Tuesday, August 6.
We had the opportunity to "get out" (doesn't happen that often on the road) and have dinner with a former USA teammate, Therese Crawford and her family at a beautiful restaurant along the water in Belgrade. There we indulged in a plate of colorful, fresh vegetables, an array of meat, and fruity baklava. Thanks again Resee!
Wednesday, August 7.
We finished practice early that afternoon and we're invited to an American BBQ at the US Embassy that evening. What a blessing it was to be "in America" for a few hours and enjoy some old fashion BBQ. My favorite part had to be picking the brains of our US ambassadors. Learning about their lives and the history of the relationship between the US and Serbia. It was fun to relate to them in the sense that they too live their lives in a foreign country. For those of you who are not history buffs, the US and Serbia have not been on the best of terms until a few years ago. Several past historical events had damaged that relationship, but recently, our relationship has taken a positive turn. Serbia was a great host and we thank them for their support and "protection" throughout our stay.
So quick side note, during our entire stay in Belgrade, we had police escorts and a crew of "secret service" men following us around. Thanks for your service, Serbia!
Thursday, August 7.
"Sport is a universal language that can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs or economic status" -Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary General.
A year ago, I had witnessed this universal language at the London 2012 Olympics...1 year later, I witnessed this beautiful language at an orphanage in Belgrade, Serbia.
The night of the embassy trip our team was informed of an opportunity to visit an orphanage for children with developmental disorders. All 14 of us plus staff jumped on board.
I remember laying in bed that night thinking about the next day, not sure what to expect...How would we communicate? Would these children be active? What are the conditions?
So I prayed... God, show me your "light" in this place.
And "light" there was...written all over their faces. They lit up when we all walked in, grabbing our hands, greeting us with smiles and pulling us to play with them. Within 5 minutes, we had a dance party, basketball game, and game of keep it up filled with laughing and celebration all around. What a blast, what a blessing.
Moments in, I found my "girl in charge" as she was rounding up troops to play a game of "keep it up". We hit it off and jumped from keep it up- to secret hand shakes- to snapping pictures. We couldn't communicate verbally, but that "universal language" connected us. What a special day.
photo credits: Bill Kauffman
3 "events" in Belgrade in 7 days. Went 3-0 on the weekend. Now it's time to grab more points to secure a spot in the finals. Cheers and on to Japan!