STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford sophomore Inky Ajanakuis touring China with the Pac-12 all-star team. In the final edition of her blog, Inky's Chinese Adventure, she talks about the team's trip to Beijing and the Great Wall.
Hey Stanford fans!
This is my final blog from China, featuring our last destination before we head home! The first day we got to Beijing, we were so tired from our log day of traveling but we had to gear up for one of our few full practices. Although we were tired we could not give up a chance to work on our team chemistry.
Before practice, we checked into our new hotel in Beijing, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the jump from the four star hotel in Huaian City (which had rock hard beds and mold growing out of the shower walls) to the five star hotel in Beijing was substantial.
The next day, after sleeping in what felt like clouds compared to the beds in Huaian City, we had a serve and pass and then were then taken to the silk market for a couple hours of shopping before our first game. The "silk" market is actually Beijing's biggest black market. With most of us being bargaining virgins, we were all pretty nervous about trying to get good deals on our first day. My plan was to stick with the only bargaining veteran on the team, Lauren Plum. On the bus ride over there, she seemed to have it all figured out. She had finalized a target list, brought an extra shopping bag, and while telling everyone the estimated amount they should pay for Beats, she gave the team a little pre-shopping pep talk.
Although I thought the extent of my bargaining would be me just following Plum around and demanding the same price, I ended up to be a natural. After about 20 minutes I ventured off on my own and was even getting some things for an even lower price than our veteran. By the end of the first day I came out with about eight pairs of headphones, three watchers, six pairs of sunglasses, two wallets and plenty more. When we all got back on the bus to take us back to the hotel, the bus conversation transformed into a show and tell. Each person would hold up what they got and tell how much they paid for it, as the rest of the team listened to see who got the best deal. By the time we got back to the hotel the general consensus was that we needed to go back to the silk market tomorrow and, this time, we would all be buying and extra suitcase.
When we got to the hotel, I couldn't help but post a picture of all the things I got at the market. Little did I know, posting that picture set me up to get multiple texts from new and old friends with their orders. Quickly my list of a few forgotten items from the first day ended up to be longer than my original list. It wasn't until I went for the third day in a row that I thought I might run into a little trouble at customs. The final count of my silk market purchases: 22 pairs of Beats by Dr.Dre (headphones), six Nike frees, two pairs of vans, two pairs of toms, three speakers, three watches, six wallets, 12 pairs of sunglasses, three necklaces, a computer charger, three phone chargers and a new suitcase.
I'm pretty sure I taught myself my own lesson on American consumerism. Although the silk market was cool, arguing with less than five foot tall shop owners for a couple hours each was not going to cut it as our cultural event for the trip. I was really excited when I heard that we were going to The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square all on our last day. As we got on the bus at 7 a.m., I was really stoked about getting to walk on The Great Wall. A two hour bus ride and 45 flights of stairs later, my excitement was replaced with exhaustion. Climbing those stairs was literally one of the most exhausting activities that I had done the entire trip (games included). Besides the fact that it was like 1000% humidity, the stairs were so steep that my usual game plan of striding them out only seemed to exhaust me further.
After walking as far as we could, we made our way to tower 6 where we could take a louge down the mountain. The carts and the louge looked a little sketchy, but it was still a far better alternative than walking down the 45 flights of stairs. With virtually no speed limit, I felt like I was flying down the mountain. After the Great Wall, we headed back to Beijing visit The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. As I was mesmerized by the ancient architecture and vivid colors, the Chinese people seemed to be more interested in our team. I imagine that our crew of 6-0 plus players was a nice little side attraction to many of the Chinese tourists.
By the time we left for dinner it seemed like I had posed for more pictures than I had taken myself. Our last meal in Beijing was at a very nice restaurant where their specialty was roast duck. I have had duck before and I had been a pretty adventurous eater on the trip so far, so I wasn't too worried. The duck was pretty good and I had found other foods on the table that I enjoyed. I was in the clear until they placed the duck head, chopped in half, on the table. Right then I had a flash back to the meeting I had with Coach Dunning right before I left. The one thing he told me to try was the duck brain. And since I always follow the rules... I had to try it. So I picked the brain up and shoved it into my mouth. While my entire team waited to see how long it would take me to blow chunks, I tried so hard to pretend like it was good, so I could trick someone else into eating it. It was actually revolting. I lost the poker face about five bites in. With my appetite pretty much gone for the remainder of my life, I got back to the hotel more ready than ever to get back to America!
I can't wait to get home and enjoy the rest of summer before heading back to Stanford!