Saturday, October 31, 2009


Last night, I went over my grandparent's house to celebrate my grandfather's 79th birthday. My grandfather and grandmother were born in Italy in the early 1930's and lived there for more than 20 years. They both decided to follow family to America in search of new jobs and better opportunities. Since arriving, they have had to learn how to survive in a completely different culture, while working at a wide variety of different jobs thoughout their lifetime. Last night, they were telling my cousins and I about what life was like coming to a very different country in the 1950's. They each agreed that the most challenging part was facing a completely new language barrier. They shared tons of funny stories about learning the language, and the difficulties this barrier presented as they traveled between New York, where my grandfather's family had settled, to Boston, where my grandmother's family resided. It got me thinking about when I was forced into a culture very different from my own a few years ago.

At spring training during the 2008 season, the Padres and Dodgers traveled to Beijing to play in the first professional baseball game ever held in the country of China. We took a 14 hour direct flight on one of the biggest planes I have ever seen in my life. Each player was given a row of seven or so seats to himself to stretch out and sleep when needed. One of the coolest parts of the flight was being allowed to sit with the pilots in the cockpit when we were 30,000 feet in the air. The view from up there is unbelievable. Once we arrived, the toughest part about China for me was the food. I am an extremely picky eater. I could survive in a world filled only with meat and potatoes for the rest of my life, and be perfectly happy doing so. The hotel we stayed at was one of the largest, most beautiful hotels I have ever seen. A few guys on the team and I decided to eat at the hotel buffet, which offered hundreds of different choices, such as jellyfish, bamboo shoots, and sea horse. Honestly, these were really the food choices, and people were actually eating them. Needless to say, I passed on the meal and decided to walk around the city to find something a little more appetizing. A popular thing in China is for people to set up small tents and offer food and vegetables to the public, much like an American farmer's market. I decided to check it out, before noticing my choices for lunch were again sea horse, cockroach, and some other large insect I wasn't really in the mood to eat. I was about to give up, deciding to starve and return home in a week, 25 pounds lighter than I had arrived. That was until I found one of the greatest establishments of all time, McDonald's. A Big Mac and 10 piece nugget with barbecue sauce had never sounded so tasty and nutritionally satisfying as it did at that moment. My troubles had ended and I could now relax and eat peacefully. That was until I decided to place my order. Asking for a number 10 didn't work the way it does in the States. Neither did pointing at the large board above their head and yelling, "chicken!" When they realized were weren't getting anywhere, they gave me a menu on a small piece of paper so I could point to what I wanted. They did understand Coke, which was outstanding, but they didn't have any BBQ sauce. In America, I would have been pissed, but in China, chicken without the right type of sauce still sounded a lot better than insects on a stick. I wanted to bring the food back and eat at the hotel so I asked for a bag. After a few blank stares, one lady went behind the desk and gave me three straws. I took them and tried to explain with my hands the shape of a bag and how you would carry food in it if you wanted to leave. She nodded seeming to understand exactly what I said. She returned with five or six packets of sugar. I don't even know why I would want sugar. I didn't order coffee, and Coke already has enough sugar to keep you wired all night. At this point, I was starving and decided the straws and sugars would be all I needed. I stuffed my Big Mac in one pocket, my nuggets in the other, and carried the rest back to the hotel. In the 4 days we spent in China, I ate McDonald's 10 times, and that isn't a joke. My Chinese didn't improve very much, but I did learn to forget about take out and just eat my food there. I've got to give a ton of credit to both of my grandparents for being able to survive in a new culture for all of those years. Now I understand why they love eating spaghetti and meatballs so much. It definitely beats fighting with the McDonald's guy.

Below are some of the pictures and videos I took while spending a week over in China.

Me sitting at the top of the Great Wall of China

The view from outside my hotel room in downtown Beijing

Tiananmen Square

My golden arches

Walking up the Great Wall of China (video)

The field where we played 2 games against the Dodgers (video)

blog comments powered by Disqus