Week two in Paris has been full of many new experiences, adventures and people. This week I started learning to drive a stick shift car, made new friends, celebrated Thanksgiving and explored Paris with an old friend from back home. In short, week two has been absolutely amazing!
Tango Bourges is the first overseas team I have played for that has provided me with a car to get around. This is great except for one problem: the car is stick shift and I have spent my entire life driving automatic. Luckily, I was blessed with some pretty awesome teammates who all graciously volunteered to teach me how to drive.
My first lesson was with my teammate Marine; she speaks mostly french so my first driving lesson was 97% in French. She began by explaining the function of the clutch and that I need to press on it every time I wanted to change gears, reverse, move the car, and if I wanted to slow down. The most difficult aspect of driving stick, she explained, would be finding the right balance of slow release of the clutch and pressure on the accelerator in order to move the car. Once I felt confident in understanding what I needed to do, it was time to put it into action. This was obviously much easier said than done. I found it incredibly hard trying to move the car. I unintentionally shut the car down, jolted the car, and had it coughing way more frequently than I was able to successfully complete a smooth start. Despite all of this, Marine was extremely encouraging and patient with me as we practiced in the parking lot of the gym.
I was so focused during my lesson that I didn't realize I had slowly built an audience of elderly men, smoking at the edge of the parking lot. When I finally got the car going smoothly I was rewarded with a standing ovation... not embarrassing at all! I also practiced changing gears from 1 to 2, something that I definitely need to practice.
My second lesson was with my Serbian (and English speaking) teammate Miljana. She also explained the functions of the car, made me listen to the car to hear when I needed to accelerate or change gears, and had me practice finding that perfect release point of the clutch. I was still thinking a lot, but it was starting to become more natural, and easier to start the car and get it moving smoothly. I also practiced changing gears from 1 to 2 as I increased speeds, practiced reversing and practiced starting the car while on a slight hill without rolling backwards.
"Lesson" number three was solo. I decided to spend time getting comfortable driving alone (still in the parking lot, of course), however I had a bit of a rough start. I was parked on a slight hill with a car behind me. I was trying desperately to move the car forward but it kept rolling back. At last, when I was probably 2 inches from the car behind me I called Amelie for help. It turns out I had been doing everything right except putting the car in the first gear to move! After that, my solo lesson was great.
Doctors visit and Driving the Streets of Bourges
Later in the week I had a doctors appointment because my back had been acting up a lot, and I was experiencing pain whenever I turned my body. At the doctors office, he told me what I had heard a few times before - that my body was not properly aligned. Through different movements of my arms and legs and pressure points in my head and feet, he slowly had my body back in its proper position. To end the night, he put me on my side and cracked my back, something that I was not at all expecting and that I found rather painful. However, even though the pain in my lower back was still present, my body felt much better and I could move my body way better than I could before.
After the appointment, Laure, who works for the club and was kind enough to drive me to my appointment, encouraged me to drive us home. I was able to reverse the car smoothly out of the parking spot and out on to the road. My only hiccup occurred when I stalled while I was waiting to turn left. Luckily no cars were behind me, and after that I was stopping, starting and changing gears like I had been driving stick my whole life! I was able to get us to our destination smoothly and safely and although it was a short drive, it is a small victory that I will gladly celebrate and enjoy! God willing, I'll be driving like a pro in no time!
Thanksgiving Dinner in France
Prior to my arrival, my teammates had become good friends with a lovely couple who own “Les Trois Cuillers,” a coffee shop in Bourges. They were having a Thanksgiving style dinner and graciously invited me to attend. It ended up being a lovely evening of great food, good people, wine and a lot of French. I was able to continue practicing my french with my teammates, the couple and their guests, and we all had a wonderful time. I made a lot of new friends that night and it was nice to be able to celebrate a Canadian tradition in France. As it turns out, the couple lived in Montreal, Canada for a year so we had a lot to talk about.
I am extremely thankful for this wonderful opportunity to play in France, my amazing teammates, the new people I have met and experiences I have had here, and my health, just to name a few.
I ended off a fun week with an even better weekend. Saturday we had a French league game that we won, followed by a team dinner, and Sunday morning I was on the train to Paris! Yes, you read that correctly: Paris, France. I have an old friend who I played basketball with when I was younger, also named Kayla who is teaching English in Paris for the year. (Along with having the same name, we also have the same college degree and played the same college sport). When I found out she was living in Paris, I couldn't pass up the chance to explore this gorgeous city for the third time while getting the opportunity to catch up with an old friend. It was so great seeing her as she is one of those positive people who you always enjoy catching up with and hearing about how life has been. She knew her way around Paris pretty well so we were able to see the Notre Dame, walk the Seine (river), see the outside of the Louvre (I’ll be making another visit to explore inside, for the second time), the Eiffel tower, the new location of the lock bridge, walk the parks, walk the hidden streets, and just take in the endless beauty that is Paris. Paris, is one of those cities you can walk a thousand times and always see something new, artistic or charming and for this, it will always have a piece of my heart!
Stay tuned as I continue to keep you updated on my life and adventures in France.
Thanks for stopping by and God bless,