What’s up America? It’s Madi, blogging from Beijing.
So, it has been a jam-packed trip for us so far! We were scheduled to play two matches against a local professional team (I can’t spell their name, sorry) and two against the Chinese Junior National team (JNT), but the JNT couldn’t actually get to Sanming on time because of the typhoon! We ended up playing the professional team three times and the JNT once with a final record of 3-1 (lost on the last night to the pro team). We played some quality volleyball with really energetic fans that chanted constantly.
However, there were some obstacles. First of all, it was so incredibly hot and humid. I have never sweated that much in my entire life. Think Florida in July and multiply that time three. When I set, droplets of my passers perspiration would rain on my face… bonding at its finest. Also, on the night of our first match, it was raining and apparently there were a few holes in the roof (one directly over middle back and one smack in the middle of the front row). After every point, people would have to wipe up the puddles that accumulated during the play. Brittany actually slipped and freaked herself out a little bit, but she is fine now.
I had some issues of my own, which I am convinced were the result of the Pizza Hut that we treated ourselves to after our game against the JNT. I, unfortunately, did not get to go to the last match because my stomach was waging World War III on my body. I don’t actually blame the Chinese food because the hotel served us a buffet for every meal that came equipped with labels for things that ranged from “cold jellyfish head,” “meat package,” and “the handbag” which was actually bread.
After our last match, the team showered, packed and piled onto the bus at 1 a.m. (Perk of being sick: I got my own row). At 6 a.m. we arrived at the airport, which was not open. At 7 a.m. we checked in for our flight to Beijing. As luck would have it, I sat next to an adorable little boy who screamed the entire two hours. It wasn’t until we landed that he started laughing at my monkey faces and staring at my necklace. When we landed, our crew went to lunch and ate the same meal that we have been eating at restaurants the while trip – which means I ate rice, chicken, maybe fish and watermelon.
BUT THEN WE WENT TO THE GREAT WALL. One hour after boarding yet another bus, we arrived at the Great Wall of China. We took a gondola up to the top and walked along the wall. It was completely breathtaking. There are mountains as far as you can see that are covered in trees and it started thunder-storming. We were a little bummed because the rain meant we couldn’t go down the slide to get to the bottom, but it was nice to cool off after climbing all the stairs. Some people ordered pizza while we waited for the bus, but I opted out.
After the Great Wall, we checked into our current hotel, the Intercontinental, which is so cool! It’s probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in and it is right next to the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest from the 2008 Olympics. The beds are super cushy and the towels are huge, and there is constant air conditioning – we’ve gone to hotel heaven. We quickly showered and dressed up for the opening banquet, which was actually in the hotel and had some amazing chocolate desserts that were a huge hit with our team. This morning, before we headed to practice, we accidently went to the wrong breakfast room. You guys, this place was mind blowing. There was a donut tree. There was honey dripping from honeycombs. There was bacon. I actually almost puked at practice because I was so full, but it was so worth it. Sadly, we will not be allowed to go back.
After an intense practice, we cleaned up and headed to the Silk Market. My bargaining skills have improved exponentially. At first, I was overwhelmed, but after I bought my first pair of fake Ray Bans for $15, I had the shopping bug. It was a blast. My rational for buying copious amounts of things is that I may never have this opportunity again… so I should absolutely buy six purses. We spent three hours exploring the various floors of the “market” and then went to dinner. At dinner, we were served Peking duck and we devoured it faster than the waiters could refill the plates. After stuffing ourselves, we went to an authentic Chinese street market where we bought lots of little trinkets and desserts.
There have definitely been some ups and downs during our stay so far, but overall it has been a great experience that I certainly will not forget, and I’m looking forward to the rest of our stay here in Beijing with the fluffy towels and cloud-beds.