In late August 2007, the team traveled throughout China on an itinerary that featured five games and numerous educational opportunities. Senior captain Jordan Delp wrote a journal of the team's days in China that appears below, as well as in The Dispatch / Rock Island Argus newspaper.
About the Author
Jordan Delp is a senior majoring in business from Mount Carroll, Illinois. The 6-0, 165 lb. guard will serve as team captain in 2007-08.
Delp made a huge splash as a sophomore when he stepped into the starting point guard position during the NCAA Division III national tournament when starting point guard Drew Wessels was sidelined with pneumonia.
The second team all-conference selection from 2006-07 led the team in scoring last year with a 13.1 ppg average as the Vikings went 22-6 and won the CCIW title for the second consecutive year.
China Tour Journal
Practice week and preview (August 15)
Chicago to Hong Kong (August 18)
Arrival in Hong Kong (August 19)
Game day in Guangzhou (August 20)
Tour day in Guangzhou (August 21)
Last night in Guangzhou (August 22)
First day in Wuhan (August 23)
Game day in Wuhan (August 24)
Drills in Wuhan, Flight to Beijing (August 25)
Game day in Hohhot (August 26)
Tiananmen Square (August 27)
Game day in Beijing (August 28)
The Great Wall (August 29)
Tokyo (August 30)
Coming home (August 31)
Three years ago at this time I was an incoming freshman listening to head coach Grey Giovanine tell me about the unbelievable opportunities I was going to have at Augustana. At the time my soon-to-be teammates with the Vikings were practicing and preparing to travel overseas to play in Ireland. Due to NCAA rules I was not allowed to participate in either the practices or the trip.
Looking back, I can definitely remember first wishing that I could be going on that trip with those guys and also wondering what that experience would be like. I also remember thinking how much I was looking forward to being able to go overseas as a senior with my own teammates and friends. Those would be guys I had already established a strong relationship with through during my time at Augustana.
There's no need to wonder anymore, as we prepare to travel to Hong Kong, China, and Tokyo, Japan for two-weeks of basketball, unbelievable sight-seeing, new cultures, and much more. There will be 15 players and three coaches as we are set to take off on a ride that none of us will ever forget. It's hard to imagine going with a better or closer group of guys than the one I get to travel with these next two weeks. We have already began to leave our mark on this trip, having practiced and stayed together for eight days leading up to this.
Our practices have been intense so far, comparable to those we will have as we prepare for our first regular season games at the start of the year. It's a great start for our team, as we are set to face some of the toughest competition any of us have ever played against. As you know if you have been following the articles in the Moline Daily Dispatch about this trip, we will play three professional Chinese teams that will test our ability to stay together and play as a team.
There are definitely some changes in style of play that we will be forced to adapt to quickly, and it has been cool to kind of learn them on the run so far. Wider and more open lanes, a shorter shot clock, and live balls over the rim are a few of the bigger changes in play we will see on our trip. I think we are all looking forward to the quick tempo that we will see.
One of the more difficult aspects of this trip is the amount of time we'll spend in the air flying from place to place. For someone like me, who recently flew for the first time since he was two years old, on a two hour flight from Florida to Moline, 16 hours of flying the first day makes me a little uneasy. But, it's all part of the experience, and something we can get through the same way we'll get through a lot more on this trip: together, as a team. Some of the trip will definitely have its ups and downs or bumps in the road, but how many people do you know that have had the chance to represent the USA on foreign soil in athletics?
We do, and we plan to take full advantage of that opportunity.
You will here from me next when we get to Tokyo.
Greetings from Tokyo, Japan. Or should I say, "konnichiwa."
We just stepped off the first leg of our journey, a 13-hour, 6200 mile flight from Chicago to Tokyo. It was definitely an experience, from the movies (lots of movies) to the food, and definitely the people we met. My junior teammate Alex Washington and I did our part early in the trip by switching seats with parents of two young children in our row so that the family could sit together. Little did we know that we would be switching with an employee at the American Embassy in Tokyo, whose mother just happened to graduate from Augustana College years ago. I guess it is a small world afterall.
You know you're pretty far away from home when you exit the plane and the flight attendants say "sayonara" as you pass them by. However, never on the flight did we feel neglected or unwanted, as the service was top notch and even the passengers were friendly. The trip could not have been more accommodating, with American movies like Spiderman 3, Next and Fracture, and meals that included chicken and chocolate pudding.
We took an interesting route out of O'Hare International Airport in Chicago by heading North on a route called the "great arc" that lead us into Canada, west through Alaska and then across the Pacific Ocean. There was much to see out of the airplane windows on the trip with great picture opportunities for all of us. Two of the more interesting sights on this first leg were the mountains as we passed through Alaska, and the "Ring of Fire" (a series of volcanic islands) over the Pacific Ocean.
The first stop as we got into the airport as a team was the Avion Cafe and Bar, a place where, suprisingly and thankfully, they took American dollars. We treated ourselves to our first tastes of East Asian culture and a good start to our trip. We all remain light-hearted and eager to experience all this trip has to offer, even as we get ready for another four hour flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong.
Take care in the QCA and sayonara!
After 17 hours of flying, and four hours of sitting at the airport, we finally made our way into Hong Kong, which is the first stop on the wonderful tour that we are on as the Augustana basketball team. As we came into Hong Kong at about 1:00 a.m. we saw some sights that none of us could have ever imagined.
One of the first things we learned as we left the airport was that Hong Kong was home to the world's largest combination (both rail and automobile transportation) bridge. Something small, but an interesting point that Dr. Norm Moline, an Augustana professor of geography who is acting as our de-facto tour guide, was able to share with us. Hitting a little closer to home, we also learned that Hong Kong had the most 30-story plus buildings, with something above 500 in the city, than anywhere in the world. Compared to Chicago's 90 (give or take), that's quite a few.
We spent today in Hong Kong touring the city, practicing for our games, and having a great time. Not only were we able to see some of the main tourist attractions Hong Kong has to offer, we also got to witness the more subtle places in the city. These are the types of places that many people will never even know about. For instance, we ate lunch at a local restaurant that we would probably never come across regularly. While we all were a bit tentative at the beginning, the food was great, the service was better, and we all came away with a good taste in our mouths.
We had our first practice since getting into China today and it was great. We were able to use the facilities at Hong Kong Baptist University and it's hard to imagine a more accommodating place. The gym was air-conditioned, we had Nike balls, and it was not that far off from a practice we could expect back in the states. All in all, the reception by the people here in Hong Kong has been phenomenal and our stay here has been the same.
We leave tomorrow for inland China, and will play our first game tomorrow night. It should be a great test for our team as we hope to see where we're at and how far we've come since the end of last year. We all know that we have to compete and work hard. Hopefully we can push through any adversary that may come our way, and learn from the experiences from our upper classmen, especially seniors Dan Rukavina, Dain Swetalla, Oliver Rorer and myself.
Hope all is well in the QCA, and we'll talk to you tomorrow.
Ne-hao, or hello, from Guangzhou, China.
Yesterday, we left Hong Kong by train and headed into mainland China for the second leg of our trip. Everyone was very excited as we passed into the mainland, but it may have been the most special for our "tour guide" and one of the men who was most responsible for making our trip happen, Dr. Norm Moline, professor at Augustana College.
Thirty years ago, Dr. Moline took the first sanctioned faculty-student contingent into China after the borders were opened to foreign citizens, so we all understood that this trip would bring back great memories for Dr. Moline. If not for he and his wife, I wouldn't be writing this "blog" right now, so all of us would like to extend our thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Moline.
As we reached the train station in Dongguan, we were met with a little bit of chaos. Dongguan is a city that is starting to grow and modernize a bit, so the transition period makes things a little bit interesting. Citizens of the city began meeting us as we came out of customs and it was cool to see the kind of admiration they had for us -- especially the taller guys in our group.
We had both a pre-game and post-game meal today at different hotels, and the settings in each were one of a kind. At the pre-game meal we had the restaurant to ourselves with views of Dongguan that were outstanding. Right outside was a coy-fish pond and garden that was amazing, and in the distance we could see a huge statue of Buddha in the hillside.
The post-game meal, however, was something else entirely. We were guests at a 5-star hotel that was owned by the owner of our first opponent, and it is safe to say it lived up to its reputation. The service was impeccable, the food was amazing, and courses just seemed to come continually. The whole atmosphere at this hotel was like nothing any of us had ever been around, and the reception by the citizens continues to be unbelievably warm.
As far as the game goes, we defeated the Changian Snow Wolves of the NBL 98-61 in our first test on Chinese soil. Sophomore point guard Matt Pelton scored our first basket in China, giving us a 2-0 lead that we didn't relinquish.
The court was pretty cool, a 2000-seat open-air arena with the Chinese flag hanging over center court. Throughout the entire game, taped organ music blared out of the speakers as everyone contributed to the victory. So, we are off to a good start in China, and we plan to continue competing hard in our upcoming games.
We spent today in Guangzhou, China sight-seeing, going through the markets, and trying to get some Chinese money.
Today was kind of a down day, with no game or practice to talk about. We got to lie around, hang out and just took it easy. It was a nice change of pace from the last few days that were a little bit more upbeat.
The day started with a buffet-style breakfast on the top floor of our hotel; the view was phenomenal and we were able to see a lot of Guangzhou. After breakfast we took a tour of the city, stopping at 3 places. Our first stop was at a monument/museum made for the "father of China." It was a cool stop, and the building was one of the first that reminded me of Chinese architecture in its construction. Our second stop was at a Confusion temple that was right in the middle of the city. The temple was converted to a memorial for Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist Revolution that began in 1911. This was another place that reminded me of Chinese architecture, so that was an interesting break from the more modern architecture we have been seeing a lot of at our stops. It was also interesting to learn that part of Mao Zedong's mission in the revolution was to elevate the status of the peasant farmer in China, hoping to bring these people to his cause.
Our last stop today was at a traditional Chinese market. Walking down these streets we saw many different things for sale. One stretch of the market was mostly devoted to selling animals- everything from dogs and cats, to turtles, chickens, and even scorpions were available at these shops. Shortly thereafter we went through a stretch of hand-made crafts that were extremely impressive. After crossing a bridge into another part of town we saw a variety of more Western-style shops mixed in with traditional shops. One shop would be selling designer clothing and golf clubs, and next door you would find Chinese scrolls, jewelry and even swords and daggers. It was eye-opening to see the shift from shop to shop, and really showed the dynamic between the modernization of China and traditional Chinese culture.
Tomorrow we will be taking our third flight of the trip, as we head to Wuhan, China. We will be there for at least three days, practicing twice with a game towards the end of the week, and helping out at a clinic as well. The clinic will be a cool experience, giving us the opportunity to show a group of coaches how we operate and how hard we work. That's all from here, talk to you soon.
Last night was our final night in Guangzhou, so we wanted to make sure we had a good time. After dinner, we all hung out in the room for awhile, and actually had the opportunity to hang out with one of the local citizens, Kevin Haotian Lai. Matt Pelton was Kevin's counselor at a summer military camp in Indiana this past summer, so it was cool for us to meet him and hear what he had to say about his hometown. Afterwards, we decided to see what the Guangzhou night life had to offer. We found a night club called "Honey" and had probably the most fun night we've had on our trip. The environment was not unlike what you would see in the states, with a bar, tables throughout and a dance floor. What was a little different was the treatment we received, because we were given VIP seating and lots of attention.
Today we flew from Guangzhou to Wuhan, a city located in central China. There are some striking similarities between Wuhan and the Quad Cities that we had a chance to learn about today. For one, Wuhan is technically made up of three cities that are separated by a river. The Yangtze River is, like the Mississippi, the biggest river in the country. Furthermore, both the Quad Cities and Wuhan were the first places in their countries to connect the different sides of the river by dual bridges, the bottom for trains and the top for cars. There are also a few differences between the two cities as well. First of all, the Yangtze River is 70 feet deep versus the 9 foot depth of the Mississippi and it is one mile across, which is four times the length of the Mississippi from side to side.
We ate lunch at a place that serves 3000 people and is the largest "cafeteria" we've been at so far on our trip. At all of our stops but one, we have been eating authentic Chinese cuisine and it's safe to say that it's been a little different for all of us. We've all been forced to try new exotic foods none of us have ever thought about eating. Things like lotus roots, moon cakes, and stir fried bullfrog are just a sample of the different kinds of food we have been offered. The style here is also interesting, as we eat in a "family-style" environment with a "lazy-Susan." In this style, none of us have our own entrée, but they bring out many courses for us and put them on a circular plate that spins in the middle of the table. We then get to pick and choose what we want and don't want to try.
We also practiced today at Central China Normal (Huazhong) University in Wuhan, a place that has a strong connection with Augustana. Soon, six Augie graduates will come to Wuhan to begin teaching English at the University for one year. The practice court was an interesting environment, sort of another open-air court where one rim was high and one was low. It was cool though, not a place where you would normally get to practice. Also today, we found out that our schedule has changed again, and we will be playing a professional team on Friday with a few players added from the National Team that will be playing in the Olympics next summer. This should be an interesting experience and a chance for us to really compete. More on that later.
Today started with a good breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn Riverside hotel that we are staying. Kind of nice getting a little bit of home mixed in with the Chinese culture. The food was good, with a nice mixture of Chinese food and American food. Again, it was good to have some Frosted Flakes and get a little taste of home.
After breakfast we returned to Central China Normal University for practice. Today, instead of practicing in the basement facility we used yesterday, we got to work out in their 5000-seat, air-conditioned arena. It was a cool atmosphere that none of us had ever really practiced in, and some of the students and more influential people at the University were there to watch us practice. After we were done with our practice, some of the guys had the opportunity to scrimmage against the University's players.
Afterwards, we had lunch at the University hotel and restaurant with their players and some faculty. It was interesting to learn that one of their professors, Ms. Fu, was getting ready to head to Rock Island to teach advanced Chinese this school year at Augustana. The relationship between our college and the University has helped make our stay in Wuhan as accommodating as we could imagine. It was cool being able to talk with their guys, and learn how their college life compares and contrasts with ours. One of their guys told us that Kobe Bryant was his favorite player, and that Michael Jordan was the best player ever. We can definitely relate to that sentiment. A lot of their guys were P.E. majors, and a couple of them even admitted to skipping class every once and awhile. They said that we were all much more experienced at basketball, but that they would dominate us playing ping pong.
Lunch was another buffet style, made up of many different Chinese dishes. A couple of them really stood out, the first being a cup of half-dried noodles. These noodles are especially famous here in Wuhan, where they were first made- it was kind of like a peanut-butter tasting spaghetti. Another dish that we tried was Chinese pizza, which tasted nothing like the kind of pizza we have in the States. Basically, it tasted like an egg-and-rice omelet. It wasn't exactly what we were expecting when we heard we were having pizza, but it was good nonetheless.
Our last stop today was at an agricultural village in rural Wuhan. On this stop we got to see rice and cotton fields, tea-leaf fields, and a specialty village where they manufactured cranes. We were able to meet the governor of the village and he gave us a tour of his village, ripe with insight into the daily grind of the agricultural workers. The process that these workers go through on a day-to-day basis sounds unbelievably difficult and taxing. One of the more interesting tidbits they were able to give us was that China is able to feed its population (20% of the total world population) on only 7% of the world's land.
Tomorrow we play our second game on the trip, and we are looking forward to putting our team to the test against some of the better competition in China. Right now though, we're going to try to go find a KFC or Pizza Hut and get more tastes of home.
Today started with a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call to prepare for our last, busy day in Wuhan. After breakfast we got on the bus and drove about an hour for our game-day practice. This practice, however, was unlike any of our other game day practices, because we worked out in front of around 200 of China's basketball coaches. Ranging from university and college level coaches up to the professional team leaders, the coaches were gathered for the 10th Annual Coaching Clinic of the CBA (China Basketball Association).
It was an awesome experience for all of us, and an opportunity that we realize not many players will probably have. For about an hour we went hard through a series of our drills, ranging from defensive slides, to rebounding and individual shooting drills.
After we were done going through our work, Coach Giovanine opened up the clinic for questions, and for around a half hour we walked through some of our offensive and defensive philosophies for the Chinese coaches. You could definitely see the type of motivation and determination that these men and women had for their profession. All of the coaches were very attentive, and it seemed like they were really trying to soak in all of what Coach G was attempting to teach them.
It is said that the coaching is not necessarily the best in China but, much like in many other industries, you can easily tell that they will get up to speed and begin to excel in this area as they excel in others because of their strong work ethic.
Once we were done with the clinic, we came back to the hotel to get cleaned up, eat lunch, and prepare for our game. Game time was 3:00 p.m. so there wasn't a lot of time to relax in between practice and the game. After our warm-ups were finished, there was a long set of speeches by some of the more prominent people at the clinic, and we then exchanged gifts with our opponents. It is a traditional Chinese custom to exchange gifts with people you interact with, and it was cool to give them a more Western gift (a lanyard) and receive a Chinese craft in return.
The game went well for us, and we ended up beating the Hubei Province All-Stars by a score of 68-45. We continue to really defend and rebound well, with seniors Oliver Rorer and Dan Rukavina really going after loose-ball rebounds. Juniors Alex Washington and Jeff Becker also played extremely well tonight, and helped lead us on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
After the game, we experienced an interesting atmosphere. Many of the people in attendance asked to take photographs with some of the guys, they had us all sign a bunch of basketballs for them, and they even asked me to do an interview, through an interpreter, for the nightly sports news. It was pretty cool for all of us, but we know that in the end only one thing really matters: we left the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law gymnasium 2-0.
It was kind of a slow day in China for us today, one that we used mostly for travel. The beginning of the day gave us a unique opportunity however, one that few people can experience. Our entire team had the chance to be led in practice by an NBA coach with loads of experience and success.
Bob Hill, who formerly coached the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, and (most recently) the Seattle SuperSonics, was in China for the 10th annual coaching clinic of the China Basketball Association. This is the same clinic we worked out at and played in front of the day before. Because of the motivation of the Chinese to become better and better at basketball, they have begun to bring in more high-profile personalities in order to teach their coaches how to better themselves and their teams.
Coach Hill led us through a series of drills, some of which we were familiar with, and some of which were new to us as well. Much of his focus was on the defensive side of the ball, discussing things such as transition defense, rebounding, and one-on-one defense. It was very interesting to hear his philosophies and ideas about how the game should be played, especially because they sounded so familiar to us. Many of the same principles that Coach Hill were preaching were the principles that define our program. To name a few, he said that a strong defense and rebounding the ball were two of the most important parts of being successful.
It was definitely one of the more enjoyable parts of the trip and I think our guys really soaked it in. After we finished at the clinic, we went back to our hotel and checked out to end our stay in Wuhan. We started a stretch of three flights in three days and a total of five flights in seven days today, flying from Wuhan to the capital city of China, which is Beijing. It was a shorter flight then the ones we have become use to on this trip, only two hours. We were able to see some of the city on our way from the airport to the hotel, and there were some pretty cool sights along the way.
Tonight is going to be a lazy night, because we have to get up early tomorrow for our next flight. We head to Hohhot, the capital city of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (still part of China). There, we will play in a 6,000-seat arena against a Chinese professional team. Our game is part of a festival commemorating the 60th anniversary of Inner Mongolia achieving autonomous recognition, and hopefully it will be a game to remember.
Another early morning, and another flight for our team. This time we flew from Beijing, over the Great Wall, and into Hohhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia. When we arrived in Hohhot, we were met with a nice surprise: no humidity. It was a welcome escape from the punch-in-the gut humidity levels we experienced at the other stops on our trip, our first sunny and cool day in China.
After getting settled in our hotel, we headed to lunch to eat with our day's opponent and a few of the other people associated with the event. This lunch was unlike any other experience we have ever been a part of. It started off normally, with some light dishes and drinks, but took a turn when about 20 Mongolian men and women, uniformed in some sort of kimono's were led into the room by two others pushing a fully intact ram (head-to tail - it was all there) into the middle of the room.
As they chanted and sang words that none of us understood, they asked Coach Giovanine to make the first cut into the meat of the animal, go through some traditional ritual and take a ceremonial drink. After a little bit more singing and chanting, things settled down, but their mark had been put on us. No one really knew what to say or think.
And oh yeah, did I mention all of this was in the dark?
After lunch, we were able to see a few of the sights of Hohhot, including two Buddhist temples and a mosque. Dr. Moline (the esteemed professor of geography at Augustana who has been so helpful as our tour guide) informed us that we were at a juncture few people would ever get to see. Looking left, we saw Western architecture and influence; looking right, we saw Eastern architecture and influence. It was an interesting dynamic that we all could appreciate.
As we approached the sight of our night's game, we were reminded that we would be playing the first game ever played in Hohhot's brand new, downtown 6,000 seat arena. Outside the arena, the Olympic rings were hanging above the entryway. As we walked into the gym we saw a banner that read something to the effect of "Chinese vs. USA basketball game" and knew that this would be an important match up.
The game went well, an 83-70 win for us, making us 3-0 on the trip. As we have the entire trip, our team really defended and rebounded well, and our depth helped us to wear down the Zhejiang Lions from nearby Shanghai.
The game ended in Augie fashion, with a steal and fast break dunk by junior Chandlor Collins. After our win, we were awarded a trophy and then a melee broke loose: people looking for photos with our guys and autographs. It was a cool environment that I don't think many of us could ever get sick of. So, we leave Hohhot tomorrow morning 3-0, with one more game left on our schedule.
We know we aren't finished yet.
Not to sound like a broken record, but today again started with an early morning and an early flight. We woke up today at 5:30 a.m. for our flight back to Beijing after our win in Hohhot, ending a stretch of three flights in three days. It was definitely a grind, but luckily today was an off day for us. With no basketball on our schedule, we were able to see some of the greatest sights Beijing has to offer.
First, we started at Tiananmen Square, the largest public city square in the world. The square has been known to hold up to 1,000,000 people in the past. As we walked through the square, many street vendors approached us, attempting to sell us a variety of goods, such as kites, fans, shirts, hats, etc. What's more interesting is the way you can barter with the people. They'll tell you a price first, and then you come back with a lower price. They may say no first, but if you start to walk away they will chase you down and offer a lower price. Once you reach a price you can agree on, and if you really want it, you get it. It's cool how it allows you to get some pretty cool stuff at a cheap price.
After walking to the end of the square, we entered The Forbidden City, which took 1,000,000 workers 14 years to build. The Forbidden City is so named because it was off limits for 500 years; it is the largest and best-preserved clusters of ancient buildings in China, which was home to both the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Forbidden City is (was) a collection of public and private buildings that served both political and social means. As you go deeper and deeper into the city, the buildings become more and more important. It was interesting to learn that the number of animal statues on the buildings signified its significance. For instance, nine statues were regarded as the most important number, and can be seen on the emperor's most important buildings. There are a lot of ongoing renovations at this site, as the Chinese prepare for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Every one of the buildings and walls are being repainted for the events, so not all of the buildings were not open for us to see.
Because of the renovations, we were not able to see Mao Zedong's Mausoleum. Zedong was the leader of China's communist revolution of the 1930s and '40s and became the first leader of the People's Republic of China in 1949. His body is preserved in a coffin that everyone can see, but at this time the tomb was closed. Our last stop of the day was at the Summer Palace, a huge collection of gardens, temples, lakes and corridors that was initially constructed as one emperor's gift to his mother. One of the more interesting facts about the Summer Palace was that one corridor contained 14,000 paintings, with no two paintings being the same. It was definitely an eye-opening day into the ancient culture of China.
Tonight we are laying low in the hotel, preparing for our final game on the trip tomorrow. We play Qinghua University, one of the finest Universities in China, both from an academic perspective and on the basketball court. Should be a good test for our team, and a great way to end our basketball tour.
"4-0" has a nice ring to it, and that's how we finished on our China basketball tour after defeating Qinghua University 68-58. It was the most challenging game on our trip, and after playing poorly in the first half, we really responded as a team in the second, pulling together when it mattered most.
The atmosphere was the complete opposite of the last game, as we played in front of a crowd of 3 people- Coach Jessee's wife Bonnie, and Dr. and Mrs. Moline. The facility was actually pretty nice, and will be used next year for Olympic teams practice facilities. Because the Olympic Committee has control over the venue, we did not have many of the usual things we play with like a scoreboard, shot clock, etc. There were about four lights on in the gym, but we pride ourselves on being able to perform anyplace, anytime and under any conditions.
We played well down the stretch and were able to finish undefeated. It was the second straight international trip where the Augustana men's basketball program was undefeated. After going 5-0 in Ireland in 2004 we now have a winning streak of nine straight outside of the United States. In all it was a good ending to a great trip.
Changing gears, we finally had a day to rest up a little bit and sleep in. After getting up and eating breakfast at about 9 a.m., we got on the bus and headed for the Silk Street Market to get some shopping done. Driving habits are a little different here (first person into the spot gets it, and no one really gets mad at what we would consider "cutting" a car off), and unfortunately on the way we hit a taxi. That slowed us down temporarily, but once we got there it was a good time. This was another one of those places where we could bargain with the salespeople. There was pretty much everything you can imagine at this market. Items ranging from designer clothing to Chinese trinkets, entertainment equipment (XBox 360, PS3, etc.) to Jordan apparel, and so on. Everybody was able to get a lot of cool stuff, and it was a lot of fun for our guys. The atmosphere at these markets is unlike anything we have in the states, with the salespeople sometimes literally blocking the exits if you don't buy anything. Some unbelievable stuff that probably just wouldn't fly in the states.
I forgot to mention that we had a chance to briefly stop at the 2008 Olympic facility yesterday. Much of it is yet to be completed, but the architecture on what is done is unbelievable. One of the more interesting parts was the (outdoor) Olympic stadium, and we were able to get a pretty unique team picture in front of it. Wait until you see the stadium, then you'll know what I'm talking about. Tomorrow is our last day in Beijing, and we are going to the Great Wall of China. Should be an awesome sight, and its something we are all definitely looking forward to seeing. More on that tomorrow.
On our last day in Beijing, we headed to The Great Wall. We were told that the Wall is so named because on a visit during his presidency, Richard Nixon called it "The Great Wall" and the name stuck. After about a two and a half hour bus ride outside of Beijing, we reached the wall, and as we have become accustomed to, were immediately met by people trying to get us to buy things.
We had two options to get up to the wall: take a cable car to the top, or climb 1500 stairs. On the way up we all walked the stairs, and it was definitely a work out. It was well worth it though, because there was some pretty amazing scenery along the way. Reaching the wall took about twenty minutes, and when we reached it, the sight and view was jaw-dropping.
The wall was first built roughly 2200 years ago in 220 B.C. Around 600 years ago the Ming Dynasty performed major reconstruction on the wall for a couple of reasons: to protect its borders from the outside world, and to clearly define the Chinese land. Today it is considered an historic landmark in China, and is clearly still an important part of the Chinese culture. One of the seven wonders of the world, it is just unbelievable to imagine how they were able to make such a huge structure without the modern technology we now enjoy.
We were told that it is nearly impossible to know the exact length of the wall, but estimates say that it extends roughly 3000 miles through China. Just unbelievable. On the way down, some of us walked the steps again while others rode the trolley, but we were all met by the vendors before we even were able to get all the way down to their shops. It's cool though, everyone got good souvenirs after bargaining for prices.
Tonight we had a very good dinner at a fantastic Chinese restaurant. The style was the same as we have become use to, but the main course was very definitive. We ate Peking Duck, a dinner that was meant to kind of put the cap on our stay in China. The name "Peking" is synonymous with Beijing, and actually has some relevance with the Quad City area because it lies on roughly the same latitude as Pekin and Rock Island, Illinois. Just some interesting facts that we learned about tonight.
Well, tomorrow we head off for the last stop on our trip Tokyo, Japan. Should be an interesting day, with our wake up call at 4:45 AM. It's about a 3 hour flight from Beijing to Tokyo, and then we have a day of seeing the sights Tokyo has to offer. Should be a good ending for our trip to Asia.
After our 4:45 a.m. wakeup call today, we loaded up the bus and headed to the airport, set to leave China. Our flight, from Beijing to Tokyo, Japan was the seventh of our trip and lasted about three hours. After landing in Tokyo and getting through customs, we got on another bus and headed into the city, an hour and a half drive from the airport. Along the way, we were able to see some pretty amazing sights, like Tokyo's Disney Resort and Tokyo Bay. Disneyland, we were told, is owned by an independent Japanese entrepreneur who pays around $600,000 in royalties to the parent company. This American icon has been hugely successful in the Japanese culture, with an average of 35,000 people going to the park daily. One of the other main sights we saw was Tokyo Bay, which leads right into the Pacific Ocean. It was cool seeing this bay in the middle of the city that dumps right into the world's largest ocean.
Our first stop on our day in Tokyo was at the Tokyo Tower, a structure in the mold of the Eiffel Tower that is actually about 13 meters taller. The observation deck at the tower offered an unbelievable view of the city, with different sights in all directions. On a clear day you can see the Tokyo Disney Resort to the East, the Tokyo International Airport to the South, the Imperial Palace to the North, and even Mount Fuji to the West. You could basically see all of Tokyo, which becomes even more impressive when you consider that it is the most populated metropolitan area in the world, with around 30 million people living there.
Our last dinner on our trip was at an authentic Japanese restaurant, and I think it's pretty much unanimous that this was the best meal of our trip. At each of our tables we had our own grill, and got to cook our own meat. Also, because it was buffet style we got as much as we wanted. There were all sorts of meats, including pork, beef, and chicken, and it was just a phenomenal way to essentially end our trip. After dinner some we were already starting to reminisce about our experience and how much fun we had; something I know we will continue to do forever. It's difficult to put into words the impact this trip has had on all of us, but if you ask tomorrow when we get back, we'll be happy to give it a shot.
14 days, 8 flights, and 17,480 miles later, and we're finally back home in the states carrying with us a 4-0 record to go along with a slough of unforgettable memories. The anticipation for us kept growing and growing, especially as we came to closer to the end of our 11-hour flight, and I think everyone was happy and relieved to be back with family and friends.
Our trip, in which we made two stops in Tokyo, stops in Hong Kong, Dongguan, Guangzhou, Wuhan, two in Beijing, and another in Hohhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia has definitely helped bring our team together, and we were able to achieve the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of our trip.
We have also been able to gain a great perspective on what our peers will experience in the fall foreign term to China. A total of 81 Augustana students will spend roughly 10 weeks in and around China, going through many of the same things we went through on our trip. Things like language barriers, different food and a still developing Asian society are just a few of the things they will have to adapt to. Our hats go off to them, as none of us could imagine how hard it would be to be that far from home for that long.
This trip was an unbelievable chance for all of us to learn about a culture different from our own, and I think we took full advantage. We saw firsthand the widening gap between the modernizing parts of China and rural China, witnessed the strong work ethic and motivation of their culture, saw numerous glimpses into Chinese culture (from bargaining in the markets to the people's polite nature, and so on) and even were able to sample some of the Chinese social life.
It was just an amazing adventure that none of us will ever forget.
To end this blog, I want to take this opportunity to thank some of the more influential people with our trip. First and foremost, we would like to thank all of our parents for allowing us to take this once in a lifetime trip. Without you, we realize none of this could have been possible. Next, thank you to our coaching staff for dreaming up this trip and allowing us to have a great balance of basketball and "down time" for these two weeks. To all of our family and friends that helped out leading up to the trip, and those of you who stayed in contact while we were gone, thanks to you as well. Thanks next to Augustana College, most notably Dave Wrath who helped start this blog from square one, and President Steven Bahls whose endorsement and recognition of this great opportunity were vital to us.
Also, I would like to thank the Rock Island Argus/Dispatch, most especially Mark Nesseler and Tom Johnston, for providing the medium for the blog and offering encouragement along the way. Lastly, let me thank Dr. Moline and his wife, Janet for offering their expertise on the trip, and without whom this trip could not have happened.
I hope this blog was interesting for everyone to read, offered some insight into our experience, and was as much fun to read as it was to write. I also hope to see you this winter in the Carver Center when my teammates and I will be playing a little bit closer to home.