Pro Softball Abroad

The End

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Sep 19, 2010 | No Comments

“WE ARE THE CHAMPIONSSS MY FRIENDDDDD”… What a perfect ending to a fabulous summer.  For the fifth year in row, the Skovde Saints are Swedish champs!!  We started the first game off strong, and after that, there was no looking back.  Maria set the tone for the day when she made a great running catch in center field that took away a double or even triple.  When it was our turn to hit, we scored four runs in the first inning.  I started the day with a triple and 3 RBIs.  I ended up hitting another triple in the second game and strung together base hits throughout the day.  I was very satisfied with my last outing on the softball field (weird to say that).  And to top it all off, I even made the final out of my last game ever.  A shoe string catch at third (they moved me to third for these games because it was more fitting given our line up).  I was so happy to end my career at third base.  My home :) Neither game went seven innings as the scores were 11-4 and 11-1.  We weren’t messing around.  We got the job done.  My favorite part about the day was how we worked together as a team to win.  Everyone played such an important role in winning this championship.  It was also fun to see the strides and improvements people have made throughout the season.  It’s neat to see how people have improved throughout the season and how I played a role in that.  I have to say, though, my team made it very easy for me to help.  They were the absolute best group of girls I could have asked for.  I’m leaving here with lifelong friends.  I am very appreciative of that.  Thank you, Skovde, for being so awesome.

The celebration was like nothing I have ever done before.  From confetti to popping bottles of champagne, it was clear Skovde had done this before.  Immediately after the game we were given championship t-shirts.  We all put them on and proceeded with the awards ceremony.  We each had a gold medal placed over our heads and were given a small gold souvenir that every person who wins a championship in Sweden is awarded.  The whole day was an absolutely perfect way to end my career.  Smiling, taking pictures with my teammates… I had a blast.  The festivities concluded with a party in the evening.  They call it the “Gold Party.”  It was great to have one last night with everyone and having captured the gold made the night that much more enjoyable.

I can’t believe it’s all over.  It’s bitter sweet.  I can finally say that I’m a real girl, not an athlete.  No more practices, no more games, no more training.  I will miss all of those things, and yet, I am looking forward to a life sans all of those commitments.  I feel like with the end of this trip comes a new beginning.  There’s a life back at home I’m looking forward to starting.  Time to become a grown up.  Scary.

But with the end of the season comes the end of my blog.  This will be my last post.  The next couple of days consist of packing and traveling.  Crazy how an entire four months comes down to these last few days.  And as much as I enjoyed my time in Sweden, I am so excited to go home.  It’s time.

Final Countdown

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Sep 17, 2010 | No Comments

Well ladies and gentlemen, this is it.  The moment you’ve all been waiting for.  And to which moment am I referring?  Let’s start with the first event.  The championship games!  The final games for the championship are this weekend.  The first team to win two takes it all.  They’re going to be good games, so hopefully we can come out on top for the fifth year in a row.  Leading up to the games, this week was pretty low key for me.  I used it to relax and get things together because next Tuesday is my last day in Skovde!!  Last night I had dinner with Anzo.  She cooked for me and it was delicciousss as always.  My last Swedish meal.  Tear.  I can’t believe it.  Boy, time flies when you’re having fun.  Next Tuesday I leave on a train to Stockholm where I will be spending the night with a girl on the Soder team (the same team we are playing in the finals), and then the following morning I fly back to sweet home Chicago!  It’s weird that at this point in my trip I can say: next week at this time I will be… doing ____ AT HOME!

I had lunch with Mattias and Christian today at Prima and we talked about my experience for a little.  They understood my excitement to go home.  Four months is a long time.  What was so different about these four months being away from home and being away at college for four months?  There was a lot of down time here in Skovde.  Days we didn’t practice or have games felt long.  I wasn’t able to pick up the phone and just call family and friends.  Soon I get to have real conversations with people without using bbm or Facebook?  Weird.  But what may be even weirder is that this weekend my softball career comes to an end.  And boy am I ready to retire.  It’s been a long time that I’ve been at softball.  It’s bitter sweet.  Some of my most fun moments in Sweden were on the field.  I’ll never forget everything I have given softball and all it has given back to me.  At this point, I’m ready to move on.

Split

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Sep 12, 2010 | No Comments

I bet you were all sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to hear how the weekend went… well, drum roll please… (if the title didn’t already give it away…) we split!  Ok, ok, so a split isn’t that exciting, but we have still put ourselves in a good position to win.  The first game of the series was promising.  I believe the final score was 11-4.  It was close for the first couple of innings, but then our bats exploded.  I had several RBIs and a couple of hits including a stand up triple.  The second game was much closer.  The entire seven innings we were neck and neck.  We scored, then they scored.  They scored, then we scored.  It was anyone’s game.  Unfortunately, in the top of the 7th we were down by two runs and were unable to produce runs in our last at bats.  The second game was a little sloppy on our end, so I think if we clean things up for next weekend and come out looking sharp, we have a good chance to win this thing.

Splitting the first two games of the championship series brought me right back to my memories of the championships series at Cornell.  Both years we won thy Ivy League title, we split the first two games.  It was because of those experiences, I did not leave Saturday feeling completely hopeless or down.  I knew winning is still very possible and all is not lost.  For the most part, I could sense my teammates felt the same way.  Some were a little more disappointed.  One of my teammates in particular was very upset, but I talked to her about it.  I told her I knew exactly how she felt and where she was coming from.  Two years before, I, too, was playing in my first championships at Cornell.  When you lose a big game like that it can be tough to bounce back, but as an athlete, you learn from your setbacks.  Our team has won most of the games we have played this season, so dealing with a loss from time to time can be hard.  But it is from these losses that you grow as a team and as a person.  Sure, winning is fun.  Everyone always wants to win, but it is when you lose that you examine your faults and strive to make yourself better.  That’s what sports are all about.  Whether you view sports as a hobby, like most Swedes do, or you view it as a lifestyle, like most Americans do, you learn similar lessons.  Sports help a person grow and mature.  They teach someone how to persevere through good times and bad.  I believe my team will practice hard this week and we will do better this coming weekend.

13 more days!… but who’s counting? 🙂

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Sep 9, 2010 | No Comments

Let the countdown begin!  I can’t believe I have just under two weeks left.  Two months ago, I couldn’t even imagine this moment coming, and soon I’ll be leaving Sweden and going back to the states.  But enough of this crazy talk.  Can’t get too ahead of myself.  There is still much work to be done!

This weekend are the first two games of the championship.  We play Soder at their place.  In the perfect world, we would win both games and come back home the following weekend only having to win one.  We’ll see, though.  It’s not going to be easy.

Until then, with time winding down I took it easy this week.  Our practices have consisted of preparing for the games this weekend.  From live hitting to running situations, we’re trying to look sharp.  I think things are looking well.  I’m confident that we can have a successful weekend.  In my down time, I’ve gone to the driving range with Anzo and Casey; I have almost finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I have spent more time hanging out with Anzo :) I’m trying to stay busy these last couple of weeks so time doesn’t seem like it’s stopped haha  I find the busier I am, the quicker time seems to go.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want this experience to be over, but when you haven’t seen friends and family for four months, that moment of getting off the plane and giving them a big hug can’t come soon enough.  It will be sad to leave my Sweden family, but I know they’ll always be here for me.  They’ve given me a summer I will never forget.

Reflection

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Sep 6, 2010 | No Comments

Before I get busy with the Championships and preparing to leave and what not, I thought it would be a good idea to look back and reflect on the last three and a half months.  Now I’m going to warn you, I may get a little sentimental on you, but this is just a temporary thing :)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I feel so lucky to have been a part of the Skovde Saints.  This experience allowed me to live in a foreign country and embrace a different culture.  I made new friends.  I got to see parts of Europe I otherwise would never have gotten to see.  And of course, when I think of this trip, I will always think of softball.  To me, its fascinating how softball allowed me to take advantage of this opportunity I otherwise would never have had.  Sports have opened so many doors for me.  And coming to Sweden was the perfect way to end my career.  I’ve always thought that one of the greatest things about sports is everything you learn about life and yourself.  The lessons learned on and off the field cannot be taught but can only be learned through experience.  Softball has always been more than just a game to me.  Growing up it was fun.  I made lifelong friends.  I have memories that will last me a lifetime.  My summers were spent practicing, playing tournaments, and of course, trips to Lou Malnati’s in between games :) In high school, my summer ball teammates and I came together and fielded a team.  There was no bunch like us.  They became some of my best friends.  I also valued the close relationships I developed with my Coaches.  I matured as a player and a person.  College was where my commitment and hard work bred success.  Until then, I had never fully committed to one sport.  It taught me a lot about hard work and dedication.  I am so proud of all that I accomplished as a member of the Cornell Big Red.  And Sweden… Sweden for me was icing on the cake.  I am so lucky that I am one of the few who girls who got to continue playing softball after college as a professional athlete.  And getting the chance to do it in a European country… there’s nothing like it.  I will always remember Sweden as the place where it all ended.  I had so much fun playing with the Saints.  Their care free mentality partnered with their desire to learn and win cannot be matched.  They have fun on the field and in turn, I had some of my favorite moments on the field with them.  I’ve never laughed so much while playing.  For so long, softball has been intense and competitive.  Here it was just about playing.  No worries, no stress… kind of sounds like how Swedes think :) Now I hope we can top off a fun season with a championship!

With all of that said, I want to thank the Saints for inviting me to Sweden and allowing me to be one of the lucky Americans to take advantage of this opportunity.  I will never forget the time I’ve spent here.  I know I will look back with a smile (and maybe even some tears because I’ll miss you guys!)  I know that I have made lifelong friends, and as Anzo knows, I’m already ready to come back to Midsommar next year ;)

Umpiring

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Sep 5, 2010 | No Comments

With time winding down, things are quiet around Skovde.  This weekend we hosted a little league baseball tournament.  The weather was gorgeous.  It was sunny and in the 60s.  It’s starting to feel like fall here, but that’s okay with me as long as the sun’s out.  I umpired several hours a day.  It was fun to watch the boys play.  There was a range of talent, but overall, I was very impressed with their skills.  In one game I saw two triples plays and a grand slam!  Some of the Coaches were from the states, so there happened to be a lot of English floating around which made me happy :) I can’t believe in 17 days I’ll be back in the States where speaking English is normal.  Weird haha  Other than that, I’ve just been enjoying the nice weather and relaxing.  I’m appreciating my last weeks here even if I don’t have much to do because I realize this is one of the lasts times I’ll be able to relax and not have overwhelming responsibility.  I’ve filled my time with trips to the gym and reading.  Yes, I said reading.  A couple months into my trip I started reading the Swedish novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  My dad recommended that I check it out.  It is soooo good.  I’m not a big reader and with a little less than 200 pages to go, I’m already going to say this is my favorite book.   Great recommendation, Dad!

Back in Sweden!… the homestretch

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Sep 2, 2010 | No Comments

Welcome back sports fans.  It’s been amazing past couple of weeks.  Sorry to leave you hanging!  I’ve been in Holland and France without a computer so I wasn’t able to update my blog :( But I’m back and ready to go!

It all started in Holland where the Skovde Saints played in the European Cup!  It was an absolute blast.  It was so fun to play teams from all over Europe.  Had I not been in Sweden this summer, I would never have gotten the chance to take advantage of this opportunity.  The drive down to Haarlem took a little longer than expected.  What was supposed to be a 13 or 14 hour drive turned into about 20 hours due to unexpected traffic and detours, but even with the delays we got there safe and sound.  The following day were opening ceremonies and our first game!  We played the Dutch team in the opening game.  On this day I also met our Coach for the week, BJ Packo.  He played on the Saints’ baseball team for a couple of summers last year and the summer before that.  Kristi DeVries was another girl who joined our team.  She was a pitcher who played in the Olympics on the Dutch team.  She was there to help our team for the week.  Many of the European teams had multiple American girls on them like we did.  In fact, Stacy Nelson, a very well known pitcher who went to the University of Florida was also at this tournament.  She was there playing for Italy.  The fact that a tournament can bring together girls from all over the world is so interesting.  It makes it so fun!  To be playing the Russian team while their Coaches yell and the girls chant in Russian was so unique.  At times I even laughed at the entire experience.  Standing on the field having no idea what the other team is saying can be somewhat comical.  Without a doubt, this tournament was one of the most fun parts of my trip.  It was so special.  I was happy that my mom got to experience it with me.  She flew out in the middle of the week and was able to see some games.  Not only was it the first time in four years that she saw me in another jersey besides the Cornell Big Red uni, but she also got to experience the accumulation of a lifetime of hard work and dedication.  I truly felt this tournament represented the many years of my commitment to softball.  It was so neat to see how a sport can bring together girls of different ages and background.  While we may be different, not even speak the same language, we all share a passion and love for softball.

From Holland my mom and I headed to Paris!  My favorite place in the whole world.  We did everything from site see to shop.  From Le Tour Eiffel to the Arc de Triomphe, we saw it all.  While I loved being in Holland with my team, being in Paris was a nice break from softball.  Since college I have not had much time off, so it was great to spend some time with my mom in a beautiful city.

When I finally returned to Sweden, I didn’t waste any time.  I returned on Friday which was our last practice before the semifinals against Sundsvall.  Saturday was the big day and we won both games (it was best 2 out of 3)!  So what does that mean?… We goin’ to the ship what??? :) That’s right.  The Skovde Saints are in the Sweden Championships.  For the past five years we have claimed the title, so let’s hope we can keep the streak going!  The championship series won’t be held for another couple of weeks.  Since my mom was here until Monday, I was able to show her my home for the past three months.  I have her a tour of my crib and the town.  It was fun and exciting letting her into my life.  It was even interesting to get another perspective on Swedish life, it made me see things in a new light and truly appreciate the time I’ve spent and have here.

On the Road Again

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Aug 13, 2010 | No Comments

This week was spent recovering from Prague and packing for Holland and France!  Monday was a relaxing day.  Boy did I need the rest.  As usual, in the evening, we had practice.  It was rainy and cold.  Not too much fun to play in.  We focused on hitting to try and prepare us for the Cup.  After practice, Casey, Lina and I went to Anzo’s to enjoy her famous tomato soup.  It was the perfect dinner for the weather that day.  This week was my last week with Lina because while we are at the Cup, she leaves for school in the states :( I’m going to miss her.  She became one of my best friends here.  She did not have a summer job so we hung out a lot (as you probably noticed from my blogs).  Lina wanted to have Anzo’s soup one last time, so we joined her for the home cooked meal.  It was absolutely delicious.  I asked Anzo for the recipe.  She’s such a fabulous cook.

Tuesday was another relaxing day.  In the early evening I went to Lina’s house to have craw fish!  I have never had craw fish before.  It was quite an experience.  Craw fish and shrimp decorated the table.  It was everyone’s job to peel their own fish and shrimp.  I have never done that before.  Usually we buy our shrimp pre-made.  As Lina said, doing it yourself means “it’s a lot of work for a little food.”  I didn’t get what she meant at first, but then when I dove in and tried peeling the craw fish, I understood.  I chose not to eat the brains or claws.  I stuck with the “ass” as they say.  I ripped off the head… well let me rephrase that… I tried to rip of the head and the shell.  My first time was a little messy.  Of course, they laughed at me, but I laughed with them, too.  I looked ridiculous haha  Eventually I got the hang of it!  Her family noticed and even clapped for me when I did a good job haha  There was a lot of extra shell left over and a tiny piece of meat when you’re done peeling it.  But it tasted good!  The taste reminded me of crab.  The shrimp were much easier to peel.  After you pulled the head off, the shell came off fairly easy.  Lina’s mom ate shrimp because they’re much easier to peel.  It was so much fun, something I don’t think I would ever do back in the states.  We concluded the night by going back to the Dungeon and watching It’s Complicated.  What a great movie!!

Wednesday was another practice day, but this time we worked on our fielding.  We stuck to our typical routine… taking infield, practicing game situations.  Since these were the final days before the Cup, you want to practice things that will better prepare you, but I feel that our entire season has done a good job preparing us.

We also practiced on Thursday (instead of Friday) which turned out being a great decision because the weather was beautiful.  After practice, a bunch of my teammates and friends got together and had a going away party for Lina.  It was great to get everyone together.  We went to O’Leary’s to enjoy food and drinks.  O’Leary’s is the same place I went bowling.  I love hanging out with everyone.  We always have so much fun.

All week it has been cloudy and rainy.  In fact, Wednesday and today (Friday) I experienced my first Swedish thunderstorms.  Today, it rained very hard.  The streets flooded, but it didn’t last for too long.  I got out of the gym and had to wait a little while before I walked home because it was raining so hard.

And then today, Friday, finally came.  The final day before I leave for Holland.  I packed my suitcase… again.  Only this time, I’m packed for two countries!  After we finish the Euro Cup in Holland, I am going with my mom to Paris!  1.  Yes, Itz Pam is visiting!  I am sooo excited to see her.  It will be great to get a taste of home here in Europe.  And I think it will also be nice to have sometime for myself, away from the team. And 2. Yes, I’m going to Paris!  My favorite city in the whole world!  I can’t wait!  I have been looking forward to this trip all summer (Now may be a good time to note that I will not be taking my computer with me for the next couple of weeks, but I promise to fill you in on everything when I get settled back in Sweden).  Pam is also coming back to Sweden with me for a couple of days.  I’m excited to show her where I’ve been living for the summer.

So there you have it.  Tomorrow morning at 7am I will be driving with my team to Holland.  Sunday we have the opening game against Holland.  Should be very exciting!  I’ve been looking forward to this tournament because I feel it is the closest thing to experiencing something like the Olympics.  Since softball is not in the Olympics anymore, an experience like this is the only way I will ever get to play different countries in softball.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I’m assuming it will be one of the coolest parts of my trip.  It really seems to bring together my entire life of softball into one last hoorah.  In past years, star players like Jennie Finch and Monica Abbot have played in this tournament.  I believe we will be playing a girl from UCLA this year.  They won the national championship this past year (UCLA beat Arizona in the championship… we played Arizona in our regional).  Another cool part of this trip is that another girl from the states will be joining us… well while that’s part of the cool part… the really cool part is that she pitched on the Dutch Olympic team!  I can’t wait to talk to her about her experience in the Olympics.

So there you have it.  The beginning of the last of my travels.  When I get home (back to Sweden), it will be the home stretch.  About three weeks until the end of my stay.  I can’t believe it, but there’s still a lot to get done before then.  One day at a time :)

Prague!

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Aug 8, 2010 | No Comments

Whew!  What a week!  I made it back safely from Prague this morning.  As it turns out, a 21 hour bus ride isn’t that bad.  In fact, it was kind of fun!  Sooo let me start from the very beginning.  I left last Friday for Prague.  The trip began around 5pm.  I won’t detail the bus ride (there isn’t much to tell beyond watching movies, sleeping, and eating); however, I did get to experience my first ferry rides!  There are ferries between Sweden and Denmark and Denmark and Germany.  The ferry from Sweden to Denmark is rather short, about twenty minutes, and the ferry from Denmark to Germany can be anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours depending on if you take the long or short one.  On the way there, we took the longer one.  On the shorter ride, we stood outside for a little because the wind was ridiculous!  We took pictures because we felt like we were going to fly away!  It was so fun.  We shared some good laughs.  When we weren’t traveling on ferries, we were on the bus crossing borders.  When our bus made stops (to give the bus driver and us a break), it was so interesting to be in a different country almost every time.

But from here, I’ll fast forward to the juicy stuff… to our arrival in Prague!  We arrived in the early evening, so Casey, Shannon, Kristen and I decided to do some exploring in the area surrounding our hotel.  We were outside the main part of town, but right away, we wanted to see what Prague had to offer.  As it turns out, around our hotels, there wasn’t much to see but we had quite a journey.  We walked on a trail that led us through the backs of houses.  I think the funniest part, though, was when Shannon started eating fruit off of trees.  From small plums to apples, she enjoyed her evening snacks.  She thought they were quite delicious, in fact, she continued to snag fruit from the trees throughout the week.  We didn’t stay out for too long, though.  We were tired from our travels and had a long week ahead of us.  Casey and I had to get up early to begin discovering Prague!  I find it in my best interest, and also yours, to list what we did and saw each day, as well as mention some highlights from the day:  The week went a little something like this:

Day 1: Astrological clock, Old Town, Charles Bridge, Royal Castle, St. Vitas’s Cathedral

We were on our way to the bridge when we rushed back to the astrological clock to see it strike at noon.  Let’s just put it this way, not sure it was worth the sprint back, but I’m glad we did it to say we saw it.  A crowd gathers around the clock at each hour to see this event.  But besides some chimes going off and a man playing the trumpet, there wasn’t much to see.  Afterwords, I felt silly recording it on my flip haha  But that’s okay!  Now I’ll always remember.

Casey and I got our very own “private tour” of the Castle.  This man was offering what were called “short tours.”  Short tours are tours that take you through the Castle and Cathedral in about 45 minutes.  Apparently eight people had just cancelled with our tour guide, so we were the only ones on it.  Not gonna lie, I felt a little sketchy, but it was fun and we laughed about it after.

Day 2: Petrin Hill, “Eiffel Tower,” Jewish Cemetery, “Favorite spot in Prague (the metronome)”

On Petrin Hill there is a smaller model of the Eiffel Tower.  It is the exact same height above sea level as the real Eiffel Tower.

The cemetery was remarkable.  Graves on top of graves signifying all of those lost during the Holocaust, very striking.

Casey and I stumbled upon our favorite spot in Prague.  Because we didn’t have a strict agenda, sometimes we just walked to and through places to see where it would take us.  In this particular instance, we walked up some stairs leading to the metronome.  The metronome sits atop a hill in the middle of a skate park.  It wasn’t always a skate park but developed into that over time.  The view from this spot was unbelievable.  Casey and I sat up there and just stared out at Prague in aw.  It was so relaxing.  We revisited it later in the week before we left.

Day 3: Shopping!

Don’t worry, Mom, I didn’t buy anything :)

Day 4: Boat ride and walked around

My favorite boat ride yet.  In every city we have visited, Casey and I have done a boat ride.  It’s kind of like “our thing.”  On this particular boat ride, the front of the boat was lined with a mat and pillows like a bed.  There were only three other people on the boat (it was a small boat and only about an hour tour).  The front of the boat was not covered, so Casey and I went to the front and laid on this mat where there was no shade.  We made ourselves comfortable and enjoyed looking back at everything we saw.  The tour guide was helpful in providing us with information about other buildings we had walked by but didn’t know anything about.

Day 5: Watched the National Team play Russia and Ukraine

It was great getting to spend time with the National team and help out before the games during their warm ups.

Day 6: Last day in town and watched the National Team play Russia, Watched a movie with friends in the hotel

Day 7: Departure

Sooo, as I said, I could go into great detail about each and every adventure, but like Sportscenter, it seems highlights are the best and most efficient ways to recap big events.  What I did not mention above is that Casey and I walked EVERYWHERE.  Our legs at the end of the day were beat.  We joked about how we did an athlete’s tour of Prague.  We saw all the major sites in Prague in two days.  By the end of our trip, it felt like we walked up and down every street.  By the end, we knew our way around pretty well if I do say so myself.  We were so proud of ourselves for finding everything we wanted to see.  As it turns out, that’s one of the most exciting things about traveling alone.  When you’re not with a group, you’re forced to do things on your own.  It was fun wandering a foreign city.  There’s no such thing as getting lost.  It was even more fun to see how this foreign city became so familiar by the end of our trip.

We didn’t feel so comfortable at first, though.  Getting to know the subway was a little more difficult than we expected.  Nothing was in English.  We had to ask people next to us who were buying tickets what to do.  They spoke little English, but we figured it out and made our way into town.  Our hotel was five stops from the center of town.  When we got off the subway, walked up the stairs and faced the vast city, we had a moment of, “Okay, what now?”  So we walked straight and started asking people which way to the Charles Bridge.  How could we go wrong walking toward a major landmark?  That’s when we stumbled into Old Town.  We walked out from a side street… and there it was.  The astrological clock sitting right in the middle of Old Town.  Even the people in front of us weren’t expecting to see it pop out and we all seemed to share a unified, “Wow.”  The architecture was gorgeous.  I’m not quite sure how to describe it.  The pastel colors mixed with the old, antique-like buildings created a beautiful scene.  As it turned out, Casey and I went through Old Town many times to sit on a bench and have a snack, to eat lunch or just walked through to get to other spots in Prague.  One night we even had dinner facing the center of town and watched the people walk by.  How Euro of us:)

Prague was one of the most fun weeks I have had.  I am so glad I took advantage of this opportunity to see another city.  I walked around the city knowing that I may never be able to see it again.  I felt so lucky to get to experience such beauty.  I was proud of myself for making my way through a weeks worth of travel finding every spot I wanted to see (and then some!).  I want to thank the National Team for allowing us to accompany them on this trip.  They not only let us travel with them, but they also let us join them for dinner some nights so we could spend time with our friends.

After a long week, I never thought I’d say this, but it feels great just sitting back and relaxing in the dungeon.  But it’s been a long week.  And the day has felt even longer.  We arrived back in Skovde around 8am this morning and at 2pm we had two games to play.  We made up the games that got rained out against Enkoping.  These were important games to play because they decided who would be seeded first for the Sweden playoffs.  Going into these games, we were in first and Enkoping was in second.  We needed to win at least one to hold our top spot.  The first game was a close one.  We went up early in the first inning.  Casey and I each had an RBI.  I hit a double to score the second run.  Slowly, Enkoping came back and tied it up.  We went extra innings.  In the top of the eighth, Enkoping scored, but we had our chance to come back.  We did a great job of getting the bunts down.  Cece ended up scoring on a pass ball to tie it up.  I came up to the plate with a runner on third.  With two outs, I hit a double to score the winning run.  Final score: 4-3.  It was so exciting to hear that with that hit we held on to first place.  In the second game, we got down early, but came back and only ended up playing five innings because we were up by seven runs in the fifth inning.  I had three RBIs in this game.  The final score, 11-4.  So there you have it, quite a week!  From site seeing to softball, I did it all.  I’m not gonna lie, being away from my team and Sweden for a week made me miss my teammates and the town in which I live.  It’s nice to be home.

Days before Prague

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 29, 2010 | No Comments

The big news is that I leave for Prague tomorrow!  26 hours may be a long time on a bus, but I’m excited to be spending it with my friends.  Leading up to this trip, I had a nice and relaxing week.  Tuesday I went on a Canal tour with Anzo, her fiancee, Jan, and her baby Oliver.  It was a Canal tour that rides the water in between Gothenburg and Stockholm.  The Canal is famous because it was built by hand by 58,000 men!  It ended up being a perfect day for a boat tour.  The scenery was just gorgeous.  It’s nice to enjoy the greenery they have here in Sweden.  It’s different than the flat, open land we have in the midwest.  The four of us enjoyed a nice lunch on the boat.  Salmon… mmmmm…  Besides enjoying the tour, it was great spending time with Anzo.  We always have fun together.

Later that evening, I met Lina, Lisa and Casey for dinner, and then we headed back to the dungeon to watch a movie.  We watched The Hangover.  The Hangover is one of my favorite movies.  It’s nice to get some American laughs every once in a while.  I love spending time with my friends just relaxing and watching a movie because it reminds me of what I do with my friends back at home over the summer.

Wednesday was a quiet day.  I had no fun adventures planned, but just used the day to relax.  Besides my daily trip to the gym, I picked up my Czech money at the bank and had practice in the early evening.  At night I Skyped with my mom!  Yay!

Today is a pretty gloomy day, but that’s fine with me because I used the day to pack and get ready for my trip to Prague!  Tonight I have a barbeque with some of my teammates.  It’s always great to spend time with them outside of softball.  They’re so much fun!  After this barbeque, it will be time to think about travel.  I am very excited… and not gonna lie, I’m also a little nervous.  I think it will be a good break from my daily routine.  Everyone I have talked to has commented on how beautiful Prague is, so I am looking forward to walking around with Casey and seeing everything that I can.  We plan to see everything from Old Town and the clock to the Charles Bridge to Petrin Hill.  At least one of the days we are there, we plan to watch the National team play in the tournament.  Because of this trip it may be a while until I get back to blogging, so don’t think that I’ve forgot!  I will make sure to update you when I get back!

Split and Games Cancelled due to Rain

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 26, 2010 | No Comments

This weekend was another softball filled weekend.  It started early Saturday morning when we hit the road at 630am to play Soder.  Soder is one of the better teams in our league, so we knew we had some tough games ahead of us.  The first game was a close one.  In eight innings, we came up just short and lost 2-1.  We were playing from behind the entire game when Soder scored a run in the first inning.  But we kept ourselves in it and didn’t allow a run after that.  In the sixth inning, I started off the inning with a double.  Lina did a great job of hitting me in to score the tying run.  Neither team was able to score in the seventh, so extra innings it was.  We started with a runner on second in the eighth inning (tie breaker rules).  We advanced the runner to third with a great bunt by Lisa, but we were unable to score.  That lost opportunity hurt us when Soder came up to bat.  They, too, bunted the runner on second over to third.  With their three hitter up, they chose to have her bunt.  She got the bunt down, but it was not a suicide situation.  The runner on third was not running home.  Casey fielded the bunt, but when she tried to make a play at the runner on third, she overthrew the bag and the run scored.  It was anyone’s game.

In between games, I noted the team’s attitude.  No one was particularly down about the game, myself included.  We knew it was close.  We had a chance to win.  It was important to brush off the loss because soon after we would start the second game.  I admired and respected the attitude my teammates had about the game.  Swedes are easy going people, and that attitude was also reflected in how they deal with sports.  Perhaps it is also because softball is more of a hobby to the girls, and they know whatever happens will not have a dramatic effect on them in the end.  Whatever the explanation may be, they understand that a loss is not the end of the world.  They understand that there is always another game, always another day.  It has taken me years of practice and experience to have such a positive approach to the game.  My years of training have helped me deal with tough situations in a positive, productive way.

Staying positive helped us in the second game.  Again, we were playing from behind.  Early on, Soder scored four runs.  It wasn’t until late in the game that we came back and tied it up.  I scored the first run when I hit a triple, and Lina picked up her second RBI of the day when she hit me in.  After that, we pieced some hits together and tied up the ball game.  We were able to pull ahead when Casey was on third and there was a pass ball.  We held on to that one run lead and ended up winning 5-4.  I love how our team came together in this game and never gave up.  I’ve noticed that Skovde has a resilience I don’t see in most teams.  I feel that because they have five championships under their belts, they know what it takes to win and they don’t like to lose.  The experience they have is invaluable and has pulled us through some close games.  It was important that we won the second game in order to stay on top of the standings.  It also made the car ride home a little more enjoyable :)

I had a couple of friends I’ve met in my time here on the Soder team, so after the game we socialized and took some pictures together.  One of my favorite aspects about sports is how on the field outside relationships tend to fade and all that matters is the game.  After the game, it’s like you become human again and nothing on the field ever happened.  Your friends are still and will always be your friends.

Sunday was not as nice of a day.  I think it was one of the most miserable days we’ve had in Sweden (which still isn’t that bad to most Swedes because I’ve been so lucky to experience such great weather!).  The rain was light in the morning, giving us hopes that we could squeeze in our games against second place Enkopping, but as the day went on, the rain fell harder making our field unplayable.  We tried everything we could from adding extra dirt around the bases to tarping the field with ripped garbage bags.  We even took garbage bags and poked holes in them and put them over our bodies to keep dry and stay warm.  The rain kept falling.  It was cold and windy as we waited out the delay.  Despite the miserable weather, times like these are always nice team bonding moments.  I got to see and talk with my American friends on the other team, Kristen and Shannon.  When my team headed to the locker room for lunch, we sat there and shared some good laughs.  Emelie and I sat huddled under a blanket to try and keep warm.  Eventually, the umpire and the coaches thought it best to call the games.  We are not sure when these games will be made up.  It is important that we try and get them in because the results of the games will effect the standings.

So with the rest of the day off and the rain continuing to fall in Skovde, some of my teammates and I thought it would be a perfect evening to see a movie.  Inception was recently released here (movies come out a little later here than in the states), and with all the buzz around the states about it, we had to see it for ourselves.  My brother and sister told me they were really confused after seeing it (in fact, I believe my brother told me, “I just walked out of the theater and have no idea what just happened”), so I paid extra close attention to the details.  I think this warning helped me because I completely understood it and loved it!  I thought it was very well done.  The actors were fantastic.  Lina, Casey and Lisa also thoroughly enjoyed it.  And in case I haven’t mentioned it, now might be a good time to bring up another cultural difference between the United States and Sweden.  Here in Sweden, you have assigned seats at the theater.  Similar to buying tickets to a sporting event for example.  When you buy your tickets you also chose where you’d like to sit.  Inception was nearly sold out, so having our assigned seats allowed us to arrive to the theater about fifteen minutes before it started.  Where as in the states, if a movie is just opening, you typically arrive very early to make sure you can get tickets and get good seats.

Today, it’s still rather cool in Skovde.  The clouds have not broken, but it has not rained today.  Later this evening we have practice.  I plan on having live hitting while trying to work with my teammates on developing faster hands.  I noticed this past weekend when we faced faster pitching some of the girls struggled more than usual.  Any drills that we can do to quicken our hands will also help us in Holland at the Euro Cup when we face the best competition of the season.

Gone Fishin’

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 23, 2010 | No Comments

On my day off yesterday, Lina and I went fishing.  What started off as a cool and rainy morning ended up being a beautiful day.  We started our day with a trip to the gym and straight from there we picked up our fishing gear at Lina’s house and headed to the lake.  We went to the lake near Lina’s house.  I have never been to this one before.  It was quiet and peaceful.  We walked down to the water and prepared our poles.  I say this like I knew what I was doing, but I let Lina handle this because I have never really been fishing before.  I remember going on a boat fishing when I was younger and being taught how to fish, but that was so long ago, I had no idea where to begin.  Lina set up the kid pole for me.  It was easier to use than the “grown up” pole she used.  We walked to a dock near by the shore.  We both had difficulties at first.  Lina got her line stuck in a tree and I couldn’t get mine to go very far.  But with practice, we got the hang of it and became pros.  I shouldn’t sound too cocky, though, because Lina and I left the lake with no fish in hand.  We even tried sticking a net in the water and scooping the tiny fish out, but we failed at that, too.  But I wouldn’t say our fishing trip was a failure because we had a lot of fun.  And now I can say I’ve been fishing in Sweden!

The clouds broke later in the day, so Lina and I relaxed on the lawn next to my apartment before dinner.  Lina is going to school in the states, so we talked about life in the states and life in Sweden.  I feel that I am going through a similar situation to what Lina will be experiencing.  I try to help her by pointing out main cultural differences between Sweden and the states.  For instance, I try to explain how in the states things move much quicker.  Simple things like service at a coffee shop or McDonalds move much faster.  People seem a little more high strung in the states, not as laid back as in Sweden.  I also try to tell her what I’ve been feeling since arriving in Sweden and how I felt when I first went away to college, both of which started out without nerves and excitement.  It was nice to talk to her about things.  I think we both find talking about stuff like that helpful.

We went out separate ways for dinner, but met up after dinner to go bowling!  There is a bowling alley located in the same facility as the gym, so we reserved a lane.  Casey and Amanda also joined us.  I wish I could say I won, but Amanda’s strike after strike was hard to beat.  I think my favorite part of the night, though, was watching the Padres play the Braves.  I got to see Major League Baseball!  The bowling alley turned on ESPN America right above our lane special since there was a soccer game on other people there wanted to watch.  It was the first time I had ever seen a soccer game take precedence over baseball.  Only in Europe :) But after we bowled a couple rounds we sat and talked at the tables located right behind the lanes.  The game was still on so we watched the end of that as well.  Juha and some of his friends also met us at the alley.  It was great to just sit around and talk with everyone.  We shared some good laughs.  I love spending time with my team because I feel like I get to know them better on a more personal level than just as a player on the field.  Usually hangout sessions like that are the things you most remember.  We called it a night when the bowling alley was closing.  I was exhausted and ready to go to bed.

I’ve been chilling in the dungeon, today, because unfortunately its cool and cloudy (but I really can’t be complaining about the weather :) As much as I like to be active, it’s nice to have a day where I can just rest.  I have a lot of travel coming up in August, so I try and value these times where I can just sit on the couch and relax.  We have practice tonight, so I look forward to hanging out with my team and preparing for four tough games this weekend.  Tomorrow we travel to Stockholm to play Soder and Sunday we have home games against Enkopping.  I have gotten to know one of the Americans on the Enkopping team pretty well (I met her the day Casey and I helped the national team), so I’m excited to see her.  It should be a fun weekend and hopefully the weather will hold up and we can get these games in!

My Softball Family

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 21, 2010 | No Comments

I’m almost two months into my trip, so I thought I’d take this blog to do the usual, update you on the events from the past couple of days, and also do a little reflecting.  Since our return to good ol’ Skovde late Sunday night, I have traveled to a town called Hjo (pronounced “You”) and had dinner at my Coach’s house.  I’ve also done my daily trips to the gym as well as held our Monday/Wednesday practices.

Hjo is a small town about half an hour away from Skovde.  It has a pool and a beach, so Lina, Casey and I thought it would be nice to get a change of scenery.  Before we left for the day trip, we went to the bank and exchanged money for our trip to Prague!  Yep, that’s right, in about a week, Casey and I will be joining the national team on a 26 hour bus ride to Prague!  Casey and I will be going for pleasure (we’re taking about a week off before serious preparing for the Euro Cup), but the national team was nice enough to let us hop on their bus (since they have a tournament there) for the ride.  So to prepare for this adventure, the three of us needed to gather some money for the trip.  After these technical issues were taken care of, we hopped in Lina’s car and drove to Hjo.

The town itself was very small.  We drove right up to the lake.  We walked along the lake to get to the pool on a small road that goes through town.  This road was lined with shops and eateries.  We sat at the pool all day because the lake water was still too cold to swim in.  We got back to Skovde in the early evening so Casey and I could prepare for dinner at Anzo’s house.  Priya and Wendel (Priya’s boyfriend) also joined us for this evening.  I was so excited to get a taste of Swedish home cooking.  My Prima salads are delicious, but it’s nice to change it up every once in a while.  Anzo made delicious pork with potatoes and salad.  It was her first time making this dish, I very much approved :) For dessert, she made homemade brownies with freshly whipped cream and strawberries picked from her yard.  I told Anzo and Priya that I had never had homemade brownies before.  And I’ve never whipped my own cream.  I explained how the brownies I/Americans eat are made from mix from a box and we buy whip cream from a can.  We all had a good laugh as I explained to them how little I knew about cooking and making brownies from a mix was right up my alley :) After dinner, we relaxed in front of the TV and watched So You Think You Can Dance.

This night opened my eyes to something, so I thought now would be a good time to do some reflecting.  I’ve been in Sweden for almost two months, and I’m starting to feel a little home sick.  My first couple of weeks away at college I missed home, but the feeling I have now is different.  It’s new.  Not being able to pick up my cell phone and call my family and friends is hard.  You take for granted what a simple hello can do for you over the phone when you’re missing someone.  I’ve tried to keep myself busy when I’m not playing softball by traveling and hanging out with friends, but thoughts of home still go through my mind.  I’ve tried to think of ways to ease the pain, and today, I think I came up with something that may help.  As an American in a foreign country, you can start to feel a little lonely.  When you stay in one place for a long time, things can get repetitive.  It’s great to have Casey to talk to, but sometimes it’s nice to have other people around who understand.  That’s why meeting Americans on the other teams we play is so refreshing and exciting.  But I realized something today, I am far from alone in Sweden.  I may miss my family, but I have a family in Sweden, too.  My team is my family.  Softball has always provided me with that benefit.  From being away at college to being abroad in Sweden, there are moments my family and friends miss out on.  When you want people to talk to, to share things with, my softball family has filled that void.  At Anzo’s house last night, I was hanging out with some people in my softball family.  We talked and laughed together around the dinner table.  And it was only through looking back that I realized how special team sports really are.  For four years in college, I was on the Cornell University softball team.  I came out of that experience with lifelong friends.  Some of the people on that team know me better than anyone ever will.  While I will not be playing softball in Sweden for four years, I’ve realized I’m developing lifelong friendships.  From eight hour car rides to away games, to hanging out at the pool with teammates, to playing a double header over the weekend, I’ve gotten to know my teammates better.  They’ve become my friends, my family.  That’s one of the beauties of sports.

It is this common interest that speaks to people.  Athletics are like a universal language.  In Sweden, softball is seen more as a hobby than a lifestyle.  It is something the girls play for fun.  It’s a sport with which not many people are familiar.  It’s growing.  For most of my life, I’d, too, say that softball was a hobby, but as I started to take it more seriously, it became more of a lifestyle.  A four year commitment to a sport at a Division I school requires sacrifices.  Softball took priority in certain cases, unlike students who did not play a sport.  I never let softball control my life, but I have let it become a huge part of who I am.  And yet, even though I have come to view and experience softball differently than most Swedes, it’s something to which we can all relate.  I play softball because it’s fun.  These girls in Sweden do the same.  We joke and laugh on the field.  We take practices seriously and try to help each other improve.  Overtime, you develop a certain bond with these people.  One of the reasons sports are so special is because they provide you with lasting relationships.  Sure, they force you to understand commitment and hard work, but they also teach you how to interact with all sorts of people.  It is that which I value most.  I value these relationships.  So even though on the Saints we all come from different backgrounds and have a range of talent, we speak to each other through softball.  We get to know each other through playing, through spending time with one another, and it is because of that, I know I never have to feel alone.  I am in a gorgeous country with some of the nicest people I will ever meet, experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Softball has opened many doors for me.  I feel very lucky to have this opportunity and to have so many people a part of my softball family.

Weekend of Fun and Games

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 19, 2010 | No Comments

Before I write my blog about the weekend, I wanted to mention a couple of things I forgot to say in my last post.  To start with, I can’t believe I forgot to mention that I Skyped with my mom and brother for the first time last week!  It was pretty hard to communicate with my family via bbm and emails, so it was great to finally hear their voices and see their faces.  We tried again later in the week, but the video wasn’t working so my mom and I basically had a phone call over the computer.  Hopefully this week we can get things working again.

The other thing I wanted to make note of is that Thursday night before we left for the weekend, Casey and I hung out with some of our friends.  We went over to Marcus’ house who we play sand volleyball with.  Juha was there (a member of the Skovde baseball team) and they also had some other friends there who we had not met before.  The fun thing about this experience was how nice everyone was.  Casey and I have mentioned on many different occasions one of our favorite things about Sweden is the people.  Everyone is so nice and welcoming here.  On Thursday night, we had even more reason to back that up.  The girls were very friendly and always tried to include us in every conversation.  The boys were just as friendly.  When they would talk in Swedish, they would always make an effort to translate what they were talking about in English so we could be part of the conversation.  They tried to talk about things that we could talk about as well.  Before leaving, I sang Outkast’s Hey Ya! on the karaoke video game with a girl that was there .  I thought I did well until I realized I was looking at the wrong color the entire time haha  Oopsies.

But now about the weekend!  We had four games this weekend.  On Saturday we played Sundsvall and on Sunday we played Lexsand.  Friday was a day filled with driving (about eight hours with stops), but it was fun to be on the road with my teammates and drive through parts of Sweden I had never been before.  The Sundsvall games went well as we won both.  The second game was much closer and more exciting than the first.  In fact, we were losing going into the top of the sixth and managed to come back and tie the game.  In the seventh inning, we went ahead by two runs and held onto the lead in the bottom of the seventh.  It was the closest game we’ve had yet (since I’ve been here) and you could tell everyone was nervous but excited to play a more challenging game.   After all, that’s what sports are all about.  After the game, Casey and I talked to one of the field umpires who was from New Jersey.  He is an American playing on the Sundsvall baseball team.  It is always nice to meet people from the states here who are going through a similar situation.  He was very nice and now were even official friends on Facebook! :) We even have a friend in common who I went to school with at Cornell.  Small world.

After the games, we hit the road again and headed to Lexsand.  We did not stay in a hotel this night, but rather one of my teammates lives in Lexsand and had cabins her family owned that she let us stay in.  We arrived there late, but in this case, it was nice that the sun doesn’t set until late because we still had some sunlight to find our way around.  It was quite an experience.  The cabins were from the 1800s.  They reminded me of the small house I went to in Skovde that survived the fire.  The woodwork and even the items in the houses seemed like something out of a museum.  I slept with Lina, Casey and Emilie in one of the houses on the second floor.  The beds were a little short, so I had some adjusting to do throughout the night.  It also took some getting used to the hygiene situation.  The running water was located in a different house from where we were sleeping.  I brushed my teeth in a kitchen sink and went to the bathroom in an outhouse located out back.  In order to signal that the outhouse was in use, there was a blue flag you put up right outside.  So now I can officially say that I have used an outhouse… not many city girls can say that :) I think my favorite part, though, was waking up in the morning and seeing the beautiful view of the lake.  The scenery was so relaxing.  Lina and Ducky (my teammate who owns the cabins) even went for a swim in the lake in the morning.  After we packed up and ate breakfast, we headed to our games.  We won both games against Lexsand!  Unfortunately, though, we didn’t escape the weekend without some bumps and bruises.  Fia got hit in the arm with a ball and Lisa got hit in the nose by her own foul ball.  Not fun.  Since we were short on players this weekend, with Lisa out, Fia had to stay in the game.  At bat, she swung with one arm and in the field she just stood in right field because we didn’t want her to get more hurt than she already was.  We all got a laugh when she went up to the plate and got hit by a pitch.  What are the chances of that?  She already got hit by a ball in the field, and now all she had to do was stand at the plate and she got hit by a pitch.  Fia got a good laugh out of it, too :) Even with these lineup changes, we managed to come out on top.  On the weekend, I had several extra base hits and at least 5 RBIs.  I was about six inches away from a home run against Sundsvall.  Oh well.  You know what they say, close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades :) I’ve been playing short stop every game, and though that is not a position I am used to (having played third base my entire life), I find some comfort in playing on the left side of the infield.  I learned a lot about short stop from observing over the years and I’m getting more comfortable with it each game.  And I’m not really someone who keeps track of my stats which is why I haven’t really been writing about them haha  So whenever I remember or get the chance, I will do my best to update you.

I also talked to the American on the Lexsand team in between games, and again, small world, she was from Chicago!  She was from Elk Grove and went to the University of Dayton.  She also introduced me to one of the American baseball players who was helping their team out for the day.  Both of them were very nice and also sounded like they were having the time of their life in Sweden.

I had so much fun playing games this weekend.  The approach to the games are so much more care free and relaxed than college.  I feel like it’s how softball should be played.  I appreciate the commitment and intensity in college, but having played for so many years now, it’s nice to just go on the field, relax and have some fun.  We were so lucky to have absolutely gorgeous weather for the games this weekend.  It made playing that much more fun.  We have four more games this coming weekend, so we plan on taking it easy at practice this week, but still work on things we can improve.  We are always looking for ways to improve as our goals this season are to win the Sweden title for the sixth year in a row and perform our best at the Euro Cup in Holland in August.

Business as Usual

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 15, 2010 | No Comments

I used this past week to recover from Stockholm and get ready for a weekend filled with softball.  From trips to the gym to practice to yep, you guessed it, more sand volleyball, the week was relaxing and fun.  I think yesterday was one of my favorite days.  It started with a morning trip to the gym.  When I got home, Lina, Casey and I headed to the lake to play some sand volleyball with our friends.  It was a special day, though, at sand volleyball because we grilled.  We spent most of the day at the lake, so we brought some dogs and the guys brought some burgers.  We threw them on the one-time grills and enjoyed some lunch.  Grilling dogs and burgers made Casey and I feel right at home.  I guess you could say it was like the fourth of July we never had.  In the evening, we went to practice.  We’ve had good practices this week because we have four games this weekend.  Usually we only play two in a weekend, but due to rescheduling from rain, we have four games the next couple of weekends.  After practice, Casey, Lina, Annelie and I went night swimming!  The four of us went to a near by lake (the one I went to before, right next to where I went mini golfing) and took a dip in the bath water.  The water felt warmer than the air.  I think what made this experience most fun was that since the sun is up for so long here, you can do activities like this at night (we went around 9pm) and it is not too dark to see.  Other than that, this week was pretty low key.  I’m mentally and physically preparing for the eight hour car ride we have tomorrow to Sundsvall.  The next day we travel to Lexsand which is about six hours from Skovde.  Woooo.  Sounds like a travel weekend at Cornell on the Swarthout buses only this time there is no coach bus.  We are renting a van and will be taking a car.  But no worries, thanks to my sister, I have brand new music that I put on some CDs for the car ride.  It may not be eight hours worth, but it will do.  So next time I check in I will have the weekend results!

Weekend in Stockholm

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 12, 2010 | No Comments

This past weekend I did not have games, so Casey and I thought it would be a good time to spend a couple of days in Stockholm.  We bought our tickets earlier in the week for this weekend adventure.  Our plan was to leave Saturday morning around 730am.  We would arrive in Stockholm close to 11am.  We would spend the night in a hotel and then leave the following day around 5pm.

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early.  Everything went according to plan.  We caught our train and arrived in Stockholm a little before 11am.  We went straight to our hotel that was conveniently located right above the train station.  As it turned out, it was a perfect location.  To our surprise, though, check in wasn’t until 2pm, however, the lady told us that she would probably have a room ready for us close to noon.  So until the clock struck noon, Casey and I walked around for a little bit.  We first went to a near by hotel which was supposed to be where you could book boat tours of Stockholm.  Again, to our surprise, it was not where you could book Canal tours but the lady at the information desk was very helpful in pointing us in the right direction to do so.  After we figured out those logistics, Casey and I went to a near by park and enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenery until check in.  Around noon, we got our room, dropped our stuff off and went on our way, exploring Stockholm.

We started by heading toward Old Town.  Casey had visited Stockholm briefly with her mother earlier in her trip so she was already familiar with the area.  Her familiarity was very useful and made sight seeing a lot easier.  She led the way.  On our way to Old Town we came across Stockholm’s City Hall.  It was a beautiful, old building that had a wonderful view of the city and water.  After taking some pictures, we went on our way to the Royal Palace.  Along the way, we stopped at different boat touring stands to try and book our tour for the following day.  The first stand was not the correct location, however, they were very helpful in pointing us in the right direction.  After that brief stop we eventually we made it to the palace.  It was nothing I had ever seen before.  The view of the town was pretty and the area it was located in was very nice.  I think my favorite part, though, was that in entering this touristy area I heard people speaking English!  Yay!  It was so exciting to hear other tourists.  Casey and I don’t see many Americans in Skovde, so we always take note when this happens.  After we went through outdoor areas in and around the Palace and took some pictures, we made our way to another boating stand.  Again, it was not the one we wanted, but the man told us the exact location of where we wanted to go.  We walked to where he said and sure enough, the third time is the charm.  We made it to the stand where we could book our Archipelago boat tour.  We decided to take an early tour to make sure we would be back in time for our train that evening.

Once we took care of business, Casey and I just spent the rest of the day walking around Stockholm.  While wandering, we came across the Stockholm Street Festival.  Two men were performing types of acrobatics in the middle of a stage-like area.  Around this area there were all different types of stands set up selling various goods from jewelry to candy.  We also met up with one of our friends we’ve met in Sweden named Janna.  The three of us enjoyed a Fika.  My first official Fika!  I had a smoothie.  I feel like a true Swede when I sit back, relax and enjoy this break in the day.  It was so nice to Janna to join us.

It wasn’t long before Janna left and Casey and I had to head back to our hotel because we had to get ready for our reservation at the Absolut Ice Bar.  This world famous bar is made completely of ice.  Reservations only last for 45 minutes because it’s so cold in the bar (-5 degrees Celsius).  We got dressed up in our dresses, but added some extra layers to fight the cold.  The bar was right around the corner from our hotel.

Before entering the bar, you are given a cape-type coat with gloves attached.  We entered through the doors, and Voila!  Indeed, it was very cold but it was the coolest thing I had ever seen.  Tables, chairs, walls, the bar, even the cups were made of ice!  Casey and I made sure to take a lot of pictures to capture this once-in-a-lifetime experience.  And again, to our excitement, we heard a lot of English from other tourists.  In fact, I said to a nice couple, “Well, I guess we know where all the Americans go.”  We started talking to them and they happened to be from Ohio.  Yay for the Midwest!  I asked if he was sad that Lebron left the Cavs.  He hadn’t heard of this yet in his travels, so I was the bearer of bad news.  Oopsies.  He was surprised and never thought he would leave.  After our brief chat, we walked around, but the bar itself was rather small.  Yet it was still a great place to walk around and take a picture in every pose possible.

Once I was shivering and Casey couldn’t feel her toes anymore, it was time to leave.  We went back to our hotel to take off our cold gear and then we went to dinner.  We found a nice sushi restaurant right near our hotel as well.  I have a friend from Cornell, Max, who is interning in Stockholm this summer, so he met us at the restaurant.  It was so great to see him!  After dinner, he took us to a nice outside bar where we sat and talked and had wine for a couple of hours.  It was great to get a taste of home while abroad.  The three of us had had a long day, so when it started getting late, we called it a night.  Max went back home while Casey and I thought it would be cool to walk around the city since it was such a beautiful night.  After about an hour of walking we went back to our hotel and called it a night.  We had to be up early for our Archipelago boat tour.

Our alarms were set and we woke up to have breakfast and get to our tour.  The continental breakfast at the hotel was absolutely delicious, puts American continental breakfasts to shame.  From the traditional bread, cheese, cucumber sandwiches, to yogurt, to cereal to eggs, they had it all.  Casey and I filled up and went on our way.

We got to our boat early so we could make sure to get a good spot on the boat.  We sat on one of the sides.  The boat tour was absolutely gorgeous.  Stockholm is made up of about 30,000 islands so this tour took us to see some of the surrounding islands.  The scenery reminded me of Lake Geneva.  It was a very warm and sunny day in Stockholm so everyone was out on the water.  With boats and jet skiers in the water and big, beautiful houses lining the water, it felt like when I visit friends at Lake Geneva.  After the boat tour, Casey and I walked around Stockholm for a little longer before catching our train home.  We stayed in the same area as yesterday, a central area right near the large NK shopping center.  It was another beautiful day so it was nice walking around enjoying the weather.

We caught our train home and before going to bed we watched the World Cup Championships.  First Fika, now watching soccer, I feel like I’m becoming so Euro haha

Today, I write this sitting out on the lawn outside under a tree of our apartment enjoying the nice weather.  It feels nice to be back in the small town of Skovde.  In visiting a big city, I’ve learned to appreciate the town in which I live.  It’s interesting how something so unknown can become so familiar.  I still remember my first day going to Lina’s graduation, walking past places like the train station, having no idea where I was, and now I find those places with ease on my own.  It was nice to visit another city in Sweden, though, to get a taste of the city life.  Stockholm wasn’t as busy or stressful as I thought it would be.  The old architecture made for beautiful scenery.  And the handful of Americans we met and heard made me feel not so alone; I didn’t feel like the only American touring Sweden anymore, besides Casey.  It was a great way to spend our weekend off.  I got to see some friends, Swedish and American, and see a new city, something I don’t take for granted because these experiences may never happen again.

Quiet Week

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 9, 2010 | No Comments

This week Casey and I took it easy.  Besides the usual mornings at sand volleyball and our trips to the gym, it was a pretty quiet week for us.  We had practice Monday and Wednesday.  I was very happy with practice this week.  Not as many people were there on Monday but we were efficient and effective with our hitting.  Wednesday more of the team showed up and we also ran effective situational drills and pop up drills.  We’re trying to work on communication with the girls as I have learned from college its importance during a game.  Unfortunately, today, practice was cancelled because everyone had other commitments.  It appears that with the weekend off people are taking full advantage of the free time.

Thursday I did a little exploring around Ithaca.  Similar to Chicago, Skovde was destroyed by a fire in the 18th century, so I took it upon myself to visit the only remaining house.  I went to the tourist office in town to find out where it was.  I had no idea I was virtually walking next to it everyday!  I met an old woman on my visit who worked at the fair trade shop.  She was so kind and showed me the pieces around her store and answered any questions I had.  After I spoke with her, I went next door to the house.  I was so surprised to see how small it was.  The ceilings were so low even I almost touched the top!  I had to duck to walk through the doorways.  I was happy I took my off time to explore this landmark because I want to make sure I do as much as I can and see as much as I can in my time here.

As I write this blog I’m sitting in the dungeon just watching TV, how Casey and I like to spend our quiet nights.  It feels great to relax.  We’ve been preparing this week for our weekend adventure to Stockholm!  I have never been to Stockholm, so I am very excited.  I have a friend from college who is also there this summer so I hope that I can see him this weekend.  We wake up bright and early to catch our 720am train.  Annelie, my teammate, was so kind to get us a discount on a hotel for the night.  I’m excited to see a big city.  From what I’ve heard, Stockholm is busier and more stressful than a city like Gothenburg.  I look forward to experiencing this atmosphere because maybe it will remind me of home!

Fun and Games

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jul 5, 2010 | 1 Comment

From Wednesday to today (Monday), June has gone and July has come.  The end of last week was very relaxing.  As usual, I had practice, hung out at the lake with my friends and played sand volleyball.  I especially enjoyed Thursday.  As Lina and Lisa say, it was, “the best day ever.”  It started with some sand volleyball at the lake.  Then, in the afternoon, the three of us went to another lake near by that I have not been to yet.  It was much more crowded.  We sat out in the sun until the early evening.  Now may be a good time to mention how the sun never really goes down here.  There’s only about 3-4 hours of darkness.  It’s actually pretty cool.  When it’s a nice night, it’s neat that you can stay out here pretty late.  The sun usually sets around 11pm and rises around 3am.  If you want to go to bed early, though, it’s a little hard because it feels like daytime.  But anywhooo… I digress… After we enjoyed the water and the rays, we walked over to a mini golf course that was right next to the lake.  It was Lina versus me.  Lisa was the official score keeper.  I won… I mean Americans always win ;) After golf, we sat down outside and had some ice cream.  A perfect end to a perfect day.

On Friday, our team helped work a soccer camp at a local school in Skovde.  Casey and I woke up bright and early to be at the school by 6am.  From 6-11am we prepared and served breakfast and prepared lunch.  We didn’t interact with the kids much because we were busy running back and forth from the kitchen to the cafeteria making sure the food was stocked and the area was clean.  My main duty was to make orange juice.  I poured orange juice concentrate into a pitcher and added water.  The most important part was the taste test.  I think the kids liked it because one girl asked if she could keep taking more.  I think they liked it because it was like American orange juice… nice and sugary :)

Saturday we had two games!  Yay!  We drove to Norrkopping which is about three hours away.  It was a beautiful day and one of the hottest yet (about 30 degrees celsius so thats about 70 degrees fahrenheit).  We won both!  The first game was 15-3 and the second game was 25-5… I think :) Not close games but it was nice to finally play.  Practice can get boring when you don’t have games for a while.  Speaking of practice… recently Casey and I have taken on more of a Coach’s role at practice.  We run and organize drills.  One of the things I appreciate and enjoy is how responsive my teammates are to the suggestions we have.  They are always listening to our advice and trying to improve their mechanics.

Sunday was the fourth of July, but being in Sweden that didn’t really mean much.  Besides an occasional, “Oh yeah, it’s the 4th… happy Independence Day…”  It lacked fireworks, BBQ and the beach.  We had to work another shift at the soccer camp as well.  This time we were on clean up duty.  Not really celebrating the fourth was a little sad and it’s at times like these I really learn to appreciate the small things at home.  This experience has opened my eyes to an amazing culture and people and at the same time, it makes me appreciate so many things I take for granted at home.  I miss my family and friends.  I miss driving a car.  I miss seeing signs in English.  But at the same time, I love how nice the people are here.  I love the bathrooms… yes the bathrooms (they have individual bathrooms… your own sink and toilet at every public place… no stalls… great privacy! haha and the way the toilets flush is so cool).  I love how relaxed Skovde is.  I guess that’s what travel can do, it makes you appreciate what you don’t have.

Liseberg!

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 29, 2010 | No Comments

Yesterday was a fairly typical day here in Skovde, morning trip to the gym, walked around town for a bit and then sat out and caught some rays in the beautiful Sweden sun.  Before practice Lina and I took a short walk around town as another way to enjoy the weather.  I ran practice and incorporated a drill I learned in college.  I never thought I’d be practicing these drills again, but it’s great to see that I can use everything my Coach taught me to help these girls.  While they catch on to drills quickly, I’ve learned that it is necessary to start with more of the basics.  I think that is the most beneficial thing right now since there is such a wide range of talent on the team.

But today, involved much different activity and less softball.  Casey, Lina, Anzo and I went to Liseberg!… the amusement park in Gothenberg!  Before we got to the park, we went to a couple of stores and visited Anzo’s fiancee, Jan, at work.  We all went to lunch together.  We went to a restaurant right below his offices.  We ate outside and it was absolutely delicious.  I haven’t had a bad meal yet in Gothenberg!  After lunch, we went to the park.  It was so fun as we took advantage of all the rides it had to offer.  The park was much smaller than what I am used to at home at Six Flags Great America, but I still had a great time.  The rides are also not as big and the lines are MUCH shorter (today might have been a quieter day at the park because it was a Tuesday).  They had a ride that was similar to the wooden American Eagle at Great America.  It was one of my favorites.  They also had a couple water rides which made the three of us laugh and wet!  🙂  I even tried some of the games they had.  What’s interesting about the games in Sweden is that the prizes are not abnormally large stuffed animals, but rather, they are food!!  A wheel spins and you place your money on which number you think it will land on.  If you guess right you get a HUGE candy bar or even a HUGE bag of chips, depending on which station you go to.  The huge candy bars are filled with many small packages of candy, while the huge bag of chips are filled with smaller bags.  Everyone seemed to be walking around the parks with the ultimate prizes but none of us could seem to guess right.  Before we left, Anzo won two tiny candy bars… I guess that’s better than none :) One of my other teammates, Cece, also works in Gothenberg so she met us at the park right before we left.  Anzo went with her fiancee while the four of us grabbed dinner before we caught the train home.  We stopped at a local cafe similar to the one Casey and I went to the first time we went Gothenberg.  After our meal, it was time to head home.  Another great day to add to the amazing experiences I’ve already had!

Skara Sommerland

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 27, 2010 | No Comments

What a perfect way to end a perfect week.  Annelie, Lina, Emilie and I went to Skara Sommerland!… a water park!  I can’t remember the last time I went to a water park.  It was so much fun!  The weather has remained gorgeous, so we took advantage of it.  We got there around 2 pm.  For the entire day (literally until the park was closing) we enjoyed all the water rides Sommerland had to offer.  It was a blast!  For lunch we went to a taco buffet at the park.  It was right next to where we set up our towels.  I was so excited for this lunch because I LOVE tacos and I feel like I haven’t had them in forever!  It was yummmyyyy.  After lunch before jumping back on some rides we played a game of Yahtzee that Emilie brought.  Once our stomachs were settled, we did the rides we didn’t do the first time around.  We stayed at the park until it closed… I’d say we got our money’s worth ;) For dinner, Casey and I hit up our spot… Prima.  And now as I write this, Casey and I are sitting in the dungeon watching Old School… nothing like good American humor.

I love Midsommar

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 26, 2010 | No Comments

Yesterday was Midsommar.  It was an unbelievably good time.  I shall start from the beginning and explain (in as G-rated version as possible) the day’s festivities.

Midsommar is a national drinking holiday (sorry to break it to you mom and dad).  Sweden shuts down and everyone celebrates the longest day of the year.  The longest day was actually earlier in the week, but it was celebrated on Friday because it was the weekend.  It is one of the biggest holidays in Sweden.  It’s similar to Christmas.

When we woke up on this glorious day, it was another beautiful day in Skovde.  Perfect weather for an outdoor party at Anzo’s house.  Lina came around 130pm to pick us up.  We picked up Cece and her boyfriend on the way.  When we got there people were just hanging out outdoors.  We joined them for a little bit.  Soon after our arrival, Casey and I joined Priya and a couple others in picking flowers… a Midsommar tradition.  We were told to pick seven different kinds of flowers.  When you get home, you put these flowers under your bed and you are supposed to dream about the man you marry.  I ended up forgetting my flowerst, so I can’t give you any details about my future husband.  When we got back to the house we hung out a little more.  It wasn’t long before we had some lunch.  We gathered around a long table Anzo set up in the front yard.  At each seat there was a pamphlet she made with drinking songs accompanied by a shot glass… Swedes don’t mess around.  Throughout the meal, we sang these songs (most of which were in Swedish so I just sat there and laughed).  It was so fun to see everyone get so into this day.  The meal was very different than what I am used to but everything was very good.  The main thing everyone wanted me to try was raw herring.  They tend to get mixed results from Americans as to if they like it or not.  I tried herring that was coated with mustard and another herring that was covered with dill sauce.  To their surprise, I enjoyed it.  I also tried Swedish meatballs, potatoes, a Salmon cake Mia made, mini hot dogs and another potato dish.  The meal was so fun.  It was also a time where I got to know some of the guests.  Anzo’s fiance invited some of his friends.  They were all very nice.

After lunch we picked more flowers for the Midsommar pole.  The Midsommar pole looks like a cross and is covered in leaves.  It has two wrings hanging on the sides.  The girls go and pick flowers to decorate it.  The joke about this pole is that if you turn it upsidedown it is meant to look like a penis.  Yep, that’s right.  Stay classy Sweden.  We also picked flowers for wreaths we made to wear around our heads.  Emilie made mine.  It was pretty funny because it didn’t look like your traditional hat.  Flowers and leaves were sticking out everywhere.  It look like I had a bush on top of my head, but I rocked it :)

Soon after our crafts, it was game time!  Cece wrote questions and posted them around the house.  We partnered up and raced around trying to answer each question.  They ranged from how tall is Mt. Everest to How many pages are in the fourth Harry Potter book to When was World War I?  I was partnered with Eusaphine, one of Jan’s friends.  She was very nice and we had a great time struggling to answer these questions.  Unfortunately, we didn’t end up winning.  We missed out on some cool prizes like toilet paper with numbers on it and candy haha  After the prizes were distributed we moved onto another game in the backyard.  This game involved more drinking.  A plastic bottle was placed in the middle of the yard.  Two teams lined up on both sides of it about 20 feet away.  Our team was handed a plastic frisbee.  The object was to hit the bottle over with the frisbee.  If you hit it over you must chug your drink as fast as you can while the other team races to go stand the bottle back up.  Then you stop drinking.  Whichever team finished all of their drinks first, wins.  Our team won this game!  Woooo (sorry again mom and dad :)

Once the games were done we sat around and hung out before dinner.  The guys set up a mini soccer field and played soccer (I know to expect nothing less in Europe) while the girls hit around a huge inflatable beach ball.  For dinner, we barbecued meat that we all brought for ourselves.  We brought the tables from the front yard and set them up in the backyard on the deck for dinner.  I sat with Casey, Lina, Henke and Amanda.  We had a blast at dinner joking around.  The rest of the night just consisted of everyone hanging out, drinking and having a good time.

The day was so much fun!!!  I spent today recovering along with the rest of Sweden.  Most stores are not even open because everyone takes off the day after the party.  I think its so funny that this holiday is so big and all you do is drink haha  I love Sweden.

I love sand volleyball!

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 24, 2010 | No Comments

It’s been several days since I have written because it’s been a fairly quiet week.  Not much diversity but so much fun.  I’ll point out my favorite parts from each day…

Sunday was quiet.  I hung out with friends.  At night we hung out at “the dungeon” and watched Michael Jackson’s This Is It.  The movie was good, but I think my favorite part was during a commercial break we rushed to a nearby candy shop, Sigges, and bought some candy to eat during the movie.  The commercials in Sweden are much longer than in the States, but the catch is, there are just not as many commercial breaks during the show.  It think I like it better that way, actually.

Monday was a fairly routine day with a trip to the gym followed by practice.

Tuesday Lina, Casey and me went to the lake where we met Juha and some of his work friends.  That is when our week of sand volleyball began.

Wednesday, before practice after a round of sand volleyball, we went to our field and taught young girls how to play softball.  They were at a soccer day camp, but as part of their activities they learned softball.  This experience was very similar to what we did at the local school my first week here.  The difference was is that we worked with all girls and they were a little younger (around the age of 9).  We had them play a very basic game to get them familiar with the rules.  It reminded me of when I first started playing softball and there were girls scattered around the field chasing after the ball not quite sure what was going on.  I helped the girls with the proper way to hold the bat as they came to plate.  It was so cute because the girls were timid and apprehensive about trying this new activity.  I always get happy, though, when I see them enjoying this new sport.  Later that night I went with Lina, Casey and Lisa to the local movie theater where we saw Sex and the City 2.  Not as good as the first one, but I still enjoyed it.

The past three days have been my favorite as we woke up each morning and played sand volleyball with some friends.  The weather has been gorgeous which has made the occasion so enjoyable.  We played for at least a couple hours each day.  Having played for three days in a row, I’ve gotten to know Juha’s friends better, too.  They are so much fun.

Today, the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  I played volleyball from about 10-2, grabbed some lunch, and then sat out by the lake.  That is what I call a perfect summer day.  So this week I stuck around Skovde but I managed to stay busy and have probably one of my favorite weeks yet.  I have bruised arms and sore legs to prove it :)

Tomorrow is Midsommar.  Essentially, this is where Sweden shuts down and parties.  No lie.  Most people take off from work, stores close and people celebrate almost 24 hours of sunlight.  Most of my teammates and I are going to my Coach’s, Anzo’s, house.  I hear we have fun games and activities planned.  I can’t wait!

Helping the Sweden National Team

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 20, 2010 | No Comments

While the Royal wedding was going on yesterday, Casey and I woke up at the crack of dawn to travel to Enkoeing to help out and coach the Swedish National Team.  On this particular day the coach of the team, Mattias, was holding a clinic for the junior team and the older girls.  Upon our arrival Casey and I met two other American girls who are playing for the Enkoeing team, Kristen and Shannon.  They, too, were helping out with the National team clinic.  At 10am, the clinic began.  The girls did some running and agility work with ladders.  We coached them through the ladders by perfecting their footwork and technique.  After the ladder drills, we moved onto base running where we taught them the proper way to run the bases.  We demonstrated and practiced the proper way to run out a base hit and round first and second base.  The girls were responsive to our feedback and picked up everything very quickly.  I especially noticed this when we split into hitting stations.  I was in charge of introducing and teaching the girls how to slap.  Since I worked with Lisa earlier in the week on this exact technique, I felt comfortable giving instructions and teaching the girls this new style of hitting.  In Europe, slapping is not nearly as popular as it is in the states, so for some girls this was completely new to them.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly they picked up on this new hitting style.  The girls were very interested in this and asked questions to make sure they were performing it correctly.  It’s always nice to see and hear girls excited about softball.  We hit live after the stations and then did some lunch!  We went to a local eatery.  I had some meat… yummm American style :)

After lunch, we scrimmaged.  The four Coaches, Shannon, Kristen, Casey and I, mainly helped Coach but Kristen and I squeezed in a couple at bats against the girls while Casey and Shannon pitched about 3-5 innings each.  It was great to see them respecting our advice and actually trying to implement our advice into the game situations.  Once we finished up the scrimmage, we did soft toss hitting into the outfield.  I hit a little and then shagged.  In the outfield, Shannon and I talked a lot about our experience in Sweden so far and our college softball experiences.  We had been talking throughout the day as well.  We both just graduated so we had a lot in common.  Shannon graduated from Towson which is in the same conference as Hofstra who was in our regional at the NCAA tournament.  I had a lot of fun talking to Shannon and it was great having the opportunity to meet other Americans.  Before we left, the four of us even talked about going to Stockholm together and hanging out!  I think that’s a great idea so hopefully we can organize that sometime soon!

When we got home I was pooped, but our friends were chilling at Juha’s apartment (one of the guy’s on the baseball team).  Casey and I walked over there and hung out with them for a little bit.  ESPN America was on the television, and I can’t believe how much I miss things like watching baseball and Sportscenter because Casey and I don’t get ESPN America on our TV.  Professional lacrosse came on after the College World Series game between TCU and FL St. wrapped up.  Shout out to Max Seibald who was actually in the televised game we were watching.  Represent Cornell.  The Swedes are not as familiar with Lacrosse, and from my time at Cornell I learned a lot about it, so I tried to answer their questions whenever I could… but even I wasn’t entirely sure of some of the rules.  By the end of the night, the Swedes concluded that all you have to do is watch when the net moves and then just yell “Yes!”… that means a goal has been scored :)

“Two rainbows!… only in Sweden :)”

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 18, 2010 | No Comments

I’ve been keeping myself busy the past three days from practice to exploring more of Skovde to shopping with friends.  The weather over the past three days has been gorgeous, so it was nice to finally get some time to spend outside and by the pool… yes, I said by the pool.  In my book about Sweden, I read about a place in Skovde called Billingen.  Billingen is at the top of a peak in Skovde.  There, there is a hotel, a lake, a pool, hiking and biking trails and more!.  Casey, Lina and I walked up to this peak on Thursday, our day off.  The uphill walk was not as bad as I was expecting.  I even got a couple of nice pictures of town on the way up.  When we arrived, Lisa showed us to the lake.  The lake was so beautiful surrounded by the various types of greenery.  It reminded me of the lake by my field I went to my second day.  I love places like this in Sweden because they are areas that truly allow you to appreciate all the beauty around you.  We thought we would be able to lay out at the lake, but it didn’t seem like the best of places to do that, so the three of us took some pictures and then headed up to the pool.  Casey decided not to join us at the pool (her Irish skin couldn’t handle much more sun :) , so Lisa and I took full advantage of the cloudless day and the cold pool water to cool us down.  It was so relaxing.  We loved it and and hope to go back whenever it is nice!  When we got back, some of my teammates and I went to the field to get in an agility workout.  It’s great to see the girls want to work out even on our days off.  Later that night we all went out together to my favorite bar again!  I love it so much I haven’t even been to another one yet haha

Today, it wasn’t quite as warm and sunny, so Marie, Casey and I went into town and did some shopping.  There’s a mall in the center of town called Commerce.  Here, there are all types of clothing and shoes stores.  I’ve been to these stores before, but today was the first time I actually bought some stuff.

Later in the day, we headed to practice where Casey and I organized what we were going to do.  We did live hitting and after that we did game situations.  We also took fly balls and ground balls.  I think the best part of the day, though, came after practice when some of my teammates and a couple of the guys on the baseball team played sand volleyball!  At the lake close to our field there are sand volleyball courts, so one of my teammates, Emilie, brought a ball and we challenged each other for a couple of hours.  It ended up being a beautiful night.  Getting to hang out and do things like that is so fun because you don’t always get to do that with friends at home.  Right when we were about to leave we looked up at the sky and noticed not one, but two rainbows!  It was pretty cool.  As Michael said, “Only in Sweden.” :)

First Trip!… to Gothenburg we go!

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 15, 2010 | No Comments

Perhaps yesterday was a rather quiet day because Casey and I were preparing for our first trip together!  Now that I have had a little longer than a week to settle in, I thought it was best that Casey and I start getting out and seeing the world!… at least to start seeing some of Sweden.  We have Tuesdays off, so Casey and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for a day trip.  Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden so there is a lot to do and see there!  We got up early in the morning and caught a 915 train.  The day started off great because Casey and I ended up getting on an express train that cost more than the train we had paid for!  You see, we were trying to ask the conductor of this express train to Gothenburg a question about our regional train, but I don’t think she was quite understanding us, so she just told us to get on her train.  I guess being a silly American paid off this time :)

When we arrived at Gothenburg, we walked to the center of town where we were surprised to see some sort of event going on.  We immediately started taking pictures.  Clearly we had no idea what we were taking pictures of, but we figured it had to be important.  As it turns out, on this particular afternoon Gothenburg was celebrating good relations with Britain.  They were replacing the plaque that signified this relationship years ago.  We did not conclude this from the line of soldiers holding their positions or the British speakers giving the brief history behind the event, but rather, we had to ask a woman nearby.  After we observed some of the ceremony, Casey and I made our way over to the Canal tour.  This tour takes you all throughout Gothenburg on a small boat while telling you about some of the city’s history and architecture.  The gorgeous day in Gothenburg made this boat ride beautiful and enjoyable.  I think my favorite part was when we had to duck (literally get out of our seat and get onto the ground) under a bridge because it was so low.

After the Canal Tour we were hungry so we walked around town a little and found a small cafe where we ate sandwiches outside.  Tres European (excuse my french :)

Once our bellies were full and we felt more energized, Casey and I walked… and walked… and walked all around Gothenburg!  We considered seeing the botanical gardens, but we needed to take a tram to get there and we enjoyed walking wherever we pleased.  At one point when we were walking, we saw stadium lights.  Now, any American would assume these were lights for a baseball stadium, so we walked to them.  When we arrived, we realized we were mistaken.  When in Europe, the only thing stadium lights could represent were a soccer stadium… duhh.  After that detour we found our way back to the main strip where there was the art museum.  We did not go in but took pictures outside.  We walked some more… in clothing stores, out of clothing stores, by children playing in a fountain, to the pier, to a giant ferris wheel (similar to the one at Navy Pier in Chicago!) and then to dinner!  Earlier in the day Casey and I saw a girl eating a steak at a particular restaurant.  Since our arrival, the Americans in us have been craving this sort of hearty meal, so we walked allll the way back to this restaurant and ate outside.  The meal was fantasticccc.  I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it was the best steak I’ve ever had!… sorry Mom and Dad :) It was so fun to sit outside in the sun and people watch.  Sweden is filled with so many pretty people!  Post dinner we got some ice cream.  All day we saw Swedes walking around town with these big ice cream cones.  We figured if everyone’s doing it, we should, too!  We took our cones to a nice park area and indulged.  And again, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say this was some of the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had.  Our day was winding down, so after our more than satisfying dinner and dessert, we made our way back to the train.  About an hour and a half later, we were home in Skovde.

It was so much fun to wander Gothenburg with my roomie.  For the first time, I felt like I was on vacation.  We both loved the freedom to do whatever we pleased in a foreign town.  It was a great experience and a great opportunity to get to explore a new Swedish town with my American friend… what tourists :)

The Weekend

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 13, 2010 | No Comments

On Saturday, we woke up at 530am to travel to Leksand to play a double header.  Unfortunately, after  a little over an hour on the road, we got news that the games were cancelled due to rain.  These games will be made up at some point during the season, but right now, we are not sure when.  When we got back to Skovde, Casey, Lina and I hit up the gym.  After the gym, because it was cold and rainy Casey and I relaxed on the couch and watched some television.  We were tired from the early wake up call.  Later that night, some of my teammates and some of the guys on the baseball team got together to watch the England vs. USA soccer game.  As we know, soccer isn’t as big in the states so it was fun and exiting to watch the game with people who follow the sport so closely.

Today, was a rather quiet day.  I woke up and went to Prima to grab lunch with some friends.  After lunch, Lina, Casey and I got ready to go to Priya’s son’s fifth birthday party.  I like getting together with my team to celebrate these kinds of events because it gives me an inside look at Swedish traditions.  Fika is a time in the day when Swedes break from their activities and enjoy some coffe or a pastery.  Before we had birthday cake, we had some cookies and cinnamon bread.  It was delicious.  When it was time to sing to Neo, I heard the Swedish birthday song.  Although it has a different tune and has different lyrics than the American song, I find it interesting that everyone stands while singing it.  Afer singing and blowing out the candles, we cut into the traditional cakes.  Yes, that’s cakes plural.  There were two cakes that I tried that are typically served at these types of occassions.  One cake is a vanilla cake filled with banana and topped with whip cream and strawberries.  That is the more traditional birthday cake.  The second cake was Spiderman themed for Neo.  It was a vanilla cake that was filled with cream.  This cake is more for celebrations in general, not just birthdays.  Both were yummmyyyy.  We had to leave the party early because Annelie drove us and needed to take Lina home because she wasn’t feeling well.  The rest of the day I took it easy because I was tired from the weekend and the cold, rainy weather doesn’t give you much energy.  Hopefully, it will start getting nice and I can spend more time outdoors.  I also plan to do some traveling in the near future when I have some time off.

“I’m lovin it”

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 11, 2010 | No Comments

The past couple of days have been quiet considering the busy start I had to my trip.  Casey and I have been hittin’ up the gym, walked around town and the mall, eating at Prima every night for dinner for our free meal… yuummmm… and hangin’ out and going to practice.  Yesterday, we didn’t have practice but Casey and I went to the field to help some of the girls with specific things they wanted to work on.  Casey worked with four of our teammates on pitching while I helped Lisa learn how to slap.  Slapping is not as common in Sweden as it is in the states so it is a new concept and technique Lisa was excited to learn.  The excitement is one thing that Casey and I have noted about the girls.  Their passion cannot be matched.  They respect the direction Casey and I give them and are anxious to learn.  It’s very nice and makes them easy to work with.

Last night was the first time I went to a Swedish club.  We cut the lonngggg line by pulling some strings.  I guess playing for the Saints does have it perks :) The club experience was unreal.  The dancing and music was outrageous.  It’s American music with techno beats.  And apparently we didn’t even make it to half of the club.  There was a downstairs area that we could have gone too and an outdoor area that had the weather been nice probably would have been more popular.  Loved it.  For all of you Cornellians, it was a JOs experience times 20.

Helping the Kiddies

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 8, 2010 | No Comments

For the past two days Casey, Lina and I visited a local school, Teglaskolam, where we taught kids how to play softball.  Yesterday, the children were about 16 years old and today they were around 15 years old.  Each day we had five classes of about 20 kids each.  After seeing the first few classes, the three of us knew we would have our hands full because we saw the kids juggling softballs like they were soccer balls.  Before allowing the students to play a game against their classmates, Lina explained the basic rules in Swedish so they would be able to play a short game.  Even though Casey and I are doing our best to learn as much Swedish as possible, we thought it was in the student’s best interest to have Lina explain everything to them.  After all, when Casey and I tried to say things to them in English they either didn’t listen or stared at us blankly.  After a quick run down, we split the class into two teams and for the next 45 minutes they played a slow pitch game.  I found it fascinating to observe them play.  Casey, Lina and I quickly observed that these teenagers had the talent of seven or eight year olds.  In other words, in the states, most seven or eight year olds probably play softball like these 15 and 16 year olds because they are taught how to play the sport so much earlier in their lives.  However, how quickly they picked up the sport and their ability to throw and catch the ball so well surprised me, for for some of these kids this was the first time they had ever attempted to play softball.  I learned that a European sport called “bran boll” is where some of this familiarity comes from.  In fact, sometimes they incorporated rules from bran boll into softball, so we had to correct them and explain the differences.  For instance, in bran boll if you get an out you are allowed to run again, so then there may be two people running or even up to ten people running on the next play depending on how many people get out.  It was cute when two students started running down the first baseline together.  I also laughed when the kids would use their feet to field the ball instead of their gloves.  Lina, Casey and I would yell directions to help the kids as they played like “spring” (run) “kasta ett” (throw first) or  ”kasta tva” (throw two), but for whatever reason, the teenagers always seemed to like throwing it to third (“kasta tre”).

Today, since we knew what to expect, we got more involved in the action.  We thought it would be beneficial to show them our skills :) Things were especially entertaining when the students asked Casey to pitch them her fastball.  It was adorable watching the kids spin around in circles trying to make contact.  It was so cute as the kids requested “fast,” slow,” “medium” when referring to the speed of the pitch they wanted.  As Casey described, she felt like “softball a la carte.”  Eventually most kids started requesting “slow” once they saw their classmates lack of success.  At one point, the kids wanted to see one of us hit, so Lina side tossed me several balls and I hit some students balls as they stood in the outfield trying to catch them.  During the games, I played the outfield and chased after the high fly balls the students hit.  As I stood in the outfield, I realized the coolest thing about this situation was how I was getting the opportunity to teach Swedish children a sport they may never otherwise learn.  Watching the students laugh and joke around with each other as they learned a new sport, a sport that has made me happy for almost 20 years, was fun and exciting.  It made me appreciate the sport so much more.  It also made me appreciate American’s knowledge of the sport.  It is so natural to have a conversation about baseball with in the US; where as in Sweden, the most these kids knew about baseball was what the letter “P” on their Pittsburgh Pirates hat represented.  Maybe these kids will try this sport again after this experience, maybe not, but whatever happens I think this experience was as fun and memorable for me as it was for them.

Home Opener

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 6, 2010 | 1 Comment

Today was our home opener on the Skovde Saints’ field.  It was another beautiful day.  A perfect day for softball.  We had a double header against Sundsvall Mosquitoes at 11 am and 1 pm.  Anzo picked us up in the morning, and we arrived at the field a little after 9 am.  It was very interesting because our warm up and the way the team carried themselves during the games were very similar to Cornell’s demeanor.  Dynamic static, throwing, even meeting on the mound huddled around the pitcher with one finger touching the ball were all eerily similar to Cornell tendencies.  I played shortstop in both games.  I played shortstop once in my life and that was during a travel ball game a couple of years ago.  But I am very familiar with the left side of the infield having played third base for my entire life.  I picked up a lot of things about shortstop when I was at Cornell.  From covering the second base on a steal to getting the cut off from the outfield, I did my best to try and adjust quickly.  It will take some time to adjust at the plate as the pitching here is slower than what I am used to.  I did manage to knock in some RBIs in both games though.  Their is a range of talent on the team, some proving to be more experienced than others.  Despite this fact, everyone is very supportive of one another and willing to learn.  And although I met almost all my teammates before today’s game, it was fun and interesting to see how everyone carries themselves on the field.  Personally, I am much more relaxed on the field here than I ever was during Ivy League games.  Why?  Not sure.  Maybe I don’t see how anything can compare to the intensity associated with conference games.  Even feeling relaxed, after today’s double header, I’m definitely feeling some fatigue and pain.  It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve played two games in one day (at NCAAs we only played one game a day), and having arrived just three days ago, I think I’m still feeling the effects of traveling.  Regardless, I had a lot of fun and can’t wait to learn more about everyone on and off the field, in practice and in games.

And how could I forget to mention!… We won both games! Yayy

Arrival and Day 1… whew, what a first day.

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 5, 2010 | No Comments

I’m here!!!  I arrived yesterday morning around 730 am.  The flight did not feel like 7.5 hours.  Maybe because I got an upgrade :) and I watched the movie Valentine’s Day (so cute!).  I tried to get some sleep because I knew I’d be busy when I arrived, and sure enough, I was.  After I had some intense questions at customs, going through the wrong security line (because no, I was not transferring flights), running for my bags at the baggage claim which were the last two sitting on the carrousel because I was held up, then catching the Arlanda Express (the train that brought me to Casey), meeting Casey in person (yay!) and again, running through the train station to catch our other train… I made it!  It was quite an adventure.  Anzo (my Coach) picked us up at the other end of the train, and when I finally arrived at the Dungeon (which is not as “Dungeony” as I expected), I didn’t have much time to sit.  Quickly after my arrival, we left the apartment to go to Lina’s graduation.  Lina is a teammate of mine who will actually be attending college in the states in Ohio.  It is a small school where she will also be playing softball.  On the way to her school, we picked up about 4 or 5 of my other teammates who I spoke to and all seem very nice!!   Upon our arrival at Lina’s school, it was hard not to conclude that graduation is handled much differently and dare I say much more of a party here in Sweden.  It starts with the grads running (yes, literally running) out of their school to a mob of friends and family waiting outside to greet them.  The friends and family bring homemade necklaces that fashion everything from whistles to alcohol on the ends of it to hang around their grad’s neck.  Besides these high fashion necklaces, the female grads fashion white dresses and the male grads fashion nice pants and a dress coat.  The “sailor hat” on their heads’ is not a sailor hat as us Americans might assume (I made that mistake).  These hats are actually their form of a cap.  Who would have thunk it?  We talked and took pictures but soon after friends and family rush to the streets to watch their friend or child go through the streets on a huge truck or even tractor that pulls them throughout town.  Banners and pictures decorate these monstrosities.  On the backs of these trucks they drink and blast music.  A scene that if I were to describe it, I would refer to as a dance party.  Whatever you’d like to call it, it seemed like a lot of fun.  Much different than the quiet handing of diplomas for graduation that I just experienced at home (shout out to Cornell Class of 2010!!).

After the “ceremony,” Casey and I walked home which was a great way for me to see the town.  It’s so cute!  We even stopped to buy something to drink.  I had my first taste of a Swedish grocery store.  It was very similar to American ones.  When we got home, we had a little time to relax before we went to Lina’s house for a party for family and friends.  This dinner party was much more similar to what we do in the states with our friends and family.  My teammates who I met earlier were at this dinner and some of Lina’s family were also in attendance.  For dinner, we had a traditional Swedish dish called, “Smarstorta Torta.”   Essentially, this dish was a cake made of sandwich meat and vegetables held together with a type of mayo sauce.  It was different but good.  I finished my piece :) For dessert we had delicious homemade brownies Lina’s mom made.  My first taste of Swedish chocolate…mmm… delicioussss.  When we got home it was around 7 pm, and I was exhausted.  I called it an early night.  And apparently I needed my beauty sleep because I’m writing you today soon after I woke up… just before noon.  That’s quite a wake up call for me.  Usually I wake up no later than 10 or 11 am.  So as I sit here and write this blog, I made myself some eggs and am eating cereal out of a box because we are out of milk.  I’m sitting in my bathing suit with shorts on (not to give you a physical) because I am leaving soon for the lake.  My teammate Marie is going to meet Casey, Lina and me and we will walk there.  I hear that the lake is close to our field.  This is convenient because I will also be at our field later to throw, hit and set up our field for tomorrow’s home opener!  Woooo.

And so it begins.

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Jun 2, 2010 | No Comments

The day has come… well, almost.  I’m just hours away from leaving my home for four months.  Just two days ago I returned home from Ithaca, New York, where I graduated from Cornell University.  Four years flew by.  But with barely enough time to say goodbye and comprehend the completion of a huge stage of my life, I leave for another adventure.  Even after weeks of anticipation, I’m still feeling all of the same emotions: excited, nervous, anxious, overwhelmed… But there’s no turning back now.

I Skyped with Casey today to go over the final plan for tomorrow (which is really Friday when I finally arrive).  The plan is that when I get off of the airplane in Stockholm, I will catch a train on the Arlanda Express which will take me to the train station where I will meet Casey.  At this station, we will catch another train to take to Skovde.  Easy enough right?  With over 100 pounds of luggage, in a country I have never been, roaming a train station I have never seen with signs in a language I can’t understand, not sure I’d call this an easy task, but it is a challenge I will embrace.  I’ll be wearing a bright yellow tee to make sure Casey can spot me.  I hope it works!  Until Sweden.

Skövde Saints Website

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | May 6, 2010 | No Comments

Today I received an email from Kristian Pälviä who is the treasurer for the Skövde Saints and works on their website. She contacted me to let me know she will be speaking with me about administrative issues. Her main reason to contact me, though, was to give me a set of questions she wanted me to answer for their website (http://www.skovdesaints.com/). Here are just a few to give you an idea…
Q: Elise, your name sounds kind of Scandinavian… what is your heritage?
Q: How long have you been playing softball?
Q: How was it playing softball for an Ivy League school (Cornell)?
Q: What was/is your major subject in school?
Q: What are your plans after this season?

I think it’s great to be a part of a team that is so invested in their American players. Knowing that they are excited to have me and interested in knowing more about me calms my nerves a little bit. I’ll have to check back when they post my answers on the website.

Two Foreigners

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Mar 25, 2010 | No Comments

European teams generally have two spots open for “foreigners,” in other words they allow two Americans to play on their team without having to gain citizenship.  Anzo informed me that she was looking for a pitcher to fulfill the second spot, and today I finally heard who my partner in crime is going to be: Casey Pherson.  I had my first contact with her today via email, and she seems very nice!  She graduated from Mary Washington in 2008 and is from Norfolk, Virginia.  I don’t know much about Norfolk except I have flown in and out of the airport a couple of times to play softball and visit friends.  It’s so nice to hear from someone who will be going through the same experience as me, someone who has the same questions as me, someone who feels the same emotions as me.  It’s nice to realize that I’m not alone.  I am excited to learn more about her.  As times passes, the situation starts becoming more real and I start to become more nervous and excited.  Maybe Casey can help ease my nerves.

Coach, Ann-Sofie

Posted by Elise | Filed under Uncategorized | Feb 26, 2010 | No Comments

For the first time, this afternoon, I spoke on the phone with my Coach, Ann-Sofie, or as I like to call her Anzo. Up until this point our relationship has grown and information has been exchanged via email so it was nice to speak with her over the phone. As assumed, Anzo was very nice and willing to answer any questions I had. She clarified airport details so I knew where and when to fly. She briefly described my living arrangements (which I had heard about from Americans who played in Sweden last year): the basement of an apartment often referred to as the “dungeon.” Anzo made sure to tell me that it has been updated since last year so it is not as bad as it used to be  She also mentioned that I would have time off while in Sweden which would give me the opportunity to travel.

Up until this point, I have been nervous and excited all at the same time. Post graduation I only have two days to prepare for a four-month trip. But after my conversation with Anzo, some of my tensions were eased. I realize that while with the Saints, I will be taken care of. And I am looking forward to becoming part of the their family.

The Beginning

Posted by admin | Filed under Uncategorized | Feb 10, 2010 | No Comments

What a rush! In the past couple days I have confirmed what my life will be like the months following my graduation. I have committed to playing professional softball in Sweden for the Skovde Saints! But this wasn’t an easy decision to reach. As a graduate from Cornell University, I take great pride in my education. Early on, I always thought that after school, I would get a job working in an office from 9-5. Then, as time progressed, I imagined myself as a sports reporter for a local news station, one day being seen by all on ESPN. It was also at Cornell, though, where my love for softball grew. I didn’t want to believe that after college my softball days would be over. Thanks to the Saints, that doesn’t have to be the case. Now, I can pursue my passion in a beautiful country. The culture and lifestyle will be different but I am more than ready to turn the page to the next chapter of my life. At 22 years old, I have been given a wonderful opportunity and can’t wait to take full advantage of it. I am a little nervous, not sure what to expect, but I feel like that is all part of the experience.

2 thoughts on “Pro Softball Abroad

  1. Elaina says:

    Elise,

    I am a fast pitch softball player interested in playing abroad, but don’t know where to look or what I would need to do, any suggestions?

  2. Elise says:

    Hi Elaina,

    I went through a man named Wolfi. He can be reached at eurosftbl@yahoo.com. He’ll connect you with all the teams abroad. Hope this helps!

    Elise

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