Stanford at the 1st Elite College Dragon Boat Race in Tianjin, China
By Lili Hsu
October 5, 2015
The first day we had a quick practice then went to an old culture district with the PKU (Peking University) team. We had a lot of fun chatting on the public bus and tried "tea soup" a tianjin local food that was new to PKU too. That evening all teams got a nighttime river tour of Tianjin. Tianjin was one of the ports where western powers had districts for trade, so there is a bunch of western architecture. There are a lot of bridges, some Chinese versions of fancy Parisian bridges, others super modern. There's a promedade all along the river and the skyscrapers have pretty lights. There's also a Ferris wheel (the Tianjin Eye) that spans the river.
Second full day was race day, also Chinese holiday (National Day) so there were spectators and TV crews. It was super windy, so they canceled some races before we even started. We were the first heat, first boat on the water. This race was using the tippiest of boats, and I was drumming. We lined up OK (you give the tail to someone on a long dock) but as we were waiting for the other boats to come out the wind pushed us sideways into the dock and we weren't able to straighten out. We tried for a really long time. The boat almost flipped, if I had fought to stay in the boat it definitely would have gone over, so I chose to fall out. The boat was able to recover, and I was right by the dock, so they hauled me out right away. In the end, all races were canceled that day and and we had the afternoon off, so we bought more yummy food and climbed on statutes by the river with some of the race volunteers.
The next day the weather cleared up, so they condensed all the races into one day - one heat per distance (200M, 500M, 4000M). Stanford did better than expected. I was drumming all the races, so I lost my voice by the end. Then there was the final banquet, which was complete chaos, and party in the hotel (China's drinking age is 18, so all the college teams were legal age). Then early morning bus to the airport in Beijing.
It was fun, glad I went. I'm happy to be back and no longer wrangling 11 people. Pollution wasn't that bad, much better than Beijing. The river was kind of sketchy. I saw a number of dead fish and any open wounds would itch until rinsed thoroughly.
Pictures are slowly trickling out, I'll share when they come through. For now, here is our boat waiting to pull out of the dock for our first actual race (not the windy day).