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How I made 2 life-altering decisions in my late 30s at a sports tournament

What were you doing in October 2010?

Basque Pelota, U.S.A. (blue) vs. Chile, photo credit to International Federation of Basque Pelota

I remember like it was yesterday. I was at the World Championships of Basque Pelota in Pau, France. I was part of Team USA and there were only 4 women on the team. It was my first international tournament and I was there to learn and live. I was excited to see all the games and meet new people. And I was nervous to train with my teammates, who all happened to live in France, and I didn’t even know them. I was the rookie and ready to IKUSI eta IKASI, watch and learn.

What an honor when I was nominated to be the flag bearer for Team U.S.A.

To be part of the team is one thing, but I would be the face of Team USA for opening ceremonies and make it on the front page of the local newspaper. I was filled with gratitude, and…? What do I call it? It’s the feeling I get when all eyes are on me. It doesn’t happen when I’m teaching, so not sure what to call it. To this day, I remember that day; the day I represented my country and my team.

Another vivid memory from that time is using different languages daily.

The Basque Pelota Team for Team U.S.A was a potpourri of English, Spanish, French and Basque speakers. At any given moment, I would be speaking in English to one teammate and turn to speak in Spanish with the next. Yet with my women teammates, it was more difficult. They spoke French. And I could only listen to teammates speak in Basque.


In 2010, I knew neither French nor Basque.

As the tournament was coming to an end, I had made 2 life-changing decisions.

I would start learning Basque as soon as possible. It had been a childhood dream of mine and I had neglected it. So when I returned back to Boise, Idaho after the tournament, I would go to the Boise Basque Museum and ask about Basque classes.

It was time to make it a reality!

Also, I was going to take a leave of absence from teaching. It would happen when I turned 40 if nothing was holding me back in the States. I would finally go teach in the Basque Country.

In 2010, I was 36 years old.

So, I had 4 years to learn Basque and mentally prepare to leave the U.S. to go live abroad.

October 2010 was more than a tournament. It was the single event that propelled me forward to take action on making my dreams a reality.

What about you? Do you have a specific event or experience that led to a life-altering decision?

Esther is a teacher, podcaster, digital product creator, and die-hard fan of the Washington State Cougars, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Lakers, & Osasuna. She splits her time between the beach city of Hendaye, France, and the farm in Moses Lake, WA. You’ll catch her using 4 languages daily & she’s also a proud tía (aunt).

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Esther Ciganda

Esther Ciganda

If I can do it, so can you | Midlife, Multilingual + Multipassionate Teacher turned Edupreneur at 45 | Daughter of Basque Immigrants & Farmers, 🧠tumor survivor

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