Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ultimate, China style ~ 中国飞盘

I'm currently trying to drown the evil spirits in my body with bottles on bottles of water.  A lack of sleep, crowded China, and day drinking have finally all caught up to me; I'm sick! Just congestion and some stuttered coughing, as I usually catch each semester... not to worry though, I'm being quite vigilant with hand washing/sanitizing in light of the bird flu casualties in Shanghai.

Anyway, the former combination was attributed to my awesome weekend in Ningbo!  I joined a combined Hangzhou-Nangjing team effort at an ultimate frisbee tournament this weekend.  I've been playing pick-up with Shanghai members whenever I'm free Mondays, but their roster was pretty solid so that's how I was part of Hangzhou Pheonix.  My friend Megan (she's also a student at ECNU) and I took the bullet train on Friday from Shanghai to Hangzhou, met up with the team there, then we rode a bus (the party bus) to Ningbo together.

I think ultimate is usually associated with the college scene, but there's actually a professional reputation that's gaining more and more ground all over the world, particularly in China!  (here's an article if you want to read a bit more)  This Ningbo tournament, sponsored by The University of Nottingham at Ningbo (their team is called Ningbo UFO) and Ulti Pro (a China-based frisbee gear company), had 12 teams from around the country: Beijing, Suzhou, Shanghai (3 teams), Hangzhou/Nanjing (with 2), Hong Kong, Ningbo, and even a high school.  Some of the teams are all Chinese players but quite often you'll see a combined force of ex-pats.  I love learning from the older and more experienced players and learning how to play a strong game.  Frisbee players tend to be interesting people, particularly this culturally-mixed scene; the Chinese players are different from 'normal' Chinese people, perhaps because they've acquired some of the U.S. characteristics of the sport?  But at the end of the day, regardless of the outcome of the game, it's about the spirit of the sport: we all give high-fives, play games with the other team, then drink and party through the rest of the night.  Not only that, it was an Easter Reborn for Ultimate theme, thus encouraging lots of ridiculous rabbit ears, costumes, mini chocolate eggs ("They taste like America!") and wacky antics.  For most of the ex-pats, once a frisbee player, always a frisbee player.

When the party bus first rolled into Ningbo Friday night, we went nuts for the street food!  Egg-fried jiaozi was amazing.  As part of the tournament fee, we were given lunch and snacks at the field, then a fantastic banquet with all the other players.  The Chinese beer they provided, Snow, was free but is actually weaker and worse than Tsingtao-- which I didn't think was possible.  Can't complain though, and we danced away our soreness into the night (sort of).

Hangzhou had two teams, and I was on Phoenix   On Saturday we woke at 6:30 AM and played 5 games, going through 5:30 PM-- which was exhausting to say the least!  I walk to school everyday but it has not conditioned my heart and body to be sprinting up and down soccer fields, especially when the other team wants 4 men and 3 women (as opposed to 5 and 2) because Phoenix only had 4 ladies to begin with.  The weather pulled through so well for us; it had to be at least 70 degrees F and the sun was relentless!  Megan burned like a crab but I came out pretty tan :).

Saturday's games set our seed: we only won a single game, but we managed to score in each and play more intelligently and cohesively as the day went on.  Then Sunday we were up just as early and played two games in the loser's bracket (I say that with a good heart), but won the second.  Below is a picture of us on Hangzhou Phoenix (red) with the Shanghai Wings, against whom we played our best game of the tournament.  I actually have practiced with some of these players at pick-up on Mondays, so it was a lot of fun.
And the ladies of Pheonix!  Sara flew in from Hunan province to play, Lara is German but living in Hangzhou, Lena is from Russia and just learning to play ultimate and then yours truly.  We were holding it down pretty well.  I think I finally figured out how to throw a back hand again :B.

It was nothing short of an exceptional weekend.  As much as I want to play frisbee regularly, it's a tough time and monetary commitment.  Unfortunately the next few tournaments I'm going to be travelling (so I guess that's not really an 'unfortunately'), but I really hope I'll join forces with all these awesome people again!  Now that I have friends in other Chinese cities, that could facilitate nice weekend trips in the future.  Oh.. and did I mention I ended up receiving female MVP for my team?!  Complete with a glass medal!  Megan was nominated on here Hangzhou team too, we were surprised but pleased.

I woke up yesterday too damn early, and today as well to study for a Chinese test.  It was okay but I went straight home afterwards, gorged on my host mom's wonderful food and wrapped up into my bed and slept. For 4 hours.  I'm disappointed because Tuesday's are my free afternoons, and I was interested in going to the Shanghai Museum.  But, it's not going anywhere and I really need to be in good health.
The flowers have been blooming throughout the city!  This is just outside my classroom.

Cheers to a timely blog post and a lovely week!
Listening: Chinese music I downloaded from last.fm 

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