This year we are playing in Arad, Romania! Two years ago when we were playing in Presov, Slovakia, we had a game against I.C.I.M Arad in the Central European League. We played this team in the Championship in Arad. We were a little familiar with the team before we signed our contract. I.C.I.M (pronounced – E-cheem) is a club with a lot of tradition! Basketball is very popular in this city and the games usually draw a crowd of +2,000 crazy fans! ICIM is a top team in Romania every year and they love competing for Championships!
The city Arad is located in the western part of Romania. The population of the city is 180,000. Romania has its own currency called the RON. One very exciting thing about living in Romania is the cost of living is very inexpensive! One US Dollar is equivalent to 3.5 LEI. I have been buying these chocolate wafer candy bars that are .75 LEI. You do the math! I pay about 16 cents for this candy bar! I get excited every time I spend money because I’m actually not spending a lot of money at all! It makes me think of when I’m visiting Tina and her family in Arizona. Her dad loves shopping at Ranch Market, which is a Farmer’s Market store very close to their home. He will go there and buy a ton of produce and come back home and have us guess how much money he spent. To give you an idea of how amazingly cheap it is, you can buy 4 cartons of strawberries for $1 or 7 cucumbers for $1. So amazing. I’m excited right now thinking about it. I can’t wait for him to visit us so we can go shopping for deals together!
This year our team will compete in the Romanian league and in the Central European League. In the Romanian league you are allowed to have 6 foreigners. So this year we have 5 Americans, 1 Serbian, and 5 Romanians. After we signed with ICIM, we looked up the other Americans on our team and we actually knew who they were! (Basketball feels like such a small circle the longer you continue to play) Kari LaPlante is a 6’5 post player who lives outside of Phoenix, AZ. She took a visit to Vanderbilt when Tina and I were sophomores, but played her collegiate career at the University of Southern California. Chrissy Givens is a 5’10 guard from Louisiana, but played at Middle Tennessee State. I remember her having an amazing career at MTSU. Carla Bartee is 5’11 post player and a little more familiar to Tina and I because we played against her in the SEC. She is from Mississippi and played her college career at Ole Miss.
Here are a couple of pictures from our team picture day:
The whole team
Me and Jen
Carla killing a bee that just stung Jen
SEC! Vandy vs. Ole Miss :-)
All of the Americans - Kari LaPlante (far right - USC), Carla Bartee (middle - Ole Miss), Chrissy Givens (far right - Middle Tennessee State University)
Saturday morning, August 25, we had a light conditioning workout at 9:30am. After that workout, we were free until our Monday morning workout at 11am. Immediately the wheels in my head were turning, ‘Where should I go? What should I do?’ That’s when I talked to Peter, one of my friends from Slovakia, and we made a plan to travel to Slovakia for our short weekend break. Tina, Kari, and I rented a car and drove to Slovakia after practice. It took us 5 ½ hours to get there, but we made it Saturday evening.
Tina and I were very excited to see our old city and friends from Presov. When we first found out that we were going to be playing in Romania this year, we were excited knowing that we would be pretty close to Slovakia. Slovakia is a beautiful country. We tried to explain to Kari that it is a very innocent and peaceful country with great food, beautiful nature, and great people. There's just something about it that we love, but you can't really appreciate it unless you've been there.
I knew that Kari liked to hike from our conversations through the week so I talked to my friends about hiking Slovensky Raj (Translated: Slovak Paradise). Tina and I hiked here with a group of 12 friends our second year in Slovakia and had a blast so we knew Kari would like it. Overall, our trip was pretty amazing. We were only there for about 24 hours, but we packed A LOT into that amount of time! It was nice catching up with old friends. One thing Tina and I were excited to eat was our Croatia ice cream! We love that stuff.
Before our hike on Sunday morning, we met up with our friends at 5:45am Mass at our favorite church, St. Nicholas. After the hike, we went to Peter’s house to hang out for a little bit. I took a nap and Peter played his guitar. We were killing a little bit of time before we had dinner at Katka’s house. Her mom made a delicious meal. We had soup, turkey, rice, French fries, and vegetables. She made sure we were ready for our car ride home!
We never know if/when we are going to get days off, but if we get more time off, we would love to make another trip to Slovakia :-)
We hadn't been driving for more than 10 minutes when we got lost and had to turn around. Jen tried to make a simple 3 point turn when we realized that none of us knew how to put the rental car in reverse! It was a pretty narrow street, and we couldn't pull forward any more or else we would have driven into a ditch. So Kari and I got out of the car and pushed it backwards! :-) We tried to ask for help, but nobody could figure it out. Once we got to Hungary, we found somebody who was able to teach us how to do it! :-)
We had to stop and take a picture with these things
We didn't have a phone that worked in Slovakia so when we arrived we couldn't call any of our friends to let them know that we were there. Here we are with our friend's parents. We just showed up at their house looking for our friend, Katka :-) She wasn't home, but we were still able to get a hold of her.
Here we are at the Catholic community that some of our friends are a part of. We came here hoping to ask some of the nuns if they could call our friend, Peter. After trying to speak some random Slovak words and doing a few charades, it worked :-)
Yummmm....Croatia ice cream! We miss this so much!
Kari in the center of Presov, Slovakia
I love this city :-)
Some weird statue
Just taking a picture with Jesus :-)
Climbing the stairs in St. Nicholas
We randomly met some little girls from Romania :-)
Starting our hike in Slovensky Raj (Slovak Paradise)
Feeding some pigs
Some of the sweetest friends anyone could ever ask for!
Reenacting a scene from Titanic
Jen leading the way
When we got to the top of the mountain, we saw that they were celebrating Holy Mass. Gosh, I love Slovakia!
St. Nicholas :-) This church will always be a special place for Jen and me.
The center of Presov
Taking a picture after dinner