It’s the end of September, and I am yet again floored at how fast this summer flew right on by. My last update came shortly after Easter, and that was back in April. The Earth must spin just a little bit faster when the weather is nice.
First up after Easter was enjoying the fact that I submitted my thesis on time, but constantly fretting about whether or not it would be approved by my thesis advisor. Thankfully, on the 8th of May, I opened my inbox to find this gem:
I immediately forwarded the email to my mom and Anthony (who unfortunately had to proofread multiple drafts of my work before I submitted it) and the rest of my family (who may or may not have known that I was in stress-out-thesis-grading-stage at the time but were pleasantly surprised to hear that I had passed), and let out a HUGE sigh of relief. But before my lungs were empty I started thinking “Holy cow. This means I have to take the final exam… in 28 days!!”…. and with that, I was back on the freak out train.
Thanks to my classmates who were also writing in finance, I was able to feel pretty good going into the final exam, and it ended up being a breeze. Our professors asked us to “defend” our theses (essentially just talk about how we wrote it, how we conducted our research, how we reached our conclusions, etc.) and then we discussed several other broad topics that were applicable to our International Management degrees. Mira and I went at the same time, and after receiving positive grades and firm handshakes from our professors, we practically floated across the street to meet our classmates for a drink at UNI.WIRT. PHEW!!!
At this point, beach volleyball season was in full swing and I was happy to be spending essentially all of my spare time training with my partner Mari. We first played together last beach season, and have since learned a lot. She’s a whopping 10 years younger than me, which is funny sometimes, but since we both came into it knowing relatively little about playing on the sand (read: I play with the body of a 27 year old but with the strategic know-how of a 12 year old), it kind of evens out.
For us, last season was all about figuring out what the heck makes beach volleyball so different from indoor volleyball… How to move in the sand, how to anticipate the movement of the ball, etc., etc. Several of the tournaments we played in last year were “für die Fische”… for example, we once drove 3+ hours to a tournament in Mattsee, we lost our first two games (we had waited 4 hours between games), and we piled back in the car to drive 3+ hours home. While we hated losing (I may smile even through a loss, but I HATE losing), we knew we weren’t good enough to win yet, and we were playing against teams of girls who had practiced and played together sometimes for years. We had to accept it for what it was.
But this year, we weren’t going to be satisfied with pool-play losses. We were fortunate enough to be invited to train with Klagenfurt’s only pro women’s team (team Frühbauer/Fleig) for three days in late May, and it was the first time we had received really intense coaching for several consecutive sessions. After the week was over, we felt like different players. (It’s crazy how that coach thing works sometimes) It was like we had both experienced volleyball epiphanies… like little lightbulbs had started turning on in our brains to help us understand the game better than before.
That being said, three days of intense coaching does not a world-class beach volleyball team make. But it did make us hungrier to compete, and hungrier to win games. We had several good showings this year, taking 7th place at the B-Cup in Graz and 5th place at the B-Cup in Mattsee. We still can’t squeak out wins against the pros, and we still sometimes lose to experienced amateurs. But we have fun with it, and we’re not half bad! We don’t have the time or money (or desire, to be honest) to train like professionals. But for me, playing beach allows me to keep competing, which is something that I’ve missed since the last game that I played in Dresden (or maybe since my SCU days?)… and it’s an entirely new challenge, so I feel like I learn new things every time I touch the sand. Plus Mari is hilarious and an absolute blast to play with!
Here are just a few snapshots from our summer together:
Aside from beach volleyball, I spent my summer in Austria enjoying the wonderful weather with Handsome Hank A. Dog and equally handsome Marco A. Human. I also enjoyed several visits with Sophie (who was in Belgium all of last season and will be in Sweden this season), and got to celebrate my graduation (I wore my first dirndl!) with Marco’s awesome family. Here are some non-beach related summer memories:
Morning ball sessions at ÖGV Klagenfurt
Hank hanging his head out the window in the Panda
Marco and I at a wedding on Lake Wörthersee (Congrats Hati and Steffi!)
Lake Wörthersee in all her beauty
Sophie and her only canine friend… Hank!
Opa and I at graduation
Sophie and I in Deutschlandsberg
The Wörthersee has Waikiki-color water in the summertime…
Hank with his favorite red ball
Towards the end of July I began to feel anxious and excited about the trip that Marco and I would be taking to the US in August. I hadn’t been on US soil since traveling home for Grandma Cmaylo’s funeral in February of 2013, which didn’t really count as a normal “trip home” in my book. I felt like I had two years of a USA-related to-do list going through my brain, and I couldn’t wait to start checking things off…
I departed from Klagenfurt early on July 31st, and after almost 24 hours of travel I touched down at SFO, grabbed my bohemoth-but-legal baggage from the carousel, and watched as my mom’s new blue Honda pulled up to the curb. It was almost midnight, but we chatted the whole ride back to Napa, and it took all of 3.5 minutes for me to down the Vallerga’s sandwich that she had brought for me oh so kindly (turkey, avocado, lettuce, muenster cheese on Dutch Crunch, and an Andes mint to polish it off. YUM.).
I spent the first 4 days of my time stateside in Napa, catching up with dear friends from high school, enjoying every bite of the home-cooked meals that my mom prepared every night, and being generally super nostalgic. This feeling that hits me every time I go home ranges from feelings of nostalgia brought about by inanimate objects (“Ohhhh I can’t throw this away.. It’s the twisty tie that Dad used to close my sandwich bag when we flew from NJ to CA in 1992” <– No seriously I have that twisty tie) to memories tied to a specific nondescript place (“Ohhh this is the spot on the road where that guy in that truck picked me up to give me a ride to Jazmin’s house and Talia and Mom almost killed me when I mentioned it” <– No seriously I was that dumb. He was nice though, not a murderer.) And because I live half a world away, I always spend a lot of my time in Napa looking through old things, feeling nostalgic about past events, and generally questioning my life choices of living so dang far away. [But thankfully my mom is always there to snap me out of my wheel-of-death thinking patterns.]
Balloon above the backyard
The view north of Bell Wine Cellars
SF from the Bay Bridge
More nostalia-ing (I was a genie, ca. Halloween 1993??)
Even more nostalgia-ing
While in CA, I also got to spend some time in Emeryville on Talianna, the boat that gets more and more homey with every visit.
An egret next to Talianna (it was actually vomiting up its dinner for some reason, but thankfully the picture didn’t capture the little piles of half-digested fish that were strewn about the dock area)
I also spent one special evening coaching a group of 30 students from my elementary school, Saint Brigid, at a YMCA in San Francisco. My mom had been in touch with a group of Saint Brigid parents coordinating a fundraising event, and somehow the idea of me coaching a volleyball clinic got thrown into the conversation. It was so fun for me to reconnect with the SB community, because both Talia and I LOVED our time there. In fact, I think we both spent the first few months after moving from SF to Napa in mourning for our time at Saint Brigid. The school offered both of us such a wonderful feeling of community, and given that I’m a nostalgic sap (see above), watching current SB students play volleyball for 2 hours, listening to me talk about my playing career and attempting to implement my debatable coaching tips was a recipe for a warm heart.
These cuties barely needed to duck to get under the net. Their kneepads covered half their legs! So adorable.
After 4 wonderful days in California, which included a visit to Napa from Mira, I took off for Colorado to visit Crystal in her new home. Since we last saw one another in person she’s gotten married, moved states, bought a house AND gotten a dog. So it was time. I had a blast hanging out in her new ‘hood, meeting her new friends, snuggling with her adorable puppy, and meeting the not-so-new-hubby! The visit was somewhat rushed, but we definitely made the most of it, and as always, I left Colorado with abs sore from laughter–a symptom characteristic of spending time with Crystal!
[Insert pics from CO here. CRYSTAL UPLOAD THE PICS FROM YOUR GOPRO!!)
From Denver I headed to Austin, Texas where my sister and Marco were waiting to pick me up in the 105 degree heat at 11PM. We had one week in Austin with Talia and made the absolute most of it. We went swimming at Barton Springs, honed our golf skills at Hancock Golf Course, ate our weight in barbecue, failed at making it into Hopdoddy TWICE before settling for the new location after a workout at Crossfit City Limits, tempted the water snakes at Krause Springs, and Marco ate almost 20 Torchy’s tacos within 7 days (I think I ate 10). The trip was most definitely a success.
Evening volleyball sessions
We spent one travel day flying from Austin to Boston, where my cousin Kendall (the same one that visited Austria in March!) picked us up and played chauffeur for several days. Marco and I took in a Red Sox game at Fenway (and got some great seats thanks to a wonderful Saint Brigid’s School connection) and then headed with Kendall to Cotuit, for the beach leg of the trip.
The scene at Fenway
More of Fenway
Cotuit was, as always, a major success. We arrived in time for the O’Neill family reunion on Saturday picked Talia up from Providence on Saturday night, and then spent Sunday morning running the 42nd annual Falmouth Road Race from Woods Hole to Falmouth. Marco was a BOSS: he finished in just over 50 minutes, placing 579 out of 11,060 runners. HA. Marco is crazy. He never even runs!
As a pleasant surprise, our cousin Rebecca and her husband Graham came to visit that afternoon, and Graham whipped up an UNREAL breakfast for us on Monday morning. Steak for breakfast?? With asparagus, homemade mozzarella and hollandaise?? OK.
The rest of our time at the cape was spent swimming, kayaking, tennis-ing, eating, etc. etc. While I love California, Cape Cod wins the summer prize in my book. My heart will always be torn between the east and west coasts!
When Marco flew back to Austria, I took a flight back to San Francisco for a somewhat unplanned 2nd trip to the west. I was lucky enough to be hired by an Austrian software company that is also based in San Francisco, and spent 4 days at the end of August at a trade show in the city. I got to catch up with (and crash at the apartment of) my dear friend Koryn, and also got to take in a Giant’s game at AT&T Park.
Touristy SF pic
It was almost a no-hitter!
I managed to avoid being in Napa for the earthquake that hit on August 24 (I was sleeping on the boat and felt nothing!) but I did capture some of the damage.
Earthquake damage… Thankfully, no one was hurt!
Pre-quake Color Me Mine mug from Jordan, ca. fall 2008
Post-quake Color Me Mine mug from Jordan, ca. August 29, 2014
On my loooong flight back from San Francisco to Graz (through Boston and Munich), I got the surprise of a lifetime (ok maybe that’s a little exaggerated but it was still a great surprise) when they randomly bumped me up from economy to business class! I never want to fly economy again.
First-time business class travelers always take sefies.
SO. MUCH. LEGROOM. Plus massage chairs that recline to lay flat!!
That is one whopping update. Quite amazingly, I have more to write/tell (visit from family earlier this month, a trip to Italy I took last weekend, and many updates on the general work-life front) but it’ll have to wait. My eyes are tired of looking at a computer screen!
Lots of love from my side of the world,
PS: I almost forgot. I chopped my hair off! I feel so fresh and so clean (clean)