Max Richman was one of 27 Puget Sound football student-athletes traveling to China (May 15-23), where the Loggers will learn the culture, lead youth football clinics, and compete against the Shanghai Titans (2017 American Football Leage of China Champions). Richman writes about the Loggers' adventure in traveling from Beijing to Shanghai.
We had an early morning as we had to drop our bags off at the hotel lobby by 6:15 a.m., and we left for the train station at 7 a.m. On the way to the Beijing train station, we were given a history lesson on the importance of the Grand Canal in Beijing. At 1,100 miles long, the Grand Canal is the longest canal in the world, 20 times the length of Panama Canal. An impressive feat for a canal built 1,500 years ago.
The experience inside the Beijing train station was interesting, as we had to maneuver through the lines while fending off the locals trying to cut in front of us. Our only savior was our fearless leader and tour guide, Iowa, who was putting the fear of god in the locals who attempted to cut us. The train departed exactly at 9 a.m., and the ride was supposed to last 4 hours and 50 minutes to Shanghai, with a stop in Nanjing.
One look at the window revealed a blanket of green farmland, quickly replacing the monotony of muted gray buildings in Beijing. Only a few towers and buildings peered out of the countless rows of trees. Although at times apartment towers sprung up and it seemed that we had gone back to Beijing with cranes topping every building. You would not believe how quiet the train was as the only noise stemmed from the howling wind that snuck in as we sped to our destination at 186 miles per hour.
As we progressed closer towards Shanghai, farmland was overshadowed by distant high-rise apartment buildings, their silhouettes barely visible in the smog. The contrast of the bullet train streaking through vast green rural pastures was striking and truly illustrated the dichotomy of old versus new China.
After we arrived to Shanghai, the next obstacle was dodging traffic with large football bags during our lengthy trek to the new bus. On the new bus we learned about Iowa's childhood and the perils of the cultural revolution. We learned about Iowa's family and his parents' past, including his father's involvement in the Korean War.
To kill time in the bus during traffic that resembled the 405 in LA during rush hour, we all had a crash course in Chinese for dummies with a cheat sheet to help us immerse ourselves in the Chinese culture. As soon as we stepped off the bus everyone let out a huge sigh of relief when a gentle sea breeze replaced the scorching heat of Beijing.
We had dinner at a local restaurant in the traditional Chinese family style, although they had some dishes we had yet to try such as a full fried fish with head and tail intact. After this wonderful dinner we went straight to the river cruise where we boated up and down the local waterways on a yacht while taking in the breathtaking nighttime scenery. Every building was lit up with various advertisements or mottos. Each building lit up continuously in an attempt to outshine the adjacent buildings, and be the brightest star in this nighttime LED firework show. After about an hour on the water and 500 pictures between all of us in the group, we returned to the hotel. Overall, it was another great day in China filled with laughter and lifelong memories.