China Dispatch #2
Contributed by: Stephanie Martin and Alex Mills
November 24, 2013 - November 23rd we started our first competition day off with a very interesting breakfast. There were some normal American breakfast foods but a lot of traditional Chinese cuisine as well. Noodles, friend rice, and hard boiled eggs were the focal point of the buffet and we all took a chance on eating something new.
After our interesting meal we took a short walk to the beautiful Temple of Heaven. The numerous trees that filled the park cleaned the air from smog so we could breathe a lot easier. Some of the trees were more than three hundred years old! The park also offered us a glimpse of real Chinese culture. People come to the park to dance, exercise, and be with friends. We joined in some of the dance classes and twirled some streamers with the locals. As we continued through the park we realized that most of the people were taking picture of us instead of temple. Every group photo for the A5 Instagram turned into a full on photo shoot, almost everyone in area came over to take photos of us. The blondes were especially popular. Each temple was very pretty and the view of Beijing was great from the park. 9 is a holy number at the Temple of Heaven and every set of steps had 9 stairs and every stone surrounding the Holy Hard Stone was in multiples of 9.
Next we went to grab some lunch at a Korean BBQ house. The restaurant was really cool inside with fake trees and a river on the first floor. We ate on the second floor at these awesome tables that were in the floor. The food was very different from what Americans think Asian food is like. There were pickled anchovies, sticky rice, and fresh vegetables. Soon they brought out raw beef and some coals that we used to cook the beef. Surprisingly the food was really good. We were good and ready for our first international competition. Racing to the hotel after lunch, we quickly changed and hopped on the bus to the gym. Once in the gym, we warmed up like we would before any game. The opposing team wore shorts instead of spandex and their knee-pads were huge. As the game started, we noticed we were a little rusty. Our play wasn't the best but we took the first set and prepared the next. The games went back and forth from there. The Chinese team took sets 2 and 4 while we took sets 1 and 3. Soon we were playing in a fifth set to 15. The match was intense but we let it slip and the Chinese team took the win. After the match we exchanged gifts. We gave t-shirts and they gave water buckets. We took a group photo and then headed back to our hotel.
After much begging from the team, our coaches let us go see Catching Fire. We luckily found a theater that played the movie in English. Before the movie we ate at T. G. I. Fridays to balance out our diet between Asian and American foods. No one at the restaurant spoke English so we had a little bit of a struggle ordering but one of Jing's friends helped us out a lot. We ran to the movie after dinner and it was fantastic. Everyone had such a great time in down town Beijing. I can't wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store.