My birthday weekend was amazing! I’m so grateful to have such a great group of friends to be starting my 23rd year (omg so old!) in the midst of this crazy adventure.
The week leading up to my birthday was not too eventful but I got to play field hockey twice! There’s a club in Nantes which has both men’s and women’s teams for different levels and ages. I headed to the field on Wednesday after corresponding with the coach and manager. I was really looking for a relaxed scrimmage once or twice a week but because this is a real team, it was a real practice. We started with ladders (hey LUFH, no icky shuffle in France!) and then did small sided games/drills. The level is really high and there’s a wide range of ages on the team from girls still in high school to a couple 24 year olds. There are also two girls from Argentina on the team and an assistant from England who will start coming to practice this upcoming week. I was definitely a bit rusty and in a lot of pain afterwards but the girls are SO nice. I went to their indoor practice on Thursday and then some of us went out to dinner at a Greek place. They also speak only French for the most part so it’s a good environment for me to be in to practice my French. I found it really difficult to actually join in the conversation at dinner; I understood everything there were saying but felt a bit timid to actually speak in French. But the Argentine girls arn’t fluent in French but still conversing so they’ve inspired me to not be afraid to just talk in French!
One interesting thing about the field hockey experience is that they never start practice on time! And they end a little early. The indoor practice was supposed to start at 5:30 and I got there right at 5:30 because I got a bit lost trying to find the facility and was so worried about being late but I arrived with the first girls to get there! Practice didn’t really start until close to 6:00! But at least that part is relaxed even if practice isn’t. I’m also learning a lot of vocab! I’m sure if a non-English speaking person came to one of our practices and heard our coaches yelling “good try” or “mark a player” it would be strange because I find it a little funny when the coach yells “allez” meaning go or “avancez” meaning go forward just because I’ve never heard these words in this kind of context.
It’s good to be playing but it’s even better to be part of a team again. It’s officially been over a year since my “retirement” from field hockey and a couple months since I was coaching so it’s nice to have this opportunity and have the camaraderie. I’m also realizing first hand how universal athletics really is. I know it’s cliche but it’s so true…when we’re on the field it doesn’t matter that some of us are from different countries and don’t speak the language, it’s still field hockey. I went to their last outdoor game today. They won 7-0 and are officially undefeated!
This was also the first week where I really felt like I live here in Nantes. I think I’ve gotten used to my routine and life at the school and I’m barely meeting any new students at this point, along with adding field hockey practice to my schedule, I just feel very settled overall. I’ve also started cooking a little, which if you know me, you know that I pretty much do absolutely zero cooking. But I’m cooking really simple things and everything here is so fresh that everything tastes great.
So my birthday was on Friday and this happened to be the first Friday I’ve had to work (which will now be a common thing) so I was kind of annoyed to not be able to sleep in on my big day but I’m actually SO happy I went to school. The German assistant at my school, Vanessa, told the teacher I was working with that it was my birthday and she surprised me just by saying happy birthday when I walked into the teacher’s lounge. She also bought me jelly beans and the whole class sang to me in English then French then German and then one person did it in Portuguese and one in Hindi and a couple in Italian…so quite the international celebration!! I had my birthday dinner at a really cute creperie called Apres La Pluie meaning After The Rain which is perfect for Nantes. We then went to another assistant’s apartment for “predrinks” and games and then headed back to the center of Nantes to the bar area called Bouffay. We talked to so many people and had such a fun night. I don’t know if it’s just the French way or if it’s because I feel foreign here and so act more outgoing but I feel like I always talk to so many different people whenever we go out. One highlight of the night includes skateboarding on a French guy’s skateboard down a cobblestone street in heels!
The celebration continued the rest of the weekend because some of my French friends had exams Saturday morning so they couldn’t join us Friday night. If the weekend is any indication of the year to come, then I say bring it on 23!