little jetlagged, but I think it was pretty tough for the rest of the team. It is not surprising that we do a lot more fitness/running in the US! Training went well as I started to get used to the girls, their style of play, and working off of them. I'm still learning all of their names, but again they all have been extremely understanding and helpful.

So far, I have had a really good experience with the family and the team. I have also been lucky it hasn't rained yet! Although, it is a bit colder than I'm used to. I look forward to our first scrimmage this weekend against Kampong and some time off to explore what is around Wassenaar and Den Haag.

More to come soon! Pictures coming also!
Doei!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Last few days

Wow! What a journey this year has been. And to think there is still so much more to be experienced. This is my last weekend and my last few days in the US. I get to spend them at home with my family, but I also get to see my alma mater (Wake Forest) play in their season opener tomorrow. Although I graduated a couple years ago, there are still a few girls on the team I played with and always the amazing atmosphere of Wake Hockey.

I actually surprised the team today by showing up at their practice. (They are playing the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in which UNC and Wake play Iowa and Michigan the first two games of the season. This is the opening tournament every year for these 4 teams). Anyways, it is being hosted by UNC this year, which happens to be in my hometown of Chapel Hill. It was awesome to see all my girls and all the new faces on the team too. Most importantly, the traditions and high expectations of Wake Hockey are still being upheld by this new group of talented youngsters. (Ok they aren't that much younger than me!) I can't wait to see them rock out this weekend on the field! :) GO DEACS!

However, I have had a wonderful past few days spending some time with family and friends. All the love and support they give me allow me to constantly live my dreams and know that I have people I can fall back on if anything ever goes wrong.

Yet, in 3 days I will be boarding a plane to Holland. I will be starting a new chapter for 2010 and for the life journeys of Michelle Kasold. But I can't wait!! I am so excited to get back on the field, play with a new team, learn new skills, learn about a new culture, and explore the world on my own. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am no doubt thankful for, but excited to experience it to the fullest.

I will keep you updated on all that is hockey and life overseas. Until then.. GO DEACS!!!! and as always... GO USA!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Chapter

Although the scrimmages last week were a big step for our program with a multitude of young players/developmental players bringing a high level of play to challenge the National Team players, many of our minds were elsewhere ready for the newest chapters in our lives.

This fall, we have a bit of break from the central program. As some of the team is still in college and go back to their respective schools, many of the other players find themselves on the other side of this equation in the coaching world. Then there are a few of us who will find our way overseas to play in the club systems of Europe.

Personally, I will be travelling to Holland in less than a week to start the newest chapter in my life. I will be living and helping out with a family along with playing. Although I have been planning this journey for months, I have a had a rush of nerves and excitement as my departure date nears. This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience: to live abroad, learn about another culture, learn a new language, and meet new people. It's been hard saying goodbye to everyone knowing that I will not see them for over 3 months. I know my friends and family are supporting me and will not be far away (thank you skype!).

Continue to follow my blog as I share my adventures and experiences from the other side of the world!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

California

After a short break, we have resumed training back in California. Although we originally had some more international matches scheduled for the upcoming week (China and India were going to come play us before they headed down to the World Cup in Argentina), those fell through and we have inter-squad scrimmages instead, bringing many of the developmental players in.

Thursday morning we got our touch back on the ball and got the developmental players up to speed on how National Team practices are run. They caught on pretty quickly. Their speed of play and accuracy must be that much higher at the next level. Thursday afternoon we got to scrimmage, which was also a bit interesting because some new players got thrown in the mix. On Friday we went over some tactics so the developmental players have a better understanding of the way we play and our objectives. Then we did some shooting and corners which are always my favorite! I also can't wait for the rest of the girls to get back for training on Monday! I miss them already!

Even though it was a short training block before we had some down time this weekend, my body was still feeling a little worn out from all the travelling. Hopefully this weekend will be enough to feel refreshed for the scrimmages this upcoming week. Needless to say, it was a great weekend here in California. The weather was great (as it almost always is). I got out to the beach of Friday, had a little family night (our house) last night, and off to visit with my cousins for the day today. I definitely needed a little bit of a break this weekend because I know the inter-squad scrimmages this week are going to be intense.

California

After a short break, we have resumed training back in California. Although we originally had some more international matches scheduled for the upcoming week (China and India were going to come play us before they headed down to the World Cup in Argentina), those fell through and we have inter-squad scrimmages instead, bringing many of the developmental players in.

Thursday morning we got our touch back on the ball and got the developmental players up to speed on how National Team practices are run. They caught on pretty quickly. Their speed of play and accuracy must be that much higher at the next level. Thursday afternoon we got to scrimmage, which was also a bit interesting because some new players got thrown in the mix. On Friday we went over some tactics so the developmental players have a better understanding of the way we play and our objectives. Then we did some shooting and corners which are always my favorite! I also can't wait for the rest of the girls to get back for training on Monday! I miss them already!

Even though it was a short training block before we had some down time this weekend, my body was still feeling a little worn out from all the travelling. Hopefully this weekend will be enough to feel refreshed for the scrimmages this upcoming week. Needless to say, it was a great weekend here in California. The weather was great (as it almost always is). I got out to the beach of Friday, had a little family night (our house) last night, and off to visit with my cousins for the day today. I definitely needed a little bit of a break this weekend because I know the inter-squad scrimmages this week are going to be intense.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

AMERICA

As I finally recover from my sleep deprivation of travelling over 24 hours from England to the West Coast, I can reflect on just how amazing the rest of our European trip was in England.

The first match against England started as a back and forth battle between both teams. Midway through the first half, Keli Smith snagged the ball from a defender at the top of the circle, leaving her one on one with the goalie, and with one quick shot, we were on the board winning 1-0. We kept our composure and less than 10 minutes later Paige Selenski drove the baseline and have me a great pass right in front of the goal that I finished to give us a 2-0 lead going into half time. We were right where we wanted to be, controlling the game and leading the game. As we continued to create chances in the second half, it wasn’t until late in the half when we added a 3rd goal. Katie O’Donnell received a long ball on the baseline, drove to the circle, and passed it perfectly to the far post to a diving Rachel Dawson who tipped it in. Unfamiliar with having a 3 goal lead on a top level opponent, the last 10 minutes got to be a bit frantic for us, and although we let in 2 goals, we still held on for the win. This was a big win for our team and our program. To play as decisively as we did as well as win against a top team is always a positive.

We couldn’t rest on this game. In order to prove that we belong with the top teams in the world, we would have to have another good performance against England in our last game. But first, we had a day off to go see London and the site of the Olympic Games in 2012. As we boarded the bus bright and early, our first stop was the Olympic Park. Although it is still in the building phases, we got to see the progress as well as the proposed layout. It was really excited to see where we plan on being in 2 years time. Also, the hockey stadium is the closest venue to the village and will have one of the largest seating capacities. It definitely got us excited for what is to come, and I know personally, it gave me the chills because that is what we dream for, what we strive to achieve. After this, we took a bus tour of all the major sites in England. (Since we still had another game on Thursday, they didn’t want us walking around too much in London). We saw everything from Big Ben, the Eye, Westminster Abbey, to Buckingham Palace. We stopped at Covent Garden Market for lunch and then Windsor Castle on the way back to Bisham Abbey. All in all, we fit a lot of sightseeing into one day and we’re all pretty exhausted by the time we got back.

We still had one more task to take care of on our last day in England. We knew England was going to come out even harder after having lost to a team ranked quite a bit below them. They did just that, coming out and taking the early lead on us. We didn’t back down though and evened the score just minutes later. From there, we continued where we had left off the day before and added two more goals before the half. With a 3-1 lead, we knew we couldn’t let England come back again; we had to stay composed. We did just that, frustrating and tiring the English players, as well as adding 2 more goals before games end. This was definitely one of the best wins the US team has had in a long time. We were all excited to see the potential of our team and our program finally coming together and getting results.
We know we still have a lot of work to do before the Pan Am Games in 2011 and the Olympics in 2012, but we also know that we have a good starting point and we are nowhere near our potential. Keep watching out for US hockey and all the things to come!

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

Tower Bridge in London:


Windsor Castle:


Telephone Booths:


Olympic Venue being built:


Big Ben:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

England!!

We traveled to England on Saturday excited to be in a new country, see a few new sights, and play another top level team in the world. With a short two hour flight and all our bags arriving, it was thankfully an uneventful day.

Sunday we woke up to the overcast and cool weather of a typical England day. We had a pretty relaxing day recovering from our little bit of travel, but also got out for a practice. As we pulled up the field at England's Olympic Training Center, we were reminded a bit of home (well, home as in our training center back in Chula Vista). Once we got used to the great facility, we were ready to start playing England!

Since there was a wedding at the Training Center (it is really pretty here), we couldn't move into the dorms until Monday morning before our scrimmage. (We had been staying in a Holiday Inn near by). It was a very busy day moving all our bags and equipment, then playing a scrimmage. Nonetheless, we played quite well and dominated most of the game. Although we did not win, we got what we wanted out of the game: to figure out what worked for us, how England played, and what we needed to do in order to win.

And today, we did just that. We beat England 3-2. We didn't come out extremely strong, but we picked it up quickly and took a 2 goal lead into halftime, capitalizing on a few of our many chances. Both teams came out stronger in the 2nd half, but we added the next goal to extend our lead to 3. Unfortunately, we are not used to being ahead 3 goals, especially against a top side such as England. We got a little frantic for the last 10 minutes trying to hold on to the lead and allowing 2 goals in the process. But we still stayed composed enough to hold strong and get the win. It was a really big win for our team and our program. But this is just a starting point for us. I know we have so much more to learn and even more to achieve!

Tomorrow we are off to tour the site of where the Olympic hockey pitch will be for 2012 and then spend a few hours touring London. We are all really excited to get a firsthand glimpse of where we plan on being in 2012. We are also excited to do a little touring which we don't normally get to do a lot of on tour!!
I will blog and post pictures later!!

One more game for us against England remains on Thursday, then we return to the States on Friday!! We want to end the trip with a bang and on top!! Keep following and supporting us!!
GO AMERICA!!