I am officially back in Canada as of late last night! Because of a slight delay in my flight from Beijing to Toronto, I missed my tight connection to Montreal but eventually made it home, only a few hours later than initially planned. It felt great to be able to actually understand the airport direction signs, and not have to guess whether I was going in the right direction, as I did almost every day in China. I say this now, but I’m certain that I will grow to miss my moments of hesitation as I would stand in front of signs pointing in different directions that, to me, could very well have been saying the same thing. I initially dreaded these seconds and sometimes minutes of uncertainty, however I’ve become aware that every moment of confusion was a part of the whole experience, one that I’ll never forget.
The past three days in Beijing, which happen to be my last three days in China, have been filled with a combination of walking, tourism, research, degustation, meeting new people, and melancholy. The latter can be explained by the simple fact that I am nearing the end of my time in this country. However, I’ve been trying not to think about that and instead focus on having the best few days possible. Once you finish reading the summary of my days, you’ll probably agree with me that I’ve succeeded in doing so.
The area that I’m staying in is absolutely amazing, and I’ve been able to fully immerse myself in the city. It’s called the Dashilan District and I’m happy to report that I got approval from my tour guide about my choice of location, as he said it’s “not touristy at all. Very Chinese culture.” I could spend hours strolling around the streets surrounding my hostel, and in fact have done just so. Below are some helpers to help you picture the quaint neighborhood I’m staying in, including pictures of Qianmen street, a famous pedestrian street in Beijing.
The last couple of days I spent in Shanghai went smoothly; I continued my tourism as well as met up with some NBA China staff for both an office tour and a Western lunch. We talked about a number of things, including the impact, both positive and negative, of the One-Child Policy here in China. It was interesting to hear one of the staff members link the policy back to basketball (naturally), and claim that it had mostly negative effects on the Chinese players. In fact, he argued that it had made them less “tough,” and quoted stories about mothers hovering over their only child during water breaks. I also hypothesized that the lack of siblings could contribute to this, since I know that sibling rivalry helped some, including myself, develop tougher skin. Of course, this is a generalization, while it is certainly food for thought. The more I find out about basketball, and sport in general, in China, the more intrigued I become. I will be meeting with the CEO of NBA China in a few days, as well as speaking with different government sport officials – all meetings that promise to be very interesting.
I returned to Shanghai on Friday and have since been doing as much visiting as possible. In just 48 hours, I’ve managed to see the beautiful Jing’an Temple, stroll through Century Park, and wander around both the Marriage Market and AP Plaza, one of the biggest fake markets in the city. To top it all off, I decided that I would once again employ my legs as my main method of transportation, as long as the distances could be travelled in less than two hours. I was quick to regret that decision when it started pouring on me halfway through my long walk home yesterday. Summer is known as a rainy season in China, and I have witnessed it first-hand. The weather was supposed to clear up today, but I’m lucky I still carried my umbrella with me because it started drizzling soon after I started my day, and it quickly turned into an absolute downpour.
Camp has unfortunately come to an end here in Hangzhou. Australia was the last team to leave this afternoon, so I’m officially the only foreigner (that I know of) on campus. I decided to stay an extra day, and I’ve certainly made the most of it so far. I just got back from touring the famous West Lake and while the weather wasn’t perfect, the view was still breathtaking, as you can see from the pictures below. The smog around Hangzhou has actually been quite heavy this week, and a camper even mentioned that he hadn’t seen the sun at all since he’d been here!