DURHAM, N.C.-- A couple of weeks ago, the team and I spent Thanksgiving Break in the Virgin Islands playing in the Paradise Jam Tournament. This was the first Thanksgiving I’ve spent away from home. And although I missed my family, a trip to the Virgin Islands for Thanksgiving wasn’t the worst way to spend the holiday. It was truly paradise, 85 degrees, sunny and surrounded by crystal clear blue water. Hey, I’ll take it.
The trip was an amazing experience and I was happy to be able to spend it with the team in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We stayed at an amazing resort in St. Thomas right on the beach, overlooking the bay. The view was the best part. Being able to look outside your balcony and see the ocean is something that just never gets old.
Although we were there to have some fun, we had to stay focused because we were mainly there on a business trip. The majority of our days were filled with either practice or a game, followed by nightly film sessions. While we were there, we played three games at the University of the Virgin Islands, going undefeated and beating Xavier, Central Michigan and Kansas. We were named Paradise Jam Island Division Champs and got our first piece of hardware. But we're not done yet. We have plans to get a couple more by the end of the season.
Playing three games in three days can be tough on your body and because Coach P is a firm believer that salt water heals, she made post game dips in the ocean mandatory. So after every game, we all got straight off the bus and headed down to the beach as a team. This was actually one of the most fun parts of the trip even though I swallowed a lot of salt water trying to fight off Tricia Liston and Haley Peters from dunking me under.
The trip was definitely a great bonding experience for the team. The first night there we were welcomed with a nice dinner and some Virgin Island style entertainment. We were entertained with a traditional drumming band, some island dancers performing with fire and a lady dancing on giant stilts. Coach P even got in on the action with them and did her best impression of some Virgin Island style dancing. It was quite entertaining to say the least.
It just wasn't the same not being home for Thanksgiving this year. I really missed harassing my little sisters and eating all the amazing southern comfort foods, watching football and Christmas shopping. But I was glad to be able to spend it with my second family. I have a whole team of sisters to harass now or be harassed by (however you look at it). I feel truly blessed to be a part of this Duke family now.
For many the highlight of Thanksgiving is, of course the Thanksgiving meal. For me, on a typical thanksgiving at home, the highlight of my meal is my mom’s amazing crock pot southern mac and cheese. This year being away from home, it was a little different. In the Virgin Islands we had a traditional Thanksgiving meal and it was good, don’t get me wrong, but there just aren’t many things that can compare with the delicious, southern style, home cooked, food that I usually get to divulge in at home on Thanksgiving Day. This year the best part of my food experience didn’t come from dinner, but from the snack. Each night a couple of hours after dinner we would get a “snack” (aka a second meal), and I’m not kidding when I tell you they brought out a big bowl of crisp juicy bacon, yes, bacon! And who doesn't like bacon, right? The bacon was a big hit among the team and definitely the highlight of my Thanksgiving meal this year!
To top off an awesome trip, the last day we went on a catamaran ride to go snorkeling! The view of St. Thomas from the boat ride was truly incredible! We went to a small island called Turtle Bay where the water was so clear you could see all the way to the bottom. While we were snorkeling we saw the coral reef, sea turtles, sting ray and a lot of beautiful colorful fish.
It was a great trip! On the last day after our snorkeling excursion several of us spent our final hours in paradise doing what I do best, tanning. A couple of my teammates and I relaxed by the pool and soaked up the sun, which was the perfect way to end a great trip.
With the season in full swing, our trip to the Virgin Islands was the perfect little get-away for everyone. We took care of business, had some fun, and I got a nice little tan to go along with it, making it a successful trip.
Thanksgiving is the time to be thankful and spending it with my second family in one of the most beautiful places in the world was really something to be thankful for. Now that we’re back to reality, it’s time to get back to the grind. It’s hard to believe we’re already 10 games in, but we have some big games coming up and we’re all focused and ready to keep things rolling.