My journey has just begun…

ImageStart of week 3: Today was a pretty low-key day; the entire family is always gone on Mondays so it was just me, myself, and I at the house which was nice. Tristan (oldest son) arrived home around 5 and we headed to the weight room. Once there, instead of being the one caught off guard by random people approaching me to shake my hand when they entered the gym, I decided to catch others off guard. Didn’t matter if they were in the middle of a squat, middle of conversation, or in deep meditation, I shook hand after hand, saying, “Bonjour!” Only one person seemed offended and that was a lady whom I tried to shake her hand, I think she was expecting the triple-cheek kiss but I’m not that bold yet. Had a nice workout then headed over to the basketball arena to talk with the coach of the pro team and he gave me a schedule of when they practice and said if I wanted to play that I could. So whatever days I don’t have any football obligations I think I’m gonna play a little bball.

Once at home I prepared myself a nice little dinner. Couple steaks, salad, beans, toast. I ran upstairs to grab my computer and when I came back down 5 minutes later I noticed my steaks weren’t on the stove so I looked over at the dinner table and there is Tristan and Dimitri eating my steaks haha. I didn’t even bother saying anything because after all it is their house and technically their food. On this night I let it slide but next time they cook up something delicious and leave the room for a brief moment, it just might disappear. So after my spoiled dinner, Veronique (host mom) asked if I could help Tristan with his English homework. Being the good sport that I am, I went up to his room and we studied up for his big test the next day. If he does not get a hundred percent, I will take it as a personal failure.

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight (whos name I will not disclose) and he was asking me all the basic questions, how’s France? How’s your French? Do you miss home? Etc. Then after a while he said “you know; if a few years ago someone would have told me that both the Christensen brothers would be living/playing overseas, I don’t know if I would have believed them.” “Nice work, I admire what you both are doing.” Simple words like that are very powerful to me and make me reflect on how far I’ve come as an athlete and more importantly as a person. I thought, if someone would have told myself a few years ago that I would be in the position that I am in now, I’m not sure if I would have believed them either. It took me back to an uncertain time in my life when I was finishing up at Lane Community College and had to decide which school I would attend next to play basketball at. I could have easily taken one of the many D2 or NAIA scholarships that had been offered to me but my brother who had transferred from D3 Lewis Clark college to D1 Eastern Washington always said that it was a very tough decision but that he was very glad he made the move to prove to himself and others that he could play and belonged at the highest level. That was the mindset he instilled in me to not settle for anything less than the highest level. He had me call and send tape to literally every college program in the nation and I’m not talking just Portland State’s or Eastern Washington’s, I’m talking Duke, North Carolina, Oregon, Georgetown, Syracuse, Kansas, UNLV, every big time college program. It was extremely hard and there was a lot of fear. The first few times he had to dial the number then would just toss me the phone. I would pray for answering machines so I could just leave a message ha. It was a huge long shot for me to go to one of these schools but that wasn’t the point, the point was to get comfortable talking to these coaches because they were just like every other person that I talk to on a daily basis and only good things could come from it. An assistant coach for the University of North Carolina called me back one day and said, “We already have our roster set for the next year but if there was anything I could do to help with your process of finding a school to play for, I’d be more than happy to help.” Sure enough East Carolina University came on very strong because of that assistant’s recommendation. Over this process I learned to not let fear get in the way of something that you want. No, I didn’t play at North Carolina or Duke but I was given a chance to play at Portland State, which would not have been possible if my brother didn’t push me to contact all those top tier programs. So now you have a kid who was cut from the basketball team his senior year of high school and who was now playing at a Division 1 school that was coming off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. None of my successes in these recent years would have been possible without the many failures that I have endured but with the support of my close friends and family I continue to take these risks that the old me would have not dared to take. Hopefully all I’ve been through and am going to go through will turn into a best-selling novel one day. Well enough with the short trip down memory lane, time to put my head to this pillow and pass out. 

I thought it was a silent alarm??

Image

Week 2 recap: Another solid week in the books. I am finally beginning to become a true French driver. I get out of 1st gear with no problems, cut off other cars, pass people who are taking their sweet time, park on sidewalks, and instead of trying to find a parking spot in the city when picking someone up I simply stop in the middle of the road and turn on my hazards like a true French driver. 

I was able to get a gym membership to “Body Peps” this week so that is where I will be spending most of my time during the week. It was a great feeling being in there and thinking “I am getting paid to do this right now. This is my job.” One thing that I still have yet to get used to is that every person that enters the gym greets every other person in the gym with a hand shake. It could be just me in the gym or there could be 20 other people and the most recent person to enter the gym will approach every single person and shake their hand. I was on the leg curl machine in the middle of doing the exercise when a guy approached me with his hand out. We just starred at each other. I was very confused and said “umm what’s up?” He said “Bonjour!!” and looked at me as if I was crazy. I finally figured it out and we shook hands then he walked away shaking his head in disgust haha.

Saturday night was a blast; a teammate invited me over for a “real French dinner” and to watch some of the college football games. There were 5 of us there and the food was delicious, then we started to drink a little and played a drinking game called “Hockey” (taught to me by Matt Munther) which was new to my French teammates but even so I quickly wound up being on the losing end most of the time. From there we went to some house party in the city. We didn’t get the memo that it was a costume party but we spotted some playboy bunny ears on one of the couches and sported those the rest of the evening.  The owner of the house pulled me aside and asked if I was having a good time and I said “Yea, having a great time. Thanks for having us.” He then responded by saying, “Ok good. I was a little worried when you walked in because I was like,,, oh no, here are some Americans that don’t know any French and now I’m gonna have to babysit them.” I laughed and told him that he doesn’t have to worry about me.

After the house party things got very interesting. We walked over to a “Discotheque” (club) and a familiar voice yelled out “Steve what are you doing here?!” That familiar voice was my host dad Pierre, who was filling in for his brother as a bouncer at the club we were going to. I chatted with him for a few minutes then made my way to the dance floor; you can use your imagination of what happened over the next hour or so. Brian, the other American had a little bit too much of grandpas ol’cough medicine so I had to escort him out of the club. Our teammate Victor said that he would take him back to his place, so they left and Pierre asked if I wanted a ride home when he was done with work, and I of course said yes. Little did I know work as a bouncer in France doesn’t end till 5 AM when the club closes haha. So I became an honorary bouncer for the night. It was me, Pierre and 3 Albanian guys whom you would not want to cross in a dark alley. Every time there was a disturbance inside the club the 4 of them would rush in and tell me to not let anyone in until they got back. Each time I would have to stop a line of people by simply putting my hand out and a little nod of my head because my English wouldn’t get the point across. Then after a few minutes the 4 would come back carrying a guy who was getting a little to rowdy , simply toss him onto the sidewalk and tell him to keep it pushing. At one point Pierre and I were talking then all of a sudden he said step back behind the gate, because there was a loud commotion from across the street. I looked over and there were two huge bouncers from another bar/club chasing and kicking some kid that they had kicked out of their bar. I have never seen anything like that in my life, at one point he was crawling and they were still kicking him. They finally stopped and went back to their post as the guy got up and started yelling back at them, which was probably not the smartest thing to do but luckily for him they didn’t come back for seconds. If there is one thing I learned at that moment is that there are no rules, so you have to be very careful and cautious about what you are doing.

When the bar finally closed I helped them put up some chairs and what not then me, Pierre, all the bouncers, bartenders, waitresses and the owner of the club popped a few bottles of champagne and had chocolate cake (the best cake I ever had) to celebrate one of the waitresses birthday. After eating a bullshitting for an hour or so it was finally time to head home. We went out the back door and were greeted by a South France sunrise because it was 6:30 AM. We got home around 7 and I didn’t get out of my bed until 4 PM. Pierre then took me to get my car which I left at my teammates house. On the way back I thought I was following him but when we pulled up to a stoplight it was the same car but definitely not Pierre driving, so yet again I was lost in South France. I was able to back track to my teammate’s house then from my memory and a little help from Pierre I was able to navigate my way back to a familiar road and from there I found my way back to the house.

The end of my week just happened a few moments ago when I came downstairs to right this journal entry. The house I stay at has a motion censored alarm system so when I came downstairs from my room the alarm started beeping. I thought “no problem, I’ll just enter the code and that will be that.” 3-6-4-1…. BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP!! The loudest, most annoying alarm was set off by yours truly. I did a light jog upstairs and Tristan was in his door way, half asleep and very confused. I said, “You gotta come downstairs and shut this thing off.” He went down and entered the code to turn off the alarm. I asked what the code was and he said, “3-8-4-1”. Some would consider entering a wrong code as a failure but I was proud of myself for getting 3 of the 4 numbers correct. If I were able to do that with a lottery ticket, I think I would win some serious cash. Anywho that’s all I got for ya. Time for a PB&J and a tall glass of milk and then it’s off to count sheep.

Rule number 1 when abroad,,, don’t get lost…

Image

Day 9/10: What a couple days it has been, there was a brief moment when I thought it was going to be my final days but I’m a survivor. Friday Brian (the other American) and I decided to meet at the practice field to work on some things around 5 PM. We had a good throwing session and I decided to just go back to his place to shower up and go out from there, because he lives within walking distance to downtown Montpellier. We made a quick pit-stop at JB’s (French player/recruiter for the team) for a nice home cooked meal then proceeded to Brian’s house where I met his host mom (Reeda) and had a brief conversation with her. We then made our way downtown to meet up with some of the French players and a couple French girls who attended the University of North Carolina with Brian. The first bar we went to was a low-key lounge with extremely short ceilings, so people were looking at me like the circus had just arrived in town haha. After there we walked around the city and met a few girls from London who led us to a place called “RockStar”. This bar/club was funny to me because they were playing awful US music from the 70’s/80’s but the people in there were loving it. To break a sweat, I got on the dance floor for a little bit and pulled out some of my best moves for the people. After “RockStar” Brian and I wandered back to his place, where I fell asleep on the couch. Not 2 hours into my sleep and the lady he lives with is screaming at me in broken English “HELLO! HELLO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?” Since I was coming out of a deep sleep, I was very confused and a little frightened. I apologized multiple times but she just kept saying, “I don’t know what Brian is thinking! This is not his home! He didn’t even ask if it was ok if you stayed.” “Is this normal in the US?!?” “I want him out of here in the morning.” She calmed down a little and said that it was ok if I stayed until later in the morning but I felt my time was up. So I folded up the blankets, placed a mint on the pillow and got the hell out of there.

It is now 7 in the morning and I am trying to navigate my way back to the house but of course I end up getting lost. Again I am nearly out of gas and have no idea where I am. I stopped to fill up my tank but my credit card would not work and I had no Euros with me. I parked the car and took a little nap in the back of the mini-van until the stores opened so I could ask for directions. Around 10 I noticed that the parking lot was fairly busy so I began to approach every person I saw to ask for directions. No one I approached spoke English so this tactic was not going to work. I went back to the van to search for phone numbers or an address and that’s when I came across a maintenance bill that had been charged to Montpellier Hurricanes (my football team), it had an address so I took that to show people. Still no one knew where that address was. While standing on the corner thinking of my next move a police car drove by and I sprinted after it, they noticed me and pulled over. One of the officers spoke ok English so he was able to understand my dilemma. They were able to locate the address with their GPS and tried to tell me the directions to get there but they could tell that I had no idea what they were saying. I was able to put on my best puppy-dog face and convince them to give me a police escort to the address. They led me on a solid half hour drive through the city and just as I thought the address I handed them was the location of our practice field. I thanked them and said, “Anytime I get lost, I’ll be sure to give you two a call.” They laughed, gave me a pat on the back and went on their merry way. It was now 11:30 and I had 2 hours to kill before the kids showed up for their training, so I reclined the passenger seat and had a nice relaxing snooze.

I had a very good training session with the kids and was ready to go home to get some real sleep. As I walked in the door Pierre (host dad) said, “You must shower fast, we have to go.” I forgot that Saturday night was the night that we were going to Veronique’s (host mom) parent’s house for dinner, which was about an hour away. Pierre said there would be very good food but be prepared because no one there speaks any English. He was right the food was delicious and indeed no one spoke any English but they were very interested in me. When I entered the house I gave Veronique’s mother the “triple-cheek” kiss which was fine but then I went in for the same thing with Veronique’s cousin but on the third cheek kiss she lend back with a very frightened look on her face. Pierre began laughing and said, “I should have told you that she is from Niece and they only do a double-cheek kiss haha.” I spent most of the night answering questions (which were translated by Pierre), and being their Ginny-pig for tasting French liquor and cheese’s (which is very, very bad in my opinion. The cheese that is). They poured me their “special” drink which was a little larger than a shot, so after we cheersed I took it down as if it were a shot and the entire room went “OHHHHH-NOOOO”. I found out the hard way that this “special” drink, though small, was meant to be sipped. My throat was on fire for the remainder of the night. We finally hit the road for home around 1 AM and after being awake for most of the past 40 hours I was finally able to slide into my bed and get some well deserved rest.

Just say no to French Cheese!

Image

Day 7:Rolled out of bed bright and early today around 11 and headed downstairs for a little brunch if you will. To my surprise there was Dimitri (youngest son) sitting there watching TV, I asked if he was sick, with the thinking that he should be at school otherwise. Dimitri and his mom looked at me like I was crazy. Once we finally overcame the language barrier, she explained to me that up until college (high school in the states) kids do not attend school on Wednesday’s. I was very jealous/angry that I had to dish out 13 years worth of my Wednesday’s to the education system. Around 12 just as I was beginning to calm down and about to take a bite of my bacon, the door flew open and in walk’s Tristan (oldest brother) with a big grin on his face. I asked myself, “Now, why is he home?” Thinking, maybe his school is close by and he just came home for lunch. But I was wrong again, his mother forgot to tell me that when kids reach college (high school in the states) they only attend a “morning session” and have the rest of the day off. At this point I completely lost my appetite, I went to my room and thought about all those Wednesday’s that I spent in school board out of my mind, starring aimlessly out a window. What a wonderful life these kids lead, I hope they appreciate it ha.

Later, me, Tristan and Dimitri went to the park to throw the football. Once at the park a large dog approached us and was very interested in the football. We would throw it to one another and the chien (dog) would run back and forth trying to get a piece of the action. I decided it probably wasn’t good to have a random, semi-aggressive dog around Dimitri (the youngest) so I led it past a small opening at the gate and faked a football throw toward the street. The fake worked as intended and the dog ran out of the park and into the road. I quickly grabbed a large board and blocked the fence opening so the dog could not return. We continued to throw the football for a few minutes and all of a sudden, like a bat out of hell, through the bushes on the opposite end of the field, here comes the dog! I was almost as scared as the kids because this dog was a BEAST and it was in full sprint. So I did what I know best and avoided confrontation by throwing the football as far as I could away from us and luckily the dog also made a sharp left in pursuit of the football. He/she fiddled around with it for a few minutes and then finally walked away and gave us peace of mind.

Shortly after we returned home it was time to get behind the wheel of my mini-van and get the little ones to practice. When driving them around I prefer that they wear their football equipment, helmet and all, just so I am not liable if anything goes wrong. The mini was low on gas so I stopped at a gas station relatively close to the house, but just my luck the machine did not accept my credit card or debit card. We had to drive back to the house and get their mothers credit card, then return to the gas station for a little fill up. And yes, I did pay her back later that evening.  Aside from that little hiccup the drive was relatively smooth, that is until we were literally 10 seconds away from the field. The last road is a very narrow (one car only), steep road, and all of a sudden here comes a car around the bend, heading down hill and he is not stopping. So I pulled off a little to the side and came to a stop so he could squeeze by. As if I didn’t have a hard enough time getting the car into gear on a flat road, now I have to attempt to do it while stopped on a severe uphill incline. A few of my friends mentioned something about an “emergency break” trick but didn’t explain what to do, so trial and error began. I put the parking-break on and slowly released the clutch while giving it some gas then I started to gun it, but forgot to release the emergency break. Cars are passing by and here I am, a huge American, in a mini-van, with two little kids, and I’m revving my engine like I’m an extra in “Fast and the Furious”. I got a few smiles and a few, “What’s this jack-ass doing?!?” looks. After 4 tries, I finally got my baby to move. We inched up the hill and finally arrived at the practice field.

Once there the kids practiced with their teams, while the other American (Brian) and I had to coach 5 teenagers whom have never played American football before. We were able to get over the language barrier and the kids were really receptive to what we were teaching them. It was kind of refreshing being around kids who were willing to try something new, make mistakes, fall down, get hit in the facemask by footballs they could not catch, but continue to try, try again without getting overly frustrated or quitting. From all skill levels that would be the biggest difference that I have noticed between kids in France and kids in America. A lot of kids back home tend to think that they are better than they really are and are sometimes reluctant to receive help, or constructive criticism from others, which in the long run only hurts them because it constrains them from reaching their maximum potential. But so far my experience with the kids here is that they are willing to do whatever I say, with the belief that what I am showing/teaching them is going to make them better. Some of the drills may be foreign and very difficult for them but they continue to try and work through their mistakes, and are very open to my suggestions. Their eagerness to want to learn something new inspires me because so many kids back home and even myself at times, are so broken down by coach after coach that has sucked the fun out of a game and made it into more of a job, that they close themselves off and simply just want to make it through the practice and I don’t think that’s how sports should be. That is why I make it a point to always be positive when I’m coaching. Every drill may not be easy or fun but if the experience as a whole is fun, I believe the kids will learn a heck of a lot more.  At the end of the workout I simply asked the group, “Did you all have fun tonight?” (Hesitant because I could not tell during the workout if they were or not). To my delight, they all had wide smiles and said that it was a lot of fun and that they looked forward to next Wednesday.

On the way home I told Tristan not to give me any direction and to their surprise I got us home on my own haha. After a great dinner, Pierre had me try “French Cheese”. I took a little nibble and almost threw up. The family burst out in laughter and Pierre said “I should have told you that I hate the cheese before you ate it. But I wanted to see what you think.” “And now I know haha” as he patted me on my back. 

Another day in the books and I think George Jung from “Blow” says it best, “May the wind always be at your back,,, and the sun always upon your face,,, and the winds of destiny to carry you aloft to dance with the stars.” Good night all.

Lost in France, Round 1…

Image

Day 5: It was a beautiful Lundi (Monday) in South France, 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, pretty nice for mid-November. It was my first day at home alone and I could not for the life of me figure out how to turn on the stove. I spent at least 20 minutes trying but no luck, so I had to settle for cereal and what I thought was milk (could have been creamer). After I got back from a run I was sitting at the kitchen table when Tristan (the oldest son) ran in the house and up to his room. He came down shortly after and said, “Let’s go”. I said, “Huh?? Go where?” he thought for a minute but didn’t understand what I said, so he proceeded to say, “Let’s go?” haha. This time with no questions asked I grabbed the keys to my Chrysler Voyager and we took off. Tristan would just point when I had to turn and I took a wrong turn twice so a 15 min drive ended up taking 30 min. It was my first time being in heavy traffic and driving on the freeway which was a real treat. Aside from a few horns and people having to slam on their breaks, I think I did pretty good. Our destination turned out to be the gym. The weight room was no 24 Hour Fitness but it had all the essentials to get a good workout in. I wandered over to the basketball court which was actually an arena setting with a couple thousand seats. The pro team for Montpellier was practicing and the coach (Gabriel) approached me and Tristan for a conversation. In short he gave Tristan his number (because I do not have a phone yet) and asked if I would join the team. I said, “If the price is right Gabriel,,, if the price is right.” (Didn’t actually say that haha). On the way home I didn’t need as much direction from Tristan because I am starting to get a feel for where the house is. Once at home I had Veronique show me how to turn on the stove so that I could finally eat my scramble eggs that I had been craving. While I was cooking Dimitri (youngest son) approached me and attempted in English to say, “Thank you for unloading the dishwasher”, it was a mixture of French and English (Frenglish) but just enough so I could understand. Turns out Dimitri and Tristan take turns each week unloading the dish washer, so he was very happy that he had a day off to relax haha. That’s day 5 in a nutshell, now I am going to reside to my sleeping quarters and hit the hay.

Day 6: What a treat day 6 turned out to be! I started out by rolling out of bed around 9, made my way downstairs and cooked up some breakfast burritos, bacon and toast with a little fresh squeezed OJ to wash it all down. I then decided to watch the latest episode of “Sons of Anarchy” and bought it for $3 from ITunes. The only problem being when it finally downloaded it wouldn’t play, so I am now down $3 whole dollars on my trip. Went for a little jog around the town/village and came across what I thought was a basketball court but it was just two hoops and a gravel parking lot which is no use to me because I can’t shoot a basketball. Fast forward to the evening, Pierre returned home and came in my room and said “Are you ok?” I said, “Yea. Why do you ask?” he responded by saying, “My wife says you spend most of you time during the day in the house or up in your room. Do you miss your home, your friends? What can we do to make this better for you?” I kinda laughed and said, “No, I’m perfectly fine. This is pretty much what I do when I am at home.” I really appreciate them for caring but I don’t want them to worry because I am very happy right now. I just hang out around or near the house because I have no phone, we live in a small village and I have NO idea where I am. So as you will learn, if I venture off chances are I won’t make it back. Shortly after 6 PM it was time for me to drive to practice,,, alone…. I had my directions and Tristan’s cell phone (thank god) just in case I needed help. One wrong turn and a round-about later and the directions are now useless. The gas light just came on, Tristan’s phone has a cracked screen and is low on battery, it is night time and there is no light in the van. So there I am cruising down French back roads with directions in my lap, holding a dying cell phone over them for light, while trying to shift gears (something I’ve never done before last week) and trying to locate street signs that are in a language I cannot read to find my way back to something recognizable. But wouldn’t you know it; I’m completely lost in a different country. Being the stubborn person that I am sometimes, I decided not to ask for help right away because I thought that I could “find my way.” I was mistaken. I began to get very frustrated and flustered to the point that I forget how to drive. I stalled about 5 or 6 times in busy intersections and round-abouts. I have never heard so many horns or seen sooo many middle fingers in a 30 minute block of time. I finally pulled over in a parking lot that had 3 stores, and called Pierre for help. He began laughing when I said that I was lost and said that Dimitri (our center) would come get me on his way to practice. Dimitri (who speaks some English) asked where I was. I said in a parking lot with 3 stores, “Besson”, “Kiabi” and “Darty”. He said, “Oh you’re near the house. I’ll be there soon” and hung up. He called a few minutes later and said, “You are not here!?” I said, “I sure am.” He asked “Is there anything else in the parking lot?” I told him there was also a “Quick Restaurant”. He excitingly said “Ohhhhh, you are near the field. I will be there in 20 minutes” and hung up. 20 minutes later he called and said “I don’t see you.”  I got out of the car while on the phone and started walking in the middle of the parking lot and said, “I am standing in the parking lot directly in front of Kiabi.” Dimitri said, “I am directly in front of KIABI! I don’t see you!!” “Go inside Quick and ask where you are.” I followed his directions and went inside of “Quick”. I said “Excusez-moi” followed by a long pause and some awkward hands motions trying to pull out some other French words but all I could muster up was, “Umm,,, where am I..?”  The teenager behind the counter tilted his head and gave me a blank stare like a confused dog and then walked away and grabbed his manager. The manager came over and I asked what town I was in and he said, “You are in Lattes”. Dimitri over heard and said, “LATTES! You are in bad place. Far, far away” hahaha. He said either him or Dario (our coach) would come “rescue” me and hung up. I took a seat in my mini-van, had a good laugh and about 30 minutes later Dario arrived and I followed him to our practice. Left my house at 6 for what should have been a 30 minute drive to a practice that started at 7 and I arrived at 8:30 haha. Luckily I did very well and impressed my teammates. At the end of practice Dimitri said “You can’t speak French, you can’t drive, but you are very tall so it is ok.” He then allowed me to follow him back home since he lives close to the house I am staying at. On this day my little France adventure started at 6 PM and ended at 11:30 PM. Too bad it did not take place during the day time, then I could have at least been lost and still seen some of the sights. Now I am safe and sound in my bed, gearing up for another fun filled day in South France! Good night and Good luck.

Watch out for the new driver in South France!

ImageThe last two days have flown by. I’ve been learning so much, I now know how to drive a stick-shift except for the crucial part of getting out of 1st gear but besides that I’m golden haha. The kids I live with have been teaching me every French word that they can think of, so my vocabulary is amazing but I still have no idea how to use any of the words in a sentence. Dimitri, the youngest of the two is full of energy. We throw paper air planes at each other most of the time and today me and his father took him to the park next to their house to throw the football. It was just like I was back on Icarus Loop with Wild Bill and Little Jeff. Saturday I went to train some of the youth kids in the program. The French coaches gave me no instruction and just said “Wide Receivers go with Stephen”.  So there I am with four kids that don’t speak any English just looking at me for direction. It wasn’t my finest hour but I made it work and had them asking for water by the end of the workout. I was surprised at how good they were. I believe that some of them could hold their own in the states. On the way home from practice, Pierre (father) had me drive him and his son home. I drove to the practice field but that was during the day, now it was dark, the roads are very narrow and there are a lot of round-abouts, so the pressure was mounting. I came to a stop at a very busy round-about and when I tried to go the car stalled and rolled back and BAM! The car behind us accelerated into our rear. Pierre said “oh shit!” and quickly jumped out of the car to look at the damage. He got back in the car without even talking to the people that hit us and said “Not too bad. You should drive now.” So off we went like nothing ever happened haha. Later that evening Dario (President/coach of the team), Dimitri (Center on our team), JB (coach of junior team/player) and Brian (fellow American QB) joined us for dinner and drinks. For the most part Brian and I just sat in silence because all the conversations were in French. I just made sure to always laugh when others would and slip in a few jokes when I felt the time was right. The highlight of not being included in the table conversation is that it gave a unique advantage to eat most of the delicious finger-foods. At the end of the night Dario gave me the keys to my MINI-VAN, so in future wrecks I will be on my own haha. 

Day 4: Today I spent most of the day at Tristan’s first football game. They were pretty good but then I had to keep reminding myself that these were all 15 and 16 year olds, and that they were playing comparable to an 8th grade level back in the states. Tristan is a starting corner-back and the youngest player on the team (14) he had a few pass break ups and an interception. I give credit to myself; because I taught him everything that he knows haha. During most of the game I threw the football to all the little kids that came to watch their older brothers. They would run routes and teach me some new French words. Drove my mini-van to the field and am doing much better getting out of first gear. Pierre has been very patient with me and I enjoy his company, mainly because he is the only person in the last 5 days that I have been able to speak English to haha. When we were back at home I decided to go to the field that is right next to their house to work out. People would slow down as they drove by with a very confused look on their face. I’m guessing the exercises that I was doing is not very common in their town. After I showered, Veronique was digging through a pile of clean laundry trying to find my single missing sock. I tried to tell her that I had already grabbed it and had taken it to my room but she was very flustered and could not understand what I was trying to say as she continued to franticly search for the sock. My gestures weren’t working, so for a visual effect I took off the sock that I was wearing and did a reenactment.  I must have good acting skills because she understood that and we shared a good laugh. Then she told me how to say what I acted out in French, so we wouldn’t have to go through that ordeal again. I found it odd that the kids went to bed at 8 o’clock because they have school in the morning at 8 AM and Veronique went to bed at 9 because of work at 6 AM. I know if Jeff or I had school at 8, we would be up till 1 or 2, and if mom had work at 6 AM, she would be up till 5,,, the next evening when she returned home from work and then would settle in for a classic McMahon nap haha. I almost forgot, the other night Tristan was out with his friends and it was past his curfew so his parents kept checking their phone but not for a call or text message from him. Turns out they installed an application that allows them to track where he is at AND allows them to read all incoming/outgoing texts haha. So he better tell his friends to be very careful when sending him a message or make sure they use code words… Pierre sent me a bunch of movies that he has downloaded, so I’m about to pick one and call it a night.

Day 1 of my France Adventure!

ImageWas treated like a celebrity at the San Fran Airport. I was a very tall American standing in a line of all French people, all of a sudden a flight attendant approached me and said “Are you Stephen..?” I said, I sure am and he said, “Quickly, come with me.” As I exited the line everyone began to point and talk about me haha I can only imagine what they were thinking. Vincent, the flight attendant for Air France introduced me to the pilot and the rest of the Air France crew then told the lady at the ticket stand that I was with him and before I could even get out my passport she was handing me a ticket. I said, “Merci.” as Vincent left to prepare the plane.  As I was about to proceed to my gate, a French man with his family approached me and asked, “Are you going to Montpellier to play basketball?!” I said “No, football. American football.” he then said “Oh. I didn’t even know we had a football team.” and walked away haha. While going through customs there were not very many Americans and it seemed like every person that went through the metal detector was then patted down by one of the security members but sure enough when I went through they simply said “to the left and have a nice flight.” When I boarded my plane, Vincent, the flight attendant I had met earlier was able to upgrade my seat. Little did he know the new seat was next to the 2nd tallest person on the plane whom also had a small child that would occasionally come and sit in his lap. Needless to say there wasn’t very much room for the 2 or should I say 2-and-a-half of us, to operate, for a 12 hour flight. The scariest/coolest part of the flight is when Vincent approached me during the flight and said, “would you like to see the cock-pit?” I laughed and said, “sure” with the thinking that he was joking. But he wasn’t. He took me through business class and first class, past a “Do No Enter” sign and opened the cock-pit door. He introduced me to the pilots and I was soooo scared to shake their hands in fear that I would accidentally touch something and our final resting place would be somewhere in the Atlantic. He then told me to take a seat. I hesitated for a moment then he kinda forced me to sit in a seat directly in the middle of the two pilots. When walking back to my seat with a big smile on his face he said “now I bet you can’t do that in America!” He seemed to enjoy it more than I did. I was able to sleep a little during the flight but mainly walked around and watched a few movies. When we arrived in Paris, Vincent was going to fly with me to Montpellier. Our flight was leaving shortly after we landed so he instructed me that we were going to have to “run” to catch it. So I’m thinking a brisk walk but I was mistaken. He took off in a dead sprint, bags and all. It was difficult keeping up with him but right when I would think that I lost him I would use my height to spot him. Again we made it to what I believe was customs and he just showed his ID and said “he’s with me”; the man at the desk stamped my passport and on we went to the security checkpoint. There again we went to the front of the line and my carryon bag was “flagged” so it had to be inspected. This did not please Vincent. This little French man gave them an ear full. They checked my bag and were very suspicious of my weighted jump rope. If it weren’t for Vincent I think they might have detained me haha. My bags were packed so full that I couldn’t get a lot of the stuff back in the bag which they pulled out. So here I am, my first time in Paris, in a dead sprint through the airport with a heavy back pack, a very heavy bag and pillow case in my left hand, and random clothes in my right hand. I received many dirty looks from people because as Vincent would run by he hit countless people with his bag. They saw me running and associated me with him. I just would smile and say “Bonjour”. We made it to our flight on time and Vincent quickly requested that I be in the cock-pit while landing the plane. Lucky for me he didn’t know this flight crew as well as the other on the previous flight. We landed safely in beautiful Montpellier where I was greeted by my host family (Veronique and Pierre). Veronique’s husband (Pierre) is a tall man but she was very caught off guard at how big I was as I gave her a hug. Pierre speaks very good English, Veronique not so much haha. When we arrived at the home I was greeted my Dimitri (9) and Tristan (14). I went to shake Tristan’s hand and he gave me the kiss on both cheeks of my face just like you see in the movies. Then I didn’t even put out my hand for Dimitri as he stood there starring up at me, simply because I was so caught off guard by the “triple cheek kiss” haha. Pierre said, “Shake hands” to his kids and we shook hands. The one big mistake I made during my first couple hours in France was when we were about to eat and Pierre said “You eat. My brother has an emergency and I must go help.” I offered to give a helping hand, thinking it was something serious. He took me up on my offer and we drove to his older brother’s home. When we pulled up all I could hear is what seemed to be a jack hammer. Sure enough, we went upstairs where his brother was tearing apart his stone deck. There was brick/stone and debris everywhere. The emergency was that he needed a cleanup crew. So we spent the next two hours filling up trashcans with heavy stone and then carrying it down a flight of stairs to put in the back of a trailer. I had to drive to the waste area with Pierre’s brother and he didn’t seem to thrilled that I didn’t know a lick of French and that I was American. On the next trip to the waste station, Pierre said “You go with him.” As I was about to get in the car Pierre’s brother said, “No! I go alone.” I thought, “thank god” haha. When we finally made it out of that war zone we headed back to the maison (house), we ate some food a talked or attempted to talk for a bit until I wondered up to my bedroom and quickly fell asleep. Day one of eight months was in the books.