Still a few steps behind…

Nothing like being in a tournament you knew nothing about to throw you off your game. 

I think we all know that I spend a good portion of my time here confused and perplexed. 

I own that. 

Had I taken on learning German with the tenacity of a fat kid at Halloween when we first arrived I might be less confused than I am now. Twice I have registered for German lessons to have the class cancelled for lack of students. That’s merely an excuse to defend my lack of fluency at this point. 

And that excuse is an attempt to defend the hapless state I found myself in this morning. Silly me, I thought the day’s biggest challenge was the 6:50 am ice time requiring that D and I get up at 4:50 in order to catch a 5:20 bus to begin the bus-train-train-bus journey to the game. 

That part was easy. Surrounded by the merriment of Saturday night’s partiers, there was a really lively (read: plastered) feel to the train station before dawn this morning. 

This is the train station at 5:30 in the morning. To these folks it is still last night.
Hmmm, it appears Zurich partiers go to be early. Decidedly less rowdy than Winterthur.

Fumbling our way in the dark and cold to find these far-off arenas does take a bit of courage and faith. Faith in Google Maps that is; praying that when told “you have arrived at your destination” there will indeed be some sort of ice and familiar looking faces. Until that moment I’m never entirely sure. 

This journey could be a pleasant bonding time for me & D but he is still wrapped up in a fight/flight response to anything new. And at this stage, EVERY GAME, is new and stressful to him. So it calls on every ounce of counseling skill I have to convince him that he won’t actually throw up and to please get up off the floor of the train. 

My poor little bundle of nerves.
The moment of arrival at the ice and seeing the familiar faces is always such relief. I portray a confidence to Diego as we set out on this journey that is merely a facade. Truth is I am praying just as hard as he is that I haven’t screwed up and gotten us completely lost. 
Evidence that we are on the right track, thank heavens.

This morning, despite arriving at our destination like homing pigeons, (yay me!) things began to unravel fairly quickly. 

Like all hockey families there comes a time when you may have to face being traded. 

Wait. 

What?

Today D was traded…sort of. There is a nearby town with not enough players. So we play for them on occasion. Probably something to have given D a head’s up on before arriving but that was one of the myriad details I seem to have missed about today. 

In the grand scheme of the day, that was a small detail. The bigger – game changer (ha, literally!) detail was that today’s game was not in fact a game but rather a tournament. 

Once again, let’s say it together…wait, what?

I had our day neatly planned out. Once we were done between 9:30 & 10:00 we’d head into Zurich, meet up with Manolo and Helena and enjoy a leisurely festive day together. A bit of Gluwein, some shopping, some chestnuts roasted on an open fire; pure delight. 

Nope…turns out D and I are at the arena until 5:00pm. 

For the love…

Thankfully something inside me at 5:00 am this morning told me to dress like a Canadian. Despite the promise of a fabulously urban afternoon in Zurich where we’d be right in the mix of the always stylish Europeans, I began layering up. Long johns, wool socks, fleeces, jackets and more jackets. Layer after pudgy layer I put as much on as I could with the plan of shedding as needed when it was time to pretend to be stylish. 

And now? I’m shivering in a freezing cold arena where I will remain ALL DAY LONG!!!

It took me a while to wrap my head around this and to let go of the idea of the fabulous day we had planned. I finally got my head in the game. (Ha! The sports metaphors never get old!) 

I’m a hockey-mom after all. I love tournaments. Just not the surprise ones. 

I’ve got some hockey to watch…best settle in for a good day. 

Today has given me the opportunity to observe more of the Swiss hockey culture. Turns out I was wrong; Switzerland does have crazy hockey parents too. Our team has one. One of the sweet boys who always says “Hoy Diego!” when we arrive, and for that he will always be my favourite, unfortunately has a crazy hockey parent. His mother is awful. Rumor is she’s Russian. (The Swiss always deflect blame – if ever a train is late it is either Italy or Germany’s fault.)

She yells at him throughout the game. His time on the ice is his only safe time. The moment he’s off she’s tearing a strip out of him. After the game, the team tromps down to the dressing room while he stays back, slumped in a corner for more verbal lashings. It is heart breaking. I want so badly to tell her to stop but where my German is lacking my Russian most certainly doesn’t fill in the gaps. 

Doesn’t she know that the hockey parents’ number 1 job is to tell their kids how much they love to watch them play? 

Full stop – nothing more. 

“I love to watch you play.” 

Repeat that as often as you can. Their coaches and their own self talk will do all the correcting that is necessary. For the rest of their lives. 

The parents role, whatever the spirt may be, is the cheerleader. “I love watching you play.” Every. Single. Time.

And boy did the coach ever fill the role of the heavy hand today. After the three morning games they got yelled at. 

A lot. 

Cringe-worthy a lot. 

It was the traded-to-team’s coach. Not our local coach, thank goodness. I get that there is yelling in hockey. But these kids are 10.  Really?

I’m afraid the spark that was hockey for D back home isn’t there anymore. Can’t say I blame him. I certainly don’t love it here the way I do back home either

For instance right now I’m seeking warmth and power in the women’s washroom – the only place in this giant complex where I can charge my phone. In that Google Maps is my lifeline, I can’t risk going dark when we still have an epic journey home at lord-only-knows what time. 

I had to unplug the hand dryer to steal power.

Whoever said life in Europe was glamorous was lying!

To be fair there were some fantastic moments this weekend too. Yesterday we had our first day exploring Bern. What an amazing city. I want to spend much more time there. 

Manolo has a cousin there, Rahel, and we spent part of our day with her and her lovely family.  There is no greater feeling than the warm smile and embrace of family when you are feeling so far from home. Even the family who are veritable strangers are still such a bright light in our world. 

Anyone else planning to visit us while we’re here, anticipate a day-trip to Bern. It is spectacular. 

Don’t be fooled by this blue sky. It was darn cold in Bern.
Trying to take in as many Christmas festive scenes as possible during this once in a lifetime Swiss Christmas.
Amazing clock tower at the entrance to the old town of Bern.
Overlooking the old town from the top of the spire at the Munster Cathedral. The windy staircase with exposed windows will give my children nightmares for years to come. Like the Casa Loma terror of my childhood.
The top of Munster Cathedral with Rahel and her family. Despite the sour look on her face, little Julia was such a delightful girl, befriending Helena immediately. The whole family was a delight.
Goodby for now Bern. Until next time.

In the end, 5 games and 12 hours later, there is a glimmer of Diego’s spark again. It turns out that the love of the game, the joy of winning with your teammates, the bonding through the losses, together, transcends the uncertainty and fear. 

Tournament closing ceremonies. Thank heavens!
Getting his trophy – he’s in the black toque.
Happy, albeit weary and mortified that his mom is taking his picture.

We have survived another wild and crazy Swiss weekend. Now in the homestretch for Christmas when our most anticipated gift is the arrival of our BFFs from home. We’ve been waiting for this visit since the day we bid a teary goodbye. It will be the merriest Christmas of all. 

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