Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Tri-Campus Games- Ningbo, China 2014

So after three years of university, the end of exams and a dissertation all handed in it was time to end it all with a bang.
The Tri-Campus games is an annual event held at one of the three Nottingham Campus's; UK, China and Malaysia. This year the amazing girls on my History Football team nominated me to go along with 70-odd other sportsmen and women from Nottingham University to represent the UK in Ningbo, China. 
Other teams included;
Men's Football (Best bunch of lads one could ever hope to meet!)
Table Tennis (Men and Women)
Tennis (Men and Women)
Squash (Men and Women)
Basketball (Men and Women)
Ultimate Frisbee (Awesome sport)
So on the 6th June 2014 70-odd UK Tri-Campus athletes, support team and coaches met at Heathrow Airport excited to begin what was to be the best ever 10 days.

Day 1
A 12 hour flight to Shanghai & 3 hour coach journey to the Ningbo Campus left everyone groggy, smelly and hungry and yet that all paled into insignificance when every so often the phrase 'Guys.... we're in China!!!' was heard and the smiles just couldn't have been any bigger.
After sorting out room keys, meal cards and staring in horror at the wooden beds sans mattress we were to sleep on we all made our way to a cafe for Lunch and had our first experience of the language barrier. Even pointing didn't seem to be universal. Tired and hungry we settled for what was put in front of us but the frustration subsided when the food was so yum!! The huge portions led us to question how the Chinese remain so skinny and it was only later we found out you're meant to share dishes in China which explained the poor waitresses confusion when a rabble of UK student all ordered separate dishes. 

Heading to the sports hall for our first briefing we covered the agenda for the week. Excited, Chinese, Malaysian and UK faces were to remain plastered on for the whole week.

 On the way back we bumped into a Farrowese international student called David who was to prove an indispensable tour guide and adopted UK team member throughout the trip. After beers on the football pitch with the Football girls and boys getting to know each other, David took us all to a street-market just off campus.... surreal amazing food and the best start to our Asian adventure. When we finally got to bed the wooden beds felt like a cloud.

Day 2 saw us waking bright and early at 8am and heading to a breakfast of steamed Vegetable bun and Congee (rice porridge). This was followed by a causal training session with the girls which turned into a sunbathing session... training in 27 degree heat and 70% humidity or working on the tan?? (no brainer)
(Yes the Congee is Purple... no i do not know why)

 The Lad's eventually joined us for a kick-a-bout followed by an afternoon filled with 'getting to know you' games alongside the Chinese and Malaysia teams ending with a water-fight.

...and a trip to the Zen Garden...

 ...we met up with everyone else and headed to the opening ceremony. We were all blown away. Parading in to music and following the Flag, we genuinely believed we were the stars of our very own mini-Olympics. The Chinese hosts put on a stunning show of Chinese dragons, geisha's and ...cheerleaders(?) followed by a firework display that just kept on going.

 After an hour of photo op's we headed to a house party at David's for tri-Campus beer-pong and our own getting-to-know-you activities. 
(Here I should point out that the motto of Tri-campus is 'Friendship through sport' while this is true... I think 'Friendship through alcohol' would have been equally apt.)

Day 3 Let the Games Begin
Starting with a pork bun and watermelon (The fruit was amazing) for breakfast the girls and I headed to the sports center to cheer everyone on. After the Boys' match we had more beers on the pitch which developed into a night of drinking games with the lads which proved to be the BEST getting-to-know-you activity and the source of continued hilarity and banter for the rest of the trip.

Day 4- Match Day UK vs. Malaysia
The day was a steady 28 degrees, and after a quick trip to the physio and a pre-match lunch/tactic sesh the girls were pumped and ready to go. Butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat I was so nervous. So many people came to watch us but with Holly the Hippo (Men's football team mascot) cheering us on we won 1-0....

Cue our first big night out in the city.
I don't think many of us knew what to expect. Multiple tequila shots in a bar called candles and a bouncy dance-floor in Nova (an Ibiza style club)  led to a love of 'the strip' which was to see many funny moment and result in many a hangover for the next week.

Day 5
After rolling in at 4am the night before its safe to say there were lots of  green faces standing by the coaches at 7:30am the next morning waiting to be taken for our day of 'cultural experience'. The whole day was spent looking round an old village and garden center type place and was accompanied with a soundtrack Karl Pilkington would of been proud of especially when it came to the lunch. While i'd always been a big fan of seafood, I was in my element but some of the lads (bless em') just wanted a burger... they had to settle for coco-flakes that Fran (the girls captain) had bought that morning. After watching a frankly surreal street performer in 32 degree heat, watching pigs jumping through fire and wincing at a tightrope-walking goat, it was time to head back.

(The Bridge of Happiness)

Back on campus Zoo ( fellow girls football player) and I sat in the sun and had bracelets made for us by two little girls; with big smiles and roller blades on they were always speeding up to greet us over the next few days giving us hugs and trying to sell us lemonade. 
The evening saw Zoo, David and I take a moped trip to Chinese Tesco. Live shell-less tortoises and frogs, questionable dried meats and really cheap alcohol meant that was the most accurate cultural experience of the day.

Day 6- Match Day UK vs China
Big game, the decider... adrenaline pumping, a miracle happened... I scored!! Highlight of the trip I beamed and almost cried as I was spun around my Fran with the rest of the girls jumping on us. I think we were all pretty shocked after winning 2-0 we watched the boys win 5-1 in the afternoon which set the stage for another big night out in honor of Sam's (Men's football captain) 19th Birthday. With a double football win we were going hard.

This time in Candles we were joined by the staff and again on to Nova which just got weirder... free watermelon then at 3am music stops, big screen  comes on and the World Cup appears followed by everyone sitting down to watch. Bizarre

Day 7
After another late night we spent the day sunbathing on the football pitch, with games over we regaled the night's stories, laughing at the pictures and at each other hangovers. At the closing ceremony we received our gold medals, a proud moment.

Naturally, such an occasion required another night out. Remember that scene in 'Lost In Translation' when Tom Hanks and Scarlet Johansson go to a Karaoke booth? Well KTV was kind of the same thing but in a VIP, with free beer, free food and free entertainment (i.e. us). I'm not going to pretend a lot of this night wasn't a blur; a crazy, funny, amazing, technicolor blur but I do remember it ending with street food and no voice the next morning.

Day 8
Learning Ultimate Frisbee cleared the hangover as did the amazing noodle place David took the girls and I too outside of campus.
 Little Aladdin's cave gift shops wet our appetite for more shopping and so the girls headed to the Mall for some retail therapy in preparation for out last night out... and i was worried i could keep up with the freshers anymore.. I gave it my best shot. After a sports bar, private members cocktail bar and (of course) Candles it was another early morning return.

Day 9
Waking up with a heavy head and street-food induced ickyness, it was the prospect of more shopping which got me out of bed. It was market day. Trinkets and cheap clothes galore saw the last of our yuan being spent on gifts for loved ones.

A de-brief in the coffee shop back on campus reminded us just how lucky we had been to come on this trip .
The Tri-Campus Games has been the single most eye-opening experience of my life; an education. I like beer now (the girls were proud), we can officially call ourselves international gold medal winners and I have made friends who I will always have shared amazing memories with and who will hopefully share in many more.

This trip opened my eyes to travel. I want to see more, experience more. I feel like I can graduate now with all these new experiences and memories helping me along. This trip showed me that i'm capable of conquering nerves, trying new things and meeting new people giving me a final boost, needed after a tough three years. Thank you to everyone who made this experience unforgettable.

This post is dedicated to Team UK.

Peace and Love x