Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stars can’t shine without the darkness

2016 May 27

     The Actbang Hotel in Huangshi is a nice place. The display of Ping Pong trophies in the lobby is quite impressive. There is shopping nearby and a park just steps from the hotel where kids play all day. We have been here longer than any place we will stay in China, and we are only half way into our stay. Today we had a walk through at the arena. It is just as impressive as the hotel. Seating is at least 10,000. If the game is a sellout, it will be quite a raucous environment.

     The walk through started off slowly. A day off for an athlete is like Thanksgiving Dinner. It tastes good at the time, but a little later you are laying on the sofa like a zombie. We haven’t done anything for two days (the college visit yesterday doesn’t count as a practice as they hardly broke a sweat).  The guys looked like zombies lacing up their sneakers and venturing out onto the empty court. I let them just BS for about 15 minutes and then got underway.

     Nine players, no managers or assistant coaches to fill the void. My time at Camden County College is paying off. We had many practices with less than a full complement of players. Passing, shooting, running, walking through the old plays, introducing new plays, and a foul shot competition that ended spiritedly. I was pleased.

     Back at the hotel, lunch was ready. Then, the time abyss. There was nothing on the schedule until dinner, and then nothing on the schedule until breakfast.  I read, took a nap, but certainly nothing happened blog worthy. When I went to dinner, I walked in and picked up a plate. It was the same old fare. I made a complete loop of the buffet, put the plate back into the pile, and walked out.

     Aly came past my room and asked if I was going out to walk and if he could join me. I jumped at the chance to get out of the hotel. We set off in search of an ATM as Aly needed a little RMB. The first one we found seemed fine, but we couldn’t navigate the screens on the computer and decided it was certainly the computer’s fault. We walked a couple more blocks and found another machine.
There was a lady there who Aly recruited to help him with the screens. I am assuming that Aly thought I could do it as easily as I read the name tags yesterday at the promotion. The lady was quite nice, but the machine wasn’t. Still no cash. She could speak a little English and asked him how much he was trying to get. Aly said $200 RMB. The lady digs into her pocketbook and tries to give it to him. I look at Aly and ask him what that says about his current attire.  

     As it turns out, this lady works for the Sports Exhibition Center. Seriously? Of all the passers-bye, this lady is from the arena where we play two games. Crazy. While we are trying to turn her down, she calls a friend. The friend tells us about the employment coincidence and that the lady really wants to help us. I suggest we trade USD for the RMB and the offer is accepted. Everyone wins.

     Aly and I continue on our merry way, followed occasionally by the curious group of kids and always by the looks of people who have never seen someone duck through a doorway (Aly, not me). We peek into a few shops, Aly has some souvenirs he still needs, and I buy a beer and some peanuts to fill the void of dinner.  I am back in Room 701 by 9:00pm. There is an English speaking movie channel so I half watched POINT BREAK. (No thumbs for this one, lots of special effects, but the plot line is predictable and the acting is pedestrian.)

     Tomorrow cannot arrive soon enough.

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