Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Piazza del Duomo in Milan. 

  I found myself awake way too early one morning last week -- like 4am early. Not able to go back to sleep, I grabbed my iPad and began checking out the morning news. You know, the important stuff, my Twitter and Instagram feeds.

  One thing led to another, and 15 minutes later I was on Google Maps looking up an address in Milan.

  A NikeLab post got everything rolling. NikeLabs are boutique-like stores in nine locations around the world, Milan being one of them. Since I'd spent so much time in Milan during my two seasons playing in Italy, I was curious where the newly re-branded shop was.

Fiera in Milan.
  Once I located the shop, naturally I wanted to see where it was relative to the places I ran around most in Milan -- the Duomo, the Brera neighborhood (where the NikeLab is located), and Corso Como.

  Before I knew it, I'd scrolled to the north, to Como, trying to remember the route I'd drive to practice every day -- so I could find where our gym was on the map.

  Then I found my first apartment, and the train stations in Como centro. I'd walked to and from the train stations often, as that was a much easier (less stressful) way to get to Milan. The least amount of driving, the better!

Pre game with Nev.
  That took me to where I lived during my second season in a villa just outside of Como (though, I had a little tougher time finding that place). Then to the nearby McDonald's, where my teammate Nev had an unfortunate encounter with the McDrive (drive thru) one evening.

  It's always interesting, the things you remember most vividly. They're not necessarily what you'd think. I spent nearly two years in Italy, and none of my immediate memories are on the basketball court. I'd gone to Italy to play basketball, yet the memories that resonate with me the most, have nothing to do with basketball.

  Of course, I have great memories of basketball moments in Italy. It was the only place I was ever able to win a championship. I played with a group of women who were very passionate about the game, and pushed me to become a better player and more well-rounded person.

Celebrating our championship.
  Practices and games were never uneventful, but that was part of the job.
On the Court Growth
  My first two seasons abroad are probably the two that shaped me most as a professional basketball player. The groundwork was laid into establishing the expectations and commitment required to be successful.

View of Lake Como from above -- Mt. Bisbino
  I still think, to this day, had I been on any other team, in any other country, I wouldn't have played 10 seasons overseas.

  I experienced just the right amount of successes and challenges to inspire me to push for more. And I was surrounded by some great teammates who were supportive and great examples to me.

Off the Court Growth
  Italy also gave me my first experiences living in Europe -- as a person, not a basketball player. I spent many an hour in the coffee bar run by two of our fans. 

  The internet connection at my apartment was challenging, and I had 11 TV channels that were all in Italian -- so I didn't have much choice: go out and live!

Leaders of Pool Comense.
  During my downtime in between practices, more often than not, you could find me at the coffee bar with Cheru and Francy.

  They spoke Italian, I tried to understand and speak back.

  I spoke English, they tried to understand and speak back.

  They explained places or things about Como that were important -- whether it'd be the local banks scheduling a strike, or good restaurants around town.

Francy & Cheru.
  I read the paper (not the days after games, however), and learned more and more Italian words.

  I tried every coffee bar fare they offered up. And grew to understand that I should limit my chocolate croissant and piadina intake, and that cappuccinos should never be ordered after 11am.

  It's where I grew to love coffee too!

  It was a fun way to learn a new culture -- I wouldn't trade those afternoons in Como for anything.

  I've written before about how special my experiences in Italy were, but I was inspired once again to share some memories after last week's Google Maps walk down memory lane!

In Milan one summer.
Teammates Kim & Mara.
Via Indipendenza in Como -- the street I lived on.
Teammate Nev and I at the coffee bar.
Como from above again. This time from the tram.