Happy birthday to me!!! My fifth week here flew by achingly fast, and, to be completely honest, becoming a year older made it even more daunting. Although it’s my first and most likely only birthday in America ever, I didn’t quite celebrate it as much as I could. However, it wasn’t a routine day at all. I did what I consider very American and American only, and by that, I mean experiencing a sports event in its full beauty.
On Saturday morning, I underwent a very heartwarming call with my whole Czech family planned by them to wish me a happy birthday all at once. After that, my host grandma picked her grandson and me up, and we hit the road to Lincoln. No sooner had we gotten there than I realized how big of a deal it was. Everywhere I looked, people were wearing Husker team colors. So, we did what had to get done first. We headed to the Campus store to get myself some fan gear. It was as if we had entered Nebraskan heaven. Red and white everywhere. We took our time picking out a shirt for me to wear to the game and didn’t leave the place until more than an hour later. The tailgate, the marching band, “Go big red!”, lots and lots of people, and more. We encountered parts of the fan spirit before even entering the Memorial Stadium. The football game itself was even more mesmerizing. Besides the fact that I still know little about the sport and its rules and so I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, I loved it. The cheerleaders, the Scarlets, the marching band, the fireworks after each touchdown, the crowd’s energy despite our team’s unsatisfactory and quite disappointing play; the overall atmosphere was simply magical.
We didn’t get to see the match end since it lasted too long while we had more plans for the day, but I didn’t mind. What we were about to do next excited me even more than football. Another Huskers game, except to make it more interesting, of a sport I know and understand – volleyball. There were not as many people as at the football game, but maybe that made it even more glamorous. The players were superior. Watching them play, supporting them, and hearing the crowd cheer loudly whenever the girls scored was astounding. After getting home, we spent the rest of the evening together as a family, eating cake to properly celebrate at least a little because it still was my birthday, after all.
Sunday was no less enjoyable than the day before. One of my friends took me riding jeeps and four-wheelers at the (waterless) river with her family. So, we spent all day simply driving around in the sun, listening to music, and having fun together. And I kept getting interrogated by her relatives about myself, my home country, and all the exchange-related information they were curious about.
The first Monday of September entailed Labor Day, the day of being able to be lazy. All I managed to do during the daytime was go to the mall with my host dad and sister and let an employee of a shoe store bring me an excessive number of pairs before eventually deciding not to buy any. I then attended a volleyball pre-game practice in the afternoon, but it went by so fast that I didn’t even notice I was there. 😀
We went back to school again on Tuesday, and to make matters more interesting, we also had a volleyball game afterward. Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Reserve. The whole team got to stand on the court, including us, who have never played before and don’t usually get the chance to engage in practices. And that’s quite literally how it went. Six confused girls, who barely ever touched a ball, tried to overplay the other team without knowing how to score. But at least we got the experience and even made a few serves over the net! 🙂
Unlike Wednesday, when I spent more time writing a four-page essay for English than sleeping, and Thursday, full of tiredness and feeling empty, I enjoyed Friday immensely. Classes and people in them were fun that day, volleyball practice worthwhile, and the increasing tension regarding the incoming Homecoming pleasantly exciting. Everybody is slowly starting to stress about one’s date for the dance, and there have been a lot of talking (and the inevitable rumors) about plans for homecoming proposals. As an every Friday tradition, a football match took place, and since it was a home game, I wouldn’t have dared to miss it. And I made the right decision. Not only did I have a terrific time in the crowd of football fans in plaid shirts and cowboy hats to match the country theme, but I also got invited to hang out with a few girls from the cheer squad afterward. I was taken to Taco Bell and, therefore, tasted another one of the many American fast foods, then we sat in the car in a parking lot and talked for the rest of the night.
I finally feel like I’ve adjusted well to the new environment to which I’ve been released, and as the days go by and I get closer to the people around me, I feel more and more like I belong, and the moments get easier to enjoy to the fullest.