It was the first thing I learned in China. And although my obvious accent saying “hello” causes everyone to smile, I usually am greeted back with a warm “herro”!
The last few days have been long and tiring. After a 30 hour trip to China, I have finally adjusted to the new 12 hour difference of time from South Carolina and the jet lag is almost gone. As I arrived in Nanjing, I was greeted at the airport by a small contingent of people: Scotty, my translator, is a very nice 28 year old fellow who usually is an English teacher here at the Institute, but is now my full time interpreter during my time here. His English is quite good, and he loves American sports, especially NBA! Coach Kong, the Head Manager for the team, is a former National level swimmer, and is very accomodating. She is very organized, and makes sure I get anything and everything I need here. Although she doesn’t speak English, she understands the gist of things quite well. Coach Sun, the Assistant Manager, is also very helpful, as he helps me with things that are outside of Coach Kong’s expertise (anything dealing with cell phones, electrical, errands…he is a Jack of all trades!).
Upon arrival, I was taken to my apartment at the Nanjing Institute. The NI is basically a college here of about 3000 students, and broken into 2 divisions: an academic half and an athletic side. The campus is very beautiful, and sits on the east side of Nanjing in a lush green woodsy environment. In the distance are views of rolling fields and mountains with a few ancient Chinese architecture homes. The weather has been nice, partly sunny in the 60’s during the day and low 40’s at night. There is always a nice breeze blowing, and some of the students here take advantage of this by flying very colorful kites in the fields. My apartment is what I thought it would be. It’s on the 4th floor of one of the main buildings, and is basically like a huge hotel suite. In one side is a double bed (VERY comfortable), a large desk with lamps and a telephone, wireless, printer, a bookshelf, a dresser, and a TV (I have 3 English channels including HBO, so life is good!) The bathroom is a normal one, so nothing special there. The other room in the apartment is more of a kitchen, with a stove, fridge, table, sink, and all dishes and utensils. There’s another bathroom in there as well as a washing machine (no dryers here, everything is hung out to dry!) It’s a very cozy place, I like it a lot…
Yesterday, I had lunch with a number of management from the NI, including Coach Zhong, who is the Director of all sports here. He is a very important and busy man, as there are 11 sports teams here. He is also the former Head National team and Olympic Coach of China, so I am fortunate to have someone here who really appreciates and supports swimming! The lunch was held at a very fancy restaurant, and as typical Chinese meals like this go, we were brought a number of different dishes (at least 20, no lie), soups, and drinks. I never thought I would see the day where I could say I had eaten chicken claws and stomach of shark soup, but that day had arrived! The soup was actually quite tasty, as were the other dishes as my taste buds went through a cornucopia of experiences!
My first day of coaching was awesome. The pool here is a 10 lane 50 meter pool, with a separate weight training center, which has all the equipment I need. Although some of the equipment is old (I haven’t seen some of that stuff in 30 years), it will do! I met the team, which are made up of about 40 swimmers, half boys and half girls. These swimmers range in age of 16-24, and are all very talented! There are 6 other coaches here, 4 men and 2 women who have various degrees of coaching experiences. They are all very nice and welcoming. The swimmers have been somewhat shy to meet me, but I kind of expected that (as Scotty says, it’s the nature if Chinese people in general). I have spent the last few days evaluating the swimmers, and will select the group I want to train on Monday, which will be around 3-5 swimmers, who all are world class swimmers and will train for the 2012 Olympic Games. Some of the girls on the team literally walked up to me and stared me in the eyes for like 30 seconds and said something in Mandarin. As Scotty is always right at my side, he told me that they were looking at my blue eyes, as they had never seen an American before. I am sure I am an oddity to many of them, haha!
All of the meals here are in the dining hall. It is much different than food in the States: lots of rice, dumplings, and noodles that I can’t make heads or tails of, but it’s all good! There are some things I shy away from (porridge, fish, milk items), but maybe I will muster the courage soon…
So that’s it for now! It’s been a great experience, and I look forward to Monday and a new week! Hopefully I can still use this blog for a while, as Facebook and my other original blog don’t work here. If you have Skype, we can chat through that! My skype name is globalswim65, as is my aol IM name. Drop me a line sometimes!
*POST NOTE- Got a great VPN tonight, so my blog and Facebook are back in business!
Zai jian! (goodbye)