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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Just getting started

One month ago I was celebrating with my friends and family an opportunity to go play football for the New Yorker Lions in Braunschweig, Germany or Brunswick to make it easy for those who struggle with life and stuff. First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who happen to come out that night. I truly appreciate the support I have received from friends, family, friends of family and family of friends. You're all just fantastic. It ended up going perfectly, I had tons of fun and I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my last night in the States.

That being said, the next day was much harder. Though I spent most of the day distracted by packing and checking for my passport 100 times, it was so surreal that the day had come. Since I had never really left the U.S. before, especially alone and for 7 months, there was an overwhelming conflict between excitement, nervousness and sadness. Obviously the opportunity was too good to pass up! But the idea of leaving everyone, especially my girlfriend for that long was a task I realized I wasn't prepared to do. But after a couple goodbyes and a few tears later, I was on the plane and it was too late for any last minute changes of heart.My first couple days in Braunschweig were pretty much a blur, mostly due to jetlag and my inability to sleep on the plane. But it wasn't long before I realized I made the right decision.  After getting to know the coaches, players and fellow imports I knew that I had the chance to be a part of something special here.

Within a few days and a couple crash courses of the new offense, I was on a bus to Croatia for camp. I honestly don’t think I could put into a paragraph my feelings about this trip. A blizzard in the Alps and a bus driver with a death wish made it exceptionally stressful. But thank the Lord; we did finally make it to Novigrad, Croatia. After 20 hours....(our GM made the drive in 7) But, coming from Minnesota, palm trees and the sea were more than a welcomed sight!

Our time in Croatia was quite interesting. I mean, no one has ever seen American football before and I was even asked if we were a NFL team! Haha But anyways, people stared at us and took pictures like we were a traveling circus but to be fair, sometimes we kind of were. Especially, when we found that they sell beer in 2 liter bottles, for around $3... Enough said.
More than anything else though, Croatia brought our team together. And it showed me how a championship team conducts business. They worked hard and had fun, and had fun working hard, together! After 4 days of practice, we were on the dreaded bus again. The trip home went a little smoother, no blizzard and we could actually see a lot of the sights in the mountains! Austria is beautiful by the way. But once we returned it was time to get into the routine of living in Germany.

Okay now I feel like I have already written too much, so the rest will be in fast forward!

FOOD & DRINK

The way I think it should be. Healthy food cheap, unhealthy food expensive. Most things in the market are fresh and don’t last long. You only buy for a couple days ahead of time. Fast food is expensive. You spend almost as much at McDonalds as you do going to a significantly nicer place.  

But there is no ranch, no buffalo sauce yet to be found, and a small selection of BBQ sauce. Mayo is used in place of ketchup a lot of the time and you have to pay for it! And everywhere you go serves sparkling water instead of tap or still water. That’s something I don’t think I could ever get used to!I hate plain sparkling water. Plus restaurants usually charge for water, just as much as soda in most cases.

Alcohol is pretty cheap. You can buy 20 bottles for around 10 euro. But it’s much better beer than anything you can get at a similar price in the States. Hard liquor is generally a little bit cheaper as well, with some kinds being ridiculously cheap. Though going out to the bar, you’ll pay similar prices to the States.

Oh, and I love currywurst, especially at Kokkinos. AND Brunswick burger has the best burgers this side of the Atlantic!

DRIVING

Is insane. Knowing what the street signs mean is a luxury I definitely took for granted. But the autobahn can be pretty fun! Parking is worse than Minnesota winters I swear. It truly seems like a free-for-all in some areas.

Oh and gas is STUPID expensive. 

CULTURE STUFF

Still learning as much as I can, but the amount of English is definitely less than expected. Communicating with the team isn't too much of an issue, but ordering food can be difficult at times! 

They recycle and save water like heroes. Whenever you buy a bottle, plastic or glass, you pay a deposit and get it back when you return them to a recycling center. I know we have things like that in the States, but it’s expected of you here.  And you often have to pay to use public restrooms or showers at the gym!

THE TEAM

Like I said before, there is something special about this team. I could not be prouder to be a Lion. We are excited about the opportunity to play in the Big6 tournament and have a chance to be the best team in Europe! After that, we will look to win the German Bowl for the 2nd year in a row and 9th time in team history! 

GAME 1

After our first preseason game, it proved some good things but mostly that we have a lot of work to do in order to achieve our goals. I personally think it was a blessing in disguise to keep everyone humbled. 

I did get a huge cut on my arm that required 6 stitches. So that's cool. But overall, I think I played decently, just not where I need to be yet! Good thing we have 3 weeks till our next game, but it is a Big6 playoff game vs Dresden, so we need to be ready... We will be ready.  

THE FANS

They are like nothing I've ever seen. The amount of support I have received from the fans is amazing. I truly feel like I am a part of a family with the entire city. Yes, Braunschweig has a 1st league soccer team as well, which gets most of the attention. But our fans are loyal and loud! We played our first pre-season game against Stuttgart this past weekend. With only about 2,500 people in the stands, it was still the loudest game I have ever played in. I CAN NOT WAIT until we pack the house in our upcoming home games!

ALMOST DONE

Okay, hopefully that is it for now. I’m new to this blogging thing and there was a lot to say. And probably a lot more I didn't even write. BUT I will do my best to keep my updates from here on out shorter and more interesting!

But in closing I just want to say, it has only been one month, but I love it here. Even more than I expected to. The next 6 should truly be the time of my life.

Also, I have to say thank you to my wonderful girlfriend Sammi for the continued support even though the distance gets difficult at times, or most of the time! Can't wait for you to get here in July! Thank you to my wonderful friends and family, I truly wouldn't be here if it wasn't for all of you, and I hope many of you can come visit as well! Thank you to The New Yorker and The Lions organizations for such a great experience thus far.

Finally, congrats to my best friend in the world Buddy and his FIANCE Briana!! Can't believe you actually did it! bout time. Love you both! I can't wait to come back and celebrate!

God Bless, Jerky James(apparently my new nickname....)

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