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Coming Home

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By: John Mann : June 05, 2013

Hello all. My time in the lovely village of Recco, Italy is finished. Ten months have passed in the blink of an eye, well almost. As I shared with you in earlier posts, Recco was a charming place to live and the level of competition in water polo was very high. But, at times, I longed for home and things familiar.

The showdown – our last game

The weeks leading up to the end of our season were filled with emotion. My team was pulling together well and we wanted to fight hard and win our last games. The final match took place in Rome in front of a hostile crowd and our opposition, who were determined to send us home as the losers. Fortunately, we defied the odds and clinched victory with 8 seconds left in double overtime. For me it was a great end to the season, and I got to experience the thrill of scoring the game winner! The outcome of our final match added a fun exclamation point to my life in Italy.

Celebration and good bye dinner

On my last evening in Italy, my closest friends and I gathered together at a beautiful hilltop restaurant overlooking the town of Bogliasco. Bolgiasco is a nice little sea town a few kilometers north of my village of Recco. The specialty of this restaurant was local Mediterranean seafood: shellfish, grouper, tuna, and all sorts of other delicacies which were placed “family-style” upon our table. It was the first time in my life that I was served "family-style" seafood! I highly recommend it. My favorite dishes were the "crudo" (raw) seafood plate, which consisted of red sweet shrimp, tuna and a few other types of local fish. Again, a new experience, raw seafood that was not sushi! It was the freshest, most flavorful fish I had ever eaten.

As we enjoyed our dinner, I reflected upon the totality of my Italian experience and the friends who had become a major part of my life for almost a year. We laughed and recounted memories of our time together and made promises to always remain friends. In the absence of my family, I was so fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people I met in Italy and feel lucky to call them my friends, my “Italian family”.

Last images of Recco and the approach of summer

The view from my apartment is incredible. If you have followed me on Twitter then you know that the ocean shots of the stormy seas and clouds have been taken from my balcony. The scene has changed dramatically since my last post. Stormy, gray skies are long gone. The powerfully hot sun casts down on Recco, warming the beaches and lifting the water temperatures to a very comfortable level. People began to fill the streets and the sea became the new city center. While children played, parents and teens laid out in the sun, embracing summer, happy that the long cold winter had finally passed. Scooters driven by the locals zipped into the beach front parking spaces of my building. Over the last few weeks in Recco, I spent a great deal of time at the beach. Enjoying the sun and the open air cafes and settling into the amazing chaise lounge chairs for rent on the beach. They were big and comfortable and were able to accommodate a guy of my size!

USA Bound - Packing and arriving home

Packing, which is usually the most daunting part of the year-end, was actually relaxing. Our season ended well, and I had accomplished my goals. I could leave knowing that I had done my best.

I left Milan airport headed to JFK. The moment I landed, my American phone was up and running again! Touching base with my loved ones and friends, I was only a few hours to home - sunny California. My family met me at the airport, and it was wonderful to see them.

I miss my dear friends, foods and traditions I picked up along the way in Italy. I am happy to say that despite my short stay, I managed to make great memories, friends, and picked up some valuable water polo experience.

For any of you young water polo players out there who dream of playing on the National Team one day, playing water polo overseas will probably be in your future. I can say that it is a great experience. Keep working hard and your dreams will come true!

While at times it felt like this homecoming day would never come, I am here and loving the Southern California life that is so familiar to me. Just in time, I was almost out of PISTACHIOS!