My recent trip to China to play football provided many first-time experiences.
For the first time, I traveled overseas and visited a new culture with different customs, foods, cities, languages, and people. Rarely did I see a sign written in English, and the people around me spoke Chinese.
I had trouble navigating the city, ordering food, buying supplies, and asking questions. Fortunately, I found a few people who spoke English to help me. Otherwise, I communicated by pointing at objects and making hand motions.
For the first time, I played football in front of thousands of spectators. I’ve never played before such a large crowd in such a large stadium in my ten seasons of playing the sport.
Along with other American football players and coaches, I was invited to China to train and play with the Chinese football players. Because football is a newer sport to China, our job was to “pioneer” the sport of football in China. For instance, as American football players, we provided an example of how the game should be played.
The coaches then formed two teams composed of both American and Chinese players, and we competed in the city of Shenzhen. The game, streamed live on national television, certainly proved a huge attraction, even drawing famous Chinese singers and dancers.
For the first time, I experienced the Chinese market. I visited numerous shops, bartered with sellers, and purchased cultural trinkets. Additionally, I ate at many Chinese restaurants. This food adventure was one of my favorite activities of the trip. The restaurants were numerous and cheap, and the food was great (if you visited the clean restaurants).
For the first time, I visited Shenzhen and Hong Kong—two massive cities that make Chicago and New York look tiny. I took the subway and ate squid dumplings.
For the first time, I saw the other side of the world.
Cadet Elijah Kazarovich