Shenzhen 2011, Day 9: I flew 7,000 miles for this @#$%?

First, yes that title is a Rush Hour reference.

Second, yes that is Taylor Swift on a screen in a Burger king.

Reminder: I am in China.

Today started out much the same as any other during my time in Shenzhen. In the morning, I had a lecture, today we heard from numerous professionals in the Hong Kong media; TV, radio and print. And then I took in a Canada versus Korea men’s volleyball game, which Canada won in four sets.

That was where my day took an odd turn.

One of the mentors of my program, a hockey-crazed Belgian named Christian, had found out about a hockey league in Shenzhen. That’s right, a hockey league. Right when I told him I was Canadian, he said we were going to see this hockey and Friday was that day.

But first, dinner.

I’m still not sure how it happened, but we ended up in a Burger King, where a Taylor Swift DVD was playing on a loop. There I was, eating a Whopper and the words “our song is a slammin’ screen door” drowning out anything Chinese that could’ve existed in that Burger King.

The North Americanism didn’t stop there.

This hockey league plays at a public rink in a huge mall and this shopping centre was the polar opposite to the market I described in my previous blog.

Everything was big, shining and wide open. The stores weren’t tiny shops with people out front begging you to come in. Everywhere I looked, I saw Abercrombie, Levi’s, Apple and Gucci. But not plastered in a window or being shoved at me by someone saying “good price, just for you;” everything was neatly displayed on mannequins, dimly lit and idyllically spread out.

Just when I started to forget I was in China, my memory was jogged by, of all things a hockey rink.

Just before this hockey league was a public skate and the ice was filled with Chinese skaters, some stumbling their way around the ice, some weaving in and out of these slower skaters, some even showing off some impressive figure skating moves.

Then, we went and talked to the players in this league.

About nine players had shown up last night, one goalie. Most of them were native Chinese; some had spent some time in the U.S. or Canada and fell in love with the game. The only foreigners were two Russians, Artem and Maxim, whose work had brought them to Shenzhen and this league gave them a little piece of home.

As the players were warming up, they grabbed a pair of rental skates for me and next thing I knew, I was skating. In China.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, it’s next to impossible to get hockey equipment in China, it all has to be flown in from North America or if someone involved in the league happens to be overseas, he stocks up.

When I say “league,” I use that term lightly. Like I said, nine people had shown up, so only one team had a goalie, and at the other end of the ice, a good old fashioned turned over net. The hockey itself isn’t great, but when I really thought about where I was and what I was seeing, I was amazed.

And then I walked out into the heat, which was still about 35 degrees, even at night, and thought to myself, did that just happen?