Junior Abby Roth is spending her summer vacation abroad in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with sophomore teammate Cayleigh Immelman. Over the summer months, CMUChippewas.com will feature a blog written by Roth highlighting her experiences of the trip as well as her progress on the field competing internationally.
My plane touched down right about noon on May 14th in Port Elizabeth. As I exited the plane and headed toward the baggage carousel, I could see Cayleigh, her father, and two best friends Adrienne and Ashleigh waiting for me on the other side of a glass wall. That was the moment when it actually hit me that I would be in South Africa for two and a half months, and I couldn't have been more excited. We had so many plans that we had been making since October when I decided to go on the trip, and I could not wait to get started on all of them. In typical Cayleigh fashion, the first place she took me was to her favorite fast food place "Steers" and it was absolutely delicious. I wish we had them in America. Although it's a good thing we don't, because it would be difficult to stay in hockey shape.
Cayleigh, her parents (Uncle Rob and Aunty Debbie) and her brother (Jason) are wonderful hosts opening their home to me and really making me feel like a part of the family. A huge bonus is that Aunty Debbie is a great cook, which certainly is going to make it really difficult to leave. They have a lovely home and I am very grateful that I am able to stay with such kind and generous people. As I type this Uncle Rob is being an absolute champion preparing the fire for a braai (cookout) tonight, we're having steak and potato bake. Cayleigh and her family have been nothing short of spectacular since my arrival and I am really looking forward to the next 2 months!
Right from the start there were very apparent differences in culture and people. The biggest difference that really took some getting used to was driving on the other side of the road and the driver being on the right side of the car as opposed to the left. I can not even count the amount of times I tried to get in on the wrong side of the car and Cayleigh and her friends were in stitches laughing at me. I have gotten a bit better about that though; Cayleigh even gave me my first driving lesson the other day (need a few more that's for sure). The perspective from the other side of the car really takes some getting used to along with trying to drive a stick shift with my left hand, so I definitely give Cayleigh credit for driving my car all the time while we are at school. As for now my mode of transportation is "Portia" the Vespa and I still have to constantly tell myself "stay on the left side of the road!"
Being that I am in a new country I have had a very open mind about foods and learning new things. I have tried many new things and some traditional South African foods such as biltong (similar to beef jerky but better), Wors (type of sausage), and koeksister (delicious sweet pastries). Cayleigh has also made sure to introduce me to all of her favorite sweets and chocolates that she can't get in America. I am currently addicted to Fizzer's which are similar to "now & laters" but far more addictive. Cayleigh's friend Ashleigh also got me hooked on Fruity Loops, which look like giant fruit loops but taste much better. I think the most surprising food that I have enjoyed so far is all of the different types of sushi that I have eaten, which I can thank Adrienne for being my personal sushi orderer since I had and still have no clue what to get when we go out. I'm sure I will be trying many more new and interesting things over these next couple months!
As for our workouts we have been doing them and also playing a lot of hockey. There are not a lot of free weights at our gym so we are substituting with the machines that they do have. I do miss the optional summer workouts and agilities with everyone last year because they were definitely always entertaining everyday at 5 am! I hope everyone in Mount Pleasant is enjoying them and working hard. When it comes to the hockey, I'm not going to lie I was a nervous at first about how I would fit in with the girls on the team. I was not sure how accepting everyone would be of this red headed American girl that just came out of no where and wanted to play on one of their teams. To my surprise I was included immediately, the girls on the Old Grey club teams are absolutely amazing. The first practice I was very unsure about the different tendencies, terms, structures of their game but with no hesitation all of them lent a hand in one way or another helping me to adjust quicker and become a part of their game. Even something as simple as learning all of their names, no one got frustrated with me or upset if I called them by the wrong name, they simply corrected me and laughed it off. I do think that it was partially due to my accent but it was really nice that they all were relaxed and allowed me to acclimate.
The first weekend I was here our team the Old Grey Raptors had a game against St. Peters, which ironically enough is the club that Kim Erasmus plays for. Our team came out with the win, the score being 2-1. It was a great experience meeting Kim and being able to play against her being that I have heard many things about her over the past two years at school. After the game we went back to the Old Grey club to celebrate the win and it was during this time that I was officially initiated on to the team. Our team had an absolute ball together and it was really something special to watch everyone get along so well off the field. It wasn't until our next game that I would really see and feel how the bond that our team shared off the field transposed on to the field during the game.
These girls truly understand that hockey is in no way an individual game and if even the slightest thought or act of individual hockey is demonstrated, either the captain or coach addresses the issue immediately. Its all about the team, we win together lose together and fight till the last second for each other leaving everything on the field for the team. The motto isn't to go out and win at all costs, but simply to go and enjoy playing the game. If we as a team have fun playing, listen to one another, and work as one entity than we're bound to play good hockey. If we win its great, but if we do end up losing so long as we did all of those things and had fun than we can accept that, learn from our mistakes, regroup and come back next match ready to take on our next opponent as a team.
Last weekend we actually beat one of our biggest rivals 3-2 in a very intense match. It had been years since we had last beaten them and it truly was an awesome feat that I will never forget. We had a game plan that we stuck to and literally played our hearts out for one another in a very intense physical competition and when we came out on top it was truly an incredible feeling. Throughout this game is where the bond that our team shares really came into play. We started strong and finished even stronger; there was not a second of the game that we let down even when we were not ahead on the scoreboard. It really is amazing how much the bond that our team has off the field carries on to the field, because even at the most intense moments of the game when things started to really get heated, someone would run by you and crack a joke just to ease the tension. The fact that everyone could have a laugh with each other in the middle of one of our biggest games and our level of play never dropped, we never lost focus, and had the most fun was a feeling that I cannot put into words. One of the funniest moments was when I found myself yelling "Fire Up Chips!" and Cayleigh looked at me and we just laughed while we were on the field. Also it was a big surprise on Monday morning to open up the paper to the club sports section and see a big picture of myself about to challenge one of the girls on the other team. Myself and everyone else definitely did not expect to see my picture in the paper after being here for just two weeks; they even had my name spelled correctly and everything. I was rather shocked but it was really funny that of all people to make the paper it was the red headed American girl that waltzed in two weeks ago. I couldn't be more thankful that I am able to be a part of such a brilliant team, with some amazing girls.
When it comes to my hockey itself it has been an adjustment, but I have not stopped learning and growing as a player since the first day that I arrived. Uncle Rob is our coach and he expects a lot out of all his players. He is very good at challenging us as an entire team instead of individually. If one person has something to work on, then the whole team comes together and helps that person to understand or improve on the skill. I have been expected to play left, right, and center at both the link and back position. The constant movement has really allowed me to improve and keep improving my vision during the game and I have been able to find the open passing lanes more each game and practice. Uncle Rob has also taught me how to throw a proper overhead pass; while it is nowhere near where I want it yet, it has been improving every practice and game. I still have a long ways to go but I actually was able to throw a successful one in our last game. I am keen to continue learning and improving with my hockey over the course of these next two months with my Raptors.
It has been about three weeks so far and I have two months left. I look forward to updating everyone again in a couple weeks. Keep well and I hope everyone is enjoying the summer!