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Thursday, June 8, 2006

Dragon's Lair

9 a.m. Manila, 31 May

Gandalf the Diva

Frodo and I arrived at the appointed meeting place in Timog, for the bus to take us to Clark. Gandalf was already there shooting darts from his mouth, aiming at those who did not heed his suggestion of wearing white shirts. He kept yakking about it the whole time, all the while lecturing about discipline, focus and team spirit. I had this urge to stuff his mouth with a white shirt, just to shut him up.

I quietly cheered when finally, Shaq, wearing red striped-shirt, stood up to him, telling him to back off and gave him a piece of his mind.

Bravo.

7 p.m. Macau

Surprise!

We were billeted in a dingy hotel, the CR was only slightly larger than your ordinary cabinet, with wires all over. Dangerous, you can get seriously electrocuted while taking a shower. The linen was dirty, the air-conditioning didn’t work. I turned on the electric fan, something exploded. No kidding.

One room was ridiculously designed, when you open the door, the dirty toilet bowl greets you. Yes, you pass through the bathroom on your way to the bed room.

Frodo and I transferred to another hotel, much better, clean and cheap.

3 p.m. Guangzhou, Guangdong, People's Republic of China

Squatting is a Way of Life

After a short lunch and rest at the hotel (which was a lot better than the one in Macau), Doc and I took a stroll, decided randomly on which streets to turn, and ended up in some department store. Unfortunately, I developed a bum stomach. To say that the CR was a disappointment is an understatement. You had to squat and there were no tissue paper. What, they expect me to use a newspaper?

10 a.m. 02 June, Pearl River Guangzhou

It was pouring buckets. Paddling practice was extremely difficult, the waters were rough, the vests were uncomfortable, the wind was howling and we couldn’t see well in the rain. Stormy weather. Doc was in the verge of vomiting.

4 p.m. Shopping in Guangzhou

Let Them Eat Balut

Dried star fish? Fungus? Dried flowers? The Chinese eat anything that may be possibly edible. I bought some Guilin rice sticks and an unidentified food item which resembles a skin boil. Meals at the hotel were an experience in itself. Half the time I didn’t know what I was eating. First time I ever ate pigeon (I thought they were chicken!).

I miss sinigang (meat broth).

03 June. Pearl River, Guangzhou International Dragon Boat Invitational Tournament

This Is It!

International races are tense-filled. You are up against the lithe but brisk Chinese teams, the muscular and swarthy Malaysians and Singaporeans, and the very large Aussies, Kiwis and Germans. The Caucasians looked like they belonged to the same bingo night socials club.

There were long boat (120 crew) races, complete with noisy drums and gongs, colorful dragon heads and lanterns. Wow, it is really a festival in China, not just a sport.

We won 2nd, beaten by the Malaysians, but we edged out Singapore and the other foreign teams. My friend Barry Manilaw, the acting captain, was ecstatic and I suspect, teary-eyed as well.

The place was so chaotic, and I have never seen this many people before.

04 June. Shaoguan, Northern Guangdong

Postcard Pretty

An opportunity to tour the Chinese countryside was provided on the way to Shaoguan from Guangzhou, a good four hour trip. Red brick houses contrasted beautifully against a verdant landscape of rice fields and forests which was a welcome sight from the endless mass housing facilities of Guangzhou. Climbing up the road, the mountains and the hillside forests were an awesome sight, the clouds slowly descending while the mountain tops were swathed with white fog. Which reminded me of the Bukidnon-Davao border.

At this point, Gandalf interrupts my conversation with Doc.

“Yes its like Buda, ok?” he says sarcastically. I had this urge to strangle this aging prima donna with attention-deficit disorder. Didn’t it occur to him why no one wanted to be his roommate?

After a sumptuous lunch and a short welcome ceremony complete with lion dances, we were bused to the competition site, settled ourselves in and paddled our way through the cold and slightly murky river. It was obvious the organizers were so eager to show off this touristy city. A show of giant fountains and lights provided a stunning backdrop to the Festival, plus some sky diving stunts, which I thought had nothing to do with the event. I had never seen this many dragon boats before, and the spectators, they were all over. You’d know why China has a population of over 1.2 billion.

For a split second, in between heats, the Kiwi boat hit the back portion of our boat near our steersman, causing our boat to almost capsize and throwing our drummer into the water, who was fortunately fished out quickly. For a moment, I thought we were going to drown.

Among the international teams we placed 4th. There was no way we can beat the Chinese after a rather tiring four-hour trip.

After the races, an Aussie came up to me and wanted to exchange my Spandex race shirt for his oversized yellow jersey. I figured I didn’t want to get BO so I declined politely. A Portuguese from Macau approached and wanted the same thing. I gave him my old uniform in exchange for his neon-orange uniform, which, when wet would make me look like a porn star.

Of Bladders and Bottles

On the way back to GZ, the 4-hour trip took a toll on my bladder, I had to go. The escort car provided by the People’s Republic of China in front had no intention of making a pee-stop for the convoy of buses carrying the foreign teams. First time I ever pissed on a bottle (I know, this is more than enough information). Others did the same thing anyway, including Gandalf. I do not know how some girls managed to relieve themselves.

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