Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Greetings from China!

After twenty-two hours of fly time, a quest to find a referee’s luggage, a blissful arrival at a lovely hotel, a smoking travel converter, and a triumphant search and rescue mission for a power strip adapter, oh, and one serving of chicken feet later, I am happy to send everyone a big hello from The Grand Royal Hotel, which will be home for the next several days during The Four Nations Cup scheduled to take place from January 16-20 in Guangzhou, China. The invitees to this year’s event are the USA, Canada, and Finland, all hosted graciously by China and the Chinese Football Association. All the teams have brought some new players to check out while they give some veterans rest & rehab and continue preparations for the Olympics to be held this summer in Beijing.

The weather is wonderful, perfect for soccer. Mid-sixties, a bit overcast. Games will be held at the Olympic Stadium, just down the road from the hotel. I’ll spare details from the flight other than to say it was uneventful – for a really, really, er, really long time. Upon arrival, we went to pick up the Canadian referee, who was visiting the airport for a second time in a futile attempt to be reunited with her luggage, which was lollygagging in Shanghai. Happily, she had all her match gear in her carry-on (whew!), which made day 3 in the same clothes a bit easier to take (well, not really, but gotta look on the bright side, right?).

The relief felt when the van finally pulled past the bright lights and shooting fountains of the hotel entrance was enormous, and the top priority was a comfy sleep. The next morning greeted us with a combo Western and Chinese buffet breakfast, and it was excellent. This area of China, Guangdong Province, is famous for Cantonese cooking and particularly dim sum. If you haven’t tried dim sum before it can be best described as tasty little morsels variously steamed, stir-fried, baked, grilled, and served up the way Spain serves up tapas. Fantastic. Traditional Western fare plus lots of fresh fruit and good-for-you carbs made the choices seem endless. Yum.

My plan was to explore the city a bit and get a run in before our technical meeting, so I went back to my lovely room to send in this blog. Cleverly (so I thought), I had brought along a Dual Wattage Travel Converter as part of a “universal” (ironic hint #1) adapter kit. The adapter for China didn’t fit. No problem, there were about 4 different outlet versions in this business-district hotel, so I just popped in another. British I believe. Done. I judiciously read the pamphlet to make sure it was on the correct wattage (ironic hint #2), and plugged in my humble little laptop to give it some juice. Well, fat lot of good that did. Checked on some email, made some jasmine tea, and sat back down only to be greeted with the equivalent of a car backfiring while a cloud of smoke poofed out of the top of the contraption. Good heavens, I haven’t been here a day and I just about burn the place down. Ah, to travel the world. I decided the best option was to unplug the beast, make sure it didn’t melt into the desk while it cooled, and drift along the currents of denial for a bit.

The technical meeting was held and in addition to meeting all of the local Chinese officials, we received our assignments for the first day of matches tomorrow. I will be the 4th official for Carol-Anne Chenard (Canada) at 15:30 between China and Finland. The US will take on Canada in the first match at 13:00, officiated by my old Finnish friend Kirsi Savolainen. Looking forward to get things underway.

Right, assignments done. Off to train a bit and grab some dinner. Wound my way through another bountiful buffet, lotsa good stuff, when there they were. My favorite dim sum dish of all time, introduced to me over 20 years ago by a Chinese college roommate and a statistical impossibility to have too often – yes my friends, those delights are chicken feet. While my Italian relatives shudder in horror at the thought, I stray from my culinary history and partake in the fried and stewed little delicacies. They take hours to prepare so must be enjoyed without haste. And enjoyed they were. My fellow officials were aghast, and my Chinese hosts overjoyed, promising to take me to a bona fide authentic Guangzhou dim sum restaurant, where the specialties are, allegedly, stewed goose palms and steamed frogs. Can’t wait.

Until next time,
Sandra Serafini
aka fini :)

1 comment:

Sin Hang Lai said...

Hi Sandra. Hope to see you in March during the Jefferson Cup US Soccer Development Academy weekend. I should be coming from Connecticut to participate. Dim sum eh? As a Chinese person, I try to get down to Chinatown as much as I can (work in NYC) ... now you are making me hungry!