June 28, 2006
Prague, Czech Republic - It is 4:30 a.m. (June
27) and a group of weary Stanford volleyball travelers has packed and has crammed two weeks worth of clothes, souvenirs, and playing gear into their suitcases for the bus ride back to the Prague Airport for the day long journey from Europe to San Francisco. This is no easy task.
There is checking in suitcases for this large group, passing through customs, intense airport security and a jumbo jetliner packed with many European travelers who are heading to the United States for vacations and business.
The long plane ride back is interesting. There are many nationalities on this jetliner. Sitting nearby are families from Denmark, Iran and India who will be visiting the San Francisco Bay Area.
The plane trip home started in Prague with a connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany. From there, the Lufthansa jumbo jet traveled north to the southern part of the Norwegian Sea; then headed west over Iceland and Greenland; then traveled south over Hudson Bay, over the heart of Canada and entered the United States over Idaho; then south to San Francisco. From the time the team left the hotel at 4:30 a.m. (Prague time) to landing at San Francisco International Airport at 11:40 a.m. (Pacific time), the day of travel lasted 16 hours, ten minutes. The team arrived back at Stanford University around 1:30 p.m., tired but happy to be back home in the United States.
The two-week European trip for the Stanford women's volleyball team was one that was highly successful on many fronts. The Cardinal chalked up a 5-1 record against tough competition. The team traveled to four countries (Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Czech Republic) with distinctive customs. It was exciting to absorb every second of the day with so many historical landmarks, the people who were friendly and curious about our visit to their country, and just traveling to a part of the world that many on the team had never seen before. During the trip, the team was exposed to many new customs, friendly people and different kinds of foods that were rather good and healthy although sometimes there was a pause in deciding what actually you were consuming.
Stanford head coach John Dunning reflected on a great two weeks of traveling in Europe.
"The trip was amazing," said Dunning. "I'm not overworked because the people that arranged this trip, BringItUSA Tours, did an amazing job. They took care of everything for us and made it easy for us. It was also easy because of the great support from the other coaches and staff people on the trip. The trip, in my opinion, could not have gone any better.
"The level of play (of our opponents) was perfect for us. Every team we played was good.
The three junior national teams (Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic) we played were terrific.
Volleyball is big over here. There are teams, clubs, gyms where you can play volleyball all the time. I was so impressed with the quality of play. I think it would surprise a lot of people that there would be so much good volleyball being played around the world. The level of play was very high. I thought our team really learned a lot. I thought this was great a great experience for our veteran players and young players.
Everybody on the team did a great job.
"The food was different but really, really good. The hosts did a great job of giving us cultural situations. We finished the trip with a great BBQ in a real, small Czech town. We toured places that were so dramatic to visit. We toured Rome, Italy, and there was a dramatic effect on the people who had never visited there before.
Then we visited the beautiful countryside of Italy, then to the mountains of Slovenia and did some really fun things. The people in each place were wonderful to us. Then we finished our trip in Vienna (Austria) and Prague (Czech Republic).
And even though we were tired, those were the favorite places (Austria, Czech Republic) for the team. This was an educational experience, a cultural experience, and a great volleyball experience.
"We have been together as a team for so long, since last August. Now we are back and can take a month or so to rest and relax, and get back to being fresh for the Fall. I think the team; the coaches and staff are excited about coming back for the 2006 season."
Today's story and photos from Europe are Stanford's final installment of the team's trip to Europe. These daily pictorial and written chronicles of Stanford's trip would not be possible without the help of many people on the Stanford trip. Many thanks to Carl Reed, Katie Goldhahn, Cobey Shoji, Nji Nnamani and Melissa Hodgins for providing many digital camera photos for the Stanford website. And special thanks to Heather Hernandez, who provided nearly 600 photos. By the way, Hernandez is the newest member of the Cardinal women's volleyball team.
Hernandez, who has competed on the Stanford crew team, will be a sophomore walk-on in the Fall.
And thanks to Stanford's tour guides Tim Kelly and Cory Solomon who somehow found Internet access where there just wasn't any available. Tim and Cory were so helpful to this reporter to allow me to file daily stories when all hope seemed lost. On one trip to Ravenna, Italy, the local hotel had wireless access. However, late one evening, the lobby closed for the night.
Luckily, this reporter found wireless
capabilities close by and was able to sit down on a dark street corner at 1 a.m. with a barking dog nearby and a small group of feral cats annoyed by my presence. Somehow, the story and the photos made it back to the United States. Also thanks to the people at gostanford@cstv for their enormous help.
Special thanks to head coach John Dunning and his wife, Julie, and to the coaching staff of Denise Corlett and Jason Mansfield for their insights.
And to Dr. Elaine Lambert, who kept everybody healthy during the two-week trip.
And a SPECIAL THANKS to the young women of the Stanford volleyball team (Foluke Akinradewo, Cynthia Barboza, Jessica Fishburn, Alex Fisher, Franci Girard, Heather Hernandez, Bryn Kehoe, Michelle Mellard, Nji Nnamani, Kristin Richards, Lizzie Suiter, Erin Waller) who despite an extremely busy sightseeing and playing schedule, were able to sit down each day at the computer to relay their thoughts about the trip.
It has been an honor to chronicle this special trip - Bob Vazquez (Editor/Reporter)
And finally, here are the final installments of the Daily Diary by players Lizzie Suiter and Erin Waller
Today's Daily Diary is provided by Lizzie Suiter and edited by Michelle Mellard Things I Will Miss About Europe: Men with Capri pants and man purses
Playing and sweating in tents with no air conditioning
Never knowing what time or day it is
Dishes composed of just meat and sauerkraut
Awkward language barriers
Being the tallest females in all of Europe
Laughing at pictures taken on the trip
(especially those involving double chins)
Castles upon every hill
Getting away with not showering
Bargaining with street vendors
The best Coca-Cola Lights in old school glass bottles
Being surrounded by the team that I love and somehow never get sick of
Things I Plan To Do Upon Return:
Sit in my refrigerator
Eat an avocado
Stay in bed and sleep for at least two days
Purchase a scooter because walking is overrated
Watch TV in English
Go to a public restroom and NOT have to pay
Enjoy using one currency for every purchase
Call my teammates cause I will miss them already
Today's Daily Diary is also provided by Erin Waller Being the last of the twelve members of the team to submit a daily diary entry, I am faced with the challenge of summarizing the 14-day European Tour. Because the other eleven girls have written about the unique places we have visited, the activities we took part in, and the various people we have met, I'd like to take a step away from a long summarization and instead provide my own personal reflection on Europe and my attempts to absorb new and very unknown cultures.
I left the United States for the first time in my life on June 14, 2006. I did not know what to culturally expect from the different countries we were going to visit. On the plane to Europe, I experienced my first taste of culture shock. A German flight attendant gave me a disgusted look and commented on my decision to drink water over wine. Shortly after this, I noticed a young boy that was sitting in front of me, who was no older than three, speaking in German. I was completely taken back by the fact I could not understand a single word this toddler was saying.
When we were sight seeing in Italy, I was again taken aback by the fact that almost every group of Italian men commented on how beautiful the girls on our team are. We became very acquainted with the phrase "Ciao Bella." Additionally, for the first time in my life I had to pay for water, yet wine was free, and in some places, using a bathroom put a dent in my wallet.
Another culture shock came over me in Slovenia while our team was lounging by the pool of a very fancy hotel. Many of the women did not have tops on and this so different to all of us. The comfort level with public nudity in Europe contrasts greatly to that of the United States.
Ultimately, this trip has helped me realize the many things I take for granted at home. I greatly look forward to playing volleyball in our beautiful Maples Pavilion this fall. All of the gyms we competed in and also many restaurants did not have air conditioning, so we experienced some very sticky, sweaty, and wet days. Air conditioning is something I always anticipated subconsciously yet never truly paid attention to or appreciateduntil now.
I am truly grateful to have received this opportunity to share my first experience outside of the United States with the eleven amazing members of my teamyeah, yeah, I'm sappy."