Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Last weekend..

So, with the weekend off from basketball, I was able to finally get some quality time with Andrew, Fletch, and Kevin here in Germany. I got a ride into Dortmund on Friday night with my teammate J, but actually never managed to meet up with any of the Amherst crew that night. Instead J took me to a friends house who was having a party and from there, we proceeded to a bar to hang out a bit before calling it quits for the night.

As I sat in the basement of J's friend's house, I had an epiphany. No matter where you are in the world, what the laws are, or who you're with, most kids our age do the same stuff. As I looked around the basement (first point, no parents let you throw parties anywhere but the semi-finished basement), some of these Germans were playing their drinking games with dice (see photo, the game we played is called Mexian and involves a complex web of rolling dice and lying about what you have similar to the card game BS) while others were having a grand old time socializing with one another. While I had no clue what they were talking about, I could easily imagine. They were sitting there, making fun of each other and laughing about stupid things they had done in the past together, making plans for the idiotic events of the future, or catching up with old friends. Maybe, they were even making plans to create a business together and live the good life like my roommates and I have done so many times in the past. Even though I have discovered that zee German culture and way of life is extremely different than the one I am used to in the States, I have realized that people have far more universal characteristics and behaviors than I have ever imagined in the past.

OK, enough with the philosophizing. The next afternoon, I was dropped off at Andrew's apartment in Hagen. Kevin had already gotten there the night before, and we all got right back into the flow of things. Kevin watched entourage online while Andrew and myself had the pleasure of watching College Gameday on his computer. We may not have had 4 tv's in the house, but we still found a way to watch multiple things at the same time just as we had done ever since we hand-crafted the massive entertainment center during our sophomore year at Amherst. Later that night, we got to see Fletcher play a game against Dortmund. Clearly, Fletch has had the same issue with the refs here that I have had, as he was in foul trouble throughout the game. When he was in though, he scored at a consistent clip and looked to me like he was definitely their first option. Great work swappies, I'm proud of ya.

After the game, Kevin, Andrew, Fletcher, and myself all went back to Fletcher's apartment to hang out a bit before going out. It was a glorious plan as Fletcher and myself got to witness the Michigan Wolverines come back from a 19 point defecit and take down the hated Wisconsin Badgers. We were happy to say the least.

We than proceeded to a party hosted by a radio station called 1Live. I know what you are thinking, "A radio station party?!?" Yea, so what? It doesn't make me less of a man and more of a teenage girl (well, I mean...). It was pretty funny to attend, considering all I could think about was that we were at the German version of Z100's Jingle Ball, except without actual musicians (guys go to that too, right?).

1Live is a radio station that we have all grown to love because it consistently plays music with English lyrics and hearing words in English makes all of us much happier, even if they are the catchiest and most annoying I can't-ever-get-this-song-out-of-my-head songs in the history of Euro Pop. The choice in music makes you look like this on the left - happy to be chilling with the fellas of course, but, as you can tell by the faces, clearly thinking how we wish DJ BJ (Brandon Jones for those of you not in the know) was behind the turntables. Nevertheless, it was definitely a quality weekend..

Next weekend, however, Momma G is flying into Germany and we are going to go hit Amsterdam in style. Yes, I am going to Amsterdam for the first time with my mother. Check back next week and I am sure there will be some entertaining tidbits to read and hopefully, some quality pics to view.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Oh and I Forgot...

Check out this amazing collage that our old coach Mike Rejniak put together for the Class of '08. He has done so much for us, including helping all of us get these jobs in Germany with our highlight tapes. Big shout out to Mike for just being Mikey and helping all of us out so much. Thanks Mike! Make sure your apartment is ready for some visitors soon...



After reading my last post, I decided I wrote far too little about the real reason I am here in Germany: Basketball. Basketball thus far has been great. After two ok scrimmages in August, I finally got used to the Euro step and all it entails and have been doing great ever since. I am probably averaging around 20 points a game with a little under double digit boards and a consistent near foul out. The refs here are ridiculous. I swear they just absolutely despise Americans, I mean, how could they call fouls on me when all I do is stuff like this? I know what you may be thinking, but he ran into me, and he was a punk to boot. Deserved whatever he got, I say.

Last night we won our second cup game, putting us at 5 - 0 on the season. Andrew came to the game with his teammate and our agent, Daniel. It was nice having a familiar face in the crowd, so I obviously got some FGA's up. I was pretty tired coming into the game, but I managed to have around 25 or so with a bunch of rebounds, a few steals, and some assists. The other team had an absolute legend. He looked like a 40 year old biker gang member similar to this guy in the middle.
Yes, he was a bit overweight. On the first possession of the game, he backed in our center and turned around for a fade away shot that he pushed towards the basket from around his chest - nothing but net. He came down for the second possession and stroked a three from the other side of the court which I swear never went above 10.5 feet, just an absolute line drive destined for greatness. Of course, as soon as the second half rolled around he could barely get back on defense let alone get on the offensive side quick enough for a set. Therefore, he sort of roamed around the middle of the court for most of the second half while trying to take me out every chance he got, and the legend of the 40 year old, fat German biker Kobe Bryant was finished. If he came to America though, we could do some serious "White Men Can't Jump" schemes on people and make some dough, as long as we never played a game to more than 7.

With the other two Americans, Trevor and T, we have a great chance at winning every game we play here. The three of us probably score about 85% of the team's points but that is the way we like it. It is so different for me after coming from Amherst where we could have 6 people in double digits every single game. But, I will be honest, I like being the first or second option on offense every time down the floor. It is a nice feeling knowing that the rest of the team is looking at you to score constantly. The rest of the team is pretty young besides our captain Longos. He is an interesting one, but I will save that for a Keepin It Live post in the near future. This is a picture of us representing our main sponsor FMI systems. Just to let you know, I have absolutely no idea what FMI systems is or does. Our other roommate Marko is from Serbia. He is young but has a ton of potential, and has been really helping the team out as of late. Most of the younger guys do not have alot of the basic basketball knowledge like help side defense, etc., so it gets a bit frustrating at times, but they usually play hard and thats all a man like myself can ask for. We have around a 2 week break from games now, so that is all for basketball for a good while, but we are playing soccer against our fans on Friday. I will make sure I represent the Morris United Lightning Bolts in all its glory and score a few. I wonder if they exchange soccer patches after the matches?


Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Been a While..

Sooo everyone, after many internal squabbles (for those of you who do not know my roommate from Amherst, the wonderful Fletcher Walters, that is a term he created to describe any debate which you may have in your own head), I have decided to start a blog for my time here in Germany so I can keep everyone updated on my situation here throughout the year. I, like many of you, have always thought of blogs as kind of nerdy, actually, extremely nerdy. However, after checking out B Jones' blog and Fletch's amazing Bill Simmons impression, I just had to join in on the fun. The deciding factor, of course, was the ridiculous amount of joy I received from the first post I made on our group blog which David, Fletch, Brandon, Andrew, Kevin (my roommates from Amherst), and myself have begun. That blog is a bit more risque and most likely more for the younger crowd, but it is on the Internet and you can read whatever you damn well please. So, here it goes.

As many of you already know, I have been here for almost 2 months after doing News Release and coming straight to Werne to play. Therefore, this first entry may be a long one. News Release was an amazing experience which will not soon be forgotten. Although, at times, I was extremely intimidated by the religious aspects of the camps, I definitely think it had a positive impact on my faith and my character. I met so many people that I plan to stay in touch with for a very long time. Of course, our entire News Release team bonded like a family in a matter of weeks, but the host families I stayed with were particularly memorable as well.

News Release Week 1:
I stayed with a family in Lorrach, Germany (a town literally on the border of France, Germany, and Switzerland). My host mom Monika was amazing and the 6 year old Finn was honestly the most energetic child I have ever met. It took me a couple days to get used to the German way of "seeming sort of mean and rude, but actually welcoming you into their home and appreciating your company." Fletcher was only a few blocks away from me with his host family so we got to hang out constantly throughout the week, something that definitely helped ease me into this new German life I have begun. We got to go into Basel, Switzerland and see some amazing old churches and buildings. Basel was so beautiful and interesting, I just wish I could have gone there a bit more. During that first week, I also got to see my first castle. Let me just say, castles are so damn old and so damn cool, its ridiculous. Like, you are sitting up here in a tower where 500 years ago some dude patrolled with a bow and arrow ready to straight snipe people at any time very similar to the way Kevin Costner takes out two arrows in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and takes down two evil dudes with one shot by messing with the feathers on the arrows (or at least that is how I thought of it). Fletch and I obviously both felt this way as well without saying it, considering we took photos like this at the castle.

Basel was so cool because it has the massive Rhine River running right through the center of it. I do not know what it is about European cities, but I am digging cities with rivers running through it (I guess I do know what it is actually - the river). Fletch and I chilled on the banks of the Rhine one night doing nothing besides watching the river and talking about how cool it is (obviously, while having a couple pilsners and some local cuisine).

On the weekend, Fletcher's host family and my host family joined forces to go to this crazy mountain roller coaster in the Black Forest. You take a ski lift up the mountain and than take your own like go-kart style car down this track that winds down the entire mountain. Pretty insane and really fun. As a side bonus, the view from the top of the mountain was absolutely absurd.

You can see photos from all this stuff and my second week in Lauf which I will be speaking about shortly here.

News Release Week 2:
So week two came way quicker than I thought, and suddenly, we were in Lauf, Germany. Lauf is in the land of massive hefeweizens, bratwursts and sausages of all shapes and sizes, and host families that consider you their own. Aaron, Oscar, and myself stayed with the Kreuz's. A special thanks has to go out to Momma Kreuz and Simon, who took such amazing care of us and made us feel right at home. Like I said in my thank you speech at the farewell dinner for that week, Simon happily helped us out with things that we obviously could have done ourselves (like turning ON the German Xbox) without any hesitation. Momma Kreuz made us scrambled eggs and thin pancakes with nutella (amazing) for breakfast EVERY day and we literally had family meals with the mother, father, daughter, son, and daughter's boyfriend at least twice a day. It was very cool and something I definitely want to do when I finally start my own family (not to say that I did not have plenty of wonderful family meals with my own family :) throughout my 22 (almost 23 (holy crap)) years on this earth). Sorry, too many parentheses, just doing the old stream of consciousness thing.

Lauf is a village right outside Nuremburg. Clearly, Momma Kreuz made sure we got to see a wonderful city like Nuremburg. Again, Nuremburg has a monster river running right through it (I am really falling in love with these damn rivers) and it was so beautiful. The day we went into town, we had lunch right there sitting on a floating dock on the river. In Nuremberg we saw the main Nuremberg castle as well as two churches. One of which was the Church of St. Sebald which I believe is pretty freakin' famous. All I know is that it was massive and well-appreciated. After finally making the jump and taking an art history class my last semester at Amherst with the infamous Joel Upton (an absolute legend who can whisper in a way that an entire room not only hears it, but thinks they are getting top secret information about some Gothic church that Joel both discovered and kept secret from the rest of the world), I loved going into these huge churches.

We also saw a famous fountain that is super old and if you rub some ring on it, you get good luck or something. Oh, and speaking of Joel once more, we went to Albrecht Durer's house, an artist which I wrote about for a paper in art history... Great stuff. After some emotional farewells, the rest of the News Release team went back to the states (besides Kev and Fletch who are still here and killing their respective leagues) and I began my journey to Werne.

I can finally speak about Werne. I arrived here on a chilly August afternoon and went straight to my apartment. As I struggled to keep my eyes open during the car ride here (as many of you may know, I tend to pass out when in a car, not driving, during any trip of more than 10 minutes), I noticed that all I saw was German farmland and a strange shack on the side of the road called McSnack. McSnack, it turns out, is where my roommates, T, Trevor and Marko, and myself have lunch every Monday and Thursday. McSnack, of course, sounds as good as it is, but that is another story for another day. I arrived in my apartment semi freaking out. Am I in the German farmland by myself? Is this some prank? Was I dreaming all of that or did that actually happen? I found that my worries were unnecessary and irrational, as the next day, I walked around town and found that there is actually a nice little market place in Werne that has everything a man like myself could need. Plenty of places for food, 3 eiscafes (ice cream, no wait - check that, gelato spots) and about 5 bars. I was happy.

So, thus began my life in Germany. Oh yea, basketball. I play pro basketball here in the 2. Regionaliga. Thus far we are 3 - 0 in our league and we won our only cup game. The cup game, by the way, was against a team in a league lower than us and the only thing I can compare it to is shooting practice. Literally, the entire game was me running around, catching the ball, realizing no one was around me and lining up a three (sorry Hixo, I am shooting 'em anyway haha). The other two Americans could not play that game so there were plenty of shots to go around. Believe me when I say, I took advantage of the extra jumpers available that game. We won by a ton and it was a good time. When the game was over, I was as satisfied as I am when myself, Riordan, Liakas, Cam, and CJ (aka the Nizman, Juice, etc) run the Y like its our job every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 PM - 9 PM throughout the summer months. Yes, you read that correctly, like the Morris Center YMCA.

League games have definitely been way tougher and we won a huge one last weekend by 1. Luckily, I missed 2 free throws with 1.4 seconds left up 1 and grabbed the rebound to seal the deal (haha, I am trying to justify this in my head still, just let me be). There is actually video of these two free throws and the amazing soccer-style chant/dance thing we do with our fans after the game. Check out this website and look around, you should be able to find it. Overall, I am so excited to be here and very proud of myself for being able to do this after breaking my leg so badly during my junior year at Amherst. It is a childhood dream come true and I couldn't be happier. There is a cool article on Amherst's website talking about all of this. The only downside, of course, is that my wonderful girlfriend, Brooke, is in New York City (all male friends/brothers please shut up and do not bust my balls haha, I miss and love you guys too).

Oh, and I almost forgot. Because we only have practice three times a week at night (Yes, 3 times a week), my coach got me an internship here as well. I work Monday through Friday from 9 -3 for a consulting firm in Germany. We work mostly in the healthcare sector blah, blah, blah, job, job, job. It gives me some extra Euros each month and definitely keeps me from getting bored. Oh yea, and it is a great experience that will look good on a resume, blah, blah, and I clearly stay up to date with sports in the United States with all the access to ESPN.com I could ever need.

Finally, I hope to blog at least once a week with updates and information about my time here in Europe. Become a regular reader and post comments whenever you feel the need, it should be an interesting year. Ciao!