February 9, 2015

Back in Time to Those Days in Belgium

I know you can't trap time in a bottle.

I hate it.

I never did write my promised recap of my first magical season in Belgium. Probably because of time. And if you've even been reading this blog since 2011, in time, you probably forgot I was going to write it, anyway.

We were the champions!
I think I was really hoping Marc and I were going to be able to move to Farciennes together, and the blog would have become a sort of "happily ever after" story. But in my first days back to America, the club and I decided it wasn't going to work out between us because of the housing situation. The club was totally fine with Marc coming to Belgium with me. The problem was that all of the foreign players were going to have to live in one house together. I know other couples have been able to pull it off, but it just wasn't going to work for us.

It was the first week of May, and there I was on another volleyball trip in Hawaii, unemployed, and quite a bit freaked out. I didn't have news of another job until two months later, and, by that time, I was into the full swing of NBC Camps all over the Western United States.

The recap didn't get written. It was the fairy tale ending that never got told - because I wanted the happy ending to be much later than it actually was.

We were Belgian, Slovakian, American, Czech, Russian, and Italian: we were Farciennes.
But we all moved on, and we devoted ourselves and this blog to France instead.

Do you have a series of moments you wish you could keep on "repeat" forever?

An epic door handle.
It could be that time in your childhood you remember as worry-free. It could be your first romance. It could be when your children were young. It could be that once-in-a-lifetime vacation. It could be when you were working with your best friends.

Or you could still be looking for this time.

I have four.

1. The house on Clover Court with my family.

From 3rd to 7th grade, we lived on a half acre with 35 oak trees, an awesome jungle gym, a backyard drinking fountain, a front yard for baseball, and a cul-de-sac for bikes. It was a simple life before city sidewalks, one where I knew every neighbor's home, and the community was our family.

2. Coaching at NBC Camps with my dad and best friends.

From ages 17 to 21 - before I took over directing the volleyball camps - I was a happy-go-lucky coach and master teacher, always with the youngest girls for basketball and volleyball. I loved it. The very best days of my life were at camp, and all thanks to my dad for taking me. NBC was full of hilarious laughter and deep tears. Lives were won at camp, and mine was one of them. It was also where I met Marc, and best friends Stacia, Jes, and Kia.

3. Volleyball at The Master's College with my coach and even more best friends.

From sophomore to senior years, volleyball was at the insane level I always dreamed it could be. We didn't win very much, but I wouldn't trade those hours of sweat, tears, and injuries with my very best friends (Amanda, Jenn, and Tanya) in the world for anything. Coach pushed us to places we'd never been before, and we'll never be there again.

4. My 3 months in Belgium with the people of Farciennes.

From January to April, I jumped alone into a completely different life in another language, country, and culture. I took advantage of my last year as a "youth" (age 25, according to Europeans), and let my Eurail pass open up Europe in the most extraordinary ways. My volleyball team won every single match to claim the championship, and every day only got better and better. This club also ended up becoming the connection to another best friend, Tanya Schmidt.

Visiting Mons.
All this to say: yesterday, we time-traveled.

We climbed into the clunky team van (essentially the volleyball version of a DeLorean), and headed due north. We stopped to take in the adorable charms of Mons, the 2015 European Capital of Culture.

The clock tower.
The main square, Grand Place.
Then we headed east to Farciennes.

The flag of Wallonie, the French-speaking south of Belgium.
It was another perfect set-up: France has a rather amusing system of vacations, and right now, we have no matches for 4 weekends. This Sunday, Farciennes played against Barbar-Ixelles, where we know the coach through some work we did with international school volleyball tournaments.

Those Belgian waffles.
The gym was completely remodeled. The team is entirely new, four years later in the top division. But the people who hold the club together - the people who made my experience in Belgium so deep and meaningful - were still there, and still incredibly generous with their time and love.

It was Marc's first time seeing into those 3 months he's only ever heard about. I say we time-traveled because honestly, it felt like I had never left - it even felt like Marc had been there the whole time with me, too.

Monique's trip to California, 2013.
I don't quite understand the deep bonds that I've developed with my French tutors, but they are always the people I love and miss the most. Maybe they are the ones who gave the most love back? All I know is that Alfred & Stella, and then Monique, will always be why my experiences in Europe have been so wonderful. They will always be my favorite stories, and they are far and away the best and most giving people in our Europe saga.

For four hours, we were back in my beautiful Belgian world of enthusiastic "├ža va's," clanking Leffe glasses, and connecting smiles and laughs.

Coach Olivier, his mom, Stella, me, and his dad, Alfred (my first French tutors).
The people of Farciennes convinced me beyond a doubt to move to Europe, and they changed my life forever.

There's your long overdue recap.

Whatever it is to you, I hope you have your "those were the days" memories somewhere - or with someone.

I hope even more that you have chance to go back to them.