Life is a Highway
Kevin gets settled in Estonia.
by Kevin Owens
The Ohio Players were right when they said “My life is like a rollercoaster” because this past week has been quite the rollercoaster ride for me. In just six days I have had too many ups and downs to count. I have been…Wait a minute…I have just been informed the line was “Your love is like a rollercoaster.” Damn. OK, bad analogy. Maybe the Tom Cochrane song Life is a Highway is better suited for this. You know what, enough of this…
So it all started last Friday when I packed my bags said my goodbyes and jetted off to Estonia. During my short plane ride from Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia, I noticed that the enormous body of water that separated the two countries was frozen. That was my first inclination that it may be cold here.
My second came when I walked out of the airport, into the -10 degree morning. My breath could see its own breath. On the way to my apartment, I couldn’t help but notice the snow. Now, I just arrived from the Philadelphia area, which was rocked by the worst winter in the city’s history, so snow was nothing new to me. But back home when snow falls it usually melts within a few weeks. Not in Estonia. According to the other imports, it has been this way since November.
(On a side note, during my first week here I saw something I have never seen before: Roofs of buildings and homes are shoveled, so the structure does not collapse from the weight. It makes perfect sense; however, I never had any inclination to scale the roof of my two story home and shovel it.)
I was dropped off at my apartment, given a car and asked to get settled in before the evening practice. That is when I made my first trip to the grocery store. This has always been an interesting experience throughout my career. For the most part you can make out what everything is, but there are always a few surprises.
In Australia, I experienced kangaroo, emu and crocodile for the first time in my life. In Korea, I had lobster for a pre-game meal. Here in Estonia, I was a little nervous buying a package of ground beef, because although I am pretty sure it is ground beef, since I can’t read the label I am not 100 percent sure.
Ordering food is another way to keep myself from starving. In New Zealand, I ate out all the time. They had an amazing variety of restaurants in downtown Wellington, though nothing tops the delivery service in Korea.
My fellow import Keena Young and I lived in an apartment not far from our training grounds. We would eat dinner with the team and return home for the evening. Since we did not have a car, we were unable to eat again for the remainder of the night. We finally begged our translator to order us food to be delivered. That night a man arrived carrying a handful of bags. From these bags he pulled out several dishes of food…not paper plates, but actual dishes. He laid everything on our kitchen table and left.
Keena and I went to work eating this enormous buffet left for us. What we did not finish we put into the refrigerator, and went to bed. That night at about 2 a.m., we heard our door buzzer go off. Since it was only our fourth day in a strange land, we figured we would just ignore it. A few minutes later we heard banging on the door.
Fortunately, our apartment was equipped with a camera to see who was there. Unfortunately in the camera stood a man dressed all in black, wearing a motorcycle helmet and carrying a huge trashcan. Now we are two big guys, but who knows what this crazy looking guy in the motorcycle helmet wanted. And why does he have an enormous trashcan?! We thought it was better to just ignore him and go to bed.
The following morning we told our translator about the menacing individual who stood at our door. We were told that was the delivery guy coming back to pick up the plates. I don’t know why we assumed we would get a new set of dishes every time we ordered, but we apparently did.
I have yet to experience anything like that in Estonia. I did go to McDonald’s last night for my first ever McyD’s post-game meal. I went to the drive thru and ordered my food. After receiving my bag, the girl in the window said something to me in Estonian, which I figured was a ‘thank you and have a nice day.’ What she really said was, “The Chicken McNuggets will be a few more minutes, please wait on the side.” It fell on deaf ears as I pulled away and drove back to my apartment. Once there, I noticed the error, got back into my car and picked up my McNuggets.
Food aside, this week has been a rollercoaster on the court. I played three games in my first six days here. On Sunday, the day after I arrived, we drove on a nine hour round trip to Latvia to play a Baltic League game. Unfortunately we lost. Two days later we played at home verse our biggest Estonian rival, and lost again. We played another Estonian team last night and won.
My play in these games has been sub-par. I would play well in spurts and then horrendous at other times. I am slowly realizing how my long wait may have affected my playing ability. I felt out of sync on the court. Fortunately this week we have a few more practices to get me back on track for our upcoming schedule. I will use this week to adjust to the style of play here and work on the things I need to improve on. I am very excited and extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to get back on the court.
Kevin Owens is a veteran of overseas professional basketball who currently plays for Kalev/Cramo in Tallinn, Estonia. Owens also writes for Waiting For Godunk and Hugging Harold Reynolds. You can also catch him on Twitter @Waiting4Godunk.