(Rhea is on a USBA All-Star team touring China)
Early Thursday morning I woke up for the first time in China. Before I can open my eyes I hear this loud noise coming from the street outside our window. It sounds like a marching band and I get super excited thinking maybe there is a parade! I hop out of bed and look out the window to see a group of uniformed men marching down the sidewalk playing drums and other instruments. I’m thinking it must be part of a parade or some sort of celebration for something but when only one group is walking down the street I was slightly confused. The group came and went and I thought jokingly, maybe they were just welcoming us Americans to their city! Good morning China! Well, after a couple of days, I’ve discovered it is a lot more common than I thought for a group to march down the street and it wasn’t a marching band at all. Instead, they are groups of protesters and while I have no idea what they are protesting, I still look forward to hearing the loud band-like drums come down the street and get excited every time it happens.
That is how my journey in China began and it has been non-stop excitement since. The trip to China seemed as if it was it’s own journey in itself. I met up with my team in San Francisco Tuesday morning and we flew from there to Beijing. That flight was about 12 hours long and with the time change we arrived in China on Wednesday afternoon. The good news about the long flight was the opportunity to be productive. Well productive in my terms anyways, I watched a few different movies, got some sleep and set new high scores in Temple Run and Fruit Ninja- major accomplishments! When we got to Beijing, I found out we had to catch another flight and travel to a different part of the country. The bad news was it meant about 3 more hours on a plane. The good news was I got to experience a flight on Air China! We flew from Beijing to Chongqing. From there we got on a bus and drove a little over an hour where we finally made it to our hotel in the Fuling District of Chongqing. All in all the travel day was close to 30 hours but definitely worth it.
Our first day here was a lot of fun. After hanging out in our hotel, exploring the city around our hotel for a short time, and finally realizing we were actually in China, we went to the gym and practiced for a couple of hours. After that we went to a park a couple blocks from our hotel where they had a few basketball courts and played 3-on-3 and interacted with a lot of local fans. They act as if we are celebrities here and asked for pictures, autographs and were very excited to have the opportunity to play basketball against us.
The next day was our first game day. We had a shootaround in the morning followed by some relaxation time and then played our first game against Australia’s Junior National Team. Before the game they had a 30-minute opening ceremony with all of the teams. Each team walked out together with their flag and lined up on the court while they gave multiple welcoming speeches and then played the Chinese national anthem. Then the fun began and we finally got to play! The game went really well. We won 77-47 and for our team to have only practiced together one time before the game, we played pretty well.
Today is Saturday, the 28th, and we play New Zealand tonight in the second game following the game between China and Australia. Tomorrow night we will play against China and then the next day all four teams will travel to a new city and we will repeat playing three games in three days.
Aside from the basketball trip, we have been experiencing a little of the city and the Chinese culture. Our meals take place at our hotel in a large banquet room. They have a big buffet with a lot of different types of food and provide meals every day for breakfast, lunch, pre-game, and post-game dinner. There has been a lot of food I have never heard of before and I could probably write a whole separate blog on the food itself. Nonetheless, it is a very unique experience. All of the teams eat in the same room so it has given us the chance to interact with some of the other teams.
So far I haven’t been the boldest with my food selection and have stuck to the more basic foods. I still have a lot of time so that may change and hopefully I will get my courage up and try some new foods! Maybe I won’t go as far to try the Ox Tongue or Goose Bowel, but some other food would probably be a good place to start! I did have one experience, on accident but it still counts. They had these bowls that looked like they were filled with french fries. I was very excited to see a food I recognized so I grabbed a few. After eating one I turned to my teammate and said it kind of tasted like fish. She just kind of laughed and said that was weird. So after finishing all of them and trying to ignore the fish taste, another teammate informed me that they were fish fries! It was actually a little whole fish that had been fried! You could even still see a little spot that was the eye and the little tail fin!! This was quite the experience and I was very shocked when I found out that is what I had. This has led me to be very cautious with my food choices to say the least!
The trip has been great so far. We are getting ready to play New Zealand tonight. I am slowly trying to learn more about the culture and some of the language. So far I know three words: hello, thank you, and good-bye. Hopefully this will expand by the next time I check-in!