January 30, 2011

The Smell of Fresh Football

Last night we won in 3; 25-15, 25-16, 25-16, against the worst team in our league, and without our two tallest players (week off for injuries). The second set we were down 10-0 (could not serve receive to save our lives), then came back and outscored them 25-6. Ouch. I should have access to game footage Monday or Tuesday, we'll see when it gets posted.

During the JV match before our game, I saw "pursuit" actually work for the first time ever! We dug a ball past the referee and over/out on the other side, a player ran around the official stand and passed it back between the antenna and official, and then we free balled it over the net! I was in shock. I also got to play outside hitter in the JV game, and my coach now wants me to jump top spin serve in matches - that's new. I just pretend I'm demonstrating a jump serve to my team and/or campers, and that makes it work every time! This victory makes us 3-0 so far this half of league, and the league leader lost their match, which puts us now in 2nd or 3rd place - I'll let you know when it's posted.

Today I had to drop Martina off at the airport in the early morning (this is why I really needed to be able to drive). I made it back to the apartment alive, and I have to pick her up again on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to it.

But because my coach knew I would be all alone in a foreign country today, he invited me to have lunch with his family, then go to a local football game. No way I was passing this up, especially since the high today was 26 degrees Fahrenheit (Celsius describes this as a lovely -3, and weather.com says it actually "feels like" 18 degrees Fahrenheit - awesome). We also briefly went through the Charleroi Sunday market, and I will definitely be going back to that. Too many tags said 5 Euro to not make that a priority.

Alfred, Stella, Olivier, and I went to Grandma's house for lunch. I met my first French cat today, and I'm hereby referring to it as the Aristocat. Olivier and Alfred warned me with charades that the Aristocat would pretend to be nice, then lash out its claws because it was crazy. Well, the Aristocat was definitely crazy, as in crazy in love with me petting it. It climbed up on the cabinet, the chair, and would have jumped the table if Alfred had allowed it. Tanya and Jenn, you would have loved this Aristocat - beautiful gray coat with white socks and neck, very fluffy and soft! All you cat and Aristocat haters can go touch some smelly dog and let it drool all over your hands.

The football game was great, mainly because some cool stuff actually happened. First of all, Olivier's team won 2-0. I even caught one of the goals on the second video below. The first video just gives a general feel for the atmosphere. Keep in mind this is Division 3 Belgium soccer, the stadium is small, and don't forget the temperature outside, yet the fans still manage to fuel the energy. I only had the slit where my eyes exist showing the whole time. My scarf was over most of my face, initially because of the temperature, but quickly changed reasoning to avoid inhaling all the secondhand smoke. There was almost a fight, a player did get ejected, some guy did a flip kick (technical term, I'm sure), and on a penalty kick, the kicking player instead did a sideways roll to a player next to him who left-footed the ball into the goal! I don't ever watch soccer because it is outside (either too cold, like today, or too hot, like Redding), so these were all very exciting occurrences in my life.

Euros yell louder than Americans. I see it at every sporting event regardless of acoustics. And for a fact, those of you Americans who think you are all that and a bag of chips because you tear refs to pieces? Get a life. These Belgians out bark you in one play, and they stomach their beer better, too. There were two specific highlights of the game for me; 1) when the opponent's team subbed a player out, all the fans started yell-singing Auld Lang Syne - in French, and 2) the bugle player and smoking drummer just kept doing their thing the whole hour and a half. They even were playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" at one point, but who knows if it is the same song in French. Sometimes, I definitely felt like I was marching into battle, I mean, come on, a bugle and drums? Classic Civil War reenactment accessories.

We also went to the men's volleyball match in Farciennes; it turns out Olivier's wife, Veronique, is the coach. There is a lack of political correctness over here, and sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not so good. This time, it was really cool to watch a regular woman coaching a men's team, aged from mid-twenties to maybe early-forties, and not have it be some crazy freak situation. I think for volleyball, it is much more normal for a woman to be the coach, regardless of the players' genders, but we still see mostly men coaching men in any sport as "normal." In Europe? I don't know if anybody really cares, as long as you know your stuff. I wonder what will happen first; a female NBA head coach or a female USA president?

I have discovered a new fear of mine, but at least it is much more rational than having my fingers run over by roller skates. I was handling the everyday-we-hang-out-at-the-bar thing just fine, until one day, it was unusually crowded. And with the crowd came people trying to move from one side to the other, all with beers in hand. I have a severe fear of spilt beer (rhymes really well, maybe it will resurrect on this blog as a song). Every glass is filled to the brim, people are walking around not paying attention, bumping into things and each other, beer is sloshing everywhere - AHHHH!!!! So now my bar activities have increased to three, the first two I have already mastered: 1) "No, merci," 2) people watching, and must now practice 3) strategically anticipating and avoiding beer spills.

My French is coming along awkwardly, but Alfred told me tonight "In 3 months, you speak French." That's encouraging, coming from the guy who teaches it! I am now sort of able to piece together random words and the listener can sometimes figure out what I'm trying to say. In English, it's something similar to "I buy ticket to Brussels on train station Tuesday." Doesn't sound too bad, except I was really trying to ask, "Can I buy my ticket to Brussels when I get to the train station, or do I need to buy it in advance?" Other phrases have come out something to the effect of "Plane, Martina, Wednesday," "She, bird. Gift for you," and "Soumagne no win. Girls, Yvoir SMS Martina." Don't worry; most of these stammered words are accompanied by exaggerated hand motions and sound effects.

Tomorrow I hope the package Marc sent arrives! I have lived in one pair of jeans now for over 3 weeks! Yes, apparently it is possible, but I don't need to prove it for any longer. After I hope my life supplies arrive, off to more exploring, if the cold lets up at all. At least it isn't snowing. Yet.