(Photo upload not working at this time, sorry.)
This Thanksgiving break is going to be a little different than my typical 5K race in Latrobe during a sleet or snowstorm. Instead, I got back from a road trip to Florida and quickly was heading to Pennsylvania to fly back out to Asia. I can’t say I was expecting to come back so soon when I left India last summer. Turns out I got named to the Team USA roller hockey roster for the Asia Cup in (Hong Kong) China.
I’m traveling with some friends and some new faces. Also, my boyfriend Jacob surprised me by buying tickets and meeting me at the Hong Kong airport. We’ve been studying a little Cantonese for fun and I’m happy to say I largely grasp the construction of the Chinese dialects even if I don’t have all of the characters and sounds and vocabulary memorized. The title is one of my favorite questions that I learned: “Nei sik mh-sik tang Gwang-dong-wa-a?” Really, the phrase is saying: “You can not-can hear Cantonese-eh?” The fact that Cantonese doesn’t conjugate verbs is a pretty awesome concept, however it get challenging trying to learn a tonal language where the pitch of your word could indicate two completely different things if “sung” incorrectly. We’re also planning to go to Macau by ferry where I will test out my Portuguese.
Anyway…when I left PA, it was just after 4am and not much more than 10F. I flew to Dallas where I was supposed to meet a teammate and her boyfriend whose dad lives in Hong Kong. They were just here a year ago. Turns out, they missed their flight in an ice storm on the way to Dayton. I made the 17 hour flight alone and found Jacob waiting with my hockey gear at the carousel. He had come in from Vancouver. We both had interesting flights over the entire height of the Continental US and Canada, the width of Alaska, and then the height of Russia and China. I hadn’t realized how tall Russia is until then…and the turbulence on my flight was horrible. It was probably that arctic air, plus the tornadoes in the States. I could see icy mountains through Russia, but the windows stayed closed for most of the trip.
Katie and Tyler, who were supposed to fly with me, ended up getting on a plane to Chicago and then went to Hong Kong across Europe. In hindsight, Jacob and I were glad we didn’t wait for them because they got in really late. We landed around dinnertime, got some Hong Kong dollars (over $7 to a USD), then bought Octopus cards. Octopus cards are sweet because you use them for trains, ferries, and even as cash in some restaurants or vending machines. We used these cards to haul our bags over three different train lines to the Kowloon region, then trekked down Nathan Road to Salisbury Road on the edge of the Victoria Harbor. We’re staying at the YMCA, a short train ride and walk from the hockey rink.
We checked in, showered, and went walking to find some dinner. We were surprised how bustling everything was at 10:30pm on a Sunday. We wanted to go to the Indian place up the street but it was closed. Instead, we got some local food at Sweet Garden. We ended up being the last customers out so we hurried back to the hotel to find Katie and Tyler just getting there. While they were unpacking, my friend Carl came knocking on our door. He had just arrived from his layover in Seoul and wanted to get some drinks. Jacob and I joined him, making a long walk past Ashley Road where we had had dinner and down a few of the main streets. We finally settled on a bar called Hair of the Dog II. We only had a couple of drinks, though, because they were about $60-$70 (10USD) apiece and it was getting late for needing to be in the lobby at 7am for a team meeting.
The atmosphere of the bar was pretty nice, though. They asked a couple men to share a table so they could give us a table. Everything here is miniature. I’m pretty sure someone like even my dad wouldn’t fit through the gates of the subway or in the shower. Basically, America wouldn’t fit in the Chinese showers. And their portions are reasonable. Ah…yeah China is and has always been hundreds of years ahead of the rest of society. I still believe that.
So we left our crammed, smokey bar at a little after 2 and basically straight up crashed. We only got a few hours of sleep – but, hey, coach also gave us all free USA t-shirts and hats, plus I got my #27 jerseys and they’re pretty darn nice this year. On to the official day 1!