Away from the Grind
Jun 18, 2012
I am in Fulda for the moment preparing lesson plans for a full afternoon of teaching. Coaching tennis is not that difficult seeing as I have played and been coached myself for twenty years. But it still helps to be organized and have a plan for how I want to manage the groups and lessons. It does not make things easier that everyone I am coaching are native German speakers. So I have to work hard to explain things as clearly and succinctly as possible.
I returned to Fulda two days ago after spending a week visiting with my mother and sister in Paris. It worked out that they were able to make a quick trip to Europe to visit me after attending a wedding in Israel in the beginning of June. We were lucky enough to stay in a friend’s luxurious apartment in Montmartre, only a stones throw from the Moulin Rouge, and we had a great time walking around the city, exploring the various districts and taking in the scenery. Seeing as I had recently been to Paris and done some sightseeing on my own, I was happy to let them plan our days and get what they wanted out of the beautiful city.
It was nice taking a step back from tennis and clearing my mind a bit. Although I have not necessarily been training all that much, my life really has been revolving around the various matches and tournaments I have been playing. So it was good to get away for a while and be taken care of by my mom a little. Being on the road for so long can sometimes get you down or homesick and I was happy to see my family and get a little slice of familiarity for a change.
On our last day together we decided to take a day tour of Normandy, which is a city on the northern coast of France about three hours from Paris. I have always wanted to visit Normandy because that was where the allied invasion began which turned the tides against the Germans in World War Two. War history is an interest of mine and I have tried my best over the years to take advantage of any opportunities in my travels to visit the sites where monumental battles have been fought. In Vietnam I was extremely moved touring the intricate network of tunnels that sprawled for miles and miles beneath the jungle floor. It was unimaginable to think of living one’s life in such dark and damp conditions and I returned from the trip struck by how horrible it must have been not just for the Vietnamese population living down there but for the American GIs whose job it was to try to dig them out.
Anyone who has seen the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan has a pretty good idea of what it was like for the American, British, and Canadian forces that landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. But it was powerful to stand there and take in the reality of their accomplishment. Peering down from cliffs at rugged beaches where tens of thousands of soldiers gave their lives is a powerful feeling and more than eerie to think that most of them were my age or younger. The American Cemetery, which rests above Omaha Beach—one of two landing sites used by the American forces and infamous for the devastating carnage that took place—is an impressive monument and contains ten thousand gravestones representing a portion of the vast amount of men who lost their lives in the battle of Normandy. The grounds were immaculately maintained and I was struck by how peaceful it seemed in a place made famous by devastating chaos. Peering down at the serene beach gave no clue as to what had happened and you couldn’t
help but think that time and the world really do move on within you and without you. That is why the monuments are so important. So we can continue to remember and celebrate the actions and sacrifices that would be lost without them as the earth heals and the pain fades away. I am not a museum person but I appreciated the small display recounting some of the battle and preparing one to more intimately comprehend what you see in the cemetery.
It would have been nice to stay overnight and have a couple days to visit more of the invasion sites, but seeing as our trip was so short, unfortunately we had to return to Paris that day, making for a long afternoon on the bus. I am glad I got to see the historic beaches though finally and my sister and I only fought a little bit after being cooped up together all day.
I played and won a club match yesterday, which was rather difficult since I had not hit a ball for a week and a half since I finished playing the Hessian Championships. I am always struck by how quickly I can lose the feel and competitive edge. It was an awful match and I actually was down 4-0 in the first set. But I was able to play myself into some sort of form and come back and win in straight sets.
I am definitely starting to feel the wear and tear of traveling. It is not that I am doing anything very strenuous but just the inconsistency of moving around, being on trains every day and never sleeping in the same bed or eating on a consistent schedule is starting to take a toll on my body. I find that the days I get back to my home in Fulda I mainly just end up recovering from the trips in order to be somewhat fit for my matches. But any sort of real training has been pushed to the wayside. It seems to be ok though for now and I have at least still been able to grind through the team matches.
That all being said, I leave tomorrow for Berlin to meet up with my girlfriend, Stefanie, who just finished getting her Masters at Stanford in Environmental Engineering. She has wanted to see what it is like on the road when I am playing tennis and figured meeting me in Europe would be a good way to celebrate her graduation. So off I go again tomorrow and we’ll come back Thursday so I can prepare a little better this week for my last German club match next Sunday. It is a very important match for the season because we may be forced to drop down a league if we lose. I will not be able to play in the last two matches in August so the team really wants to win this one to ensure their place for next year before I go.
I’m excited to show Stef around a bit and share these new places I’ve found with her. Fulda especially has become a second home to me and it will be great to see how she reacts to seeing my mellow life here.