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|THE JAKE CLARK EXPERIENCE (Updated Sept. 23): Smog clears in time for another shopping spree|
By Jacob Clark U.S. Marine Corps
Saturday, Sept. 23, Guangzhou, China
Greetings again. Yesterday was an interesting day to say the least! When I woke up and looked outside I thought we were in for a day of storms. Boy was I wrong. This wasn't a storm moving in ... it was SMOG! It was unreal and very disgusting. I've heard about smog before, but didn't know how bad it really got! Wow! I should have taken a picture. I was a bit nervous to leave the hotel. In the afternoon we were going to play basketball, but a few of us didn't participate because of how bad the air was! I think I've already started to grow a third eye! Ewww.
Today was much better! I got out and did some shopping on Beijing Street! Amazing ... simply amazing! You name it, they have it ... cheaper than you'd believe! I bought a few pairs of shoes, 40 DVDs, two watches, and will be going back tomorrow! The shoe selection is awesome. The DVD collections are amazing. The watches they have are completely FAKE, but they work and still look sharp! I even bought a Rolex. For you ladies out there ...
At some point in your life, you NEED to come here! I can't wait to see how crazy the women's team goes when they get here! They have every brand of purse you can imagine. So many different styles, sizes, and they all look quite nice! They have more shoes than you could ever imagine, perfumes of every scent, and many other misc. items to waste more money on! I'm heading back tomorrow to stock up on more "things" and hope I have enough room to bring it all back. My workout gear will DEFINITELY be staying here to make more room for some NEW items!
Today, I also wandered into a Pizza Hut and "accidentally" ate some delicious Hawaiian pizza! Just don't tell my coaches! Ha ha. I couldn't go any longer on the stuff they're serving here at the hotel. I have discipline, but I have "needs" too! Workouts are going well. My weight is a "mystery" (I haven't checked it too much, but am NOT worried about it). I walked for a few hours shopping so I'm sure I burned the pizza off in no time! This city is quite amazing. It has some very nice and modern buildings/skyscrapers ... yet, still has the third world "feel" in other areas. It's "night and day."
My roommate is Harry Lester, or so I think?! He's been sleeping so much that I wasn't aware I even had one! He wakes up, eats, watches some TV, and falls back asleep. The other day he fell asleep sitting up! No joke. We've done alot of DVD watching over the last couple days. I've never been into watching TV shows, but he has me addicted to that show "House." What a great show. We're still on Season 1, but almost ready to start Season 2. There's also another show we watched that was pretty entertaining, Weeds, Season 1. If any of you haven't seen either, check them out.
USAW would let us select rooms if needed, but everyone gets along fairly well so it doesn't matter who we are put with. I must admit, and I'm sure the other guys will back this up ... Harry and I have THE BEST SMELLING ROOM of all. The two of us roomed together in Romania a month ago and learned some important things REALLY quick. When we first got here and unloaded our bags, Harry proudly showed me the bundle of "Air Fresheners" he packed for this trip. Soon after I pulled out my scented candles! In Romania, we had the most HORRID scent in our room. Our bathroom leaked into the bedroom area and caused the carpet to get moldy. On top of that we had all our workout gear hanging on every lamp in the room. It was a lesson learned to say the least. We still have dirty clothes hanging on the lamps and the window sill, but the odor is amazing! Ha ha. The rooms are actually very nice and the beds are of decent size ... Maybe Byers and Tolly would disagree! I was asked to compare the quality of this hotel to that of one in the States ... I really couldn't tell you, but it's by far one of the more comfortable ones I've been in! They even have power outlets here for American plugs ... no adapters needed. We have TV with three channels in English ... however, they show the WORST movies EVER made!
I guess that's all I have for storytime, but I will be writing again soon. I'm trying to "buckle-down" a bit more and am going to be a pretty BORING person over the next few days! Ha ha. I promise I'll have some ENTERTAINING stories following the competition to make up for the next few days. Before I get into some of the questions I will answer the most asked question thus far ...
No, I did not have dinner in that "special" room! Ha ha. I have stayed away from it and have no plans of getting a reservation for later.
I have received some more great questions, shout-outs, and I appreciate all the e-mails. This has truly been a great experience for me and it's nice to get e-mails from everyone!
The first question is from Momma Clark herself!
Q: How do the people in China (young and old) treat us, and do many of them speak English?
A: The people here are WONDERFUL. They are very helpful and extremely kind. It's difficult traveling to other countries because of our situation in wars. A lot of the places we go we'll get people being rude to us just because they don't like our President. I had a Finnish lady once tell me, "You need to tell your President he is a horrible man and blah, blah, blah." I replied, "Ok, no problem... I'll call him when I get back." It kind of shut her up! The Chinese people have been nothing but great to us. As for their English, it is hit and miss. Most people know a few words ... much better than my Chinese! I've been sticking to the old fashioned way of playing "charades." It works everytime! Ha ha. Love you Mom!
I must finish by giving a shout out to Coach Davidson and Ms. Ford's 9th Grade Humanities Students at Rio Rancho Mid-High in New Mexico!!! I've got word that they're using these writings in their class. Wow. I hope I'm not getting graded! Ha ha. If any of the students have any questions ... ask away I'd like to hear what some of the younger readers think, or are curious about?! As for that Spiderman DVD ... I'd gladly send it your way, but it turned out to be a "bust!" Sorry.
For any "My Spacers" out there... I'm on My Space, just search by my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm off to bed, take care to all!
Wednesday, Sept. 20, Guangzhou, China
Time is definitely going by faster and faster. Yesterday we had the day off, and I completely took advantage of that! Ha ha. Things are going well and it seems as if everyone's ready to go. The other day I went with a few of the guys to the center of the city and it was a whole different world than what we saw walking around the other day! I was in heaven! Just when I had given up on this city we found very modern resturaunts, shops, and the "tourist" area. I saw McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, and several bars/pubs. After the competition I'm going to eat at each of the places listed above, and finish off by doing my own "pub crawl!" Ha ha.
This city is much better than I first had thought. A lot of the guys did some shopping yesterday and bought a bunch of Louis Vuitton, Prada, Coach, and other "knock-off" bags. I really don't know too much about them, but I am planning on buying a bunch of them to sell in the U.S. on eBay or something like that. They are SOOOO cheap over here. One of the guys bought a few DVDs, including Spiderman 3 which I don't think has even started in theaters! It was only 1 dollar!!!! Wow. I'm planning on going shopping either today or tomorrow to see what I can find. I'm taking orders now! Ha ha. Anything you can think of, they have here ... unbelievably cheap!
I weigh in on Monday and right now I'm about 7 KGs over (about 15 lbs.) That's after a very large breakfast and before my workout. After practice I'll weigh around 10 lbs. over and I'm comfortable with that. I generally try to get to about 8 lbs. over the morning of weigh-ins. When I'm in the U.S. I try to go about doing it a little better (eating healthy and not as quick of a drop), but being in a foreign country and all the traveling can make things a bit more difficult. I obviously DO NOT recommend that younger athletes try and cut weight the way I am now. I understand what my body can and can't do, and you won't catch me spitting in a cup or anything like that! Ha ha.
I've received quite a few more e-mails, and I am finally getting some questions! Thanks again to everyone who has written, when I get the time I'll reply individually too. To answer the questions...
Q: As an international competitor you must constantly adapt to changing envioronments as well as training situations, most of which are out of your control. What do you do personally to maintain focus on your goals and training given the many distractions and limitations you face on these trips?
A: Great question. I actually brought 2 suitcases. One is all clothes and gear, the other is all food and liquids! No joke. I packed a rolling suitcase full of tuna, crackers, Pedialyte, Ensure, PowerBars, and other misc. items. I think this plays a huge role in helping me stay SANE while in some foreign countries. You never know what kind of food you will have access to, so it's best to bring a little something you're familiar with to snack on ... especially when making weight! The training situation is usually the same wherever you go. I guess that's a great thing about our sport. It's easy to do wherever you might be ... All you need is a mat and shoes. While here we're not lifting weights or anything like that, or else it would be much different! As for staying focused, that can be the difficult thing. A lot of the time we arrive about 10 days before the competition begins and that definitely takes its toll (not so much when you're in Finland or other DEVELOPED countries... but CHINA... ouch!). Some guys down the hall brought a PS2, a bunch of us have computers, and there are other things I like to have to help pass time. I like to stay in my room as much as possible before the competition ... it can be way too easy to get sidetracked while being out and about! Making weight might be the most difficult thing to do while being in a foreign country. In the U.S., we have easy access to health clubs and things like that. Here, it's rare to find a place with stationary bikes and other workout machines. Most hotels have some kind of area with a sauna and some machines, but they never have enough to keep everyone happy!
Q: I have a friend who lived in China for six months who explained that there are tons of people everywhere. The image I got is that even rural areas are very dense. What is your impression in terms of how crowded the streets are?
A: It sure is amazing how many people are here in China. They do a good job of packing people on top of each other for living conditions, but it definitely gets a bit crowded on the streets. There are cars, bikes, buses, motorcycles, and just random people walking everywhere. When crossing the streets it gets a bit scary and is more difficult than that video game "Frogger!" Ha ha.
I suppose that's all I have for now ... oh wait. My Fantasy Football Team is now 2-0 after scoring last week's high score! This weekend I am playing against the man himself, Ethan Bosch and his "Bosch Squash." Best of luck to him. My Minnesota Vikings are also 2-0 after some tough games the past two weeks. That might be the worst thing ... being overseas during football season. It's not like we get ESPN or anything!!!
Take care to all and I Iook forward to more questions!
Monday, Sept. 18, Guangzhou, China
First off ... My iPod was returned! For those of you that have never been to another country, this is one of the most surprising events to happen in a foreign country! If you misplace something... it's GONE. Even if you don't misplace something, there's a good chance it will end up missing. That's just how it is, and something you expect. The cab company ended up charging the taxi fee to bring it from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, which was $200. My iPod has had a more expensive cab ride than most people ever will!
Things are going fairly well here and the freestyle team arrived late last night. For one of our practices the other day we played basketball on an outdoor court. As the game went on a number of Chinese people gathered to watch our game. Thankfully, a few of our American wrestlers can ACTUALLY play ball, so we didn't look too bad. Other than that our practices have been on the mat.
Yesterday, a few of us went for a stroll to see what Guangzhou has to offer. I believe we were the first Americans to set foot in some of the areas we did! We walked for a few hours wandering through little streets and had the chance to see how the local Chinese people live. It was weird though. It seems as if it was the SAME scenery every two blocks. In a two-block distance you would have: 1 bike shop, 1 auto shop, 1 restaurant (you couldn't pay me enough to eat at one!), and several of the same little stores selling household items and groceries. We were hoping to walk past a few cafes or some souvenir shops, but when you think about it... these people don't have the money to eat at a cafe, or why would they have souvenirs in a place not frequented by tourists!
It was getting pretty hot out so I figured it would be fun to get on some "random" bus and see where it would take us. Wherever it took us, we would jump in a cab and get a ride back to our hotel... just for an adventure. The fellas I was with didn't take to the idea. Finally, after a few hours we came to a market area, and with little hesitation we took a deep breath of somewhat-fresh air and walked into what was once unchartered tourist territory! I wish I would have taken some photos, or that I could explain the smell, but I will save you all the trouble and trauma that we went through! To give you a hint of what we saw... It was a mixture of shops selling random useless things (everything seemed to dirty and old to be new), butcher shops (with REAL mystery meat), shops selling fruits and vegetables, and I even saw a BARBER SHOP in the mix! Whoever thought of putting that there was out of there mind (there's no way I could make it through a whole haircut with that odor)! Much to my surprise the people we met along the way were very friendly. No-one seemed to speak English, but several VERY young kids (some running around half-naked) would stop what they were doing, stare at us, and yell "HELLO!" In all it was a very neat experience. This whole adventure was to the right of our hotel. Today it's onto new things and we're going to go LEFT out of the hotel. Wish us luck!
To answer the FIRST question I've received thus far (I've received A LOT of "Good Luck" e-mails)...
Q: What are the training facilities like there in China?
A: To be honest, they are not too shabby. I've been to several places that are far worse. The wrestling room is a pretty decent size and located in a "Regional Olympic Training Center" or something like that. Outside of the wrestling room is a weight training area. That my friends, is another story! The weights are old, rusty, and the equipment looks like it's from the 70s! No offense to those of you born back then! Ha ha. They even have this one "contraption" where it's an old tractor tire and a sledgehammer. I have some footage of it on video and it's quite entertaining. Let's just say they've learned to make use of what they have. As an American we are used to having the best, top of the line equipment to work with. I remember being a kid and seeing a weight bench that was torn or something like that and thinking, "I'm not going to use that old thing, no way!" A lot of these foreign athletes have much less than we do, yet they are just as tough, if not tougher than us. It's not about having the BEST shoe, the BEST workout facility, or the BEST training equipment. Many young athletes, and even some older ones tend to have that belief ... and that just isn't the case.
I hope that answers the question. I look forward to any others that might come this way! Remember, my email address is: email@example.com
I suppose that's it for now, but as always, I'll write again in the near future! Until then, take care!
Saturday, Sept. 16, Guangzhou, China
Well, I'm here. After traveling by plane, car and bus I have finally made it to Guangzhou. We arrived last night around 2 a.m. (just in time to see the local Chinese people stumbling out of the karaoke bar in our hotel). My flight went well and I actually slept for 14 of the 15-and-a-half hour flight!!! No joke. The guy next to me was amazed that I was able to sleep so long and that I didn't wake up for a meal!
For those of you that aren't TLC or Discovery fanatics like myself... The Hong Kong Airport is an engineering masterpiece. The runway and airport were made on a man-made floating island! It's unreal and if you get the chance, Google it. From Hong Kong we had about a two-and-a-half hour van ride to our hotel in Guangzhou. I was so tired when we arrived that I believe I left my BRAND NEW 30GB video I-POD in the van. Chalk that up as a loss!
The place we're staying is pretty nice and considered a four-star hotel. The breakfast this morning was great and very surprising to all of us. I slept great last night and due to my sleep on the plane, I believe my body is set on the time change already.
This afternoon, myself, Chas Betts, and Jake Fisher went for a short stroll to find some lunch. We walked through this long alley-street-market kind of thing and saw some amazing things. I'll make sure to take some photos. During that stroll it was like a guessing game. Were they selling things as pets or food?! We saw pigeons, crabs, fish, weird-looking fruits with spikes, and several other "odd" things. The smell was a bit odd, but that was the least of my worries ... Bird Flu being the No. 1! Ha ha.
Honestly, this city seems to be a very nice place and the people have been very kind thus far. We didn't find any place to eat during our walk and decided to eat at the resturaunt located next to our hotel. The hostess asked if we wanted Chinese food and we said yes. Well, we soon learned that General Tso's Chicken, Won-Ton Soup, and other such items ARE NOT REALLY CHINESE FOOD!!!
I tried to get the other guys I was with to play a game. In this game I wanted to choose what Chas was going to eat. Chas was going to choose what Jake Fisher was going to eat. And Jake Fisher would choose what I would eat. Neither of them agreed to play my game ... THANKFULLY! It could have been real bad! Ha ha. Instead we ordered a few different dishes and crossed our fingers before they brought it out. We had some fried noodles with some kind of meat, some fried rice with eel, shark fin inside of a mango with some kind of broth, Chinese tea, some Chinese cake, and Chinese versions of Pepsi and Sprite. We did our best and ate as much as we could. The shark fin and eel weren't too bad.
There was a Chinese family eating at the table next to us and they sent us some "special" tea to share with them. We drank it and hopefully I won't "pop" on my urinalysis for that!
The people have been very friendly and during lunch our waitress "hit on" me. She told me in "broken-English" that I was beautiful and she wanted to have rice with me later tonight. She then went on to explain that there are "special" tables upstairs and wanted to know if I would accept her offer. I was a bit confused and the guys with me were laughing at the whole situation. Our waitress then told me to follow her and she'll show me the room. I was nervous, but excited at the same time! The next thing you know I was in an elevator in the resturaunt with three girls. A dream come true. Ha ha. We got to the floor and they escorted me to this room with a table for four in the center of it and a bathroom in the corner. Weird, very WEIRD! She said it would cost 600 of their money (approx. $75) to rent that room for dinner. It didn't have a view or anything! I stayed there for a few minutes trying to communicate with these girls (their English was horrible, but much better than my ONE WORD in Chinese!). She kept asking me, "Yes, or no?" I would say, "Maybe" and she'd reply with her famous yes-no line. Needless to say we didn't get too far in conversation. After a few minutes we went back down to the resturaunt where Chas and Fisher were waiting "wide-eyed" and curious to hear the story. That is where that story will end ... for now! Ha ha.
We received our schedule for the rest of the time we are here and will be doing two practices a day, alternating with a game, and a short on-the-mat practice. I suppose that's all I have for now, but I will write again in the near future.
Thanks to everyone for the e-mails I've received thus far. It's great to know that we have so many of you supporting us. As I said before, feel free to ask any questions and I will do my best to answer them (if you don't want me to mention it in the blog ... just let me know and I'll answer it to your e-mail). Once again, my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope all is well with everyone and I look forward to hearing from you.
Jake "Beautiful" Clark (she must not have seen my ears before she spoke!)
Thursday, Sept. 14, Chicago, Ill.
Greetings to all,
Welcome to "The Jake Clark Experience" and I hope you enjoy the ride. First off, I'm honored to be representing the United States, The Marine Corps, and my family at the upcoming World Championships. I am blessed and very grateful for this opportunity to do something that most people never have the chance to do. Over the next few weeks I will invite you to walk in my shoes and join me in my journey to Guangzhou, China, where I will compete in my first Senior level World Championships. I will try to give as much detail as possible, answer any questions you might have, and hopefully let everyone enjoy the experiences I'm about to endure. I will try to write daily, or as often as possible. If at some point anyone comes up with some questions you can send them to my email address and I will answer them in my next entry. I can be reached at: email@example.com
Don't be shy and ask away!
It's Thursday the 14th of September and the time has finally come. The trip has already started off pretty cruel and I'm stuck in Chicago for a five-hour delay! I left my apartment in Stafford, Va., at 6 this morning and made my way up to Dulles International Airport in Northern Va. I believe the trip is somewhere around 50-60 miles from my home to Dulles, and generally takes about an hour to get there. But, not today! No way! The weather was horrible and traffic was slam packed! What a way to start off my trip.
Upon arriving at the airport I was then informed that there was a delay in Chicago and I'd be backed up 4-5 hours. Let me remind you, I'm already dreading the fact that my travel schedule is already more than I was ready to handle. From Virginia to Chicago is an hour-and-45-minute flight. From Chicago to Hong Kong is a whopping 15-and-a-half hours! (Is that safe for planes to fly that far without refueling!!!) And from Hong Kong we are going by ground to Guangzhou ... duration of that part of my travel ... NO IDEA! Without the delay, the total TRAVEL time (excluding layovers) was going to be around 20 hours!
Thankfully, I'm not cutting serious weight at the moment or I would have put a few flight attendants in a front-headlock! Luckily, over the past few years I've done so much traveling that I've earned "Premier Executive" status with United and am a member of the Red Carpet Club at the airports. So here I sit in Chicago, a Diet Pepsi in hand, laptop on the desk, sitting in a comfy leather chair, surrounded by a bunch of businessmen, just trying to pass time. I'm the only one in here with tennis shoes, shorts, a backpack, and no business cards to my name! I like to consider myself a "Broke Rock Star." I live the life of a rock star ... just on a MUCH smaller scale and budget! Ha ha.
Onto the important stuff...
Over the last several weeks I've been having a tough time staying focused and finding motivation to train. It seems like the minute after winning Trials I had people trying to get me ready for Worlds ... which was nearly four months away! I just wasn't ready to jump into the training regimen so soon.
I had people telling me that I need to start training to win the World Championships. However, I hadn't even thought about that. My goals for this year were to win Nationals, win Trials, and be the No. 1 guy in the U.S. I accomplished my goals and didn't think too much about anything beyond that. I wanted to be excited for myself for achieving my goals and doing what I set out to do. But at the same time, no one was ready to celebrate with me ... they all had bigger ideas, bigger expectations for me. I just didn't have the energy and drive like I did in preparing for Nationals and Trials. I think I was just worn out or something.
Recently, I found a little "kick" and have been feeling much better mentally and with my training. Now I find myself two weeks away from competing and I'm excited to go. I feel ready and no matter how I do I'm happy with my season ... but it sure would be nice to end the year with a medal around my neck! I suppose I must get going for now. I will be writing again when I arrive in China ... if I ever make it there!
Take care to all,