The Last Blog Post!

Well my time and travels in Europe and the States have officially come to an end. I moved back in with mom and dad, living the dream! I’m back at my job at the restaurant in Novato and picking up some shifts at the coffee cart here and there. My plans for the summer include NOT working weekends (for the first time since like before high school :)) and enjoying the warm weather we are supposed to be having, hopefully soon. I have applied for a couple real jobs in the “green” energy/save the planet type fields and will reevaluate everything at the end of summer. I think I am finally going to hang up the spandex and call my volleyball career a great success and finished. The experience I had playing overseas was absolutely fantastic and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think I am ready to move on and do something new now :)!

I was so lucky to have a huge support system both overseas and back at home, and as I have tried to express so some people, there is really no way to thank you.

Firstly, I want to thank Tom Donahy and Melissa Walker from the NCVA for getting me all set up with this blog and linking it on the NCVA website. I probably never would have set this up on my own because I am a crazy procrastinator. Thanks to Tom also for recommending BringIt Promotions and getting me in contact with Cory Solomon who was my agent. I’d like to thank Cory and Nick at BringIt, thanks for not losing faith and giving me the chance to bounce back from a horrible first few practices on my part!

Next I want to thank Pappa John in Oslo. You were amazing, you did SO much for me and all us foreigners, we would have bee so incredibly lost without you. My favorite memory of you is coming over with your dinosaur headlight at 1am, I will never forget that. But thank you to you and Emse for taking us in and everything you did for us. You guys made us feel like home and I never felt alone with you guys so close. Tusen tusen Takk!

Ole Martin and Dag Inge, you guys made this season so much fun! Dag Inge thank you for taking such good care of me, making sure I was warm with heaters and sweaters and for the Oslo tours, I really appreciate your looking out for me and helping me with my Norwegian. Ole, you were so refreshing as a coach. I have not had a coach teach me how to hit harder in a very, very long time. I really learned a lot from you! Super tusen takk!

To all my teammates! Thank you for making this year so much fun! I already miss going exploring through Oslo with you guys and our Club 50 nights and days. Please please come visit whenever you want, my door is always open for all of you!

Club 50 members….wow you guys made this year what it was. I have never had so much time on my hands to goof off during the day, like playing indoor one handed volleyball with Vitor in the living room, or our “members only parties” with that stupid, violent game of civil war. I miss you guys already, thank god 4 of us are close-ish and Vitor, I’m coming to see you in Rio you better believe it! Nicole, I do NOT know what I would have done with out you up in the arctic to teach me how to walk on ice and through the snow and live in sub zero weather. Or to have a partner in crime doing everything with me. You are the best traveling partner and we need to plan a reunion soon! Every time I see a Canada anything I think of you! I miss you!!!

So now to the people that I wouldn’t have even made it on the plane if it wasn’t for them. My best friend and jet setter Lorel. I still cannot believe you made the trip to Oslo to visit, that meant the world to me. I remember calling you after like 2 or 3 days in Slovenia in tears because I wasn’t playing well. Thank you for all your psychological help in the weeks before I left when I was completely freaking out and for all your advice and friendship while I was gone. I am so happy to be back and get to see you and have adventures all the time again :). Thanks for being a very much needed friendly face in Oslo, and for being such a wonderful friend to have!

John Engstrom, thank you so much for all your lunchtimes you gave up to kick my ass in the gym. Since my freshman year, John has given up his lunches to do one-on-one volleyball practice thoughout the summer. I went to John in the Spring of my senior year and asked for the same, and without hesitation he agreed. These was some of the only practices I got in before I left and it made a HUGE difference. Thank you so so much John. Congratulations on your beautiful new wife, Jodi, who also came in to a few lunchtime practices, and I am so glad I got to be there to celebrate with you guys on Saturday! Thank you both, your help and support means so much!

Konraaaaad!!! Without you, I would not have had the success that I did. You are so much more than a personal trainer and I loved every workout I did with you, even if I did want to puke half the time. You are such a great friend and you have helped me through so much just through our conversations in between reps of all my favorite exercises, dips, plank to push up, and the weighted ropes. You really encouraged and inspired me to go after what I wanted, and I will appreciate that my whole life. I really can’t express how thankful I am to you.

And lastly my family.
Gramma, thank you for sending me like 2 cards a month, every month, I always looked forward to seeing your cards in the mail. I’m so glad I got to talk to you every now and then, I love you and your cards definitely cheered me up on those dreary days!

Sabrina, thank you so much for all your silly facebook posts and emails and waking up at like 3am to wish me a happy birthday. Thank you for your support and understanding when I would miss out on Wednesday Night Drags to go to practice or on lake trips for tournaments. I plan on coming to as many races and doing all your PR for the rest of your life. It really means a lot that you came to all my matches after you moved back home, and how much you brag about me, cause I do the same with you and your racing. Thank you for all your support, emotionally….and financially. Your such a good sugar daddy haha. I love you and thank yous!

Mom, oh mom, I feel like you are always the one I turn to when I am overwhelmed or stressed out and you always get an earful but make me feel better. I know this happened a lot at first when I left, so thank you for being there and helping me through it. Sorry about then near heart attack I gave you when I was in London….my bad. Thank you for all your homemade goodies you sent me, along with the warm clothes, christmas presents and surprises. Thank you for all your support, for waking up at 6am to watch the cup final online, always reading my blog (I think you and dad account for like 500 of my views), and for being such a supportive friend while I was away. Without yours and dads support my entire volleyball career (my parents NEVER missed one match in my entire career, that includes 5-8th grade, 8th-12th club seasons, high school seasons and 4 years of university) none of this is at all possible, so thank you for giving me the opportunity and encouragement to pursue something I love. I’m sorry I missed out on all the holidays, I know that tough, it was sure tough for me to miss out on you and all your tasty treats! I love you mom and thank you so much.

Ok daddio, thanks for kicking me out of the car at the curb at the airport last August. I was barely holding it together, then when you started tearing up, game over for me. I’ll never forget what you said when I left, that you had prepared me 22 years for this, and you were right, but at the time I was like “oh god, come on dad, I can’t handle this right now”. But you were right, I was as ready as I was ever gonna be, so thanks for giving me the boot out of the car. The same as I said to mom, thank you for all your support with volleyball, traveling to all the beautiful places in california at 5am like Alameda or Turloc or something for club tournaments. Having you and mom at every match really kept me going a lot of the times. Thanks for the sticky nickname you gave me back in 6th grade, I think most people I have ever played against or ever sat in the same vicinity as you at any match know me by “gaboooooou”. I love it! Thank you for all the sporty beans you sent to me in Norway and for always being available when I called. I love you dad, molto grazie!

To everyone else that has helped me out, inspired and encouraged me, thank you tons!

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Croatia and Homebound

Wow, what a week! On Thursday morning I woke up to the ferry horn going off as we were about 10 minutes from the dock in Split, Croatia. A beautiful, sunny morning on the Adriatic, what a way to wake up let me tell you. I got off the ferry and found my hostel quite easily and they let me check in right when I got there. This is already better than London when I arrived at 7am and they told me to come back and check in at 2. I was the only guest in the hostel that night so I was a little bit concerned, no other guests? That doesn’t sound like too much fun. So I showered and went out for a coffee and pastry and a walk along the docks. Croatia is beautiful, absolutely gorgeous and completely stereotypical of a town along the Adriatic with its 4th century white stone buildings and crystal clear teal water, it is fantastic. So I wandered around and got acquainted a bit and was kind of in and out of my hostel. I became quite good friends with the two people working in the hostel, one Australian guy and a girl from Oregon. After one night of hanging out with Melissa, the girl from Oregon we decided to take a day trip together to the island of Hvar, which is known for its beautiful coast and nightlife. We found a villa for $15 a night that overlooked the ocean so we made Mexican food for dinner (which is what I am most excited about eating when I get home by the way :P) went for a little walk downtown and sat on the terrace of our villa with a bottle of Croatian wine, it was a great relaxing night. The next morning we went for a 3-4km walk/hike along the rocky coast and found the perfect little cove with boat docks to sunbathe on with beautiful green mountains on one side and crystal clear water on the other, it was great! We got back to Split at 8ish Saturday night and hit the town for a couple hours with all the new guests in the hostel. So this brings me up to today, my last day in Split and my last day in Europe really. I went to the rocky beach with Steve, the aussie and it was warm enough to actually jump in the water! This beach is so cool, it has ruins that are halfway in the water that you can walk out on and lie out a bit off shore which makes for a totally secluded little island for yourself while still being a 30 second walk from the main path. Diocletians palace makes up the old town of Split and I am assuming that the ruins on the beach were something that was built during his time which was circa 300 A.D. how cool is that?! So I decided to jump off one of these little rocky islands and man was that a wake up. The water is still definitely warmer than northern California ocean water, but it was not warm by any stretch, it was….refreshing lets say that. So I continued sunbathing for a bit, and I thought I had just scraped my toes on the rocks or something but I looked down and I had sea urchin spines sticking out of the bottom of 3 of my toes….ouch! So out of instinct I started pulling them all out but I still had black things in my toes and it wasn’t feeling too fantastic so I went back to the hostel and started digging with a needle and tweezers. I was pretty unsuccessful in removing all these little spines and I think was doing more damage than repair. Hopefully they will work themselves out and I did a little research so if they don’t I guess soaking them in vinegar will disintegrate anything left behind. But overall, a great time in Croatia, I highly recommend it to anyone traveling Europe, it is SO cheap and beautiful and historic and just overall a fantastic place.

So right now I am on the train to the airport in Slovenia. It is 10:15pm on Sunday and I will arrive at the airport at 10am tomorrow, so I’m in for the long haul. I’ll be back in the states at 4pm Monday California time, which is just so weird to me. I can’t believe this is already over and I’m coming home. It hasn’t quite hit me yet and I’m thinking it will more so be a reality when I’m sitting on the plane leaving Frankfurt tomorrow morning. So think good thoughts for me that everything goes smoothly getting to the airport and all that ☺ and to Europe: Ha det bra! Arrivederci! Later alligator!

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After an amazing 3 days in Florence, I am on the ferry headed to Croatia. I took a train from Florence to Ancona and found the ferry station and everything so easily. Italy is just too fantastic to put into words, I got off the plane in Florence and almost cried I was so happy and relieved after my incident in London earlier that day. I didn’t have any euro’s on me but the bus driver of the shuttle let me on for free, god I love Italians! I met up with Tim and we walked back to his apartment, it was so warm even at midnight, I was walking in just a sundress. Just being in Italy, the smell, the noise, the language was an instant high and I forgot about all the chaos of earlier that day. Monday, while Tim was in school I wandered down by the Galleria Academia and had a cappuccino at a café where my dad and I went when we were in Florence a few years ago. Later on in the afternoon, Tim took me up to Piazza Michaelangelo where you can look over the Arno river and all of Florence. It was 70 degrees and beautiful! We went out for a great dinner with a couple of Tim’s roommates that night, I had gnocci in a gorgonzola cream sauce which was probably the best gnocci I have ever had (aside from mom’s of course ☺). On Tuesday I walked around all over the place, I went in il Duomo, across the Ponte Vecchia, shopping, eating and just wandering around. I pretty much ate my way through wherever I walked. I had a cannoli on the steps of il Duomo and I think that was the best thing I have ever tasted in my life, oh my gosh it was so good. I made dinner for the boys that night as a thank you for letting me crash there. I went to the supermarket, which in every country is so interesting to go look around in. I made prosiutto melon, buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad and pesto tortellini. The ingredients at the market and the grocery store were all so fresh it made the simplest dinner so much better than anything you can find in a safeway or Albertsons that’s for sure! We went out that night to experience a bit of Florence nightlife which was a blast and a great way to spend my last night in Italy. Today I went to St. Croce before I had to leave because everyone told me it was worth the 5 euros to check out the tombs of Michaelangelo, Dante, Machievelli and Gallileo. It is so hard to fathom and comprehend when you are standing in front of where these legendary people are buried. It is absolutely incredible.

So all in all, my trip is going WAY better, I of course fell in love with Italy all over again. The rest and relaxation portion of my vacation has started and its been great! I’ve been spoiling myself with gelato when I want gelato, and pasta and pizza and whatever little indulgences I want and can afford, because really, you only live once and eating a cannoli in Italy is something you just gotta do sometimes! Buona Sera!

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Oh dear lord, going out of London with a bang! But I’ll save that story for last. My time in London was short and fun, and I am pretty glad it was short. After arriving at London Victoria bus station early yesterday morning, 6:30am I walked to my hostel, feeling daring and telling myself I just had to find an easy way to get myself around with all my luggage, and it is getting better. So either I am developing mad luggage carrying muscles or I’m just figuring it all out ☺. So I got to the hostel which was on the bank of the Thames river but unfortunately it was not open for another hour so I walked down to a gas station and got some juice and sat by the river and waited. The weather was already beautiful so I didn’t mind. I checked into my hostel but again, I was way to early so I could only store my bags. I had seen some “rent-a-bike” stations where you can rent from various spots in the city and return them wherever there is one of these stations so I went and rented a bike. It was thrilling and mildly terrifying because 1. London cab and bus drivers are crazy and 2. They drive on the wrong side of the road so trying to turn into the right, or should I say “correct” side of the road on a bicycle is confusing and scary. So that did not last too long, but I did ride past Buckingham Palace and finally found a return station for the bike around Westminister Abbey. I ditched the bike, grabbed a coffee and hit the streets touring everything from Westminister, Parliament, sitting by the river looking across to the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, Oxford Street and everything in between. I was beat by the end of this tour so I took a little break in St. James Park with my book and enjoyed the sunshine, something I have missed terribly. It was time to check into my room so after a long overdue shower and change of clothes I thought I’d go down to the bar downstairs to check in with my parents and facebook and update the latest blog post. I do not know what it is exactly but I’ve been having a bit of a hard time meeting people in my hostels, my first friend last night was an 80 year old man who was sitting next to me at the bar who was amazed by my typing speed. I also made friends with a guy from Denmark who was in London for a comic book convention so we chatted for a while. There was a live band in the bar last night so it was crawling with people and I started making some more friends.

Today I went to an outdoor market with one of the girls I met last night and walked around a bit there. We took the tube, which was like the metro’s you see in movies where they shake and the lights go on and off. Nothing like the plush metro’s in Norway, you could call them the Mercedes Benz of metros compared to London’s Ford Fiesta. I am missing Norway lots already and everything over here I compare to Norway!

So anyways, my departure from London has been nothing less than stressful, sweaty and panicy. My ATM card had not been working all day, not a red flag because Europe hates Bank of America debit cards, actually they hate all cards that do not contain this new fancy chip that they use over here. So I tried some different minibanks and again it was not working, still not worried, it had worked this morning to buy my metro ticket. So I was at the park by Buckingham Palace this afternoon, enjoying some sun with an Irish Rugby player I had met yesterday when I decided it was time to head out. I got SO lost trying to find my hostel again and I had even forgotten my map (so no cracks about my poor map reading roomies, I get lost even without a map!). So I found the hostel, with crazy blisters on the bottom of my feet because I thought it was a sandal’s day, hopped on the bus to the train station and at this point I was a little concerned about my bank card after trying it a few places on my walk to the hostel. I made it to the train station and of course, no luck with my bank card anywhere. Not only does Europe hate my B of A card, but good luck getting a MasterCard to work anywhere. Let me explain my situation here, All my luggage, a sun dress, sandals, no money at this busy train station. I opened up my suitcase to try and find my blackberry to call home, yes I was that girl rummaging through my suitcase in the middle of the train station. Beats me where I packed the thing, no luck. I found my way to a pay phone and spent my last like 9 pounds calling my mom and dad in a frantic panic attack. I’m a crier, so of course I was hysterical while I was on the phone when I ran out of money, no working cards and stuck. I went for a long shot and took out my computer to see if there was wi-fi and there was! I immediately called the back still crying and they said that the “travel flag” I had put on my card in August was only good for 90 days and they thought I had fraudulent charges so they froze my account. Now I called a week before I left for Slovenia in early August and flagged my debit card for all over Europe, so if this was only good for 90 days, why are they just now detecting fraud charges??? Anyways, they got it turned back on and I’m now on the train to the airport, smeared makeup, sore feet and arriving a little later than I had wished but I think it will all be ok. I think my travels in the UK are done for a long while after this trip, I am so excited to get to Italy and see a familiar face, eat some pizza, drink some coffee and wine and relax. From here on out, relaxing is the name of the game, no more of this crazy rushing around and stressing out hopefully!!!!

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Headed to London

Things are looking up! After my disaster of an experience trying to get to my appointment in Aberdeen I finally got a chance to catch my breath. I ended up taking all of my luggage to the University, or “Uni” as they say over here in Scotland. I ran to the taxi bank and hopped in a cab that took me right to the visitor center where a fellow American was working and was super helpful and watched my bags and called ahead to the tour office to tell them I was running late. I met up with the campus tour who was made up of soon to be freshman with their parents and siblings. The campus is absolutely beautiful and the sports complex, oh my gosh, nicest facility I have ever seen. At the end of the tour I met up with the professor who is in charge of the Oil and Gas Chemistry Masters program. After talking for a few minutes I learned that this Masters program is the exact thing that I want to work on reducing. I guess the program is made up of mostly Nigerians sponsored by the African oil companies and the kind of jobs they are fed into are working at oil refineries making petroleum products. So, for me, I want to work in the field of alternative energy with things like renewables with the up and coming green technology, so this program….not for me. After the craziness of getting to the school, the money I spent getting here, the program is the exact opposite of what I want. So I am actually really glad that I came to check it out because I had already been emailing this professor a little bit and had no idea to true nature of this program. Before finding this out I was fighting the feeling that Aberdeen was just not a fit for me, I blamed that feeling on being so stressed out that morning but I am glad to know for sure that Aberdeen is not the place for me!

Another run around with the busses with all my luggage I got another taxi to take me to my hostel, cursing myself for wasting money but after a day like that, I was done trying. I checked into my hostel and immediately left again to go find somewhere to eat as I had not eaten since my hostel breakfast of corn flakes at 7am that morning. So I found a cool little Scottish pub and had a burger and instantly felt better. I walked back to the hostel and met some really cool people that were staying there looking for work. Most of them were Irish, but some from Scotland too. We hung out all evening because there is really NOTHING to do in Aberdeen except go out drinking. But it was a good night in and I was plenty rested for my full day of trying to find something to do in this town.

Today I went to the beach for about 3 hours and sat with a coffee then walked back into town, then to the other side of town to this park that the guy working at the hostel said was cool. It was not and it was like a 30 minute walk but oh well I didn’t have anything else to do so it was ok. I went shopping for like 15 minutes, bought a book and sat at starbucks for an hour or so. Like there was really nothing to do here! But it was relaxing and somewhat warm so I can’t complain too much. I am now on my way to London on a bus and I am pretty excited to go explore!!

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Per request of some faithful readers, I am keeping the blog alive while I’m traveling on the last part of my life overseas. It started off yesterday after a nice good by lunch with Pappa John followed by a short flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. Nerves and anxiety were running high because I was going alone! I have traveled by myself many times, whether it was only down to LA or across the country, no problem, this time feels a little different. I’m sure I’ll be fine meeting people in my hostels but the fact that I am not meeting up with anyone until I am in Florence on Sunday night is a little intimidating. My goal for these next few days is to be comfortable taking myself out to dinner and such, all things I should be ok doing by now but somehow am not. So anyways, I got off the plane in Edinburgh, collected my 100lbs (40+ kilos) worth of luggage and started into town to find my hostel. Thankfully I kind of knew where I was going and it was only a short walk from the bus stop. So here I am walking into a crowded hostel bar with a rolly bag, a HUGE duffle, my backpack and purse trying to check in. I was a sweaty mess! The hostel I stayed in was….ok, the room was beautiful and old and had a cool ceiling but my roommates had to get up at 4am so they were in bed by like 10pm, which was about the time I arrived. So I went downstairs and checked in with mom and dad on facebook and met a couple New Zealanders then decided to go up and shower and go to bed, because I had an early morning also. The shower was more like a mist rather than a shower stream, so after a sweaty day it was a little less than what I had wanted. But I went to bed and decided tomorrow would be a better day. So I woke up, took another misty shower and walked the 15 minutes to the bus stop to catch the 8:30 bus up to Aberdeen. I am already regretting having all this luggage, wherever I go I sweat and my hands are torn up from the duffle straps. So again a sweaty mess once I get to the bus station, and a bloody hand where my duffle bag ripped off a calus only to find out that the 8:30 bus is SOLD OUT. I am usually a meticulous planner but am constantly ridiculed for it because I plan just about everything and I worry about things. Whoever has ever gotten on me for this, I was cursing your name this morning! Haha just kidding, but really, the next bus was an hour later and would put me at the Aberdeen bus station at 12:45 and I have an appointment at University of Aberdeen at 1:00, shit. So in order to save 8 pounds, I walked across the street to an internet café to buy my ticket for the 9:30 bus and that is the bus I am sitting on now. I got back to the bus station, near tears because I don’t know how to call the school from my Norwegian phone, it won’t work for some reason, and freaking out because I’m going to be late to my appointment. The only solution I can think of is that I’m just going to have to take all my luggage to the campus tour and store it somewhere I guess! So it has been a bit of a rocky start but hopefully it will get a little better, everything is planned through Florence now so hopefully no more surprises!

I’ll write another update on my way to London on Friday night ☺

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Grand Prix

We are officially done with our season!! This weekend we traveled to Steinkjer to play in the Grand Prix Tournament which was just an end of season tournament. We went even though we were down a few players, and unfortunately did not win the 40,000noks. We lost both our games but got to have one last weekend to play with each other. Nicole and I stayed with Katie up in Stod where she lives, population maybe 52? Smallest town I’ve ever seen, smallest town in all of Norway perhaps. Speaking of best in all of Norway, Nicole is now the best diagonal in all of Norway after making her way onto the all star team! So exciting that years down the road I can say “I played her, 13 years ago she was the best diagonal in all of Norway!”. I sure am fitting in here :P. Congrats Banner!

Saturday night we went to the banquet, that we were originally not going to attend because of its hefty price tag of 400noks a plate. Papa John came through though, and bought us all tickets, thanks Papa J! WEIRDEST banquet in all of Norway! There was a man there who, I don’t know, maybe one of the federation members who was welcoming us to the banquet all of a sudden broke out in song. I now think he was a hired host of the banquet because after he serenaded us with some rather random song choices, we had some other entertainment. Two women came onstage all dressed up and started juggling. They came back on stage for many different various performances including juggling bowling pins, volleyballs, this string juggling thing, trapeze acts and more. In between the songs and the “entertainers” we had a magician who we later heard was the “best magician in all of norway”. We quickly figured out why each ticket was 400noks! After the awards, where we got a silver medal :P, more singing! This time everyone got up and danced in sync with Grease Lightening. Welcome to Norwegian banquets, apparently it is common to sing and dance at dinner haha. Craziness!!!

So after playing saturday and sunday we stayed one more night with Katie and got to hang out with some of her teammates and relax 🙂 Monday we went to the pool in Steinkjer and hung out in the hot tub and steam room before heading home, completely relaxed! So today is day 1 without volleyball and I leave Norway a week from tomorrow. Operation clean Club 50 began today and I’m sure will occupy quite a bit of time this week 🙂

I know I said I would only update one more time after this one, but I may check in during my travels and definitely when I get back from the states and miss this place like crazy!!!

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