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April « 2008 « Jocelyn Wong's Blog

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Archive for April, 2008

10 things I learned during my international travels.

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

(note: not a race report. i’ll write it when i’m un-jet-lagged.)

1. in Asia, hotels like to conserve energy. you have to stick your key card in a slot by the light switches in order for the electricity to go on. I couldn’t figure this out and kept flipping all the switches, wondering why I had to pee in the dark, then went downstairs to tell them my lights didn’t work. :P the bike mechanics thought I was stupid.

2. real Chinese people like their mattresses hard. which makes me not a real Chinese person.
however, they were surprisingly easy to fall asleep on, or maybe we were just exhausted.

3. in Japan, green tea is a common Haagan-dazs ice cream flavor.

4. in Singapore, if you go shopping in the Little India area, the security guards will zip-tie your bag so that you don’t shop lift.

5. in China, the official Gatorade flavor was chrysanthemum. (I know this not because I could read the bottle, but recognized it during my 3rd bottle… very much like the juice boxes my mom bought from the local Asian supermarket when we were kids.)

6. in Hong Kong, they get really upset if you accidentally leave your CO2 cartridges in your bike box, and make you get off the plane before it takes off so you can show them it’s not a bomb.

7. bring enough cash. Even if local places say they take credit card, and you are about to buy your brother and dad the coolest Chinese shirts ever for only $15 US each, all of your credit cards will inexplicably not work, and the cashier will start talking to you in really fast Chinese you don’t understand, and you will talk back in English and they won’t understand.

8. David Beckham is on Pepsi billboards in China.

9. I am such a sucker for all kinds of accents. I don’t discriminate. :)

10. I have a fascination with the different types of toilets. I’m not saying I like them all. curse the squatting types when you have just done an ironman. hey, I didn’t fall in!

Ni hao! Haikou hen hao!

Friday, April 18th, 2008

ni hao, blog friends! sorry that is almost the extent of my Mandarin skills. I am staying in room number liu er er if you want to come over and hang out.

today was a grocery trip adventure and well, it as quite the adventure. I went with my roommate Donna and Amanda and Luke MacKenzie, two Aussies, and we were promptly dropped off a this huge shopping complex in town, and this was the part where I really wish I could speak better Chinese. first off, we couldn’t even find where the grocery store part was. it was like Super Walmart meets Costco meets a ginormous department store in a huge mall. Luckily we didn’t stray too far. I went a little crazy with the groceries (ah, never shop when you are hungry, oh well) because my eldest aunt had said to bring back some coconut candies for all my friends and family who helped pitch in for my airplane ticket (THANKS VERY MUCH LOVE YOU ALL!!!), apparently that is what Hainan province is known for, the excellent coconut candies. I will have to post up some pictures later. Donna had trouble finding the skim milk and I was not very much help. All the milk seems to come in juice boxes like when you packed your lunch for grade school. Amanda got distracted with the uber cheap ipods on our way out! $10 for a Shuffle or something… and I thought they were cheap when they went on sale for $50 at Target.

I had a fabulous massage from Olivia who is from Oahu, yes I paid the full price for the official massage therapists at Ironman Village. Been a little sketched out with reports that the hotel massagers offer “full service” massage here, not that I should have much to worry about. it was cute though, Olivia asked to take a picture with me after my massage, because I’m a PRO! and the only American female pro (therefore I will be 1st American pro woman, heh heh) here, so they were all excited. I also signed my first autograph yesterday, when we had a “meet & greet the pros” at the TBB tent.

I attended the press conference today even though I’m not yet special enough to be invited to sit up front with the microphones. The Chinese press were very excited, there was a cute local boy racing pro and he got all the attention. They wanted to know why there weren’t any Chinese women racing pro, and I had to admit I wanted to jump up and down in my seat and tell them I’m Chinese! I’m racing pro! I just happen to have been born in a different country!! but I restrained myself.

the weather here is kind of nasty, there’s a typhoon (or a “whirly” as I heard an Aussie call it) headed our way, but it’s due to hit the southern end of Hainan island tomorrow, and there should be gorgeous weather race day here. A lot of people are worrying about it, but I’m not bothered. Can’t control the weather, so why fret, my pet? We’ll all have to face the same conditions whatever they may be.

I went on a run down the main road yesterday, and got TONS of stares. Of course all the Caucasians here are getting stared at, but somehow I feel I almost got extra stares during my run, like if I were white, they would just think “oh, it’s a crazy white person doing something crazy.” but they kind of do a double-take-stare with me, like “wait, she’s one of ours, what is she doing?!” I’m looking forward to race day, when I can show them that Chinese folks can do Ironman, and do it fast!

thanks for all the good luck messages, I just checked the forum :) the carbo dinner is tonight and I’m interested in seeing if we get rice and noodles instead of the usual pasta. There is also a lot of interest in my custom disc wheel cover from wheelbuilder.com, I painted a really cool design on it that you will get to see later, and I guess a lot of people here have never seen a wheel cover before. Well, they all just have enough money for a REAL disc wheel. haha!

also I wanted to give a big thanks to my friend Heather at Atalanta Running Skirts (skirtgoddess.com) for my send-off gift, she gave me a couple skirts to run around in, yeah, to pick up cute foreign triathletes. You can see me wearing it in some of our team photos on the front page of the team website. maybe we’ll even start carrying them at the TBB store eh??

zou le! zaijian!

Singapore! China!

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

hello, internet access is limited so my updates will come in spurts when possible.

There is a slightly longer story about looking for a massage place in Singapore that wasn’t “dodgy” as they like to say here, but I can save that for later. hehe. My biggest memory in Singapore is running from Grace’s condo to the bike shop downtown, getting completely poured on for 20 minutes straight (out of NOWHERE!), while trying to remember which way the cars drive and turn into every time I crossed the street (as they drive on the WRONG SIDE of the road), and finally arriving to the hot pink store front, where I stared at the sign for a few moments before walking in. my thought: THE BIKE BOUTIQUE IS REAL. maybe a strange concept but I’ve been living on the other side of the globe since getting in contact with teamTBB about a year ago, so almost everything has been a virtual reality.

so now I’m here in China. we got here Tuesday afternoon, a big entourage as I was travelling with the mechanics and head honchos of the Bike Boutique.

it’s like being on a different planet. Everything is so different and strange. and yet, strangely familiar.

there are water buffalo hanging out on the side of the road in the more rural areas, and Chinese workers with the stereotypical Chinese rice farmer hats. all the signs are in Chinese, and my first twinge of nostalgia brought me back to my elementary school days when my siblings and I were forced to go to Chinese school on Sundays (as all Chinese-American kids have to do, just like how the Jews have to go to Hebrew school).

everyone is speaking to me in Mandarin and I really wish I had worked on my language skills a little more. of course choosing to spend time training more or practicing Chinese more, well, you can see which I picked. The frustrating thing is that when I try to get the right words out of my head, I find that it’s a mixture of Mandarin, Taishanese (my family’s dialect), and…this is totally embarassing…but I think in Spanish also when trying to come up with the right terms. I took 3 years of Spanish in high school and it seems all the foreign languages have gotten jumbled up in my brain.

the food is familiar too. It is a lot of the same Chinese food I am used to, but slightly different flavors.

today they posted the pro list and there are 11 female pros registered. So I have an excellent shot at coming in top 10! I am also the only American female that is racing pro. gotta represent! I am bib #19, which is obviously the lowest number I’ve ever gotten. I was actually #52 in my very first Ironman, because it was also the collegiate championships and they let the collegiates have the next numbers after the pros, going up by age and starting with the girls. Since I was the youngest college girl, I got the lowest non-pro number!

ok, I should go get ready to swim the course. yesterday I got to meet the big team of local lifeguards and took a picture with them. Caroline from Singapore said “oh, they are tall!” well, the tallest ones were my height, so I guess I’m tall for a Chinese boy??

more soon! my bike and luggage made it safely and I don’t have traveller’s diarrhea, so life is good.

Tokyo!

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

hello I’m at the Tokyo airport! I will be updating the blog more frequently throughout my first big adventure here. The toilets are a little funny, I tried the butt spraying thing and it tickled. Everyone is speaking to me in Japanese and I don’t understand. Internet is only $1US for 10 minutes. the flight was long here, almost 11 hrs but they played Enchanted which was awesome, and I brought some trashy novels from the library to keep me entertained. I managed to only need one pee break. next time I’m getting an aisle seat! legs feel a little swollen, got compression stockings on, now I’m off for a little airport massage. gotta go! on to Singapore!

8 days out.

Friday, April 11th, 2008

I’ve made it! making it to 8 days out from an Ironman without major incident is a big deal for me, in a superstitious kind of way. yes, 8 is a very lucky number in Chinese (which is why the Olympics begin on 8-8-08 this year) but that is not why.

when I was 18 years old I saw my first triathlon ever, it was the inaugural Ironman California at Camp Pendleton (before it become a 70.3). This was just a month before I did my first triathlon ever and I was so inspired that I decided then and there that I would sign up to race Ironman the next year. Luckily this was before the crazy Ironman craze where all the events in North America sell out in a couple days, or even hours, so I was able to actually get some triathlons under my belt over the summer, and evaluate if I would really be able to complete an Ironman in the next year. I worked at a sporting goods store (running shoe department) over the summer and saved up enough money to register for my first Ironman!

Over the next year, I didn’t really know what I was doing and just trained a lot rather haphazardly. There wasn’t as much information out there as there is now, even though it was only 8-9 yrs ago. I had all these odd injuries, falling off my bike and getting nasty scars, getting tendonitis in my foot, and the strangest one–bruising my sternum from the odd wrestling match at a college party. :) It got to the point where a couple months out from my first Ironman, I wasn’t able to swim or run, so I biked a lot. On a routine visit to the campus health clinic, I needed to get some allergy pills, and when they looked in my throat the nurses saw something strange. apparently there was a mass that was growing on my tonsil, and it didn’t hurt or anything. I didn’t think much of having to get a CT scan, other than the inconvenience of missing a workout.

When the results came back, less than 2 weeks before Ironman, the doctor said it was urgent that I have the mass removed IMMEDIATELY. E.g. have surgery to remove both tonsils, which would be pretty painful and I would need 2-3 weeks recovery. Are you kidding, I’m doing the IRONMAN!! I told him. he threw out words like “cancer” and “chemotherapy” but all I could think was, I got through all the training obstacles–injuries, bruised sternum, etc, and I’m not going to let a little bump in my throat stop me now. I was actually in a place where I knew I would be able to finish Ironman; it wouldn’t be pretty, but I would finish.

No, this isn’t a Lance Armstrong-type story about how I was diagnosed with cancer and battled it and became this phenomenal triathlete. This is the story of how 8 days out from my first Ironman, I had to accept defeat before the starting line and listen to the doctor, my mother, and my grandma. I was DEVASTATED. But I had to realize that some things (not many eh!) were more important than Ironman. Like my health. Instead of doing my first Ironman, I went into surgery to remove both tonsils. The mass growing inside my throat ended up being benign. And let me tell you, tonsil surgery hurts like hell. People always say you can eat as much ice cream as you want afterwards, but that’s a lie. Every swallow hurts. You take for granted not noticing every time you swallow until you get them tonsils out.

I went on to do my first Ironman another year later, at 20 years old, with better preparation and greater respect for the race. But at 8 days out, I had to breathe a sigh of relief. And I’ve done it for every Ironman since.

Just like today.

a geography lesson

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Hi class, today we are having a geography lesson. Today we are learning about “Where the Wongs are from.”

wong

Wong is actually the Cantonese and Taishanese version of the surname Huang, or Hwang. According to this website, Wong/Huang is the 7th most common surname in China. They counted 29 million of us in China back in 2000, with 2 million of us overseas. In high school there were 12 Wongs in my graduating class. None of the others were related to me. (My high school was about 40% Chinese and 40% Filipino.) In the latest list of Ironman China registrants there were 4 other Wongs registered and 1 Hwang, representing Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and AUSTRALIA. That’s a lot of us!

Of course since childhood we have put up with being the butt of Wong jokes. “Two wongs don’t make a right” etc. Lately the Doc has been assailing me with “What’s wong with you?” and “it might be wong, but it’s right for now” (regarding my horrid swim stroke). I figure if he is helping to make me faster, I will put up with a little abuse. :)

My family has been really excited about my trip to China. I’ll be the first of my generation to “go back” to the motherland. My dad hasn’t been back since moving to the USA almost 40 years ago and Mom was born and raised in Burma, so she’s never been. My oldest aunt wrote me up a little note on our family roots in case anybody I meet in China asks where my family is from. She also gave me a red envelope with some money for good luck, and a huge bar of dark chocolate just because:

family-tree

The note basically says my name, the province my family is from (Guangdong), the city (Taishan), district, and village. Then it lists my great-great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, and father’s names. In case I bump into someone who might have known them, or hey, maybe a relative on the street. :)

I did a little bit of map-looking on Google and was surprised to see how close Taishan is to where Ironman will be in Haikou. I mean, in comparison to how large China is:

china-map-inset

in fact, it is actually right between Ironman in Haikou and teamTBB training camp in Subic Bay:
geography

It’s like I was meant to be doing this! I won’t have time to visit the Wong family’s village during this trip but I will return in the future and be sure to bring Mom and Dad.