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A group of chain-smokers and I walk onto the beach…

Sand. Everywhere.

Such a common complaint after a full weekend on the beach. On Friday night, when I arrived at Viareggio, the sun was on its last legs of setting. The sky was bright orange, overlooking the deep blue sea. I was here for a beach Ultimate frisbee tournament, hosted by Bischi, the team I adopted when I arrived at Florence.

I’ve been in Florence for about three weeks now and have known this team for a total of three practices. I found Bishchi by contacting someone through a blog post. Despite having known various members of the team for such a short amount of time, they welcomed me with open arms. 

This team is far different than what I’m used to at Northwestern. I couldn’t even compare Bischi to GungHo, our women’s Ultimate team at NU. 

First of all, the age gap. At 20 years old, I’m the youngest person on the team! Most of the team is made up of old friends who have played Ultimate for decades. Our captain, with his single hoop earring and hearty laugh, traveled the world playing Ultimate in the early 2000s. 

At dinner with my captain!

Second of all, it seems that most of the team have a longstanding commitment to physical extremities. If that doesn’t make sense, I mean that they chain-smoke immediately before and after practice. But in fairness, they also give their all during practice. Ile, who is 44 and wears her hair in two long plaits, always extends her cigarette to me. At this point, it’s a running gag where I hide from her and shake my head, “Mi non piace!” 

Finally, the language barrier that exists definitely hinders the amount that we can understand of each other. Although both sides make an effort to communicate, there just seems to be something lost in translation. Luckily, playing a sport is a universal language. For example, one member was trying his hardest to explain a drill to me, but when I saw it in action, I knew exactly what to do because the concept of throwing a disc is all the same in any country.

But enough backdrop.

We now circle back to this beautiful beach, complete with umbrellas of all colors and a grand view of the Carrara mountains in the background. Viareggio is situated on the coastline of Italy to the immediate left of Pisa. It’s a small beach town full of camping sites. Bischi stayed in adorable cabins that felt like luxury hotels compared to the motel situations I’ve been used to in college Ultimate.

My cabin in the morning light.

There were 31 teams from all across Europe in attendance, ranging from a youthful Belgium open team to an all-star jumble of retired German players. A team even mentioned that they formed virtually, from the US, Australia and England, and played together for the first time on Friday morning. I even picked-up for a London-based team, who were lacking numbers for the weekend. After each game, we would run into the ocean to cool off. The highlight of the weekend was definitely meeting people from all over. I actually traveled back to Florence with two members from the London-team, who had plans to see the city before they left Italy.

In this post, I’d like to pay a small homage to the Ultimate community in general. I knew that I wanted to continue playing while I studied abroad, so that it would give me a sense of home away from home. Every time I have traveled outside of the US, I have been able to find a team to adopt and members to call friends. Although my time with Bischi has been limited, I’m excited to see where we go.

Bischi’s team photo after our last game on Sunday.

One Comment:

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