The trip is coming to an end, and we are in our third and final stop of the tour. On Friday we flew from Chongqing to Xiangyang in the Hubei Province. This day of travel wasn’t the usual long, tiresome travel- there was actually a lot of excitement! We drove for 4 hours to get to the Chongqing airport but it was all worth it when we were walking towards our gate and found a Starbucks! (I think I may have cried a few tears of joy.) The day was even better when we landed in Xiangyang and started the drive to our hotel. This city is like the Vegas of China, especially compared to the more rural areas we have been in. We flew in at night and driving to the hotel felt as though we were driving down the strip. There were bright lights, large buildings, and a lot of familiar businesses that we have in America. We saw major car dealerships, McDonalds, Nike, Wal-Mart, KFC, and even the Crown Plaza Hotel! It was great, and there were loud cheers from my teammates as we made our way to our hotel.
We are in the middle of our second day in this city and it has been great. The basketball arena is much larger, the shopping is better, and the food has been an improvement as well. Last night we opened the three game series against Australia and won 66-39. Tonight we play New Zealand and tomorrow we will conclude the trip against China. The China team we are playing in this city is different than the previous two times; we will be playing what they call the Olympic B team. The players on this team are in the pool for the Olympic team and were recently cut but are training to become the Olympic team for 2016. It will be a great experience for us and we are looking forward to the high level of competition.
During the tour, each team has had a translator to help them communicate with the locals and to help us learn more about Chinese culture. For the previous two cities we had an awesome translator. Her name was Fanny and she was very knowledgeable about America and loves our country. It was a lot of fun learning from her and we were able to teach her a few things as well. One of the most important lessons we taught her was about how to make jokes and how to play small pranks on others. Our team has a good time joking around and she started to catch on. After our last game against China, which we won 64-43, we headed outside to get on our bus to the hotel. There was only one bus there and obviously we would need a bus, as would the Chinese team. We asked Fanny if the bus there was for us and she said yes so we continued to load up. A couple minutes later the Chinese team walked out of the gym and stood there staring at us. We weren’t really sure why because Fanny told us it was the right bus. Well, we quickly learned that it was the bus for the Chinese team. We start to get off the bus and with the entire Chinese team standing there looking at us, Fanny says “joke, joke, it was a joke”. Fanny decided that after beating China by 20 points in their home country would be a great time for the Americans to play a joke on them. She caught onto the concept of jokes, however I think we can still improve her timing.
With only a couple of days remaining, we have been trying to take full advantage and experience as many different things as possible. Today, as part of the tournament we went to the arena with the other teams and they had dance and other performances as well as presented us with gifts. Not quite the more conventional tournament t-shirts we are more accustomed too. Instead we received a very elegant looking box of about six different types of flavored turnips. But hey, it’s the thought that counts right? Then our team played a very short game against a group of locals. We were expecting something similar to the first city where we played 3-on-3. We walked into the gym to a full team of completely uniformed guys warming up and huddling up with their coach who was giving them instructions. We weren’t nearly as prepared as they were, nor did we try to play as hard as they did in order to make sure we didn’t get injured, but it was still a fun experience. After that, all of the teams took a short drive out to the “country side” and were treated to special “Chinese cuisine”. Each team had their own separate room at this restaurant and we sat down at a round table in the middle of a room with bamboo panels as the walls. They brought the food out, one dish at a time until we had a total of almost 20 dishes on the table in front of us. This meal was their way of showing appreciation to us, their guests, and the food was considered to be delicacies here in China. The food was very good. Well, what I tried was good. A few of the foods were very unique to Chinese culture. For example, they brought out chicken and as it came around the table I went to grab a piece of what looked like normal plain white meat. However, when I grabbed a piece that turned out to be a full chicken head with the beak and everything, I decided maybe I would pass on that dish and move on to the next. Nonetheless, it was a great cultural experience and one I will always remember.
We are now preparing for our game with New Zealand. Currently, our record is 6-1 and we are hoping to end with 2 more wins!