For those of you that don't know this is our second time playing and living in Turkey. I played for Pursaklar in 2012 in my second pro season overseas. Ultimately that did not work out and I left early. That being said, I was a little reluctant to return to Turkey but excited none the less.
Kyle and I received the warmest welcome from my manager/teammate here in Trabzon who I played with in Pursaklar. When we landed in Trabzon the President of the club, head coach, manager, president of the airport and several others greeted us right off the plane, escorted us to the VIP section of the airport for pictures and of course tea. It was so great to first see a familiar face and then receive such a warm welcome after such a long travel day.
Trabzon is located right on the Black Sea. We have views of the sea from our apartment, we drive along the coastline every day to practice and when you fly in you can see the coastline for miles in either direction. I wasn't sure exactly where the team is located in Trabzon but I was hoping that we would be close to the sea and I'm so happy with how close we are. Kyle and I have our own apartment, we live in a new building and our apartment is brand new. So new, that some things aren't finished! We are waiting for the gas to be permanently hooked up and some more permanent blinds to be put in. There are several grocery stores and restaurants within walking distance and a school right across the street. So along with the call to prayer 5 times a day we have the school bell going off about every hour, lots of noises but a good area as well. My other teammates that are foreigners live in the same building as us. Its the Americans, a Chinese and a Dutch player, yes we draw lots of funny looks when we walk around town but people are starting to realize that we will be here for a while and are recognizing us more.
4 days after we got to Trabzon we left for Ankara for the first round of Turkish Cup games. We played in a 4 team pool and had 3 games in 3 days. We lost the first game in 4 sets, it was good for us because it sparked some good conversations on how we are going to improve and what are the expectations for the season. I should say that most of my teammates speak English and so does the coach. I am so happy and lucky to have so many teammates that I can talk to. This is the first time that I have been able to really communicate with so many of my teammates and it makes a huge difference. After that first loss we came away with two wins in 3 sets in the next two days. We got a little lucky and advanced into the next round of Turkish Cup!
Once we got back from the Turkish Cup games we were able to get in a full week of practice. This was helpful to get to know each other and play together more. My national team system and the Chinese system in general is much faster than the system in Turkey so it took a couple of days for us to find a good compromise with our setters so that we could connect on a regular basis.
After that good week of practice we had Sunday off to relax and explore. My teammates have been great about taking me to some local restaurants and the mall so that we could find some things we need for our apartment. We also found out that there is a movie theater at the mall that shows movies in English, I'm sure that will come in handy on a rainy day. One more week of practice and lifting and then it was a huge Muslim holiday called Bayram. It goes on for 5 days so the 3rd-7th was a holiday for most people. We practiced most of those days but the team organized a fishing trip and a BBQ on Sunday and Monday after our morning practice so that we could enjoy the holiday a little too. We went fishing on the Black Sea in my assistant coaches yacht. After catching 25-30 relatively small fish we cooked them up when we got back to shore and had dinner. The next day we drove east and into the mountains about 30 minutes so that we could have famous BBQ from Trabzon. We had corn bread, traditional Turkish salad, kofte (beef), and milk rice pudding for dessert.
This week we are preparing to go to Istanbul for our last preseason tournament. We will play 4 teams in 4 days. Also our last foreigner from the Netherlands will join us so we will be a complete team. She was playing in Italy at World Championships with her national team earlier in October. Speaking of World Championships I couldn't be more proud of Team USA for the effort and fight that they showed throughout the tournament! Gold at World Championships has been one of our goals from the beginning of the quad and it was great to see the team that was there achieve it. I couldn't be more proud! USA! USA! USA! ALL IN!!!
Ok, back to our preseason tournament. We will play two Turkish teams, a team from Romania and one from Bulgaria. I'm looking forward to playing someone else on the other side of the net! We start normal season games on October 29th which is fast approaching. We want to work out some of the kinks and solidify a starting 6 at this tournament.
I also want to mention how proud I am of the Ducks volleyball program. They are off to a great start this season and even though the have two tough losses in the last two weeks I am so proud of how they are playing. I was able to play with them for a few days before I came to Turkey and was impressed with their competitive spirit and willingness to learn. GO DUCKS!
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Some more of my favorite pictures from the last few weeks. Enjoy!
Homemade dinner by 3 of my teammates.
Best way to try new foods.
Team dinner, Trabzon specialty Pide. Similar to pizza. Really delicious!