Meet the Basket Wives: Cara Smith

I decided that something I was going to do for 2011 on the site was to interview another Basket Wife each month to give readers another perspective of this lifestyle.  I have only lived so many places and have had just a small amount of experiences.  So although many of us can relate to one another in the circumstances we find ourselves in, each person has a unique story.

So for January, we are starting off with my friend Cara Smith, whose husband, Tyler, currently plays in Japan.  Joe and Tyler were teammates at Penn State for three years and roommates Joe’s senior year when Joe and I started dating.  Now that we live in the same hometown, we look forward to spending even more time together this summer with them.  Enjoy getting to know Cara a little bit better!

How did you and your husband meet?
My husband, Tyler, and I met while we were in college together at Penn State. He played on the same team as Erin’s husband, Joe (although he didn’t score nearly as many points…or take nearly as many shots!) and I was a member of the PSU Dance Team. We attended a bible study together and really got to know each while becoming Christians.

Where was the first place you lived after getting married? Can you tell a little more about the experience?
Our first place we played at after getting married was in Montevideo, Uruguay for a team named Malvin. I came over a month later because Tyler was coming off a year of rehab after tearing his Achilles tendon and I didn’t want to quit my job until we knew he was going to be healthy and stick with a team. So when I first arrived, the other American was still living in our tiny 2 bedroom apartment because the team had never had an American with a wife or family before and therefore, they needed to find a second apartment. Needless to say, it was quite an experience living with and cleaning up after 2 men instead of just one! He was there for a month or so until the team finally found another place for him. Our apartment was small but right on the beach/boardwalk so it was in a great location. I think the hardest thing for me in this first season was adjusting from such an active, busy, social lifestyle to one that was much more low key. I spoke a little Spanish which really helped and I was able to walk with Tyler to practice everyday to use the gym they had that was in the same building as the court Tyler practiced on. The team also paid for our food at a local restaurant so I didn’t have to learn to do any cooking that year which was a plus. But for the first time in my life, I didn’t have any t.v. (the slingbox wasn’t available yet), skype was either not around yet or had just come out and we were still using calling cards, I had met only 1 friend who spoke English, and I spent a lot of time alone. I looked for ways to stay busy by taking walks, exercising, and for the first time in my life, reading, but it was still a very big adjustment for me.

How many years has/did your husband play(ed)?
This is Tyler’s 9th season playing professional basketball. Lord willing, I think he’d like to play for another 5 more if his body holds up!

What cities have you lived in internationally?
We’ve lived in Montevideo-Uruguay, Gualeguaychu-Argentina, Nijmegen-Holland, and are currently in our third year living in Kashiwa-Japan.

If you had to pick a favorite city, which one was it and why?
It may sound cliché, but it’s hard to pick an absolute favorite place because there have been things about each place which I have loved compared to all the rest. But if I had to pick just one, I would have to say my favorite city was Nijmegen because it was by far my favorite season that Tyler has had. The city itself was nice because 80% of the people in Holland spoke English so I never had any language barrier to overcome. It was also the only season overseas we’ve had a car and I learned to drive a stick shift and getting around Holland wasn’t too difficult. But the reason it was my favorite place was because of the people that I met there. Holland has no limit to how many Americans can play on a team and therefore, we had 8 Americans on our team that season. Many of them had girlfriends, wives, and families which made for plenty of people to hang out with. I made two friends in particular that season who will be lifelong friends and since my apartment building that year was in the gym’s parking lot, they came over almost everyday while the guys had practice. The families also got to travel on the team bus to and from away games which always made for fun trips. We also started a team bible study at our apartment and I had to learn to cook for 15-20 people each week. We had team lunches on Wednesdays at the gym, a Thanksgiving dinner at the gym for all the Americans, and lots of other team functions that the families did together. I treasure the memories of this season with all the amazing friends I made…it was a season to remember…miss you Micah and Andrea!

Please share one funny moment in your life as a Basket Wife?
I must admit, I had to ask Tyler what he thought a good funny memory might be and he had no trouble coming up with this one. I think I would call it more of a funny Basket Mom story, though. ☺ Last year was our second season in Japan and we moved into a new apartment with a little more space now that our daughter, Hannah, was 1 and needed her own room to sleep. So, I was still getting adjusted to this new apartment and all the new features that came along with it. Well one day I was feeling really sick and Tyler had to go to practice. I was very close to asking him to stay home because I was worried about taking care of Hannah while he was gone but I figured I’d tough it out so I told him to go ahead and get ready to go. So while he was getting ready, I was feeling worse and worse and finally went into the bathroom because I was going to throw up. So as I’m hunched over the toilet on my knees, all of a sudden I get squirted in the face with water while I’m throwing up. I had no idea what was going on until I looked over and saw that Hannah had followed me over to the bathroom and had pressed the button for the bidet on our toilet. I didn’t even realize we had one. I thought the buttons were to control the heated toilet seat. Of course Tyler comes running over when he hears me yelling and just starts cracking up. It might not of been as funny to me then, but looking back on it now, it definitely makes me laugh….thanks Hannah!

What was the toughest struggle you encountered in your life as a Basket Wife?
My biggest struggle thus far was my first season here in Japan. It was by far the hardest 8 months I’ve encountered in this Basket Life. I had just given birth to Hannah when we came over here and she was not quite 3 months old when we arrived. Our apartment was SO tiny (the one we’re in now is 650 sq ft and feels enormous compared to the first one) and it only had one bedroom. We quickly found out that Hannah was not a baby that could sleep through anything, like Daddy’s snoring, and we spent the next 7 months fighting tooth and nail to get her to go to sleep, to stay asleep, and to go back to sleep when she woke up. We also learned that our child is very stong-willed and a 1-2 hour crying session before or during the night became an everyday occurrence. Our longest battle was during an away game when Tyler was gone and Hannah cried for a little over 4 hours during the night! Another struggle was that the language barrier was by far the biggest one I had encountered. I met no one the entire season, outside of Tyler’s assistant coach, that spoke English. We live in a small town about 1 hour from Tokyo and most Americans that live here live near Tokyo. We looked around for weeks to see if we could find any groups or organizations that might have some English-speakers but never found any. This season in Japan was following our amazing, fun-filled season in Holland with all our friends so going back to being alone was a huge change. I also had to adjust to Tyler being gone a lot. He left every weekend for 3-4 days, even for home games. The team stayed in a hotel near the gym in Tokyo for home games so I was alone every week. The only time I really left the apartment was to go grocery shopping or to take Hannah on a walk. I didn’t feel up to traveling around the country on a train by myself while I was breastfeeding and trying to keep Hannah on a good schedule so I spent the majority of time in our apartment. Tyler and I also are not the biggest seafood eaters (we actually don’t really like it all!), we had only a fish fryer in our apartment instead of an oven, and I had to come up with something to eat for us. All of these things together made for one challenging season. Although that being said, by far the best thing that came from this season was an amazing friend I met through skype. We had met in person one time before but didn’t really know each other then and she had just had a little girl one month before me and was now playing for the team that we had just left! But the time difference made it perfect for us to talk nearly everyday when she first woke up very early in the morning and while Tyler was at practice in the afternoon. God was still able to use a very tough situation to bring an amazing friend to me, even if it was through skype. I love you, Friend. ☺

What is the greatest lesson you have learned as a Basket Wife?
The biggest lesson I have learned while being a Basket Wife is how spoiled we are as Americans. I don’t think anyone can truly realize how much we have in America until we live somewhere else. My friends back home are always amazed that I can pack up my whole life into 2 suitcases for 8 months of the year. Granted, we buy things we need once we arrive but it’s still amazing how much less stuff we live with overseas than back home. We have smaller homes, no car, less clothes, smaller or no appliances, hardly any toys (although Christmas helped just a little), but yet we have so much more quality family time and that’s what truly matters. I am so thankful God has continued to show us how much less “stuff” we need and how much more Him we should have.