CHENGDU, China – Everytime the Canadian women’s soccer team sees something unusual here, they have an expression to cover it.
“The Fragrance Explodes The Cowboy Bone,” they laugh and smile at one another.
At one of the stops on their two tours of this massive country this year, the Canadian team went to dine in a special room where cards were printed and placed beside trays which would soon contain the food they were about to experience.
Team manager Les Meszaros took pictures of every single display card and the translation attempts:
“We were walking down a street one day and they were selling scorpion-on-a stick. There were selling snake-on-a- stick. And worms. It was so disgusting,” said star striker Christine Sinclair.
Amy Walsh, when she came here this trip, brought the world’s largest jar of peanut butter which she hauls down to breakfast, lunch and dinner with her every day.
“Kara Lang and I are vegans. No animal products at all,” she explains. No ‘The Fragrance Explodes The Cowboy Bone’ for them.
“I brought one bag for my clothes and one bag for my special food stash.” China is an experience, an adventure and an education that more than 300 Canadian athletes will have here in less than 11 months at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The Canadian women’s soccer team, with a two-game trip here earlier in the year and the current FIFA Women’s World Cup, have become old China hands.
They’ve become the one group of Canadian athletes with more experiences of dealing with the dramatic cultural change as China celebrates it’s coming out party to the modern world with the Bejing Olympics.
It’s been an adventure.
Sinclair said there are adjustments here like nowhere else she’s ever been and she has played over 100 international games in about three dozen countries.
“It’s a completely different culture,” said the team captain who also came with the team here back in 2004.
“There are so many people. That’s the first thing. Just the sheer number of people,” she said of this nation of 1.3 billion.
“There are so many poor people in each and every city but the cities in this World Cup have been amazing.
“And the pollution. It’s bad. The bigger the city the worse it is.” And despite the food, the population, the pollution and everything, Sinclair said it’s been unbelievable.
“Most of our players have been to the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and going to see the giant pandas here was just amazing,” said Sinclair.
“I’ve never seen them in my life before. We got to see one born in July in an incubator. He was just so cute ...”
Not all of the players saw the Forbidden City.
“When they went to see it, the Forbidden City was forbidden,” said Marnie McBean, the former Olympic gold medal winning rower who has been over here for the Canadian Olympic Committee helping Canadian athletes adjust.
“By the time they got to the Forbidden City, they found it was closed... One of them broke me up. She said ‘That’s why they call it the Forbidden City.’”
Mostly the team has been wowed with their Chinese experience, especially with the organization and the way they’ve been treated in this event, the one China chose as the main warm-up for welcoming the world.
“The way we’ve been treated since we’ve arrived has been outstanding,” said Randee Hermus. “Everything has been so well planned out. There have been very few distractions.”
Sinclair hopes, for the obvious reasons, that the team qualifies to get back here for the Olympics. But having had this experience, there’s the added element of wanting to experience that “I think China is going to do a great job.”
And you can never get enough of that ‘Fragrance Explodes The Cowboy Bone.’