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The Manya Minutes - A Look Back at the U-21 WNT Tour of China, Part 1

The U.S. Under-21 Women’s National Team recently returned from China, where they played and won all three matches to complete a highly successful tour that included a 2-0 win over the full Chinese Women’s National Team.  As a special correspondent for, Arizona State sophomore forward Manya Makoski kept a daily journal on her travels, practice mishaps, unusual bathrooms and goofy team liaisons. Today will be part one of a two-part series. Click here for part two. 
As a member of the United States Under-21 Women’s National Team, I feel extremely fortunate to have been invited to train and play games in China during our trip from March 17-29. It was surely an experience I will never forget. While trying to learn some Chinese, we experimented with different foods, made new friends, won all three of our games, and still managed to find some time for shopping. There’s always time for shopping, right?  I hope you enjoy my journal entries that I kept everyday, and that you get a little feel for our memorable trip to the other side of the world.

Wednesday, March 17
I left Phoenix on my flight to San Francisco at nine in the morning and the team met up at the International Ticketing Counter.   I must admit I had a little trouble finding it because it’s not everyday that a girl from Trumbull, Connecticut gets to travel outside the country.  It was so exciting to see everyone and talk about upcoming adven-tures. Defender Keeley Dowling had already whipped out her Chinese Dictionary and Grammar book and we sat studying the proper way to pronounce “Shay-shay” (which means Thank You for those of you not fluent in Chi-nese). One of the highlights of the afternoon was when everyone received new Nike fleeces from our equipment manager Amanda Trokey. I think lifting weights must have paid off because I no longer wear a small top!  Then we headed over to the food court for our last American meal and savored every last bite of our pizzas. Right before we started to board, everyone was on their cell phones saying goodbye to their friends. It was going to be a while before my digital display had four bars of service again.

The Flight Over: Wednesday, March 17 
I had an aisle seat next to a very nice Chinese man. We talked a lot about soccer and school. I’m not sure if I understood him correctly, but I’m pretty sure he asked me what it meant to be “cool.” It was obvious that he didn’t get my humor when I told him that he didn’t need to look any further than the seat next to him. I guess he thought that I meant the other Chinese guy sitting next to him who was humming, and I kid you not, a tune by Vanilla Ice. I basically slept and did schoolwork the rest of the trip. When we got there, we all wanted to get off the plane so bad, it seemed like it took as long to get out of that tin prison as it did to travel to Shanghai, China (which was 12 hours, 40 minutes and 37 seconds by the way).

After the flight: Shanghai, China
After we got off the plane, we got our bags, and groggily found our way outside the terminal. Either I have become a complete wimp from living in Arizona, or it was extremely cold when we hit the sidewalk. I should have been used to the frigid temps being from Connecticut and all, but there is little doubt that I have since I’ve adapted to desert heat. We packed our numerous bags onto the small bus and took off to our hotel. I think I was definitely tired because I don’t remember much of the bus ride. We arrived at the hotel and there were many people to greet us. There was even a big red banner tied to the front of the hotel welcoming us!  It took us a while to get our rooms, but we finally threw our bags down and had dinner.  Our coach, Chris Petrucelli gave us a talk about our trip, our goals for all the games, and then my roommate Haley Hunt and I and collapsed onto our very small, very hard beds.

Friday, March 19 (I think we skipped a day? What happened to March 18?)
After breakfast, I got taped for training and we headed off for our first practice. In our “locker room,” there was a bathroom, but the toilet was a hole in the ground. That was something we definitely were not looking forward to for the rest of the trip. After training there was a press conference for Chris and some of the Chinese representa-tives.  Some of us sat there trying to figure out what they were saying, but quite honestly, we couldn’t figure out a thing.  We took our first shopping trip that afternoon. Since we didn’t have any Renminbi (Chinese currency), we had to go across the street to the bank.  After almost getting hit by cars a couple of times (they don’t stop for any-one!), we were finally successful in exchanging money. While we were waiting in the lobby for everyone, Leo our translator/host/liaison decided that I was eleven years old. I know I look young, but come on, not even a teenager? We made a stop at this jewelry store that was sponsoring the tour. There were definitely some expensive items in there! Instead of buying the jewels, we just took some pictures with them, and then it was off to the market. Natasha Kai, Jill Oakes, and I went off gallivanting throughout the aisles. After doing some serious bargaining with the sell-ers, we all bought some shoes, watches, and sunglasses. Dinner and hanging out was the agenda for the rest of the night.

Saturday, March 20
We had our first real breakfast, if you can call it that.  There were definitely a variety of things to eat, but not too much looked appealing.  Ali Andrzejewski (don’t ask me how to pronounce it, I can barely spell it) got sick. She didn’t go to training, and ended up missing something truly memorable. During training, Nandi Pryce tried to do a step-over with her sweatpants on (since it was so cold), and if you’ve ever seen Nandi, you know her legs are about as long as my whole body, thus there is lots of fabric in those sweats.  Well, her foot got caught, causing her to take a nosedive straight into the ground.  We were all laughing hysterically until we saw her pinky finger completely bent at a 90-degree angle. Ouch! She got it put back into place by our trainer and was able to play all the games. She also said it was her fourth pair of sweats that she has ripped.  I guess when your legs are six feet long, that stuff hap-pens.  On the bus ride back, Leo started singing for us, but it was mainly for Heather O’Reilly, who apparently he had a major “crush” on. But what red-blooded Chinese boy doesn’t have a crush on Heather? We finally tricked him into playing the “Silent Game,” which we truly enjoyed.  After lunch, we went back to the same market, and we got more shoes. I don’t care how far you travel you can never have enough shoes.  We found out at the market that when Leo is taking a picture, he says “Smeeal” instead of “Smile,” which of course makes us laugh and smile even more. We signed many autographs so far and I’m thinking the Chinese might be thinking that we are the full Women’s National Team. I know I’m from Connecticut, but do I look like anything like Kristine Lilly?  Everyone is fascinated with the fact that I write with my left hand.  I am not sure why. That night, we took a tour around the city. Highlights included seeing the tallest building in Shanghai (108 stories) and going through a very long tunnel.

Sunday, March 21
Game day! We played a Shanghai Women’s Club team in front of about 600 people. Kelly Wilson, Tasha, Joanna Lohman, and Carli Lloyd scored bringing home the 4-0 victory during a slightly rainy afternoon. Leo lost the bet he had with us. He said that we were going to lose. Sucker! I got to go in as forward fifteen minutes into the sec-ond half. I had some good chances, and I thought I played well. A couple of Chinese guys wanted to take a picture with me after the game, so at least I impressed them. After showering and dinner, I watched “Lili and Stitch” with Jill.

Monday, March 22: Haui’an, China
Big Happening of the Day: Finding out that last night there was a rat in Carli and Keeley’s room.  I must have been in a deep sleep because I didn’t hear their screams as they saw it scurry past them after jumping out of their snack bags. After breakfast we packed the bus using an assembly line to fit most of the bags on the back. The ride took around six hours, not including the good hour that we spent trying to order food and eat. During the rest of the ride, we laughed as Leo pretended he was a boxer. After making a bathroom stop at another “toilet-hole-in-the-ground” place, we finally arrived. After another assembly line of bags, we took pictures for the many reporters and greeters.  We dropped our bags in our rooms, and the first thing we did was try to figure out the telephones and calling cards.  Dinner got a “Yeah, for somewhat normal food.” L.J. Esslinger, our coordinator had a little trouble at dinner though. After splitting her apple into thirds, and then leaving to go talk to a hotel worker, she came back to the table and in a classic case of short-term memory, asked us, apparently under the assumption that she had only cut it in half, “Okay, who put the extra apple on my plate?” Our mocking voices of that were quite possibly funnier than the fact that she said it. We then had a meeting in Jill and Jo’s room about the rest of the trip.  Heather O tried to teach us the “Murder Game” but she struggled with the rules.  Eventually everyone got the gist of it; you picked from a deck of cards, and if you got the Joker, over a period of three days you were supposed to secretly flash the card to whomever you wanted to murder” while trying not to let anyone see that you are the murderer! That person who got shown the joker would be “dead” until we held a “trial” to figure out who the murderer was. Fortunately I did not get the Joker, but I did how-ever figure out who the killer was. I will leave you in suspense for a couple of days.

Click here for part two.