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  • Koreen Liew-Young

TBGTB: Super soldiers?

Last time I went to volleyball training, I was one of the tallest.  I went on the weekend for the second time and I was the shortest of the tallest.

Before going to the first training, I had a perception in my mind of what the girls would be like: Extremely militant, super tall, with determination to train and win.

To my surprise, the girls were not at all what I was expecting.

They are not super soldiers born and bred for one purpose like I originally thought but they were super friendly.  Some asked if I could speak Chinese (in Chinese), some were confident to speak English to me and others offering to share their food despite an obvious language barrier.

For social players, who don’t have rigid training, they are competitive and are very quick.  They told me it was totally fine if I couldn't make some trainings, obviously as I played with an entirely different side compared to last time.

I think it's very easy to make a judgement too early about people, especially if you can't speak the same language.   Initially people can seem cold, but as my husband Julian says, often we take one step towards people and then people take 10 steps toward us.

One thing for sure is that I’m looking forward to competing with them end of month. I’ll be returning to my first position before playing libero for Sparta: middle spiker. We will see how I go fitness wise, the last training I only ran "quicks" (as fast as I could go) for two sets and then was absolutely buggered.

Things to note for the Beginners Guide to Beijing:

  • People will stare at you, especially if you have curly, frizzy, blonde hair, some may even take pictures.  We have had a few people stare at us blatantly because we look Chinese but are speaking English. But when we smile people generally smile back or they ask if our ancestors were originally from China. Never have I had people say to me, "you don't look Chinese."  I get that saying alot in New Zealand.

  • When you go out you always need: your own toilet paper, (tissues in a packet will suffice), hand sanitiser, and hand moisturiser and lipbalm are optional (winters are very dry…and now it's getting really cold)

  • If you haven’t figured out already, the bin next to the toilet is for your used tissue paper, do not flush tissue paper down the toilet, China’s pipes cannot handle this. Trust me, we know.

  • Don’t worry about lights for your bicycle, there’s a high probability that your lights will get stolen.  Yesterday someone stole my party light on my bike. *sniff*

  • You may think your Chinese is really good... but it's not really that good. I am really happy with my progress in learning Chinese because I can make basic conversation with locals, however, I probably am speaking like a five year old. And it’s not ok just to do a google translation, it won’t make any sense.

  • AND there's so many cultural things to learn...Not only do I have a long way to go in learning the language, but there are also so many cultural things that I am totally unaware of that can be disrespectful to others, e.g. giving someone a clock as a gift (clock in mandarin sounds like death) and if you receive a gift, you should wait till the giver of your gift has gone before you open it.  Even the position where you sit at the table has significance.

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