By Cody Stephenson
Today was a day of contrast. I am writing this from my hotel room at the Westin Hotel in Tianjin, China. This morning, we woke up in the Beijing 8. In the span of 16 hours, Spartan hockey has transitioned from the hard beds, thought provoking smells and questionable structures (hockey rink built inside a rundown hotel) that we called home in Beijing to the double doored bathrooms, remote controlled curtains and lounge filled lobby of a 5-star hotel. Do not be mistaken into thinking that it took us 16 hours to drive from Beijing to Tianjin, I am only referring to the start and end of the day. After waking up in Beijing, it was only a couple hours before we were on the road to Tianjin. Prior to leaving, we said goodbye to one of our tour managers, John McIntosh, who has been with us for the duration of our Goodwill Tour so far. Along with JohnnyMac, we also said goodbye to our favourite tour guide Dennis and one of our translators, Steve. None of these three were able to come on the road with us. These were not the only three whose Goodwill Tour concluded today. Assistant coach Chris Wiens as well as Ryan Scott's dad, Kevin, also left us. Our group's number count was suddenly five fewer. Nevertheless, we moved forward into the final leg of our journey as strong as ever.
The morning bus trip between cities was two to three hours long. Blair Whitmarsh took some of this time on the microphone to explain to us some of the details of the relationship between our own TWU and Tianjin Institute of Technology. TWU’s relationship here in China date back 25 years ago and part of what we are here to do is to celebrate and help continue this relationship. Several Spartan teams have traveled to Tianjin in the past and we follow in the footsteps of both the men's basketball and men's and women’s volleyball teams. We also follow the footsteps of Dr. Laird, who was there at the Westin to meet us as we moseyed into the lobby. It took a few trips, but eventually we had everything off the bus and into the building. Our group is hauling around a ton of stuff. It takes a lot of equipment to play hockey for one, and everyone is also carrying their luggage along with any items purchased at the Pearl Market. Somehow, we managed to get somewhat organized and everything into rooms thanks to Blair and Dr. Laird and soon enough we were again following Dr. Laird. This time, we were walking down the street towards Pizza Hut, where we would have lunch.
The area where we are in Tianjin is the most Western area we have been in so far. Not only that, but it appears to be the wealthiest as well. The buildings on both sides of the roads tower over top of the city and they are enormous digital screens that display advertisements in both Mandarin and English. We had a short time to take all this in before we had to be back in the hotel to sort out our rooms, get changed and go back down to the lobby before embarking on a trip to a school specializing in martial arts. We were told that we were going to be given a martial arts demonstration and that is exactly what we received. It took place in a gymnasium of sorts. The ground was layered with a soft material that allowed for jumping and falling. We did not know what to expect in this demonstration but I am sure we did not expect to be intimidated by a young girl who was no more than 4-foot-5. The demonstration was very impressive and the discipline evidently required to do the things we were observing was admirable to say the least. Martial artists from this same school have been to TWU’s campus before to perform demonstrations and relations were continued by our presence there today.
Once the demonstration was over, we were allowed to try out the floor and some of the weapons that were used for the demo. We managed to leave with all our eyes still in their sockets. It was soon time to come back to our place of residence for the next two days. With the travel time between destinations, we found ourselves at another mealtime, so we were given some money to pick up a bite to eat as we pleased. Some of us chose to go out and eat right away, while other decided to make use of the facilities in our new hotel. At our disposal is a pool, saunas and a fitness centre, among other things. A few of us got a good pump going that would make our world class head strength coach Andrew Heming proud. Dirk de Waal got his cycle on and crushed out the RPMs like nobody's business except for maybe Cole Hergott's. Cole serves us back home as our strength and conditioning coach and will surely whip us back in to shape upon our arrival back home. It is no secret among us that there is a quick turnaround between the time we arrive back home and the time we are dealt our first regular season game of the second semester. In just seven days, we face off against the Victoria Vikes, which is all the motivation we need to keep our bodies in tune here in Tianjin.
I said it was a day of contrast, the obvious one being between our accommodations. Beyond that, we continue to recognize differences from our usual lives back home and our lives on tour. The cultural differences seem to be never ending and the more time we spend in China, the more we see how we can make an impact. The reality of this trip is that it is not that long. It may seem long to us and our loved ones, but for the people that we get to spend time with, our impression is made very quickly. We have met with many groups since our arrival in the country and none of them for an extended period of time. For the young martial artists that we met today, their impression of us is based on one hour of time. They know we are from Trinity Western University and not much else. That is why wherever we go, we must conduct ourselves in a manner that people will look at as admirable. The Spartan logo has been all over China and what we are doing is defining what being a Spartan is all about. Each day we get a chance to do it in front of a new group of people. Stay tuned.