Volleyball is kind of a big deal in Romania. It's basically THE sport that EVERYONE knows how to play. It's crazy. Petite little Romanian women are suddenly beasts with a killer spike when they get onto the volleyball court. As this is the case, the annual Navobi Charity Cup Volleyball Tournament is kind of a big deal. People really get into it, and the level of play is quite high. Enter our little ragamuffin bunch of internationals. I heard rumors about the sad state of our team's performance last year, but this year we were all determined to change that. We started practicing well in advance of the tournament- yes PRACTICE! We did our best to meet once a week just to play a bit, practice bumps and sets, and get used to one another on the court.
Most of the people on our team were athletic people but not volleyball players. This would usually be fine, except for most of the people on other teams are athletic people AND volleyball players. The tournament was coed, and one woman had to be on the court at all times. Matches were best of 3 games, playing to 25 points. Each team was guaranteed three matches, and from there the best teams advance. Unlike in America (unless I missed some change), a point is scored every time the ball is served. Wherever it lands, the other team gets a point, regardless of who served. This moves the game along quicker. Another quirk in this tournament is that you're allowed to kick or head the ball once per side per serve, if you can't otherwise get it with your hands. This adds a little bit of spice to the game, and I quite like this addition. Everything else seemed pretty normal.
So we played. And by 'we' I mean not I, because we definitely put our best people on the court, and I was definitely was not the best woman. And we definitely weren't putting more than one woman on. Hollie rocked out, definitely held her own. Then I got sick, so I wasn't so much doing anything but cheering from that point onward. Here is the team before a match, during a time-out, and playing. Please note, all the people cheering were only on one side of the gym, hence the entirely empty bleachers in the pictures.
We lost our first two matches, but managed to score 13-17 points each game. Not so bad. And then, we actually WON the final match! Even though that wasn't enough to advance, it was quite a way to go out! Maybe next year we'll win TWO matches and advance and then the year after that make it to the semis and WHO KNOWS FROM THERE?! The sky is the limit!
In closing, I would like to share a little tangent story from the tourney. I went with some Romanian friends to watch the semi-final and final matches, because hey, it's pretty sweet to watch. At one point they were doing a drawing for something (I still have NO idea what), and they asked for a volunteer to do the actual drawing. I was in a right mood for volunteering, so I volunteered. And wouldn't you know, they let me do it! So there I go, my perky American self, thinking it will be as simple as picking a piece of paper out of a shoebox. Oh but no. I have to INTRODUCE myself. Which is all well and good but I don't particularly need several hundred Romanians to hear my crap Romanian. I would much rather them see me and assume I'm Romanian, with my skinny jeans, black knee boots, and black hat. Blend right in. Until I open my mouth. And say into a microphone, "Sunt Liz din America" (I'm Liz, from America). You know how they do those drawings at sports events and you barely pay attention to it? Yea well, that was the case with these people until they heard some random person speaking Romanian who was clearly NOT Romanian. Then all eyes and ears were on me. Oh the pressure! What if I accidentally grab two papers? Then I'll be the STUPID American with the crap accent. Oh man. Needless to say, I drew one paper, handed it off so I didn't have to read the scribbled Romanian name, and just smiled. With my teeth. Because that's how we do. Then I promptly sat down, but not before the winning man came over and shook my hand. Because that's how they do.
As I sat down, my friend Alina leaned over and said, "You know, this woman over here beside me... when she found out you were American she said, 'That's the first slim American I've ever seen!'" And that my friends, is the first time in this country I have EVER been called slim. End scene. Roll credits. Done and done.