In China, Plugged In, but Unplugged

CHONGQING, China — I’m sitting at the desk in my hotel room, trying to think over the relentlessly obnoxious honking taking place on the street below. This would usually be my cue to take a break from writing and go on Facebook. Not in China, though. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — basically anything fun — is blocked. We’ve also discovered that topics or historical events that may be controversial to the country are blocked from Google. My roommate, Lauren Cheney, and I have made a game of seeing what is and isn’t prohibited. These are the things we found to do in our spare time, especially on game day. Our first game of the Four Nations Cup was not an ideal beginning to this year’s journey to the World Cup in Germany. After a 2-1 loss to Sweden, Coach Pia Sundhage pointed out, “We can say, ‘no regrets,’ but why not instead say, ‘enjoy the journey.’ ” At the time it was easier said than done … we hate losing.

U.S. national team coach Pia Sundhage was a nominee for FIFA Women’s Football Coach of the Year award. The award was won by Silvia Neid of Germany.Franck Fife/AFP — Getty ImagesU.S. national team coach Pia Sundhage was a nominee for FIFA Women’s Football Coach of the Year award. The award was won by Silvia Neid of Germany.

On our day off between games we took a walk to a couple shops right outside the hotel. People stared at us, as we towered above the general public. The multicultural society in the U.S. makes it common to see people who look vastly different from us and it would be rude to blatantly stare, as people do here. But everyone we’ve met has been friendly and gracious, especially our team liaisons and the hotel staff. They are enthusiastic, want to be good hosts and help us in any way possible.

Personal spatial boundaries are another thing that differs here. It’s not unusual for us to be shoved, elbowed and even boxed out — off the field. We first experienced this in the airport, where we were barged in front of in line several times before starting to push back. The other day there were about 12 of us packed into the elevator after training and when it stopped on another floor on our way up, a father pushed his son in and proceeded to make space for himself as well. Now that I’ve started to recognize some of the cultural differences, I’ve gotten used to what first came as a shock.

Sunday we beat Canada, 2-1. Pia used all five subs and played a lot of players who don’t have much experience. My North Carolina teammate, Meghan Klingenberg, got her first cap! I played the last 25 minutes against Canada and the second half against Sweden. Game minutes are invaluable to me at this point. Personally, it’s all about continuing to gain confidence and getting comfortable enough to “play my game” in pressure situations.

Next up: China on Tuesday. If we win and win big, we could take first place in the tournament. But right now, it’s more important for us to continue building and have a strong performance. And if we do that and win, it will certainly be easier to “enjoy the journey.” It would also be nice if this honking would stop.