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Postcard from New Zealand: Mandy Laddish

Every so often when a U.S. Women’s National Team plays out of the country, a player will write an e-postcard, filling in the fans back home on the happenings of the team, off field activities and anything else on their mind.  As the U.S. Under-17 Women’s National Team counts down the days until its 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup opener against Japan on Oct. 30, 16-year-old midfielder Mandy Laddish from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, muses on getting adjusted to the New Zealand time zone, swollen ankles, and her lack of proficiency in the French language.

Kia Ora from Hamilton. That’s Maori for hello! I’d like to tell you about all of the famous New Zealand sights we’ve seen so far, but honestly, we’ve really only seen our hotel and the training field. Sure, we are a bunch of girls who like to have fun, but we know we’re here for a reason and after the long road to get ready for the U-17 World Cup, now is the time to focus.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have fun at the hotel. If making string bracelets is what you call fun. I do. Especially when we make red, white and blue ones to get us extra motivated to represent our country.

We’ve been listening to a lot of music and dancing and just bonding as a team, because we know we have a huge challenge ahead of us.

All four teams in our group are staying at our hotel, and we certainly run into them all the time in the hallways, lobbies and elevators. We’ve been trying to be nice and talk to them, but no one really speaks any Japanese, French or Spanish, so communicating has been tough.

Today, I was in the lounge they have set up for all the teams and I guess I was standing in front of the TV. There was a soccer game on and the French girls were yelling at me, but I had no idea what they were saying so I didn’t move. Samantha Mewis, who speaks a little French said, “Hey, they want you to move. You’re blocking the TV.” So I did. I think we are friends again with the French.

The flight over here was ridiculously long, but pretty smooth. I have to admit when I got off I had some massive “cankles.” In case you are not familiar with the condition, that’s when your ankles are as fat as your calves due to sitting for so long. Luckily, my calves are pretty skinny so it didn’t take long for the swelling to go away.

This is actually my first-ever trip out of the country and I got my first stamp in my passport! The longest I’m used to traveling is from Kansas City to California and this trip was more than twice that long! I have learned that you can try to sleep in 47 different positions on an airplane, but when you’ve got a middle seat, it’s pretty much impossible. So I watched a few movies and played some video games. We got to New Zealand early in the morning, but we were all so excited to finally be here that it wasn’t hard to stay up most of the day. I do admit that at 8 p.m., I was out cold. That’s 2 a.m. Missouri time.

We’ve had some good practices so far and everyone is starting to get the bad jet lag out of their legs. And yes mom, I am drinking enough water and doing my homework. I want to give my best to everyone back in LSMO (that’s Lee’s Summit, Missouri, for those not fortunate enough to be from the great Midwest) and want to thank everyone who has helped me along the way to get to this point where I could play in a World Cup. I know that we are all going to do our best to make everyone at home proud.

Kia Pai Tou Kai,

P.S.: Kia Pai Tou Kai means Enjoy Your Meal in Maori because I couldn’t find out how to say goodbye.