A little over a week in and I already feel like we have lived here for months. I take that as a good thing, we have the comforts of home mixed with the daily challenges of living in another country.
I am not new to be a foreign woman in a foreign land. For those of you who have followed my adventures over the past years, you will be familiar with my training expedition in Japan (you can get a full recap of every detail here: www.jobeccatokyo.blogspot.com - where I got my blogging start). Here, I spent three months navigating the Tokyo trains, scaling Mt. Fuji (joke – just saw it from the bottom), learning Japanese, and creating memories that will forever burn in my mind.
I was fully aware, after having immersed myself in Japan, that living in a foreign country provides a very unique opportunity to grow as a player and person. You are exposed to so many different senses, cultures, environments, and people that you see the world from a completely altered view.
No longer does conversation flow, you must problem-solve, use a bit of charades, and select from you ever-growing vocabulary of how to get your point across. It is never as straight forward as you originally thought and you end your day exhausted at having to constantly translate a language into one that makes sense.
However, with this problem comes opportunity. Opportunity to learn a foreign language, opportunity to be completely out of your comfort zone, and opportunity to share cultures for greater understanding. These are things that books can’t teach, not even “Lonely Planet”.
Having prefaced our adventures, let’s get into the meat of our Spanish debut. After having arrived safely and familiarized ourselves with our neighborhood (Saint Adrea de Besos) and our animal friends (we have 5 cats, 2 dogs, 2 turtles, and 2 birds) we were welcomed by a fancy press conference where our jerseys were unveiled and we got to speak our first bits of Spanish/Catalonian in front of the camera’s (yes, there are two foreign languages that are used frequently here, all the more studying/confusion for us).
We knew we were in good hands with Patricia Coma and the rest of the girls. While I am one of the older players here, I do not feel out-of-place. Everyone on the team makes a worth-while effort to communicate and make us feel like part of the team. Luckily the sport of soccer serves as the universal language always allowing us to have something in common.
The Espanyol mantra: “La Forca D’un Senitment’ = The Force of a Feeling. The Espanyol faithful are extremely passionate about soccer (and that passion also goes towards hating the Barcelona soccer team – it’s always hard being the team in the background) and that is demonstrated through a full practice facility what seems like 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. Training ground is hard to come by in Barcelona, so at Espanyol Sporting City (where the men and women practice), we are forced to train from 9:30pm – 11:00pm at night.
While I am sensitive to making too many comparisons to the United States and the WPS (I want to embrace this without reservations), it is obvious that La Liga Feminina is operating with even less money. We travel on the day of the game whether that be via bus, train, or plane. Games are at either noon or 12:30pm to allow for plenty of time to travel back to your home city. Attendances are low and stands may be hard to come by (as seen at our last game in Valencia).
All this being said, the level of play is still very high and Lianne Sanderson and I were pleasantly surprised at the talent on display in Spain. Of course, America still boasts the best athletes but these players have a mind for the game and their feet tend to match. You are born a soccer lover who watches/follows/supports your local team from as far back as you can remember. While it is still not common for women to strap up their own boots and start playing, there is no denying the deep understanding of the tactics.
We won our first game with relative ease. I wish I could say I was a contributor besides my constant cheers of “Vamos Espanyol” but due to paper-work complications, I had to sit this one out. I was very disappointed and it seems to be the same for this coming weekend. I guess I am not on the Federations high priority list…bummer for me. Lianne did represent us extremely well, however, notching her first goal and assist for the team in a 4-0 victory. I will expect the same production from her this weekend as she shines on the pitch as one of the best players.
Besides soccer, we have been soaking in the Barcelonian sun. We live about 2 blocks from the beach and also took a nice jaunt down to Sitges, Spain which I highly recommend. A Mediterranean paradise, Sitges is a page straight out of a Travel Magazine. The weather was perfect, the beaches were picturesque, and the food was tantalizing. I would go back in a heart-beat. There was so much to do and so much to see (old churches, sand castles, bike riding, etc.). Our hotel was only 100 yds down from the ideal swimming spot. It was a primarily protected (by rock walls) cove of the ocean. You could swim peacefully in the cove or test your bravery by swimming through the small inlet out to the great beyond.
The rock wall provided for ample crab discovery on our hunts and the small restaurant/bar on the beach provided some sick tunes. It was all really too good to be true and only having a day and a half to spend there was a tease. Oh well…we shall be back.
The pictures are up on our Facebook wall as I write this so feel free to check them out. We all know however, that pictures can never ever do justice. Wow, one week in and I have still left so much out of this blog: La Merce festival/concert, Espanyol men’s game in Valencia, typical Catalonian food, and much much more. I would be happy to share more details on any of these if you so desire.
So, big game for the Espanyol ladies this weekend and then we get to watch Real Madrid and Christiano Ronaldo Sunday night play against the Espanyol men. Now these are truly things you don’t get in America. If this first week is evidence of what is to come than there will be much more to write about in Barcelona. Full reports right here so come back often.
Buen Suerte Espanyol and hasta la vista, bambina!