I’m standing in front of a crowd of men’s and women’s rugby players with my pants around my ankles as they ask me questions I don’t understand in Spanish.
As I look around the room dumbfounded, I think to myself: “Is this really happening?” and the ever popular, “My life is a joke.”
Roughly two weeks earlier, I was on a plane home from Paris when I noticed the kid sitting next to me reading a newspaper article about the All Blacks. He goes to the same school that three of my roommates go to, and they told me he played rugby.
Since he didn’t know I was such an expert on his life, I decided to start the conversation with something like, “I love the All Blacks” or “Do you follow rugby?” or some other lame opener.
He goes on to tell me how he plays rugby for Fairfield, blah, blah, blah. I smile and listen, obviously quite surprised by all of the information he’s telling me. Then he tells me something I don’t actually know…He’s been playing with a men’s rugby club in Barcelona with another Fairfield rugby player.
I immediately ask him if there’s a women’s club and press him for any details he knows about it. I try to go to the next practice they have on that following Monday, but lame phone/internet service in Barcelona kept me from getting the directions in enough time to make it.
The team only practices on Mondays, so I had to wait until the following one (yesterday) to try and go again. I get the directions, but them come to find out that neither of the American guys can make it that night. They encouraged me to go anyways, saying how nice everyone is and how some of the girls speak decent English.
I’m not exactly confident in my Spanish skills and the thought of going up to a group of girls and saying, “Hi, can I play with you?” in Spanish was just slightly daunting.
Then I realized, OMG this is rugby. How can I not go??? Not to mention, I didn’t bring my cleats (sacrificing my cowboy boots) for nothing.
I made it to the field and awkwardly spied on the people playing. I didn’t see any girls, and 30 minutes after practice was supposed to start, I was getting pretty discouraged. Then I finally saw a group of girls walk out to the field. I forgot that we were on Spanish time, meaning the girls were still about 10 minutes early.
I nerved up and asked the girls to play with them. They looked at me very confused, but once they realized what I was saying, they were excited. Besides the extreme language barrier, Spanish rugby practice was practically the same as at home.
Their coach had a weird nickname (not that I understood it), the girls all whined when he made us do push-ups, we did identical rucking drills, the boys tried taking over our half of the field…I felt right at home.
We scrimmaged at the end of practice, and somehow I ended up playing prop. Only in Spain…
The scrimmage was wonderful. I got to tackle people and run and score. I missed rugby SOO much.
After practice, the girls all headed back to a locker room. I didn’t really know what was going on, but I followed them. Then they all start taking showers. I just showed up in my rugby gear, which I assumed was normal, so I had no reason to shower nor did I have a towel or soap or anything to shower with. Still, I felt kind of stupid just sitting there, so when one of the girls offered me a towel, I figured I should try to fit in. I rinsed my body off, not bothering with washing my hair. I was obviously going to shower the second I got home.
I got out of the shower, and I realized I only had my dirty rugby clothes. So, instead of putting on my icky spandex and then my shorts, I just threw on my shorts. I didn’t bother with my sweaty sports bra or shirt either, so I just put on my jacket and zipped it up. Those all seemed like great decisions when I thought I was just heading back to the metro.
Then the girls tell me that we’re going to a bar with the men’s team. I guess they do it after every practice. They were obviously prepared and put on normal clothes after they showered. I was way excited to be included, so I didn’t stress to much about my attire. Nevertheless, I got to be the one girl who goes to the bar in rugby shorts, a zip up, and ugg slippers. Great….
We get to the bar and sit down with the men’s team. They all make fun of me for my ugg slippers, not so normal in Spain, and my entire in general. I haven’t quite gotten to the “witty come-back” unit in Rosetta Stone, so I was lost for words…
I learned that the guy sitting across from me is “like me”, which I figured meant that we were both new. I was definitely relived to have a fellow rookie.
The next thing I know, we’re being dragged up in front of all the tables. It looked like we were going to do some rookie question interrogation. I thought it was awesome that the concept of rugby rookies exist all over the world, so I wasn’t stressing it.
The guy who led us up to the front said something to the effect of “drop your pants.” I obviously must have heard wrong, so I looked around looking for someone to translate for me. When my fellow rookie dropped his jeans to his ankles and stood proud in his boxers, I knew I was screwed.
Now if your memory is holding up, you should remember that instead of putting my underwear and spandex back on under my shorts and my sports bra and shirt on under my jacket, I just threw on my shorts and jacket.
Trying to communicate that I wasn’t wearing underwear was the hardest I have ever tried to speak Spanish. Once they figured out what I was trying to say, they thought it was absolutely hilarious (which it obviously was if I hadn’t been the foreign girl who forgot underwear).
Now, being Rookie of the Year and all (cocky, I know), I like to think I’ve learned the ideal recipe to be the best rookie:
-3 parts confidence
-2 parts bad ass on the field,
-1 part go with the flow,
-1 part don’t put up with any humiliation.
We all love a little embarrassment, just not humiliation. Keeping all these things in mind, I just kind of stood there trying to explain how not wearing underwear isn’t normal behavior for people in California (which they obviously don’t believe).
They didn’t let me off the hook completely. A guy tossed me his jacket, and I tied it around the front of my waist. The wall behind me got a view of butt, but I figured that was acceptable. The other rookie and I went on to introduce ourselves and answer their questions, and we got a nice standing ovation when we got to put our pants back on.
And really, how could my first day of rugby practice in Spain have gotten any better?