“I’d done a little bbit of traveling with my family before, but for the most part all my travels were as an athlete," Nye says. “My experiences were almost all about going to a high-pressure event and worrying about being ready to compete."
A history teacher in Bend High’s International Baccalaureate program, Nye was excited about the chance to not just travel abroad but to live and teach in another country. She wanted to, “expand my internationalism," as she put it. She had no idea, though, how big a role sports would play in that process.
For starters, the Nyes were shocked at how little English was spoken in their adopted hometown.
They traveled frequently throughout their stay in Hungary, and when they were in Germany, Romania and Austria, finding locals with some basic English skills was fairly easy. In Kaposvar, not so much.
“Our biggest immersion experience was with Merle’s basketball team," Nye recalls. “We showed up for the first day of practice in August, and none of the kids spoke English. We don’t speak Magyar, the Hungarian language. The coach spoke some English, so we were really lucky."
Merle, who ended up learning more Hungarian than anyone else in his family in large part because of his basketball experience, got by with hand signals and head shakes for most of the season.
“It made me think about my life in Bend," Nye says. “I’ve never had an experience like that, but I’ve had students that do. ... I gained a new appreciation for kids that aren’t native-English speakers."
The entire Eastern European club sport experience took Nye and her family by surprise. When they went to cheer on Merle at his first basketball game, they were the only family in the gym.
“The coach thought it was really interesting we wanted to go watch all the games," Nye says with a laugh. “We’re used to playing COBO (Central Oregon Basketball Organization) here, where it’s real social and all the parents go to all the games. It’s a different approach over there. The kids get on a bus Saturday morning, go to the game, and come back with the coach.
“The coach was pretty cute about it," Nye adds. “He got to the point where he’d tell us where the game was and how to get there because he realized we were going to go to every game and we were the only parents that needed directions. For us, immersionwise, it was one of our greatest experiences."
While Merle played basketball and the rest of the family found a local track that provided a sense of community each evening at about 5 o’clock, the Nyes were surprised by how much they missed being involved with fall sports back home.
“My husband would stay up late following Duck games on the computer and the rest of us would be following how Bend High was doing," Nye says. “We missed football more than we anticipated. ... That’s fall for us."
Maybe the most important relationship the Nyes developed while overseas was with a neighboring family. Away from all family and friends in a place where you don’t speak the language can be overwhelming. Thankfully for the Nyes, they bonded with an extended family over basketball and tennis. One son-in-law in the family, Nye recalls, was a Croatian Olympic basketball player, and another was a high-level Hungarian tennis player.
“What those people did for us was amazing," Nye says. “They welcomed us, they took care of us. ... We bonded over that appreciation for basketball and tennis."
Since coming back to the U.S. in January, Nye says the biggest thing she has taken away from her Hungarian teaching adventure is how fortunate she is to be in a country, a region, a state and a town she loves.
“I grew up in Bend, lived in Eugene, lived in Portland for five years and moved back to Bend," Nye says. “My idea of roughing it was living in Eugene.
“To go somewhere that was really humid and flat and that had a lot of air pollution, I didn’t appreciate how important it was to live somewhere amazing," she adds. “I just have such a great appreciation for where I’m at now."