Morning on the other side of the world and I was ready for the day to start. It was the fourth day of the trip and today I would be playing some badminton. I hadn’t played since my last match at Manhattan Beach International just a few short days prior but that was fine, I was itching to get back on court. Before that though Belinda and I went to the grocery store to get some fruits for her parents as a gift when I went to their house later for lunch before badminton. Chinese supermarkets are always my favorite as they have everything that I would and could ever want. After picking up a variety of fruits (Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, etc) we proceeded to go to her condo/house.
When we got there her parents had already started to make lunch, dumplings. Of course I wasn’t going to stand by and not get in on this. So on that day I helped and learned to make dumplings from scratch. It was quite the process but they had already finished making the stuffing and the dough. All that was left was the cut the dough into pieces that would be used for each dumpling and then fill it. So I picked up the role of dumpling filler and it was good. In the end couldn’t easily tell which ones were mine compared to the pros (her parents). They tasted great and after we had eaten it was now time to go to play badminton. This would be a different place than her parents usually play at because it was during the week and they mostly play on the weekends. But that was alright and they found a place, a pretty significant place actually. The stadium that we ended up playing at was the stadium that they built and used for the 1990 Asia Games and I would later find that out when Ardy was telling me a story about being in Beijing.
|1990 Asia games stadium where I played badminton|
The stadium now has long since been repurposed into a multisport facility with lots of different uses but primarily it had tennis courts and lots…lots of badminton courts. There was also an indoor rock wall which was cool to see families coming out to use that and not your everyday common sight in China compared to North America. The courts were alright and it wasn’t like I was playing a tournament or anything, just trying to make sure I impressed her parent’s haha so they would do. We played a few games of 3 vs 1 and then Belinda and I played some doubles games against them. After a while her parents left to get some stuff done but said they would be back later if we needed them. When they left I ended up doing some drills, I didn’t get stared at as much as I thought I would while playing badminton there. Some guys rented the court behind us and when they saw me doing drills they ended up stopping to watch for a while. We finished our session and the lights above the court went dark, time was up. Belinda’s parents came back because it was pouring outside so they didn’t want us to walk in the rain and ended up dropping us back to the hotel. That night we had dinner plans with some of Belinda’s school friends from when she lived in China.
Night time and the lights came on, but there was rain on this night not to light but not too hard either. Thankfully we were just walking across to the Golden Resources Mall to meet them there. With so many restaurants it makes sense as the place to go for variety and what did we end up having but Chinese hot pot. Her friends were incredibly entertaining and actually spoke a decent amount of English, a well-rounded group and funny to be around. We may have also bonded over the common ground of making fun of Belinda but that’s normal when there’s somebody new in the group haha. The dinner went well and we sat in the restaurant for a while, afterwards the night was still young and it was a dilemma to figure out the next place to hit up for some fun. A bar and club were out of the question, nobody was feeling in the mood to drink or party that hard. But then somebody said it and we went to karaoke, now anybody who knows me knows that I don’t actually sing…like at all. I would swear that I am tone deaf and just have no singing capabilities at all. But I still went along to have fun and just spectate what was happening there. They sung some Chinese songs, mostly love songs but then it happened and the cheesy English songs came on. But by that time my eyes were closing on me and sleep had taken me for the night, I ended up falling asleep in the room and not to long after we went back to the hotel.
Day 5 – Interrogation at dinner
After a good night’s rest and feeling very refreshed there was another task to complete today. Find a gift for Belinda’s grandmother, not just any gift though a gift that she would like and approve of. So we set out and went to mall after mall, it was settled upon that we would get a necklace for her. The nice thing about china you can find anything so we got the chain and pendant separate to find the perfect combination for her. This however was not as easy as it sounded, we needed to find the right combination and that was hard enough already without spending an arm and a leg. But we did it, ultimately it took a while but we found the perfect pieces and together it was the one so we picked it up and then picked up some lunch to refuel our famished bodies.
Things took a golden twist afterwards when we headed to see the Olympic stadiums from the 2008 Olympic Games that took place in Beijing. The weather however could have cooperated better with us on that day. It was very cold and got to be pretty windy which didn’t help at all when combined with the fact the area was essentially a large flat area with just a few large buildings greatly spread out. I got up close and personal to the birds nest and at first it didn’t look huge but I soon realized that I was staring at it from a weird side angle of the curve of it causing it to look incredibly small, when I saw it from the side then its true massive nature hit me and the gravity of the Olympics happened right here was a cool feeling. I had just gone to Pan Am Games the year before which are a way smaller version of the Olympics but the same concept so to see the scale of this area just blew me away. The water cube was across from the Birds Nest and although it wasn’t night I could remember how cool it looked all lit up. Snapped some pictures and then we were done and happy to be getting out of the cold. Now the task of getting to Belinda’s grandmothers place happened but eventually we got there runny noses and all.
|2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium, aka the Birds Nest|
Her grandmother has such an amazing view of the Olympic Village and as soon as it turned dark she got excited to show me, it truly was a beautiful sight to see the water cube lit up and the national stadium lit again. After some tea and quick talking we ended up getting dressed up again to brave the weather and headed to dinner. I would be meeting her family or well those that came back from their recent trip to Hinain province for Chinese New Year a few days prior. I did not know what I was walking into that is for sure. We arrived at the restaurant and found ourselves ushered into a back room which had a gigantic table with lots of chairs set up in it. There was already about 5 or 6 people in the room and then add them to the group of 7 or 8 of us that just walked in and a few more people who came a few minutes later there was a lot of people. We all sat and got acquainted with one another, mostly it was people asking questions about me and Mengran translating it for them to understand. A few of her aunts and her mom understood English so they could verify that what she was translating was in fact what I was saying. All during this amazing food dishes were coming out and we were eating, as well as drinking (some super strong famous alcohol that her uncle brought, how I did not get wasted I don’t know) and discussing anything and everything you could think of about me.
The Q&A of who is Nick came to an end finally and then we moved in a different direction, towards a slide show presentation about the family’s New Year’s trip and celebration. That was a pleasant slideshow and a familiar place that I have gone before so was cool to see other people enjoying it and to share that connection with them. This whole time we were eating dinner and some amazing Chinese dishes not to mention having some rice wine that was brought for the occasion. Just like that 3 hours had passed and the night was over as people had to head home for the night. Overall it was a fantastic dinner and great time even if I did get interrogated by quite a few people. It was time to call it a night and then get ready for the final day in Beijing.
|Small portion of all the people that were at dinner|
Day 6 – Time to Say Goodbye
It was time to leave Beijing, seems like it was just yesterday that I arrived but time had definitely flown by. Both Belinda and I were flying out on the same day but to 2 different places for different reasons. I was heading back to Calgary, to training and coaching as well as life as I knew it. Belinda on the other hand was heading to Atlanta as she was now on her last rotation for the GE program that she was in. So she would spend 6 months working in Atlanta. It was February 14th, valentine’s day, and we were flying to different cities from the same airport and just so happens that our planes were next to each other at their respective gates. We boarded our flights and headed out for new journeys that lay in front of us.
The first tournament of the year had been completed as well first trip to Asia for the year was completed. I wouldn’t have another tournament for a while, the next one would actually be Trinidad and Tobago national championships in April. I would be defending my national title there but first a 12 hour flight back to Calgary and a lot of movies to catch up on.
|Being on the Olympic grounds, maybe one day ill be able to be there as an athlete|