Photo Gallery! The latest photo (on the right): Kat (far left) and Kayla (far right) and their new volleyball friends from China - their opponents on June 17!
Two of Santa Clara's volleyball players, Katherine Douglas (Kat) and Kayla Lommori (Kayla), are currently in China participating in a tournament in Beijing and Tainjin. They are teaming up to blog about their trip and their day-to-day experiences as they encounter a new culture and new opportunities while playing volleyball for the first time in China.
DAY 1: Tuesday, June 7th (Kat)
Just wanted to let you know that our trip has been going really well so far! We're really enjoying getting to know each of the players and feel so lucky to have the privilege to practice with so many different talented athletes.
We have collegiate volleyball players from Oklahoma, Purdue, Oregon, Illinois, Virginia Tech and a few other Division I schools.
We flew out of San Jose and landed in Los Angeles around 1 pm on Tuesday (June 7), got settled into our hotel rooms at the Peacock Suites, practiced 5-7 pm then went out to a really nice dinner at The White House in Anaheim. Kayla and I are rooming with a libero from Purdue who will be playing on our team in China.
DAY 2: Wednesday, June 8th (Kayla)
Wednesday we had the opportunity to watch the USA women's national team practice at the American Sports Center after our morning practice.
We practiced from 9-11 am, checked everything out of our hotel by 12:30 pm, went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch, then napped in the gym until our second practice from 4-6 pm. Since we no longer had our hotel rooms, all 24 of us had to shower in the three available gym showers before boarding the 12-hour flight.
Once we had the vans packed up, we headed to the pier in Manhattan Beach for dinner at The Kettle. We were each allotted about $12 per meal, so Kayla and I shared our last American meal together! (Haha) After dinner we headed to the airport and boarded around 12 am.
DAY 3/4: (we didn't get a Thursday) - Friday, June 10 (Kat)
We have just landed in Korea (with extremely swollen feet)! (6 am Friday, June 10th here-- 2pm Thursday, June 9 at home) The 12-hour flight went by much faster than we had expected. I slept well for most of the flight and by the time I had woken up they were serving omelets for breakfast. I hardly had enough time to watch the movie, "Just Go With It" before we had landed in Korea.
We now have a four-hour layover. Luckily we get free internet! We leave Korea at 9 am to fly to Beijing. Once we land in Beijing we have a five-hour bus drive to Weifang, where we will begin our tournament Sunday, May 12th.
DAY 5: Saturday, June 11 (Kayla)
I believe Kat left off when we were at the airport in Korea.
We had to wait in the airport for about four hours before we flew to Beijing. I watched movies on the airplane to pass time for the two-hour flight to Beijing. When we arrived we had to fill out an immigration status form and had to go through security to be allowed through to baggage claim. It was pretty comical seeing everyone stare at us and there was even a man who took out his iPhone and started to video taping us.
We had to eat at a KFC Select before getting on the bus for what was supposed to be a five-hour drive. There was not enough room under the bus for all of our luggage so we had to pile it in two seats on the bus. The drive started out okay and Kat and I listened to music and read our books.
After the first two hours, we stopped at a rest stop to use the bathroom. That was an experience. We had to go to the bathroom in a hole in the ground and there was no toilet paper provided. Luckily, one of our teammates had toilet paper for us. Let's just say it was a bonding experience.
Then, the drive turned into an eight-hour drive including about 10 switches of the drivers, a huge Chinese traffic jam and reversing on the freeway because of taking a wrong exit. We experienced people waving at us, taking pictures of the bus and people giving the peace sign. We finally arrived at the hotel in Weifang at 8:00 pm.
We ate dinner and then were told to walk around the hotel to help with the long day of traveling. Kat is experiencing some troubles with her extremely swollen feet, which I helped massage and a black tongue experience. (We don't know what happened yet) Hahaha.
We woke up at 8:30 am (5:30 pm at home) and we are trying to recover so that we can be ready to practice at 1:00 pm today after we eat lunch. The food is different, but we are trying to adjust as much as possible. Kat ate rice for breakfast and unknown pastries. I also had pastries, plus an egg and some watermelon.
We were able to get an adapter for our computer charger so that we can get on the Internet. There is no Facebook or Twitter and we are only allowed to e-mail. We will get back to you after our practice! â˜º
Later on the 11th: We practiced for about two hours, scrimmaging against the Red Team. The Stanford volleyball team came in to practice after we were done. We are now back at the hotel getting ready for the banquet dinner. We have to dress nice and I believe we are going to get the chance to meet Chinese government officials.
Much later on the 11th: The banquet was really fun. They served us steak and French fries along with other things like pasta.
After the banquet, we were surprised by a talent show and there were a lot of acts. The Stanford volleyball team performed a dance to the Justin Bieber song "Baby". Kat and I got called onto stage and did a balloon game where we had to carry a balloon between each other's back and then sit on the balloon and pop it. We got a little prize at the end.
Tomorrow we will wake up at 8:00 am and go to a vegetable fair and then do a pass around. We will let you in on more tomorrow!
DAY 6: Sunday, June 12 (Kat)
After breakfast this morning we took a tour of the Chinese Garden and Plants Show with our USA BIP group and Stanford University. It was unlike anything we've ever seen before, including animals and sculptures made out of kernels and vegetables.
After the tour we had pass around from 12-1 pm then came back for lunch at the hotel. After resting in our rooms for about an hour, we headed back to the gym for our first match against Shandong Normal University at 4 pm.
Walking into the overflowing, packed gym for the opening ceremony was an unbelievable experience. As we cautiously walked across the gym floor to get to our lockers, the crowd began to roar in anticipation and excitement. After changing into our jerseys, we participated in the opening ceremony, consisting mostly of lengthy speeches in Chinese. The match started at 4:30 pm, and ended after a 3-0 defeat vs. SNU. It was an amazing experience playing in front of such a large crowd who was so enthusiastic about watching the U.S. play.
After the match, we rushed back to the hotel to shower and eat dinner, before returning to the gym to watch the USA Select team and Stanford University play. We finally returned to our hotel around 10 pm and walked to the closest store about a block from our hotel. We were on a mission to find some COLD Gatorade (or anything other than water), but failed miserably. We managed to find Vitamin water, and snacks however, being ignorant about the exchange rate, we may have paid $20 for a Vitamin water. We arrived back to our room just in time to answer a Skype call from Kayla's parents. It's now 11 pm here- 8 am at home, so we're going to try to get some rest for tomorrow! Good night!
Day 7: Monday, June 13 (Kayla)
We got to sleep in this morning, which felt so good after a long night. We ate breakfast at our hotel and then had a little tour of Weifang and got the chance to look around at some shops.
It was pretty comical trying to communicate with people when we were in desperate need of a bathroom. We finally had a lady escort us to the bathroom, which continues to be a struggle for us. I don't think we will ever get used to the hole in the ground and no separating walls for privacy.
After shopping around for about an hour and a half, we went back to our hotel to eat lunch. Today was a pretty low-key day after we had a meeting about the match. We rested in our rooms until game time. We played Fujian Team and lost in three sets. They were a good team and we had some serving and passing issues throughout the match.
After the match, we watched our other team play and then came back to eat dinner at the hotel. It has been a very long day, and we have to be up early to eat and have a serve and pass practice in the morning. Good night!
DAY 8: Tuesday, June 14 (Kat)
Our day began at 7:30am this morning with, big surprise, watermelon and eggs. We left for the gym 30 minutes later for an hour of serve and pass. Due to government regulation, we weren't able to go into the city as planned. Instead, Kayla and I spent the day in our room from 10am - 7pm.
Fortunately, we have a spa in our hotel that we decided to take full advantage of in order to pass time. Trying to communicate with the masseuse was very difficult at first. He attempted to use "Google Translate" to comprehend what we were asking for, but we have quickly learned that the Chinese translations don't necessarily translate well in English. Once he understood which massage we wanted, his next translation in Google was "no female bath". Kayla and I laughed nervously, and said "OK, - assuming he just meant that there wasn't a female masseuse available for the back massage we asked for. Although we weren't entirely sure what he was indicating, we agreed to the offer as he waved us into the massage room. Walking into room, we were completely unaware of what to expect, but found two of our teammates laying in large comfy chairs (much more comfortable than our beds), enjoying 30 minute foot massages for less than $5 USD. Kayla and I eagerly jumped in the chairs and relaxed for what we thought would be a back massage, but ended up being a foot massage that we definitely couldn't complain about.
Afterwards we reluctantly headed back to our rooms, knowing we still had about eight hours to spend before leaving for our match. Predictably, naps ensued shortly after returning from the spa, and we woke up just in time for lunch. Yes, inevitably lunch consisted of rice and watermelon. Unsure of how to pass the next six hours, Kayla and I decided to wash all our laundry in the sink, which took much longer than one would expect. By the time we were finished, our room looked like a laundrymatt with spandex, sports bras and shirts hanging from every available corner of our cramped room. After spending the rest of the time reading, talking, and attempting to watch a downloaded episode of "Secret Life of an American Teenager", it was finally time for dinner.
By now, you can probably make a pretty precise guess of what we ate for dinner.
Heading back to the gym at 7 pm, we walked in with excitement when seeing our USA select team tied 20-20 in game one with China. After watching an inspiring 4-1 U.S. victory, we finally began warming up at 9 pm. Unfortunately we fell to the Shandong National Team in a 4-1 match, and ended the tournament with a closing ceremony, earning the fourth place trophy.
Since we have to be up by 6 am tomorrow, and will be spending eight hours on a bus to Beijing, some of the players decided to get a massage, stay up late and sleep on the bus tomorrow. Kayla and I of course agreed to go back for a full hour Chinese style massage for less than $20 USD. Returning from our massage around 1 am, we instantly packed our bags and got in bed, curiously envisioning how our trip to Beijing could be any better than our experience in Weifang.
DAY 9: Wednesday, June 15 (Kayla)
There is not a single word that can describe the day we have had today. Starting at 6:30 am this morning, we our last meal at the Weifang Hotel. We were on our way back to Beijing. As we walked out of the hotel, Kat and I were approached by men with a huge video camera and were asked to express how we felt about the service of the hotel after the last couple of days. After signing multiple autographs on pieces of linen, we were ready for the long bus ride ahead.
The first couple of hours were not too bad for me, because I was still so tired from the night before. Kat was extremely bored and decided to catch us up on our blogs. About three hours into the ride, I woke up in a panic because the bus was so hot and muggy. We found out that the air conditioning had broken and we still had about three more hours to go.
We had absolutely no idea what to expect and when our bus stopped, we had no warning of what was about to hit us. We walked into this Market place with tons of people scattered EVERYWHERE. Kat and I started to walk around and every single place that we stopped; we were bombarded with tons of people yelling at us in Chinese to buy their products and merchandise.
Kat's first interest was in a dress and the lady was relentless and continued to grab and yell at Kat to lower her starting price. We were laughing so hard at the chaos around us, that I think the lady started to get really annoyed with us. Even worse, was my first experience trying to bargain. I saw this rain jacket that I liked, and I started to touch it and a lady immediately started suffocating me. She asked me what my price was and apparently I offended her by how low I started and she gave me a look of disgust. We ran away from her as fast as we could. Language barrier?!
Kat and I continued to learn about the whole bargaining process and we ended up getting some things like purses and shoes. We hope to use our newfound skills in our upcoming shopping sprees. â˜º
Immediately after we left the market, we went to an acrobatic show in the city. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen!! Those performers were so talented; I couldn't even believe what we were seeing. The show started with a girl walking on a line and she proceeded to ride a unicycle on the line, which was thinner than a rope. We saw men dressed in skeleton suits jump and flip through rings that were over eight feet tall, a man who could juggle more than nine balls at once while tap dancing, a girl who had enough strength to balance herself with one arm and twist herself into positions that looked more than painful, and 12 girls on one bicycle that were doing tricks that no one should ever attempt. It just amazes me how people can get their bodies to do what these talented people performed tonight.
After the show, we came back to the hotel and ate dinner. We are heading to the Great Wall tomorrow bright and early! â˜º Got to get our beauty sleep before the Great Wall and some more extensive bargain shopping.
Go Broncos! Good night!
DAY 10: Thursday, June 16 (Kat)
Another early morning, beginning with breakfast at 6:30 am in order to make it to the Great Wall before 9 am. Not only does our breakfast offer a much wider selection of food, but our beds are also softer than rocks in our new hotel, allowing us to sleep through the night.
The bus ride to the Great Wall took about an hour and half, in which Kayla and I spent sleeping and reading. When we arrived at the Great Wall, there were busses in every direction full of tourists.
Kayla and I immediately began our climb of the Great Wall with a running start. Naturally, choosing the harder of the two paths to climb to the top, only about a minute in did we realize what a rash decision we had made, and began slowing walking. Sometimes our walk even became a crawl, hanging onto the side rail in order avoid slipping up the steep path.
Unfortunately the combination of smog and fog did not make for the idyllic view when we finally reached the top of the Great Wall. Nonetheless, the experience remains indescribable. Shortly after our 40 minute climb of the Great Wall, we took a short bus ride to an art room where we were able to analyze workers create intricate vases that require patience and precision beyond one's imagination,
After eating lunch near the art room, we headed to practice. We practiced from 2-4 pm in a gym slightly smaller than the last, and certainly hotter. As we bussed an hour back to our hotel, we were informed that we had about 30 minutes to shower and get dressed up for the banquet. The rush to get ready was undoubtedly worth the adventure back to the Pearl Market.
Departing from our hotel again at 5 pm, we had about an hour to shop, then arrived at the Beijing Roast Duck Restaurant for dinner at our opening banquet for the Beijing Tournament.
Tomorrow our tournament will begin at 5pm vs. Beijing Hengtian University. Kayla and I are going to use the Internet in the lobby, then off to bed in preparation for another early and long day tomorrow!
DAY 11: Friday, June 17 (Kayla)
Waking up this morning was kind of a struggle for Kat and I because we have not had more than seven hours of sleep the last couple of nights. We have had a long couple of days with extensive sightseeing including the Great Wall.
Today, we woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast is by far the best meal, because you are allowed to keep it pretty simple with eggs and toast. After breakfast we got on the bus and headed to the Forbidden City. Once we arrived, we waited for our tour guide to buy us tickets to enter these enormous red doors that opened to huge royal looking buildings.
What a great opportunity to learn about the history of the Forbidden City (Imperial City) and some of the meaning in the recent movie, The Last Emperor. We learned about the Ming and Qing dynasties and about the old royal buildings. We did a good amount of walking and saw a lot of neat architecture.
We continue to get bombarded by Chinese tourists who want to take our pictures. It's like they have never seen tall people before in their entire life. After touring the Forbidden City, we made our way to Tiananmen Square, which is the capital of the People's Republic of China and a national symbol. We learned about the history, including the event in 1984, and continued to walk through toward our bus.
We headed back to the hotel to eat lunch and rest a little bit before our match at 5:15 p.m.
We departed from the hotel at 5:15 p.m. and headed to the Beijing Guangcai Arena for our first match in Beijing. The atmosphere was completely opposite from the thousands of fans at the matches in Weifang, but it was still a really fun match and our team kept positive attitudes throughout.
We played the Fujian Team again. We played them in Weifang and lost in four sets. Fortunately we defeated them in four today with games 26-24, 25-18, 19-25, and 25-17. I played the first two games and some of the third. I was having trouble passing their float serves, but my own serving has become a lot more consistent and I was pleased with that part of my game.
I love the women on our team. They stay really positive and love the game. We have become friends with each and every one of the women on our team and even many of the women on the Red team.
This has truly been a great experience so far and I am so grateful for having a chance to see and do the things that I have done. We have two more days here, and we have two more matches to play.
We will let you in on the upcoming matches! All this sightseeing is so tiring, so I am going to try to Skype my parents and get some rest before we go to the Pearl Market in the morning and continue to try to mentally prepare for our next match.
Go Broncos and good night!
DAY 12: Saturday, June 18 (Kat)
This morning we returned to the market, but instead of the Silk Market, we bussed to a similar bargaining mall, known as the Pearl Market. Not only did it consist of thousands of variations of pearls, but also 4-5 floors of electronics, jewelry and clothes.
After proceeding with excessive bargaining, Kayla and I walked out with almost all the gifts we needed from China. On the bus ride home Tim managed to tally all the "Beats" headphones that were purchased by the 24 players here. Believe it or not, it was an astonishing 84 in total, and that''s not including tomorrow''s purchases.
This is only one example of the result of deals we've been experiencing at the markets in China. Returning to our hotel around 12pm, we quickly ate lunch, then prepared for our match.
Leaving the hotel once again only an hour later, we headed to the gym for our second match in Beijing vs. a University Team. Unfortunately we fell in five in a match that poorly represented our team''s capability and talent. We won the first two games 25-17, 25-22. We changed the line-up the third game and fell 26-24 due to runs of points we let up from serving and passing.
China carried their momentum into the fourth and fifth game and defeated the U.S. 20-25, 9-15.
In order to drown our sorrows, Kayla and I returned to the Pearl Market for our very last time, and found the last necessities that we won''t be able to buy in the United States. It seems as though the long days of traveling, sightseeing and playing volleyball are finally beginning to catch up to us.
DAY 13: Sunday, June 19 (Kayla)
As fortunate as we have been to be able to do a lot of sight seeing, waking up this morning to go another round required a lot of strength. After we ate breakfast and loaded on the bus to see the Temple of Heaven, I couldn't help but to close my eyes and mute out our tour guide's voice.
When we arrived at the gate, we noticed similar architecture and color themes from the day before when we explored the Forbidden City. We had a chance to walk around and see where the Emperor would pray to bring in good harvest and where he would stay for 15 days.
It was extremely hot, and Kat and I decided to sit down for a while and wait for Sean Lou (our helpful guide) to lead us toward our bus. We had the option of going back to the Silk Market for the last time or to go see the Bird's Nest, the national stadium that was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. There was no question in our minds. We are all shopped out for a while. ☺
We went to take a picture in front of the Bird's Nest. Unfortunately, we couldn't get very close to it, but it was still awesome to get the opportunity to see it from the distance. We also saw Mickey Mouse and decided to talk a picture with him. We thought it was all fun and games until Mickey took off his glove and pulled out a card that said 10 ¥. We were not about to pay for a picture with Mickey, and we were very lucky that Sean Lou was there to help us out.
We returned to our hotel to eat lunch and get prepared for our last match in China!
We played the Shandong Team and ended on a great note. We played with high intensity and had a lot of fun. I played the first two games and some of the third and I was really pleased with how I played. Kat also played really well when she went in for me and got some really key digs and kills for our team. We won in four sets with scores 25-18, 25-23, 23-25, and 25-22. The libero on our team, Carly Cramer from Purdue, received the player of the game award, which she very well-deserved.
It has been such an awesome experience playing with these girls and getting to know them throughout our time here in China.
After our match, we stayed to watch USA Select play their match. We had to rush back to the hotel and shower in 30 minutes to make it to the closing ceremonies.
We were really happy with the outcome of the tournament. Our team came in first place and the Red team came in fourth place. Overall, this whole experience has been life changing and will remain in our memories forever.
After the banquet, our teams decided to walk around downtown and see what nightlife was like in Beijing. We went into places that played American music and people were dancing like crazy. We definitely had a great time together, and finished our experience here in Beijing with a bang.
We head for the airport at nine tomorrow, and Kat and I are ecstatic. Although our time here as been amazing, there is no doubt that we are ready to go back to America and spend time with our family and friends. Also, eat a real American meal!!! Long day of traveling tomorrow! Goodnight!!!
Go Broncos!!! See you all soon!
DAY 14: Monday, June 20 (Kat)
Bags packed and loaded into the bus by 9 am, and we have officially begun our journey back to the United States. We arrived at the airport much earlier than expected with three hours until our 1:50 flight was taking off.
We finally boarded the plane only to discover we had been delayed 45 minutes. Once taking off to Korea the flight flew by after watching "The Dilemma". Because of our delay in Beijing, the three-hour layover in Korea was cut down to about two hours.
At 8pm we reluctantly, but eagerly boarded the 12 hour flight to LA. I attempted to stay up as long as possible in order to adjust back to California time, but only lasted a couple hours before drifting off for the rest of the flight. While it may have made the 12 hour flight seem much shorter, it will not be worth the jet lag I'll be suffering from at home.
Arriving in LAX at 2:30pm Monday, going back in time was a weird feeling that I can't say I've experienced before. Kayla and I thought we would try to go standby to avoid our four hour layover before our flight to San Jose, but after getting through customs and security, we only had an hour and half before boarding.
At last, we boarded our final flight to SJ at 7pm, technically before our flight in Korea even took off.
Kayla and I are so honored to have had the privilege to travel to another country with a group of talented athletes striving for similar goals. Not only was this trip beneficial for us as athletes, but also helped us grow as people. We were able to engage in an entirely different lifestyle and culture for two weeks, and had an opportunity that we may never get again in our lifetime. This was an experience that can never be replaced, and only reassured my aspirations of playing overseas after college.