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Kunlun Hockey Journey: Stephanie Anderson’s Blog Post #2

Beijing, wow! Being here I feel so far away from home. Going from Shenzhen to Beijing I wasn’t expecting such a drastic change within China. It sure is an eye opening experience to see different parts of the world and how different our culture from theirs really is. I have never appreciated a nice, freshly cut, green lawn until now. Because I haven’t seen one since the day I left home. You can’t just hop on a bike and ride to a lake where there’s sand and grass and healthy water to swim in. Pollution in Beijing is a very, VERY real thing. Some days I look on my phone and it tells me that the air quality could be harmful to some. Which is scary right? I have never experienced pollution like this before and some days it’s much worse than others. We had our first inner squad scrimmage on Friday this week and it was the hardest hockey game I think I’ve played in, because of the fumes. The Zamboni at the rink runs on gas so between each period they redid the ice and we would just breathe in the smell of gas. We are all okay though, definitely was not a pleasant experience but the game was awesome!! Getting to play side by side with the Chinese players and after every shift they want to know what they can do to be better or where they should be positioned on the ice. It’s amazing to hear them talk hockey and how much they are willing and wanting to learn. It truly is a life-changing experience being here and helping them try to get better. None of this has anything to do with us Americans and Canadians, we want to help them as much as we can in ways they never viewed the game before.

There are so many people in Beijing! And if you thought traffic was bad in Minnesota, think again. It is 24/7 traffic here. It’s a combination of people on bikes, mopeds, bike carriages, and walkers that make it so difficult to get around. You hear car horns all the time, and its not necessarily because someone is doing something wrong on the road, its used more for letting cars around you know that your coming and for you to get out of their way. At first we all thought it was the rudest thing for how often people honked at each other but this is just the way things are done around here. Even the bikes have bells on them to let people know to move out of the way, I was so embarrassed the first time I did it because its just something I didn’t grow up by. Watch, I come home in a year and everyone will know it’s me on the road because I’m honking every 15 seconds!

I do have a confession to make; I have been craving American food so badly that I went to McDonald’s one night… It was like an explosion of happiness bundled into the 10 minutes I was there. A few days went by and us Americans were craving a “good steak” thinking it wasn’t possible to find such a place in the middle of Beijing. We all wondered to the mall not to far from the hotel, very nice place with shops that don’t even exists in the USA. We took a staircase that was filed with locks attached to wiring, where you make a wish and throw the key away! Very cool and will hopefully do it before we leave on the 23rd. We made it to The Blue Frog. Such an amazing restaurant with staff that was so welcoming to us. It was the most American meal I have had since being here. Sitting at the table, I took a bite of my tenderloin and closed my eyes and pictured myself back in Minnesota. For a second I didn’t feel like I was in China. I am missing home and the simple things we get everyday we don’t realize some places is hard to come by. Water is very hard to get here, its expensive to buy; especially living in a hotel. You can’t just turn on the water in your room and drink from the faucet because there’s a sign that literally tells you its not safe for consumption. I have been stocking up bottles of water from the maids though… hiding them in my closet so they keep bringing more everyday.

The Winter Convention Center is a huge weekend gathering to promote winter sports and ideas for 2022 Olympics in Beijing. We were invited by a company and wore our team jerseys to promote our program. The amount of media that followed us around was awing. I could not believe what an opportunity this was for us to be there and get our program recognized in China. We had pictures taken at a hockey stand and then we were free to walk around on our own. A teammate and myself were at this booth where we skated on synthetic ice. I had these ridiculous skates on that were one strap Velcro snaps, because my feet were too big for normal skates. I owned it anyways and laughed at how funny I looked. After awhile I was standing having a conversation with a teammate and a Chinese girl was standing behind me taking pictures of my jersey and I didn’t know. She startled me a little and then asked if we could take a selfie. The biggest smile came across her face and she went running off before I knew it. It’s the little things that happen between the Chinese and yourself where you take a step back and really think, wow, we are doing something big here.

On September 10th 2017 I conquered one of the Seven Wonders of the World: The Great Wall of China. How dramatic does that sound? On our way there I thought it was going to be this easy climb and more of a flat surface but boy was I wrong. It was a straight incline with so many stairs. You think you were looking at the top but The Wall lies. I stopped at the 11th fortress and seriously considered turning around but I told myself I would never forgive myself if I didn’t make it to the top. The view was gorgeous and there were many people from all over the world. I will never forget that day, because some go a lifetime without being able to see it, let alone climb it.

I suppose I should talk about hockey just a little!! This week was the first normal schedule Monday-Thursday skate with workouts and a scrimmage on Friday. It feels so good to be back out on the ice and getting up in the morning knowing you get to do something you love and teach others. It is a different mind set, because when you’re going through a drill, your setting an example for how the Chinese girls should do it. When your standing in line, your watching them and seeing if there’s any tips you can give them when they get back in line. Not one of them is reluctant to hear what you have to say to them. Which makes this journey so incredible.

~ Steph

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