Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the universiade trading market, and team usa

after competition, there is a second aspect to the universiade games. and that is the huge amount of trading that happens between countries. all kinds of things that represent your country are traded. first, we traded pins - the US had few pins to begin with, basically only the ones that alicia and i bought from target for $1 for five. during opening ceremonies, we went around and traded some, but more and more people would come up and ask for your pins during the taekwondo, during lunch, just while you're walking. trading pins helps overcome all language barriers and fears of talking with foreigners. after a few tries, we became adept at lifing our credentials (where the pins are kept), pointing to the other person's pins, and motioning for a trade.

Later, as we got over the need to wear certain outfits (red polo, blue shorts on monday, blue polo, red shorts on tuesday, blue shorts, white tshirt on wednesday, etc) we were able to start trading our other USA gear. I had my eyes set on korea, thailand, and brasil, but other countries like vietnam, chinese taipei, and china were also game. unfortunately, the super nice korean athletic shirts where in high demand and low supply. i managed to get a thailand shirt for my white polo, and a vietnam shirt for my red polo. i went to chinese taipei and china and spoke chinese - it's way easier to get them to think about trading than to approach in english. in the same way, anthony had an easier way to communicate with the koreans. unfortunately i couldn't get a taipei shirt but he did, as well as a korean shirt. later, i also got conflicting information about my chinese - china's women poomse team thought i was taiwanese because of my accent, but a few guys alicia and i talked to said that our chinese was really good.

so every day i've been going out with my USA hat, USA shorts, team tshirt, blue polo, and extra tshirts inside my bag and looking for people to trade with. sometimes i felt like a street hawker, carrying my wares on my shirt and displaying it to everyone who is sitting outside their dorms. sometimes another street hawker would meet me, looking to trade a portugal shirt or hat. i'm still looking for the elusive china jersey, and maybe tomorrow i can close the deal.

also, tonight we went to see the USA men's basketball team compete with the Serbian team and a large, hostile home crowd. The USA did have a small cheering section - the US taekwondo team and the women's basketball team led cheers from the "athlete's section" behind the goal - the best seats i've EVER had at a basketball game. when we entered the stadium, it was like we were the actual team, emerging from under the stands to the court itself. and looking up at the stands to see waves of serbian fans cheering for their home team and against the US was daunting, but incredibly exciting. we hoped for an upset victory - to defeat the more popular team is the dream of every underdog. each cheer we led was filled with all of our heart. the serbian crowd would roar when USA had the ball - it was such a loud racket that you couldn't hear anything, except, strangely, your own heart beating. in the last 30 seconds, the US had the ball and a 1 point lead, and was fouled. everyone jumped to the front of the stands - one ball missed, another bounced out, but was rebounded and the US was fouled again. during the second chance, the US player missed both foul shots again, and the ball was rebounded and US was fouled. Finally, on the third attempt one shot was made, and at this time i stopped watching the game and started watching the crowd, and serbia could not get a goal in the last 5.3 seconds. we cheered our way out of the stadium with a large police escort under the glaring eyes of thousands of angry serbs.

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