So, the long version is indeed going to be quite long, because right now we are leaving Paganello/ Rimini (the town where Paganello is), and this is my first chyance to post about it.
First, for those that are unaware: Paganello is a Beach Ultimate tournament. Beach Ultimate is like Ultimate Frisbee, except on a slightly smaller field and with fewer players (5 vs 5, in this case, though the tournement I've played at in Wildwood, NJ is 4 v 4). Most people (including me) play barefoot, though some wear specifically-designed "sand socks" (neoprene socks with a thin rubber sole) to make running a bit easier.
Anyway: the first night was amazing. Outdoor party with endless free spaghetti, fresh-roasted sardines, free wine, and just generally good sentiment all around; everyone was clearly excited to be there. The night was really nice, and there was even a fantastic fireworks display. I was sure, with that many Ultimate players around, that I would find someone I knew; I turned out to be correct, as I came across Tom Cave, a friend from Buck's Rock Camp (he had been a counselor there when I was a camper, as well as when I was a counselor). We later found out that we're also staying in the same hotel; he's playing for a mixed team (our team is open, which means 99% men and the occasional super-good girl), so that means I've been able to go see some of his matches, and he's been able to come see some of mine.
On Friday our team (Ah Ouh PUC, the team I played with in Paris when I studied abroad there) gathered for the first time in lovely weather conditions for Ultimate; sunny sky, cool temperature, light breeze. In addition to those who are actually living in Paris and play for PUC, we have some "pick-up" players: Fred, 29-year-old from the US who's quite good and can jump really high; Allen, 30-something handler, Max, originally from France but living in Switzerland, and me. In general, the team is pretty chill; good guys all around. I've been mostly hanging out with Justin, a Zimbabwean of British decent (he went to University in England and is now living in Paris).
Because of the scheduling, we only had 2 games on Friday. The first was at 11:50, which gaves us a good amount of time to sleep in in addition to going to the party the previous evening. It was against the second-seeded team in our pool, which is also the "home team," Cota Rica (they are from Rimini). We lost 15-2, but were pleased to have put up a couple of points. (Incidentally, Cota Rica has made it to the finals today).
Then we didn't have a game until 4:30, quite a long break. We mostly sat around, wandered around the fields/ large central tent/ smaller side tents, and watched some games. There are about 18 fields, with one central field with bleachers where big games (and eventually the finals) take place, and a large tent where the majority of the parties happened, as well as food (I mostly went with pasta) that you could get with tickets (5 free, then 3 tickets for 5 euro).
Second game of the day was against Ju-Piter, a Russian team from Saint Petersburg. Not great spirit- quite a few calls and spiked discs (not excessively spiked, though). They were seeded a bit above us (we came in seeded 26th of 39, they were seeded 22); it was a game we could have won, but we ended up losing 6-8 after being up 6-4. It was windy, so we had been playing a zone, which was effective until they got lucky with a few long, low-release IO forehands into the wind for some scores. I wasn't too pleased with their team at the end of the game, but in Europe, where the spirit of the game is still relatively alive and well, you do a "spirit circle" after every game, where everyone gathers in a big circle, alternating players from each team, with arms around shoulders, and talk about the game/ thank the other team. And I realized that this is a great thing, because despite myself, after the spirit circle, I wasn't mad at them any more. So it's a bit unfortunate that this tradition doesn't exist (any more) in the US.
Party the first night was relatively quiet when I was there, so I (and a couple others) decided not to stick around (apparently it got going later, but I had no problem going to bed early to be rested for the next day's games (and party!).
First game on day 2 was against the top seed in our pool, and the only other French team in the Open division. We went up 1-0, and managed to score 2 more points over the course of the game, losing 15-3. Again, not bad, and we were starting to play together more effectively.
The rest of the day went much better- we won the next 3 games! First, against the bottom seed of both our pool, and of the tournament, a German team with very high spirit. Then an American team that had some decent players; it ended up being tied at 9-9 with a game to 10; I ran deep for the score and the win. Last game of the day (starting at 7:15!) was against an Italian team; the first several points we went back and forth, but finally pulled ahead to an 11-8 win (or something close to that).
After another pizza dinner (plain cheese pizzas at restaurants here are only 5 euros, so I went for 2 pizzas (they're designed to be individual pizzas, don't worry); was quite pleased with my decision (the previous night I had gone for 1.5, splitting one with Justin).
Spent longer at the party that evening; it was a decent live band, then a DJ (both in the tent). Danced a bit, hung out outside for a bit; pretty low-key. I generally don't go to Ultimate tournament parties, as I'm usually far too exhausted, but we had enough subs that I had the energy to do so.
Day 3 started out drizzly. We had our first game against a Spanish team. They were seeded several places ahead of us, and came out to a strong start (3-1 or so). But we fought back to tie at 7; however, we eventually lost 9-7. A frustrating game that we not only could have, but should have won; however, our team (we had started to discover) has some problems closing out matches, as well as a tendency to throw away the disc right at the endzone line after working it up most of the field.
Next game was another close one, though it shouldn't have been. Went down 3-0 against Snoopy, which seemed to have players from all over. A pretty sloppy game; lots of turns on both sides. But we fought back; eventually, it was 7-7, game to 8. I cut deep, and skied one of their players on the endzone line; I called time-out. The plan was to take it easy, some cuts, but if it wasn't an easy throw, dump and swing. [Sorry to those that don't play Ultimate- this won't make much sense. Basically, to not make any throws that weren't really safe and certain). But, I'm not great in situations like that on the Ultimate field. So I make an early stall-count IO forehand to the cutter that was clearing out. In my defense, we had eye contact, and he was open; it would have been fine if the throw hadn't gone wide past him. A defender hit it, but instead of knocking it down, he macked it upward, and Jeremie (a French guy on the team) managed to catch it for the score, and the win. While that was obviously good, I felt awful, because I had essentially thrown away the disc as far as I was concerned. Moped around for a bit (though did manage to win the game of Ninja we played with the other team after the game). The most frustrating part was that while I had made a nice grab at the endzone line, that didn't really matter any more (at least, in my head); what mattered was what I had almost done with the disc afterwards.
I was determined to make up for my throw in the next game. It was crazy windy, with the wind going the same direction as the field; we were prepared for an upwind-downwind game, where a point or two scored upwind would make the difference. However, this was far from the case. We started out down 4-0; however, at the second or third point, I tweaked my shoulder badly, and it was clear that continuing to play would be a poor idea. However, from the sideline, it was a pretty exciting game. At 9-5, the cap went on; game to 11. However, Ah Ouh PUC fought back, scoring upwind and downwind points, eventually tying it at 10s (having won 5 points in a row!). The game went on through the next game slot (fortunately, the team that was supposed to play there next found a different field). In the last point of the game, we had the disc, but the other team got a nice layout D and scored. Still, it was quite an exciting comeback.
That evening was the party at the club. They sent buses, but not frequently enough; people were basically crushing forward to try to get in before each one filled up. I managed to get on one, and hung out with Justin, Adrien, and Otto at the club, as well as Tom and his team. Fun, but I wasn't feeling like tearing it up on the dancefloor because of my shoulder/ being tired.
The last day, we had one game, for 27th/ 28th place. A pretty flat game; not much riding on it, and we didn't really get any excitement going (I chose, wisely, not to play). Lost, but no one really minded. The real highlight of the last day was watching the finals; the bleachers were packed, and we just sat around, ate junk food, drank beer, and had a great time cheering for certain teams (Allen's wife was in the finals of the Women's division, and we chanted her name a lot); a few guys from the team had also decided to cheer for the mixed team Oh Pig in the semis the day before, and they had made the finals, so we cheered for them a lot, which clearly pleased the team (and they won!)
The Open final was the home team (Cota Rica) vs Los Rabbits, an American team with, notably, Beau Kittredge, who is perhaps the most famous Ultimate player at the moment thanks to a video called "Beau jumps over a guy." I was actually not super impressed with him; he was clearly big and fast and good, but I wasn't awed. It was cool to see him play, though. The crowd was behind Cota Rica, as the home team; it was an exciting game, lots of hucks and layouts, but eventually Los Rabbits pulled ahead for the win (15-10 or something like that).
Monday night was quiet, at a bar nearby; Tuesday we drove to Milan (5 hours!) and flew back to Paris. Spent the night at Flo's apartment again; this time his wife Mag (who also plays Ultimate, and whom I knew a bit from when I studied in Paris) and his son, Mael, were there. Mael is maybe the smiliest child (15 months) I've ever encountered; lots of giggles, and he certainly enjoys playing with ALL of the toys scattered around his room.
And now, as usual, I am on a train, heading to the next farm in the Massif Central! Pretty excited about this one; I've been emailing back and forth with Veronique, the mother of the family (it's her, her husband, and their two sons); she seems really nice and enthusiastic, so I'm quite looking forward to meeting her. Feeling an odd lack of anxiety, which is certainly nice; it's perhaps because I'll only be there for about 2 weeks, so perhaps it doesn't seem like it will be as much of an "experience." I've been trying to plan out the rest of my time in Europe; I want to spend 3 weeks at another farm, but I really only have about a 2-week chunk if I want to spend it in France as well as come back for 10 days in Berlin and not go over the 90 day rule. But it occurred to me tha tif I really like this farm, I could come back to it after I see my parents. So we'll see if that works out.