ONLY A TRIP HOME CAN RELIEVE BOUT OF HOOPS
Tuesday, December 26, 2000
Section: SPORTS 2 POINTS AN OCEAN AWAY
Sylita Thomas SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON
Illustration: Photo, Sylita Thomas poses near
her team's arena in a Finland snowstorm., By AP
(Editor's note: Sylita Thomas, a 6-foot-2 forward
from Petersburg, Va., is in her second pro season after starring
at Georgetown University. Thomas is writing about her experiences
once a month in The Washington Times.)
AANEKOSKI, Finland - The sense of isolation
can get pretty intense in the winter here.
It is cold and dark most of the time, and being
in a small town, there is not a lot to do.
I guess I have come down with a mild case of
homesickness. I miss the United States, the energy, intensity and
I miss the little things that you tend to take
for granted in America: grocery stores that stay open late, outlet
malls and NBA and college basketball games on television each night.
I also miss not having an automobile.
Don't get me wrong, I like it here, and the
players and coaches have been great to me.
The team's coach, Mervi Nurmi, wants me to
have a 10-year career here. I don't know about that, but my teammates,
coaches and fans have gone out of their way to make me feel at home.
The Finnish are a laid-back people, easy to
he around, reserve but warm. They mind their own business. Theirs
is a live-and-let-live culture. You can walk the streets alone at
night and not he in fear. You rarely hear about any serious criminal
activity, such as murders, rapes and robberies, as you do every
five minutes in the United States.
Even when I was at Georgetown, you were urged
to walk in groups between M Street and campus at night.
The Finnish celebrate their Independence Day
on Dec. 6. This is a festive occasion. Everyone puts candles in
their windows and has a good time. There was no snow on the ground
Dee. 6, which was unusual.
There has been only some rain and wind in these
parts, not unlike the typical winter season in Washington, so I'm
fine with the weather. This time of the year is depressing to many
Finns because it is dark much of the time. Let me tell you, the
darkness does get to be too much. You get only a couple of hours
of daylight a day, a milky-type sky. I haven't seen the sun since
But I have adapted to an extent. The time is
passing more quickly for me this year than last. I had my bags packed
by November in my first year.
To stay busy, I have started to do volunteer
work at the library, the only one in town and my lifeline to the
outside world. I figured because I spend so much time at the library
on the Intemet, I might as well do something productive.
I have been placed in charge of updating this
popular Web site for Finnish musicians. I enjoy the work because
one of my areas of study in college was Web design and site building,
and immersing myself in this activity possibly could lead to more
challenging things in the future.
Thanks to Newsweek magazine, I was able to
keep up with the crazy presidential election back home.
The Finnish were amused by it. "Only in America,"
they would say. Hey, isn't that Don King's line?
The Finnish also went through a close presidential
election last winter, only they were able to resolve it in quick
order, which resuited in their first female president, Tarja Halonen.
As part of a clause in my contract, I will
he home for 11 days during the holidays. I won't be around to welcome
the Finnish Santa Claus and his reindeer to town, an event that
actually happens, but I need the break, as if you couldn't tell.
Our team, Huima, has climbed to fourth place
with a 9-7 record. The top four teams, out of nine, qualify for
the playoffs. We have a long way to go to get there, with 14 more
regular-season games on the schedule, and we have only a one-game
lead over the fifth-place team.
We came up short in the Finnish Cup, eaming
a silver medal. Overall, I think the coaching staff is pleased with
the team's progress, the four-game winning streak in particular,
and I know I can't complain. I'm second in the league in scoring
at 22.8 points and first in rebounding at 11.8.
I'm in the process of trying to find
a new agent, which is not easy. Except for a few players, there
is not a lot of money in women's pro basketball. The average agent
is going to invest only so many resources in a player like myself,
and I understand that. Well, have a happy holiday season. I know
I'm looking forward to it. U.S.A., here I come. Let there be sunlight.