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Where Have I Been the Last Month? pt 2

October 14, 2010

You may wonder where Part 1 is, but you haven’t missed it.  That would be a friend’s surprise 40th Birthday Party / Oktoberfest in Munich.  But some really awesome guys have asked for a report on their underwater hockey tournament to post on the club’s website, so I should take care of that first, even if it is out of chronorder.

There is good stuff going on in Bilzen, Belgium!  The man and I turned up in time for club practice Wednesday night, at the invitation of Bram and Niels, senior leadership of the club, both in their mid-twenties.   Clearly we would be the Age & Treachery in counterpoint to their Youth & Skill.  The play was great fun and toward the end I realized what part of the reason was:  some guys wandered in for the next block of time in the pool, maybe divers or underwater rugby.  Ahh, that’s what’s different!  No big bellies and hairy backs!  It’s a very different thing when the puck is just gone with a whoosh.  These kids are learning to play a good, clean game.  It was a pleasure to join them, and fantastic to see the youth and enthusiasm in the Orca Bilzen club.  Young and relatively inexperienced, they are still fighting for respect from other Belgian clubs.  I say, “Watch out;  I’ve been in this movie before.”  Give them a few years, more tournament play, and the continued dedication of a core group, and they could be devastating.

But between practice night and the tournament, we had several days to explore the area.  Being known for beer and chocolate, the man and I found Flanders to be an inviting place.  Our hosts, and their friends, toured us around to the Abbeys Maredsous and Floreffe, where monks practice their ancient craft and the man did his part to support them.  The car clinked all the way back to Italy.  At Boon Chocolates in Hasselt, we ordered hot chocolate which came on little trays complete with a communion cup of mousse, 2 handmade chocolates, a dollop of whipped cream, and a welcome glass of water.  YUM!  Of an evening, the man enjoyed some great mussels and a bar with 300 beers on the menu, most of them Belgian.  It was fun with a group, reading through the menu, everyone trying something different.

Then came the Orca Bilzen Underwater Hockey Autumn Tournament 2010; what a great day!  Play began at 13:00 and finished around 20:00.  Love. It.  Everyone played four 20 minute games in the 2 meter pool ~just enough for me~ and they kept it all on schedule.  No party, as most of the teams drive in and many players have to work or go to school on Monday.  (The winning team shared their trophy cake and that made me happy)  It’s all about the hockey and that was good.  Brussels brought a portion of the French national team, which contributed to a higher level of play.  It was hard to watch the Bilzen kids come up against some teams that don’t value playing cleanly or by the rules, but it’s a lesson to be learned.  We must play the game we’re in and not allow dirty play or rubbish calls to take our heads out of it.  Sometimes it gets to me, too, but I have to let it go and just try to be my best.

That’s really what it comes down to:  Keep your head in the game and try to be your best.  Can you ask anything more?

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