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Coach Brian Morehouse Sums Up "Unbelievable" Trip
I watched this team grow in their appreciation of another culture over the last 13 days. This happened in a number of ways. Our stays with host families mean so much to this trip. By opening up their homes to our players and coaches, we get to truly experience German life for a few days. The food, travel, family interactions, and discussions are more important than staying in a hotel. The conversations around breakfast and dinner tables ranged from American/German politics (Obama vs McCain was a very common question by our hosts), the Olympics, erasing misconceptions about each others cultures, history, food, education, vacation (or Holiday as they refer to it in Germany).
A rambling paragraph of things I observed while in Europe: Germans as a whole seem to be very efficient. In their use of space (homes are much smaller than in the U.S.). The Dutch have bigger homes and yards. An abundance of flowers and meticulous care of lawns. I can see where the Holland community comes by this trait of flowers and tidy yards! Cars are so much smaller. You'd better have great parallel parking skills and a small automobile! Gas is MUCH more expensive. The American dollar doesn't go very far in Europe. The exchange rate is not favorable and things as a whole are more expensive. The food is tremendous but in smaller portions than our country. Their breakfasts make ours look like a waste of time. I can get used to the real coffee they drink along with their rolls, cheese, salami, and yogurt. Lunch is optional after getting your day off to a great start with the breakfast! You'd better plan some extra time if you are going out to eat because it is an experience that lasts much longer than an American meal. They enjoy their food and conversation while we tend to rush to our next item on the agenda. We had a 2 hour dinner at a Hungarian restaurant. They are not as credit card dependent as the American culture. More than once I had to run to the ATM and withdraw a large amount of money because a hostel or restaurant didn't accept MasterCard. They are much further along with their alternative energy sources and I wonder why we don't have wind turbines more prevalent in Michigan with our breezes along the coastline.
Many misconceptions are in abundance about the U.S.A. I had questions about six lane highways everywhere, smog so bad you couldn't breathe, drug use amongst our Olympians, and many more. It was great to be able to discuss these misconceptions and encourage people to not just visit New York or California, but to experience a broader range of the U.S.A! I'm trying to pump up the tourist industry in West Michigan even more!
Hope College is everywhere! We met so many alumni, parents of current and former students, current students, and they are PROUD OF HOPE COLLEGE! They absolutely cherish their connection to Hope and wanted to reconnect. The next time we visit, we'll be sure to get the word out even further in advance! A special thank you to Brian Gibbs and his family for sharing a Sunday, at their church and home with us. The opportunity to serve his church and assist with the clean up of the grounds was a highlight of our experience. The thanks that were showered on our group made a huge impact. I stress the importance of serving within the community, but I'm confident our student-athletes now see the impact this can have when we work together. 24 people working together can really make difference when they are focused and committed to a task.
We are going to have a pretty good basketball team next year! It was exciting to watch players grow into new roles as opportunities presented themselves. We played without Kaitlyn Kopke due to her knee surgery rehabilitation and Philana Greene only played one and a half games due to breaking her hand in our second game. In spite of losing these two valuable players, we got better and better the more we played. Some of our younger players have made great strides since last season and are anxious to show what they can do. It was really neat to see Julie Henderson, Lindsay Lange, and Stacy Warsen win the last game they played. It wasn't the last game they hoped to win for a national championship, but they represented our school so well for their years on our team. We will miss them, but know we have to continue the strong tradition of Hope Basketball by learning from the lessons they left us with. Compete always, work hard, play team ball, have fun, and win. The first four lead to the fifth happening on a consistent basis. We will miss Warsen, Boles, Hendes, and Langer but the program they are leaving is left in great shape with women who want to create their own legacies!
My final thought is not as much on Hope as it is a general reflection on our being blessed by opportunity. You know how you get nervous when you fly and you never know who you'll sit next to on a plane. You pray for a good seating placement especially on a 9 hour flight. I had the great pleasure of sitting next to Mark Gill on the way home. Mark was on his way home from his service in Iraq. I had the most amazing conversation with Mark as we sat next to each other for a long flight. His stay was cut short by the bomb that blew up under his Humvee. Their gunner on top was killed as the Humvee rolled over and Mark seriously injured his back. He has a wife and three girls ages 3, 6 and 8. He read them stories over the phone, called them every day he could, and missed them tremendously as he served our country. He has a long road ahead of him in rehabilitation and, quite likely, surgery and physical therapy. Many of our service men and women return with injuries. The ones that die are recognized with flags at half-mast across our country, but I don't think we are as cognizant of soldiers that return injured. Many coaches use the terms "it was a real war on the out there today". As coaches/players, we don't have wars, we play games. As coaches, players, parents, and fans we need to keep this in mind as we are privileged to participate in athletics, attend college, and enjoy our daily lives in America. Regardless of your political views of the war, I'd encourage you to thank the men and women that serve our country and protect our freedom when you see them in your community, on a plane, or anywhere else you might encounter these people. They truly lay it on the line every day. Mark mentioned how much the people serving appreciate the letters from schools and people they don't even know! Make it a point to do something to support our service people in the next 10 days.