And just like that – I have a month to go here in Indonesia.
This contract offer kind of fell into my lap randomly this past summer. I was on our much needed two week break in July after a hectic start to the summer with National Team and found myself down in Sandpoint with Rudy and his family. My previous team’s manager from Baku sent me a message asking if I would be interested. I signed the next day.
Things move fast in this life. Often you’re just relaxing at home enjoying a (two day) break and then an offer comes rolling in asking you to leave in three days after you somehow obtain a foreign visa. The “drop everything and just get it done” attitude for the next 72 hours and then you somehow find yourself meeting your new teammates on the other side of the world. It’s insane, it really is. There is no such thing as plans in this life of ours.
One thing that is a bit different than the previous professional seasons I’ve played (okay there are so many… but ONE big difference) is that the league didn’t start until January. After our Women’s National Team won the World Championship Qualifier in Langley at the end of September I had a couple weeks at home (to sleep) before packing up my suitcases and flying to play wife-life in Innsbruck, Austria where Rudy had taken a contract for the season. I was there for just over a month and then I had to depart mid-November to Jakarta for some intense preseason training. Looove long distance...
For me, no season is complete without multiple trips to the hospital and well, this season started out no differently. Normally my body will hold out for the first few months before becoming deathly ill (last year I was admitted to the Greek hospital for a week in December with frequent check-ups) but unfortunately this time my body decided not to wait up. Within weeks of arriving my stomach went a little haywire. Of course, I was now practicing intensely two times a day in a 30 + degree gym that didn’t have air-conditioning or any form of airflow for that matter. To say that I was sweating a lot is the understatement of the century. I sweat a lot in the Richmond Olympic Oval which as some of you know, is attached to an indoor ice rink. So… yah. Cool. Going through the South East Asia adaptation was tough – I am losing so many electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals due to this intense amount of sweating that by the time the afternoon hits I am often quite dizzy and just feel “off”. Ah yes, we also have training starting at 6:30 or 7am in the mornings, so that's been interesting as well. I have to be super diligent in taking those extra precautions earlier in the day (hello electrolyte tablets!!!) in order to have enough energy and focus to practice or play that same afternoon. Not to bore you with too many details – but I would say for the majority of the first two months of me being here I felt constantly ill. The first week of us being on the road I was nauseous and dizzy for an entire week… that wasn’t so fun. So in-between trainings one day I skipped on over to a hospital to run a few more tests. But like I said, seasons wouldn’t be complete without me taking those many trips, with many many tests done to figure out the issues. Turns out this time I had a potential parasite, combined with the efforts to continually adapt to this new setting. Sigh. Never a dull moment.
The last couple months I have been feeling better. I stopped eating at our residence cafeteria and well… that may have had something to do with it (cringe). Luckily there is THE COOLEST thing here in Jakarta called Go-Jek where you can order anything in the city and these little mo-ped men will go pick up and deliver wherever you need for a small fee. You can “order” a car/mo-ped ride and they will come pick you up, food, massage, a cleaner, medication, someone to come do your hair / make up (GO-GLAM it’s called) and more. So after I started boycotting our food I felt much better. And Go-Jek became my new best friend.
Taking a step away from the health subject, I wanted to explain a little bit about the season here and how things work as it’s very different than your typical-professional season in Europe. The women’s league has seven teams competing right now – it fluctuates a little bit every season. My other foreigner player (Anna) and I arrived in the middle of November for the longest pre-season of life; games didn’t start until the end of January! The format is as follows: two rounds, two weekends of playoffs, and a final match to decide the league champion. The first and second round last three weeks each where the teams travel to a different city every week and have two games on the weekend. We just finished the second round and were back in Jakarta training this week before we then head out for the two final-four rounds and (hopefully) finals, where we will be in three different cities once again. In final four ONLY the top 4 teams compete (points taken from both the first and the second round); two weeks total but with THREE games all back-to-back-to-back each weekend. Pray for me. And THEN the finals. So unlike Europe where you mostly just play a game each weekend, here in Indonesia it’s more tournament style. Super, super busy once you’re on the road for each round but I have been enjoying the change up.
We went undefeated throughout the first round which was so awesome, but the second round looked a little bit different. Each team can only have two foreign players but for many, they only had one of their reinforcements when we played them during the first round. Adding a second foreign player (or making a few changes within the teams) made their teams stronger and ultimately changed how they played. We suffered our first lost in Palembang against a team that is slightly controversial... but you're going to have to wait until the end of the season to find out why. They'll definitely be our biggest competition and the team who I hope we will be up against in the final match. But for now, two weekends of three games in a row, so we have a lot to do until that time.
As mentioned above, there are a lot of things that are different about playing here in South East Asia as opposed to the European countries I’ve played in before. But first here are some random facts about Jakarta for the history nerds out there, the city where my team (mostly) lives and trains from:
- Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia which is located on the North West Coast of Java Island.
- Even though it's the capital, Jakarta is actually not officially a city. It's actually a province but it had gained the special status of being the capital of Republic of Indonesia.
- It's the 13th largest city in the whole world.
- Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country with an 86% Muslim population.
- Jakarta was previously known as Sunda Kalepa (397-1527). The name Jakarta was given by the Japanese.
- Jakarta was known with the following other names such as:
Jayakarta (1527-1619), Batavia (1619-1942), and Djakarta (1942-1972)
- It is the largest city of Indonesia with more than 23 million people living in greater Jakarta.
- Despite having such an insanely large population there are not a lot of THINGS to do or so (in terms of tourist attractions). Malls, malls, malls populate the city (130 to be exact). Tough for a girl who doesn't love malls.
- Jakarta is the largest city in terms of population in South East Asia. Its population is estimated at 8,489,910.
- Jakarta got Independence in 1945 from Dutch East India Company.
- Due to the congestion in the city, Jakarta boasts some of the worst traffic. A one hour trip can easily turn into a 4 hour nightmare!
- There are about 17,500 islands in Indonesia, 8000 of which are inhabited.
- As the largest island nation in the world, Indonesia contains a wide variety of cultures and languages which differ across the islands. More than 50% of the country’s population lives on Java, which is the most populated island on Earth and home to the country’s capital of Jakarta. Like I said... traffic traffic traffic.
Some other random fun facts about my time here:
- Before coming to Indonesia I needed a passport photo with a RED background. Of course Rudy and I were on a mini-vacation in Salzburg when my agent frantically sent me a message saying it had to be done ASAP. The first three stores we went into they looked at us like we were crazy. It was not easy to get. But… red…really?
- I wont even bore you with outrageous problems I had trying to get my bags from Vienna to Jakarta (liiiiike you only get 20 kilos total for free and every other kilo after that you have to pay 40 euros for…. And I had two overweight bags. So… cool. My travel nightmares continue to amaze me.) Or the fact that they lost one of my bags upon arrival. But by this point in my life it’s more shocking when all my luggage arrives at the planned destination.
- We live in a volleyball complex type thing. Although it’s not a volleyball complex, it's actually our club’s sponsor's (Pertamina) university. We stay in the hotel (i.e. dorm rooms) with a bunch of other random people who filter in and out every few weeks and can eat the food in the restaurant if you have a strong stomach. To get to our practice court is about sixty steps away. Both a blessing and a curse.
- To beat the heat we START morning practice at either 6:30 or 7 AM. And then later sweat our brains out at 3pm.
- We have a doctor that comes to the residence to do in house visits / hang out. I’ve had multiple injections in the comfort of my dorm room over the season. How sweet. And efficient.
- It’s very hierarchical here; “Big Boss”, sponsors, coaches, foreigners, older players, to the babies. When Big Boss is in our presence we must stop what we’re doing and go greet him and shake his hand.
- WHEN you shake someone's hand who is of higher status than you, you take their hand and touch it to your forehead as a sign of respect. You do this when you first greet someone; coaches, parents, older players, etc.
- There are two foreigners per team. Our club has both a men’s and women’s team so the men foreign-players are from Montenegro and Russia. The four of us have our own driver if we need to go somewhere before 4 pm. These drivers will also take us to the mall three mornings a week to do our workouts at Celebrity Fitness… but just the foreigners.The local players have their fitness in the gym we train in. That idea took a bit of time to get used to.
- Oh yah... and "fitness" means "working out." On every pro team I've played on.
- Before and after every practice we line up in two rows facing our coaching staff (in the same spot every day) to hear what the schedule is and any other information... and then we pray. We also pray as a large group before leaving the hotel for the games, before we go on the court, after the game, and usually once we're back in the hotel as well.
- If you're obsessed with avocados as much as me, it's imperative you coming to Indonesia. Avocado juice is a thing here - basically an avocado smoothie sometimes served with chocolate sauce drizzle… it’s unreal.
- There are security checks before any cars can drive up to the malls. Metal detectors go under the car and security opens the trunk of your car before you’re able to proceed. Purses and bags must also be checked before going inside.
- In South East Asia you can find a fruit called Durian. Durian is one of THE smelliest fruits in the history of the world. How smelly you asked? It's actually banned on some public transportation systems, in hotel rooms, and other public places. One of our big bosses brought Durian for the team after a win and it was transported via SUITCASE and then indulged in in the parking lot. SO yah... it's very smelly. And not a nice smell I may add...
- During random traffic jams (which is basically always in Jakarta) local individuals will start directing traffic, walking into the street to help with the flow. It’s not mandatory to tip them but some larger vehicles who are needing extra assistance maneuvering about will often give a little bit of coin-action.
- The first Sunday I was in Jakarta I tried getting to church with one of our drivers but we were continually turned away at random streets. Turns out that every Sunday morning they shut down one of the main roads (where my church happens to be) in order to promote exercise within the city. There are no exercise-worthy green spaces in the city so they have designated Sunday morning on this particular road as a car-free zone to give people the opportunity to walk, run, and bike. I now get dropped off at one of the round-abouts and make the 10minute trek to church along this road… and often I am one of the only people on the street! And of course sweating profusely.
- A team bus with our faces on the sides will always meet us in whatever city we are competing in that week. We have had many near death experiences on the bus going to practices or games due to the amount of traffic as well as the "no-road-rules" mentality. We've almost rammed plenty of unsuspecting cars, ran over workers or pedestrians, and more often than not, are literally inches away from running down mo-peds. Too many close calls. We also once stopped and backed up INTO a traffic circle. We took the wrong turn so... what else?
- After every morning practice we have in Jakarta, fresh juice is delivered to our team!
- For two back-to-back mornings I've found a dead cockroach in my room… one was MUCH too close to my head. Talk about monsters under the bed!! The lizards are a touch bit more welcome but not much.
- I sweat so much in practice (you guys... it’s SO hot and AC does not exist in any of the gyms!!) so every time I dive on the court someone has to come with a little mop and clean it up. Oups.
- Mo-peds are everywhere. But when it rains in Jakarta it POURS so you don’t want to be stuck on a motorbike in the monsoon. Often you’ll see 20-30 mo-peds stopped at a time under bridges or any form of shelter when it’s raining to wait it out before continuing on.
- The hair struggle is real. I tried to get some blond streaks put into my hair and they dyed my hair red. You don’t see so many blond Indonesians so maybe it was my own fault…
- When I first got to Jakarta I started researching things to do refusing that the only thing people did here was go hang out at the malls. I checked out Lonely Planet and one of their only to-do activities was go visit a Marina. Great… I like water. Then as I kept scrolling it said, “This entire area is rundown and it's waters grotesquely polluted. The many tracts of landfill suggest that redevelopment may not be far off.” Kay, guess I’m skipping that one.
- My friend said that the school next to their apartment sings the national anthem every morning and then Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Represent!!! I want to go to THAT school.
- The wealthy Indonesians have now started skipping the traffic jams by installing heli-pads on the tops of their buildings to get to and from work and to various places around the city by helicopter.
- Again with the gyms being so hot; during timeouts in the games Anna and I get ice bags thrown on our neck, head, and backs to try and drop our body temperature even for a quick moment. We also have an oxygen inhaler on the bench which I use at least a dozen times per game.
- Often we are playing on some form of cement flooring with teraflex over top. I have developed a brand new sparkley knee injury from this season.
- I still have the reflex of putting on my seatbelt on immediately getting into the car but it's not necessary... unless you're in the front seat.
- When we're on the road and only get gym time once per day, you can sometimes catch our team practicing in the parking lot. This is not a drill.
- Burping here is not rude. In fact, I think it's suppose to be more looked upon as a normal thing. Mid-conversation someone could just belch and carry on as if nothing has happened (while I am standing there completely mortified and embarrassed on their behalf). Or, while getting a massage, you will hear a symphony of burping either from the other clients around you or from the masseur herself. It was a tad shocking the first time this happened.
- The gyms have no running water so if you need to go to the bathroom before the game (hello small bladder problems!) you have to fill a bucket with water and toss that into the toilet… a few dozen times to flush.
- “After we warm up try not to move around too much… it’s going to be so hot in the gym.” Strict instructions that came to us by our coach when we were playing in Bali. Just try not to move around too much before the game...
- The fans here are incredibly awesome and crazy! Often each team has a group of loyal supporters from each city we are playing in (coaxed in with free tshirts and the like). If you get caught taking one selfie post-game you’ll most likely be mobbed and have to take 340 additional selfies before you can take any more steps in either direction.
As many of the memes that I saw on social media said January lasted about seventy-two days yet February just wizzed by. Normally those first two months feel like the drag on and many players will actually use the term the "February blues." But with the help of one of my best friend’s popping in to visit for a weekend, my parents coming for just about three weeks at the end of the month, our team jumping into pre-season 2.0 to prepare for the second round, time has suddenly been fast-tracked. Suddenly it’s the end of March… pardon me?
Tomorrow we embark upon our final three-week stint. I'm not quite sure how I'll be doing three games back to back for two weekends in a row but you can bet that the ibuprophen is packed. The next time I will be back in Jakarta our season will be over which is a really weird thing to think about. Not a lot of time left at all, yet our upcoming weeks will be totally packed. A lot to focus on and a lot of games to be played, I don't think I'll be getting too distracted by the prospect of home. One thing at a time! So with that, I hope the "final-recap-blog-post" I write about Indonesia I'll be able to share some exciting news! Fingers crossed for our team that we can take home the championship... something that we have yet to do, despite playing in the finals many, many times. I really hope this is the year!
Also stay tuned for some exciting posts in the next few days about some of our National Team members who are still in college and just competed in the National USport Championships. A fun way to learn more about the up-and-comers of our program! Thanks for following along everyone! x