One week in, and the journey is in full swing. As expected, basketball has been occupying the majority of my time but I have had the opportunity to fully unpack, and briefly explore the immediate surrounding area. With the exception of a couple of days, we have had two practices a day. Weights and/or conditioning in the morning and basketball practice in the afternoon. I feel almost like I’m back in college at summer school- minus the schoolwork. The day-to-day schedule is very similar. Workout, eat and rest, workout, eat and sleep. Despite the somewhat consistent daily routine, there have definitely been exciting times!
On our team we have three Americans in addition to myself. I am living with two of them in a town called Sopot, which is located right outside of Gdynia. As part of our contracts we are provided with a fully furnished apartment, each having our own rooms, as well as Internet, cable, and a car among other things. At the end of last week we were finally given the keys to our new car. After practice, we walked out to the parking lot to find our car and saw our nice little car waiting for us. The funny thing about the car is that the sides are covered in graphics as if our car is a traveling billboard advertising for our team. There are big basketballs on each side and one on the hood. It seems almost like a hazing for the Americans! It’s like here is your car but we are going to make you stand out so everyone knows you are on the basketball team and you will probably be starred at 99% of the time while driving. But that’s ok; we will proudly drive around in our little sponsored car and be just fine!
The transition to living in Poland is definitely still a work in progress and has been far from seamless, but overall it hasn’t been too difficult to manage. It might have taken about 30 minutes to get gas for the first time, and we might walk around stores and restaurants asking for people who speak English, but the transition has been a lot of fun. I have picked up a few basic Polish words, tried some traditional Polish foods, and even air-dried my laundry just like the locals! Today when I was walking down the street, two women stopped to ask me for directions. I politely responded “I’m sorry, I only speak English,” and they smiled and walked away. Inside I couldn’t help but think, hey maybe I’m starting to fit in! Or maybe they were just completely lost and desperate for any sort of directions. Either way, I do definitely feel as though I’m slowly finding my way.
From what I’ve seen, Poland is a beautiful country. Yesterday we had the afternoon off from practice and took advantage of the beautiful day to go see the Pier for the first time. Sopot is one of the more well-known areas in the region and is home to one of the most visited tourist attractions in Poland- the Pier at Sopot Beach. Lining the coast of the Baltic Sea, the beautiful sandy beach stretched on either side of the Pier as far as we could see. The Pier itself is the longest wood constructed structure in all of Europe. The area surrounding the Pier was full of shops, restaurants, boutiques, and other attractions and I’m sure I will be spending a lot of time in this area.
As for basketball, our team has been improving every day and are gearing up for the start of season. This weekend we have a couple of scrimmages against an U-18 national men’s team. This will be our first chance to all play together, as opposed to against each other in practice, and will be a great indicator for where we are as a team. Practices have been going really well and I’m starting to feel more comfortable with my new teammates. I’d say the one exception to great practices was today, and that was due to wearing pink practice jerseys! A couple of days ago they gave us two different jersey tops to wear for practices; one was baby pink, and one yellow. If you are thinking of Easter colors, you are on the right track. Our team colors are blue and yellow so I’m not really sure where the pink came from. Anyways, today we split up into three teams. And with my luck, there I was on the pink team. Not exactly my color but if that is my biggest problem so far, I’d say things are going very well.