Letter From Yael: Ni Hao From China
Ni hao from China,
“Isn’t it funny that we could be anywhere in the world right now and we’re in Chongqing, China?!” Alex Morgan brought up that point as we cooled down after training, kneeling on grass on the opposite side of the world from where we had completed a similar session only days before. After a week-long training camp at the familiar The Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, we repacked our bags and journeyed out of our comfort zone. Following close to 24 hours of traveling, including two flights and a long bus ride, we arrived in Chongqing at our hotel. Even through blurred vision and jet-lagged minds, it was clear that we were no longer in familiar territory.
By now we’ve almost adjusted to being stared at and photographed outside of the hotel, the constant honking of horns, men carrying chickens across the road, and some of the unfamiliar food options. Our bodies have coped with the 13-hour time difference (from the East Coast) and it is now possible to stay awake past 9 p.m. Our muscles have recovered and we’ve gotten in some great training sessions. We are constantly aware that we probably couldn’t have traveled to a more different place from home, but on the field it is familiar and comfortable.
Today was the first day that the sun has come out here in Chongqing (well, it peeked out for a moment). It’s been cold and overcast (yesterday it even snowed for a bit during training) and with all the haze, we were wondering if we’d ever see the sun. Our typical training day starts getting our hydration levels tested and then we have breakfast. Hardboiled eggs have become an important staple of my daily diet these past few days. Most of us have tried to stick to familiar choices when it comes to the buffet. Rice, a chicken dish with peanuts, toast, and a handful of mandarin oranges seem to be popular options so far. There’s also a good yogurt that’s a little more watery than what we’re used to in the U.S. It’s almost like a smoothie and you can drink it with a straw.
We take a bus to training, which usually has American music blasting as we get on. Today we sang along to a little Bon Jovi on our way to afternoon training. We haven’t explored the area outside our hotel too much, but it’s interesting to look out the window as we ride through on the bus. We did have the opportunity to walk around a Chinese market the other day. It wasn’t too busy and I don’t think any of my teammates made any purchases, but I couldn’t help but notice that I’m at least six inches taller than any female we’ve seen here (and I’m pretty sure the majority of them are wearing boots with heels).
This is my third time in China. I was here with the U-19 National Team and for the Four Nations Tournament in 2007, where I got my first cap. Many of my teammates have been here five, six, seven (maybe more) times, so they are very used to some of the cultural differences. Overall, it’s never an easy trip, but there’s a lot to be seen and learned.
On Friday, when we lace up our boots and face Sweden, it won’t matter if we’re in Chongqing, L.A., or the North Pole. For 90 minutes we will be representing the U.S., trying to play our best soccer, and aiming to win (of course) in preparation for the World Cup this summer. And for the moments that we are focused on the game and the job at hand, like Alex Morgan pointed out, we could be anywhere in the world. But we go where the games are, and for the next week or so, that’s in Chongqing, China.
Bye for now,