Prague for the win

My flight arrived from Prague around 3:30 Sunday evening, and after making sure all the girls were picked up, I was home by 5:00. Just in time to see these cuties.

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Ryan took this photo while I was away and I am smitten. It’s so them. And it makes me incredibly happy to see the bond they have, huge hopes that their love continues forever.

It was a great trip. We got off the plane, stepped outside and nearly every person looked up and exclaimed over the sun. You forget how wonderful the sun is when you spend so long without it. And Moscow winters can be brutal when it comes to lack of sunshine.

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But Prague was lovely. Blue skies, bright sun, a bit windy. It was the first time in months that I’d been outside without a huge coat. And I can’t remember the last time I needed my sunglasses, so everything was fine by me.

We were dropped off at Prague Castle which is at the top of this hill that overlooks the entire city. One of the quintessential photo spots is this slanting brick wall that gives you a great view of the bridge, river and old town. I made the girls turn around in a lot of photos so I could include pictures of them. Evil genius, yes, I know.

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My fellow coach and doppelgänger. People at our school frequently think we’re the same person. Their family is leaving for a new school next year, so this will be our last time coaching basketball together. It makes me a bit nostalgic because I’ve learned so much from her and it will be weird coaching without her next year. And she’s not taller than me, so I’m a little confused about what’s happening in this picture. I guess it’s the slope of the hill, or I’m shrinking.

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A quick stop at Starbucks was also essential, though the barista laughed at me when I accidentally said spacibo after he took my drink order. He then complimented me on my English, because after seeing Moscow on my shirt and hearing me say thank you, he assumed I was Russian. We ended up chatting for a few minutes about what we were doing in Prague and how all of us speak English. That is one amazing thing about Prague, especially in comparison to Russia, everyone speaks English. And I mean everyone. It probably sounds whiny, but you have no idea how nice that is. To be in a place that’s foreign, interesting, outside of your usual, but you’re still able to communicate with everyone. It makes a huge difference in what you’re willing to try, and who you’re going to have conversations with.

I like talking to strangers and having random chats with people in stores and parks. But that’s not something you can do in Moscow if you don’t speak Russian. Not only do most people not speak English, most people have a very negative vibe towards you if you don’t speak Russian. I think it’s something I forget when I haven’t traveled in awhile, because it started to really shock me how easy everything was in Prague. And surprised me that strangers were willing to have a conversation in my language.

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We had a few hours to tour the city, which was a lot of walking while shepherding 10 middle school girls. I’ve been to Prague twice before, so there wasn’t anything new on the agenda for me to see, but we did go to the astronomical clock in the old square.

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Then we found a Mexican restaurant that had good guac, and pretty much camped out in a hotel lobby for about an hour to warm up and be silly. Which involved the girls teaching me how Snapchat works. I didn’t realize I was being filmed as well, so there are many videos circulating between the girls now while I talk about how sparkly my eyes are.

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Inception photo anyone?

We had a coaches dinner the 2nd night, where I was advised to order the roast duck, since it is a traditional Czech dish. Then proceeded to entertain the whole table with my confusion when the dish arrived. The first plate (which I thought was the duck) but was actually cabbage and dumplings was followed by a bathtub of meat. This dish is bigger than my torso. That was some tasty meat, though I couldn’t come close to eating all of it.

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The rest of the weekend was basketball, basketball, oh and then some more basketball. My feet hurt from so much standing and pacing, my throat hurt from cheering, and my heart practically burst from pride about these girls. Oh these girls, they have been so wonderful to work with, they’ve improved so much over the season and have always been positive and hard working. I have never gone to a practice session wishing I could just head home instead. They were worth all those late nights, even the ones where I missed out on time with my own kids. What a team.

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Coaching basketball has been one of my favorite things about our time in Moscow so far. I had never coached before we lived here, though sports have always been a big part of my life. I never realized how different coaching is from teaching. You really get a chance to connect with kids on a different level, and the relationship you form with them is deeper than that of a teacher. You look out for their emotional and physical well being much more than you do in a classroom, and that lets you see much more of what makes each kid tick.

I am so very proud of their 3rd place victory, and even more for their sportsmanship award. It really personifies these girls and our season together.

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So, Prague for the win! We may not have taken 1st place but it was an awesome trip and I couldn’t be happier to have these opportunities. Ryan is off on Thursday to Warsaw for his basketball team, then it’s one more week and the softball season starts! Oh this life we lead, always something new coming up.

For now, I’ll cherish my weekend alone with these two and let that duck keep digesting. I’m sure it’ll be done any day now.

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