The Manya Minutes: Manya Makoski Details Her Trip To China With The U-21 US Women's National Soccer Team

April 14, 2004

The Manya Minutes - A Look Back at the U-21 WNT Tour of China
(Courtesy of ussoccer.com. To visit Manya's journal on ussoccer.com complete with photos of her trip click here.)

The U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team recently returned from China, where they played and won all three matches to complete a highly successful tour that included a 2-0 win over the full Chinese Women's National Team. As a special correspondent for ussoccer.com, Arizona State sophomore forward Manya Makoski kept a daily journal on her travels, practice mishaps, unusual bathrooms and goofy team liaisons.

As a member of the United States Under-21 Women's National Team, I feel extremely fortunate to have been invited to train and play games in China during our trip from March 17-29. It was surely an experience I will never forget. While trying to learn some Chinese, we experimented with different foods, made new friends, won all three of our games, and still managed to find some time for shopping. There's always time for shopping, right? I hope you enjoy my journal entries that I kept everyday, and that you get a little feel for our memorable trip to the other side of the world.

Wednesday, March 17
I left Phoenix on my flight to San Francisco at nine in the morning and the team met up at the International Ticketing Counter. I must admit I had a little trouble finding it because it's not everyday that a girl from Trumbull, Connecticut gets to travel outside the country. It was so exciting to see everyone and talk about upcoming adventures. Defender Keeley Dowling had already whipped out her Chinese Dictionary and Grammar book and we sat studying the proper way to pronounce 'Shay-shay' (which means Thank You for those of you not fluent in Chinese). One of the highlights of the afternoon was when everyone received new Nike fleeces from our equipment manager Amanda Trokey. I think lifting weights must have paid off because I no longer wear a small top! Then we headed over to the food court for our last American meal and savored every last bite of our pizzas. Right before we started to board, everyone was on their cell phones saying goodbye to their friends. It was going to be a while before my digital display had four bars of service again.

The Flight Over: Wednesday, March 17
I had an aisle seat next to a very nice Chinese man. We talked a lot about soccer and school. I'm not sure if I understood him correctly, but I'm pretty sure he asked me what it meant to be 'cool.' It was obvious that he didn't get my humor when I told him that he didn't need to look any further than the seat next to him. I guess he thought that I meant the other Chinese guy sitting next to him who was humming, and I kid you not, a tune by Vanilla Ice. I basically slept and did schoolwork the rest of the trip. When we got there, we all wanted to get off the plane so bad, it seemed like it took as long to get out of that tin prison as it did to travel to Shanghai, China (which was 12 hours, 40 minutes and 37 seconds by the way).

After the flight: Shanghai, China
After we got off the plane, we got our bags, and groggily found our way outside the terminal. Either I have become a complete wimp from living in Arizona, or it was extremely cold when we hit the sidewalk. I should have been used to the frigid temps being from Connecticut and all, but there is little doubt that I have since I've adapted to desert heat. We packed our numerous bags onto the small bus and took off to our hotel. I think I was definitely tired because I don't remember much of the bus ride. We arrived at the hotel and there were many people to greet us. There was even a big red banner tied to the front of the hotel welcoming us! It took us a while to get our rooms, but we finally threw our bags down and had dinner. Our coach, Chris Petrucelli gave us a talk about our trip, our goals for all the games, and then my roommate Haley Hunt and I and collapsed onto our very small, very hard beds.

Friday, March 19 (I think we skipped a day? What happened to March 18?)
After breakfast, I got taped for training and we headed off for our first practice. In our 'locker room,' there was a bathroom, but the toilet was a hole in the ground. That was something we definitely were not looking forward to for the rest of the trip. After training there was a press conference for Chris and some of the Chinese representatives. Some of us sat there trying to figure out what they were saying, but quite honestly, we couldn't figure out a thing. We took our first shopping trip that afternoon. Since we didn't have any Renminbi (Chinese currency), we had to go across the street to the bank. After almost getting hit by cars a couple of times (they don't stop for anyone!), we were finally successful in exchanging money. While we were waiting in the lobby for everyone, Leo our translator/host/liaison decided that I was eleven years old. I know I look young, but come on, not even a teenager? We made a stop at this jewelry store that was sponsoring the tour. There were definitely some expensive items in there! Instead of buying the jewels, we just took some pictures with them, and then it was off to the market. Natasha Kai, Jill Oakes, and I went off gallivanting throughout the aisles. After doing some serious bargaining with the sellers, we all bought some shoes, watches, and sunglasses. Dinner and hanging out was the agenda for the rest of the night.

Saturday, March 20
We had our first real breakfast, if you can call it that. There were definitely a variety of things to eat, but not too much looked appealing. Ali Andrzejewski (don't ask me how to pronounce it, I can barely spell it) got sick. She didn't go to training, and ended up missing something truly memorable. During training, Nandi Pryce tried to do a step-over with her sweatpants on (since it was so cold), and if you've ever seen Nandi, you know her legs are about as long as my whole body, thus there is lots of fabric in those sweats. Well, her foot got caught, causing her to take a nosedive straight into the ground. We were all laughing hysterically until we saw her pinky finger completely bent at a 90-degree angle. Ouch! She got it put back into place by our trainer and was able to play all the games. She also said it was her fourth pair of sweats that she has ripped. I guess when your legs are six feet long, that stuff happens. On the bus ride back, Leo started singing for us, but it was mainly for Heather O'Reilly, who apparently he had a major 'crush' on. But what red-blooded Chinese boy doesn't have a crush on Heather? We finally tricked him into playing the 'Silent Game,' which we truly enjoyed. After lunch, we went back to the same market, and we got more shoes. I don't care how far you travel you can never have enough shoes. We found out at the market that when Leo is taking a picture, he says 'Smeeal' instead of 'Smile,' which of course makes us laugh and smile even more. We signed many autographs so far and I'm thinking the Chinese might be thinking that we are the full Women's National Team. I know I'm from Connecticut, but do I look like anything like Kristine Lilly? Everyone is fascinated with the fact that I write with my left hand. I am not sure why. That night, we took a tour around the city. Highlights included seeing the tallest building in Shanghai (108 stories) and going through a very long tunnel.

Sunday, March 21
Game day! We played a Shanghai Women's Club team in front of about 600 people. Kelly Wilson, Tasha, Joanna Lohman, and Carli Lloyd scored bringing home the 4-0 victory during a slightly rainy afternoon. Leo lost the bet he had with us. He said that we were going to lose. Sucker! I got to go in as forward fifteen minutes into the second half. I had some good chances, and I thought I played well. A couple of Chinese guys wanted to take a picture with me after the game, so at least I impressed them. After showering and dinner, I watched 'Lili and Stitch' with Jill.

Monday, March 22: Haui'an, China
Big Happening of the Day: Finding out that last night there was a rat in Carli and Keeley's room. I must have been in a deep sleep because I didn't hear their screams as they saw it scurry past them after jumping out of their snack bags. After breakfast we packed the bus using an assembly line to fit most of the bags on the back. The ride took around six hours, not including the good hour that we spent trying to order food and eat. During the rest of the ride, we laughed as Leo pretended he was a boxer. After making a bathroom stop at another 'toilet-hole-in-the-ground' place, we finally arrived. After another assembly line of bags, we took pictures for the many reporters and greeters. We dropped our bags in our rooms, and the first thing we did was try to figure out the telephones and calling cards. Dinner got a 'Yeah, for somewhat normal food.' L.J. Esslinger, our coordinator had a little trouble at dinner though. After splitting her apple into thirds, and then leaving to go talk to a hotel worker, she came back to the table and in a classic case of short-term memory, asked us, apparently under the assumption that she had only cut it in half, 'Okay, who put the extra apple on my plate?' Our mocking voices of that were quite possibly funnier than the fact that she said it. We then had a meeting in Jill and Jo's room about the rest of the trip. Heather O tried to teach us the 'Murder Game' but she struggled with the rules. Eventually everyone got the gist of it; you picked from a deck of cards, and if you got the Joker, over a period of three days you were supposed to secretly flash the card to whomever you wanted to murder' while trying not to let anyone see that you are the murderer! That person who got shown the joker would be 'dead' until we held a 'trial' to figure out who the murderer was. Fortunately I did not get the Joker, but I did however figure out who the killer was. I will leave you in suspense for a couple of days.

Tuesday, March 23
I had chocolate cheerios, toast, and eggs for breakfast. Not bad. We then took a tour of the Memorial Hall; with a statue of their first Prime Minister, replicas of room at his home, and many other sites. I talked with some of our Chinese hosts, Alice, Jon, and Fish (I swear that's the name he gave us). They were a little older than me. Jon was a journalist, and of course as an aspiring writer, I had to talk to him about it. When we walked through the museum we also talked about the Prime Minister and how the Chinese system of Communism works. You see, we just don't go to play soccer, we learn about other cultures too! We had training in the afternoon in front of many college students on a very hard turf field. That night we had a banquet with the mayor and many of her employees. We weren't too sure about the food, but at my table there were Chinese guests that devoured the dishes. LJ and Keeley decided to do karaoke, as one Chinese lady pulled many of us to the dance floor with some Chinese men. We are a wild bunch. Not. I was lucky enough to escape her grasp as I explained to her that I was taking pictures. Then Haley Hunt, Jenny Farenbaugh, and I hid in the back, laughing at the night's amusements.

Wednesday, March 24
After breakfast, we went to this mall near our hotel. My shopping buddy, Jill, didn't go, but I still had Tasha Kai from the beautiful state of Hawaii. (Hopefully, I can visit her for giving her state a free plug on ussoccer.com). I went around with Kacey White, Ali, Fish, Tasha and Jon. I bought some necklaces, bracelets, and DVDs. We weren't really interested in what the mall had to offer, but they wouldn't let us outside at all. When I went to the bathroom, I walked in and saw that there were no stall doors, which was really scary for me (yes, more bathroom issues). At training, there was more drama/comedy, as Haley and Jenny knocked heads pretty hard. Haley suffered a slight shiner, and Jenny had a huge bump on the back of her head. There was another odd moment when I was stretching my hamstrings and Chris called me Keeley because I guess the back of our heads look the same. I told Chris that I really wasn't that tall (Keeley is 5-9 and I am 5-3). At dinner, Jo Lohman, Nicole Barnhart (we call her Barnie), and I put in some serious time trying to figure out the 'Murder Game' killer and the pattern she was taking. We then had the trial in the meeting room. Our guess was right on as Tasha's body language gave it away the whole time. I was almost 100 percent sure it was her before the trial. Let's just say I have really strong criminal instincts. Haley and I went back to our room and I noticed there were two little pink ceramic pigs on our desk. I guess I didn't notice them the first couple of days because I asked her, 'What's up with pigs?' I guess the maids left us pigs eve-ryday and by the end we had a huge collection of small ceramic pigs. Not sure why.

Thursday, March 25
Game day! Everyday we go to the lobby before we go to the field to see what's in the newspaper about us. Today I opened it up to see a picture of me surrounded by an article with only a couple of English words; 'Manya, 19, and Arizona.' Jon told me that he wrote it about me, and of course saying only good things. Since I was always doing schoolwork, he wrote that I was very hardworking and quiet. Why do I always get the hardworking, quiet thing? He also wrote that I had a 'baby face,' that I am going to be a famous writer someday, and that he hopes to see me in the upcoming Women's World Cup that will be held in China in 2007. I was very appreciative that Jon wrote this article about me. When we got to the field, we walked around on it, and noticed that there was sand everywhere, causing the field to be very soft in some places and very hard in others. We had a meeting before lunch to go over the game plan. The stadium was packed with about 6,000 (Kacey and I decided) screaming Chinese fans. We played the U-19 Chinese Team, beating them 2-0 with goals by Tasha and Heather. I got subbed into the game twenty minutes into the second half as forward. I thought I played well creating a couple of chances. Two games, twin wins. Not bad.

Friday, March 26
The players who didn't play that much during the game yesterday went to the field in the morning to do fitness. Ali and I did 200s while Joe Mallia, our other coach, tried to keep up. (He didn't). After breakfast we took a tour of a Chinese garden. Instead of flowers, it had pathways lined with small lakes and rocks. We posed for a lot of pictures along the way. It was heaven for me as I followed Tasha through the rock 'caves.' I must have taken more pictures at the Rock Garden than I did on the entire trip so far. At lunch, Heather O passed out cards again so we could play another round of the 'Murder Game.' I didn't get the Joker again (phew), but I did get a little nervous when I saw that my card was a Jack. As it turns out, that doesn't mean anything. Training was at a different school this time and even more Chinese students watched us. The reporters were having a great time watching us play partner games. Jenny F. beat me at every game, even my favorite, the 'pull-the-arm-of-the-other-person-while-you-are-both-in-push-up-position' game. When we came back from training, there was a big commotion among us because twelve girls had been shown the Joker and were now dead, and there's only supposed to be about four to six people who'd been 'killed.' Obviously the killer must have failed math class, badly. We went to a Brazilian restaurant for dinner. There was more karaoke, Gauchos (Brazilian cowboys) cutting meat onto our plates, and a buffet for us to pick from. Ali ran up to the stage when her song 'When a Hero Comes Along' came on. We sang along with her while sitting at the tables. During the meal, Jill, who goes to UCLA, was sitting next to me. She started coughing really hard and I looked over to see her eyes streaming with tears and her face was bright red. I gave her some water to drink, but it didn't help stem the burning sensation from the very hot Wasabi sauce she ate. Don't they have Sushi in Westwood? You think she would have known. She said it cleared her sinuses though. When we came back to the hotel, Jill, Haley, and I watched a movie after finally getting my DVD player to work on my laptop.

Saturday, March 27
We went shopping this morning at a market-type place. I bought some paintbrushes for my mom because she loves to paint. I also bought a backpack, so I can have something to put all my souvenirs in to take home. We had another banquet at a really nice hotel for lunch. The meal once again featured a vast variety of food, but this time it was more 'lively.' There was one bowl of shrimp looking things in a red creamy sauce. We all looked over at Carli's table when they screamed as they jumped out of their seats. The shrimps were 'jumping' in the bowl. They were still alive, thrashing around in there. No one at my table would eat any, let alone look at them, except one Chinese man who was demolishing the little suckers. Everyone was laughing at me because I am horrible at using chopsticks. I gave up and used my fork. On the way to training after the banquet, Tasha screamed out 'Target!' When I looked out the window of the bus, I saw what looked like the Target store sign, but it was really just a bank. I guess they don't have many Targets in Hawaii. It was so very disappointing, but we laughed it off. At training, we continued the tradition of playing East Coast versus West Coast in the 'Shooting Game.' After you shoot the ball, you become the keeper, and it is just a big cycle like that until one team scores ten goals. Even though I'm a true East Coaster, I am always on the West Coast team due to my college affiliation, and we always lose. We thought our string of bad luck would change after winning the first game in the best-of-three competition. We almost tasted the sweet nectar of victory in the second, but Chris (who was for sure getting paid by the East Coast Team) called back Nandi's winning goal, saying that it was shot from too close. Unfortunately, we lost the third game after losing our momentum from losing the second game (which was Chris' fault). The East Coast Team better be ready for next game. Do you hear that girls? The winds of change are blowing! We ran out of peanut butter at dinner. Bummer. That was quite possibly more upsetting than losing the Shooting Game. There was a wedding going on down in the lobby banquet room, so we went down to take some pictures with the bride and then we had trial for our second 'Murder Game.' We figured out it was Kelly Wilson because she kept asking the same question to the same person, and then telling us, 'Doc was killed yesterday...yesterday, during the massages.' Her excuse for killing so many people: She said that too many people found out that she might have been the killer, so she had to kill them. We then watched a video of the game to conclude our night's meeting.

Sunday, March 28
After breakfast, we walked the game field. The newspaper had pictures of us from the banquet yesterday. I had a lot of trouble packing my bag because I had so much stuff. It was not going to be fun carrying my bags home. Maybe all those weight lifting sessions will come in handy in this situation. I went on the Internet for the first time since the trip, but I had no luck in sending any emails. During our meeting, Chris gave a great motivational speech. We were about to play the sixth ranked team in the world, the full Chinese National Team. Lucky for us, Sun Wen has retired. We ended up winning 2-0 with goals by Carli Lloyd and Tasha Kai. During one corner kick, Tasha went up for a header, but threw the ball into the goal with her hands. After getting a yellow card, Tasha explained to us that it was self-defense and that she would have run into the goal post if she had tried to head it. Another mishap for Tasha happened towards the end of the game. She was on a breakaway, but someone in the crowd had a loud whistle and kept blowing it, so Tasha thought she was offside. She stopped running, and the 'keeper came out and got the ball. The crowd laughed, but we were all very upset. After our last Chinese dinner, Barnie, Jill, Haley, and I played cards and jut hung out.

Monday, March 29: Return to the U.S.
Haley and I woke up at 4:15 a.m. The team loaded the bus with another assembly line and a great packing job by Keeley. The bus ride was long, especially with the almost hour wait at the tollbooth. When we stopped for the bathroom, it was too crowded, so we all went outside, near the bushes. I was never so glad to go to the bathroom in the bushes. It was L.J.'s birthday, so we sang to her on the bus. When we got to the airport, we lined up for our tickets, only to see a fight break out between two Chinese men. We had no idea what they were fighting about, but it was good entertainment. After getting our stamp on our health card, we checked in our bags, and got our tickets. Jill and I stopped at a souvenir store to get some last minute presents (like I needed anymore stuff?). On the flight, I slept and did some work. It was only about ten hours to the USA this time. A little before we were supposed to land, Tasha put on the flight attendant's jacket, and carried around the trash tray asking people for their trash. She was good at it. I guess you fly a lot when you live in Hawaii. When we arrived, we grabbed our bags and went through customs. A bunch of us tried to get on a standby flight home. We had arrived around 9 a.m., and my flight wasn't until 3 p.m., but I was successful in getting on an 11:30 a.m. flight. I was SO happy to be out of the cold and in Arizona. After my future roommate, Ada, picked me up at the airport, and we were straight off to ASU training. The training for a soccer player never ends! I was glad to be back, but it was an unforgettable trip to the Far East. The reality finally kicked in that I was back in the U.S. when I played a game of head volleyball with my Arizona State team. I lost again! Oh well, I guess as long as you win the real games.

Thanks for reading,
Monz

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