Editor’s Note: A rising junior on the basketball team, Beal was selected to play on the Reach Sports USA Basketball Tour this summer in China. Unfortunately, the team’s tour was limited to just five games because of the effects of the tragic earthquake that struck China on May 12. Below, Beal recalls his experience in China with “Commodore Nation.”
This summer I had the privilege of traveling to China with the Reach Sports USA Summer Basketball Tour. Little did I know the trip would turn out much different than anyone would have expected.
As I was en route to the airport to fly to China on the morning of May 12th, my mom and I were listening to the radio and heard that an earthquake had hit China. In disbelief, we both looked at each other with a look of concern. I was a little nervous at first, but I didn’t think much of it after I got in the air. I felt that I would be ok since the team was going to be in Beijing, away from the earthquake, but I knew I would be in for a life-changing experience. The flight was long with plenty of turbulence, and after 16 hours of flying, we finally landed in Beijing.
Playing with teammates from the SEC, Big Ten, MAC and Missouri Valley Conferences, our team traveled to several cities that took two or three hours to get to for our games.
One night before a game in Xian, a teammate told me there was another earthquake. He said he felt it in his sleep. I didn’t believe him because I was asleep and didn’t feel anything. However, when we reached Xian, all the people in the city were outside. At first, I thought that it was the culture of the city or that a major event was going on. I later learned they were expecting an earthquake or an aftershock from the big earthquake. I didn’t know that earthquakes had warnings, but I took the warning seriously when I heard the people on my floor saying we needed to leave the hotel. At the same time, I thought there is only so much you can do for an earthquake, and that was the scary part.
Seven days after the earthquake on May 12, the country declared a state of mourning. There could be no entertainment for three days. Before the time of mourning, we were able to play five games in all. Our last two games were canceled. After the cancellation, I called my parents to let them know what was going on and that the rest of the tour had been canceled. After talking with my parents, I asked my coach if he could get me a flight back earlier because I just didn’t feel comfortable being in China.
Although it was cut shorter than expected, my visit to China is filled with lasting memories, happy and sad. One thing that I always will remember is the overall feeling of the country when I was there. The whole country was “down and out” much like we were with 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina.
Despite being in China during a difficult time, I still had an experience that will last me a lifetime. The people in China were very nice and always willing to help even though I couldn’t speak their language. I often used hand signals to communicate. I like old Kung Fu movies so I had hoped to see some Shaolin Monks—but I didn’t get to see any. However, one thing I did get to see was the Great Wall of China. It was the most memorable of my experiences, and it was absolutely amazing!