“Try new things” they said….

Embarking on a new life in a different country is a lot like making ‘new year, new me’ resolutions on January 31st, full of the best intentions that rarely last.

While I have successfully experienced many new and interesting places/ things during my stay, I figured this post should give you the opportunity to indulge in a bit of schadenfreude on my account.

So let me tell you about the time I took the notion of starting volleyball.

As I perused the list of very reasonably priced sports courses made available through the Uni for some strange reason MIXED VOLLEYBALL called out to me above all else.

‘Ah yes’ I thought to myself ‘this is how I’ll make friends’ (I stress that I came out here alone and friendless).

I signed up, a vision of myself spiking the ball like a pro in my mind’s eye, and gave no heed to the fact that the venue was in an unknown location on the other side of town and I was yet without a bike.

You know that saying about it being the journey not the destination that matters?Yeah, this was the case for me in the worst possibly way.

Day one of training came, bringing with it what was to be my first experience of a Salzburg thunderstorm. It was only drizzling as I climbed onto the first of two required buses, already a tad late but feeling optimistic as I sat down.

The old woman next to me started chatting, as the elderly are so prone to doing on public transport, and I tried my best to decipher her thick Austrian dialect. In fact, so concentrated was I on the meaningless exchange of pleasantries we had engaged in that I didn’t notice us driving past my stop. Startled, I leaped up without so much as a tschüß to yer one and headed out into the darkening evening, already ten minutes late.

The rain was falling more heavily now and half of my brolley had decided to collapse but no matter, it was an adventure, after all.

A slightly soggy skip, hop and jump later led me to the road where the training was supposed to be held. It was quiet, dark and pouring from the heavens.

With enthusiasm disintegrating as rapidly as the map in my hands (no internet on my phone meant I was doing it old school), I stood at what had all the semblance of an asylum for the bewildered from a gothic novel. The lightning (oh yes) flashing overhead didn’t help things as I approached the imposing building that stood in the middle of a large grounds flanked by trees and an iron fence. After trying both the brass handle and the bell to no avail, I concluded my navigation had failed me and sought the guidance of an inept Spar worker who pointed me in the completely wrong direction.

Twenty five minutes late, it was safe to say that my spirits had been dampened. As had I.

I then came across a man leaving his apartment building who appeared to know where I should go but struggled to direct me as he spoke neither English nor German. He indicated that I should get into his car, probably just trying to perform a good deed for the drowned rat standing before him. However, having seen ‘Taken’ too many times and with the feeling that the evening already had all the makings of a horror film, the irrational thought of ‘THIS IS WHERE I DIE NOW’ was foremost in my mind as I made my (unnecessary due to the language barrier) excuses and scurried away to find shelter as fast as my sodden legs could carry me.

As the storm thundered on, I contemplated my situation with much self-pity, wistfully noting that I had never had to go through this much effort to get to Gaelic training.

Eventually, I was directed back towards the asylum (or what I later discovered was a school’s parochial house) and instructed that the hall was around the back of the building.

How embarrassing for me.

Feeling foolish, I then faced my next challenge: getting into the building.

After wading through marshy grass trying every surrounding door AND dramatically falling down a flight of metal stairs in what was possibly the most pathetic moment of my life (again, a ‘this is how I die’ moment- it might’ve been funny had I not been so alone), I ultimately discovered that the wench of a groundskeeper had made the sensible decision to lock every single door so no one could get in or out of the gym. Natürlich.

Finally, I joined the class soaking wet, head and ego so bruised that the plaudits I received for my serve during my twenty minute-long volleyball career proved no consolation. I concluded it wasn’t meant to be and never darkened those courts again.

Call me a quitter but it seemed crystal clear that the world did not want me to partake in volleyball. So I got my twenty euro back and spent it on food instead.

You know, because the world wanted me to.

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