Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Happy December!

The last 2 weeks have been tough for me (Yes I know I said that in the last post too, seems like an unfortunate theme here for a little while, hopefully that pattern breaks soon). First my team didn't have any games for 3 weeks and then when we finally made it to Kazan to play I injured myself in our morning serve and pass right before the game. Needless to say the last 2 weeks which were supposed to be full of hard work and games was full of physio and doctors appointments for me along with lots of watching instead of participating. The injury is nothing too serious which makes it even more frustrating. Getting to the bottom of what it actually is has been the most difficult part. The language barrier in this case is so giant some days its more overwhelming than anything else. Due mostly to overuse and poor mechanics I have some calcifications and a bone spur that are causing many tendons in my foot to be inflamed and painful. I took one step in serve and pass the morning of the Kazan game felt some pain and by the time game time rolled around I was in major pain even just when I was walking. Consequently I have been out for the past 2 weeks and by the end of this third week I will have missed 3 games.

For me, especially this season, being overseas and not being able to play is heart breaking. I've told you some about the issues with Kyle's visa so he can't be here with me, which was unplanned which makes things difficult. And with every overseas team there are difficulties/challenges/adventures whatever you want to call them but at the end of the day if I can practice and work hard at what I love to do I'm ok. Having to sit on the sidelines and watch absolutely crushes my spirit. I am proactive and try to take care of my body as best as I can and when it fails me I'm frustrated to say the least. All that being said I also have learned to listen to my body and take care of it when it says "hey time to take a break and fix me now".

Luckily, I get to go home for a week after our game in Moscow this coming Friday! That will mean that I will have had 3 weeks off and I should be feeling much better by then. We have another break in the season, our next game will not be until the beginning of January. So actually if there ever is a "perfect time" to have an injury it is this one because I'll have time to get back into the groove after being out for so long.

Back to me getting to go home. Yes! I'm so excited to get to have some time at home. My team is letting me have a week off so that I can collect my husband, see my family and have a little rejuvenating time state side. This break comes at a perfect time for me. Unfortunately I won't be home for Christmas and New Years but Kyle's family and my family are going to have Christmas a little early this year. Its still not 100 percent but Kyle's visa should (finally) be ready for him so that he can come back to Tyumen with me after the week at home is over. We have plans to exchange gifts, build gingerbread houses, eat lots of mexican food (my request), watch Christmas movies and most importantly spend time together. I can't wait to be in the same place as my family and get lots of bear hugs from everyone. Time together is so precious and I plan to make the most of every minute.

A little volleyball update is that we lost to Kazan 0-3 in Kazan 2 weekends ago and we beat Proton 3-1 last weekend. To travel to Kazan we took a train from Tyumen to Kazan, it took 22 hours each direction. We left at 2 am on the way to Kazan and 11pm coming back. Departure times are adjusted based on the 2 hour time difference between Tyumen and Kazan so that you arrive in either place around 10 pm. 22 hours on a train is BRUTAL! Yes you sleep for most of it but there isn't a lot of space to move around when you are awake. We each brought our own food for the train and luckily I remembered to bring my pillow so I was actually pretty comfortable most of the time. I got to have dinner with Jordan Larson-Burbach after the game. It was great to see her, catch up on how the Grand Champions Cup went in Japan and have someone that I can share stories with, many that make me want to pull my hair out, and she totally understands. Plus we had some pretty good pizza too! Our game vs Proton was at home last weekend so luckily we didn't have to travel again. My team showed some great fight and pulled out the win with the sets being close and having to come from behind a few times. It was interesting to me to be on the outside and watch the game, it allows for a unique perspective.
Getting on the train.

Train life, snacks and tv shows.
I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgivings and is getting into the holiday spirit. Trying to explain Black Friday to my Russian teammates was pretty funny. I got all different kinds of reactions from them. I'm learning about holidays here in Russia as well. We have practice on Christmas Day here, since most are Russian Orthodox here New Years is the big holiday. And man do I mean big! Presents, dinner, parties,  and reservations being made now so that you can get a good spot to celebrate. We still don't have concrete plans yet but I've heard lots of ideas being tossed around that sound like fun.


 You can always spot us in our blue jackets when we are traveling.

 Exploring Kazan before the match.

 Our nontraditional Thanksgiving, Mexican style. It was surprisingly yummy.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

These past 3 weeks have been pretty boring to tell you the truth, in the sense that not much has been going on volleyball wise. We currently have a break from Superleague games because of World Grand Champions Cup that is going on in Japan Nov. 12-17. I am happy to report that USA took silver at the tournament! I got to watch several of the games on the internet and it was great to cheer the girls on. They had a thrilling 5 set match vs Russia and won 15-13 in the 5th. I was quite happy that they pulled out the win so that I could continue my trash talking at practice with my teammates. To explain more about the boring part of these 3 weeks is that we have been practicing and practicing and practicing and... well you get the picture. We have double days and lifting Monday - Wednesday, day off Thursday and then double days again Friday and Saturday and Sunday is a day off. While I like only having one day off at a time so that I don't stir crazy in my apartment, my body craves two days off to recover from practicing so much. I miss playing games and competing most of all.

Next week we travel to Kazan and get to finally play a game! Fellow USA teammate and American Jordan Larson-Burbach plays there. I am so looking forward to seeing her and catching up on how things went in Japan and just how she is doing in general. As an overseas athlete it's always a moral booster when you get to see another American. Unfortunately Jordan and I are the only American women playing in Russia this year so we don't have many of those opportunities. So each time that we see each other really counts. We are going to take the train from Tyumen to Kazan. It is going to take 20 hours! My teammates prefer traveling by train rather than plane because they can sleep on the train and move around. Ummmmmm I say YIKES! 20 hours?! Guess I'll get some reading done and hopefully some sleeping. Seems like quite the trip to me but everyone else doesn't seem to worried about it. I'll keep you posted on how all of that truly shakes out.

 We have played 4 league games and 5 Russian Cup games. We hosted the first round of Russian Cup games so we didn't have to travel for those. I have flown to Novy Urengoy which is a town that is so far north that people who aren't born there have to leave after staying for 6 months because the oxygen level is so low that they can have health issues. So far I've taken one other train ride this season, an 8 hour train ride east into Siberia to play in Omsk. There were two sets of bunk beds to each car, so me and 3 teammates shared a sleeping car. We were given clean sheets and had to make the bed before we slept, when we woke up in the morning we stripped the bed and gave back the sheets. It was actually quite an old train that was much shakier than I expected. Many of my teammates asked if I traveled by train in the US. I said I hadn't and especially not overnight. They were shocked at that.

Our record is 2-2 in league games and we went 4-1 in Russian Cup and are waiting to see if we made it to the second round of Russian Cup or not. There are 11 teams in the Russian League this year because one team had to withdraw because of financial issues, so we will play a total of 20 games, home and away for each of the teams. The season should finish mid April. I'm not sure how playoffs will work this year. I've heard a few different ideas but I'm not sure that one has been decided on just yet.

Last note is can you believe it that I am without snow in Siberia?! Well by Siberian standards anyways. There is a light dusting on the ground that isn't melting because the temperature is in the low 30's and high 20's. My coach asked if I liked the weather the other day after practice. He said the unseasonable warmness is just for me. (This is all translated to me through my Croatian teammate because she speaks both Russian and English. I would be truly lost without her.) I said thanks and that it's like California weather and he just kinda smirked and shook his head, guess he didn't quite like that suggestion! The girls have been telling me that normally the temperatures are in the negatives and that they have had lots of snow by now. I'm not complaining! I'm sure that we will have plenty of snow this winter.

 Heading to the train.
 View from my hotel room in Omsk.
 Gym entrance in Omsk. Their court is laid on top of a hockey rink so it was extra cold in there. They gave us individual foam pads to use when we stretched so our little butts didn't get too cold sitting on the court.
 Of course I had to document my first train ride. Me, Dasha, Mira and Anya.
 Assistant coaches caught writing in the dirt on one of their former players cars. Cars are so so so dirty here, lots of exhaust and loose dirt.
 More hotel room views. I stuck my head out the window to enjoy the sunshine for a little bit.
 Our bunks for the train ride. I took a lower one. For those of you who know me well you know why...
 Flying into Novy Urengoy.
My translator, teammate and friend Mira and I before our first game. This is in Novy Urengoy in late September and it was already 0 degrees F there. Hence the puffer jackets.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A little about Tyumen

Hello family, friends and all those who stumble upon this page. I'll use this blog to replace the previous one that I had on That one has since been discontinued but I still want to do a blog so that you all can keep up with my adventures in my pro volleyball career.

Quick update, I am playing in Tyumen, Russia. Where?! you say, yep it's in Siberia, just on the western edge but it still is in Siberia. It is one place that I never thought I would play or visit but Russia is one of the best volleyball leagues in the world right now so here I am. I am still so thankful to be playing volleyball as my "job", I am thankful every day for my health and the joy and love that I have for this game. I've had so many wonderful opportunities to travel, see new places and meet so many different people through playing volleyball. It is a lifestyle that I never imagined for myself but at the same time I can't really see myself doing anything else besides this right now.

Ok so Tyumen is just east of the Ural Mountains in Siberia on the Tura River. Tyumen was the first Russian settlement in Siberia and continues to remain an important industrial and economic center in Siberia. I can see that the city is growing from all of the roads being expanded and all of the new apartment complexes being built. The population is around 585,000.  It is 57N degrees latitude which is the same latitude as Sitka, Alaska. Has anybody seen the movie The Proposal? Sitka, Alaskaaaaaaaaa! I love that movie so I was happy to find out that we are on the same latitude. Tyumen is only 262 feet about sea level, so not quite like the places that I am used to with the high elevation but I'm sure we will still get plenty of snow here anyways.

The temperature has consistently been in the 30's, sometimes the days get up into the 40's but the days are getting shorter and shorter so the temperature doesn't rise as much during the day. No major snow yet. We have had a few dustings but nothing too severe, we have actually have had more rain than I thought that we would. Right now the sun is rising around 9 am and setting just before 6pm. I can feel the days getting shorter! Waking up in the dark before practice is never fun, it makes it tough to wake up. Russia also doesn't observe daylight savings time so I am now +13 hours from Colorado and +14 from California. With those time changes I literally feel on the other side of the world sometimes. But I do my best talking with friends and family back home through FaceTime and Skype, I'd be so lost without that!

Kyle, my husband, usually travels with me. We are waiting for some papers from the team to be mailed to him so that he can apply for his visa. One thing that I learned quickly about Russia is that they love their paperwork and they have mountains of it. It has taken so much longer than initially anticipated for Kyle's paperwork to be processed and it is very difficult to be patient. Both of us are hoping that the papers arrive sometime soon and then he can start the application process on his end and hopefully he can come out here by the end of November or early December.

I truly miss having my best friend and support system with me but I've been very fortunate to have teammates that are caring and welcoming. I'm also happy to be playing for a team that is very professional and helpful with many other things. Every place that I have played overseas has its challenges and things that you have to overcome or adjust to. It is part of living in a different country and learning about their culture. I'm reminded daily that patience is a virtue and to try and take it one day at a time.

My day typically looks like this. Up around 8am so that I can catch the team bus at 8:30 for practice which is from 9:30-11:30. The drive is typically 30-40 minutes depending on traffic. Post practice we are fed lunch of some meat (I usually go for the chicken) and pasta, some Russian salad (veggies with lots of mayo, no thanks!) and soup. There is always fresh fruit and juices to choose from too. Back on the bus after lunch and back to my apartment where I try and do my devotional and Rosetta Stone. I'm trying to learn some about the Russian language to help me adjust to being here. Then I catch the bus again around 4:15 for practice from 5-7. We shower at the gym after both practices and head home around 8pm. I get in lots of FaceTime after my night practice because that's when most people at home are available. Off to bed and up to do it all over again.

We have a break from games right now because there is World Grand Champions Cup in Japan that a lot of national teams are competing in, so the next time we play is November 23rd. In upcoming posts I'll update on how the season is going so far and what its like to travel to and from games.

Hello to everyone back home!

 One of our first home games. I'm back in #16 for this season.
 Exploring Tyumen on an off day.
 Me and my teammates.
 Cheering on our men's team at one of their home games.
Ferris wheel in the center in Tyumen.

View from my apartment.