Greetings from mainland China. A 20-hour airplane journey ended about 8 a.m. (EDT) in perhaps the shortest trip through customs I could imagine.
China loves the NBA, particularly when Asian-American Jeremy Lin is part of the traveling party. The Charlotte Hornets brought more than 100 personnel with them on the charter flight, and it took next to no time to clear customs.
They looked at our passports, saw we were with the NBA and nodded us on with a smile. No questions, no searches, but a whole lot of phone cameras.
Needless to say, Hornets guard Lin – whose parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan and whose grandparents grew up in the mainland – was the star of the show. Jeremy was gracious as various customs workers and regular folk tugged at his elbow for one more selfie about 30 times. He’s used to this, having visited China many times for promotional tours.
This will be the first time Lin has played professionally in China when the Hornets play exhibitions in Shenzhen and Shanghai against the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s almost 11 p.m. Thursday night locally as I write this. The Hornets will practice tomorrow, but Friday will be a relatively quiet appearance schedule as the teams and other staff catch up through jet lag.
Couple of quick observations of my first few hours in China:
▪ Shenzhen is such a modern, clean city with great infrastructure (perfectly paved highways, no signs of trash anywhere I saw). I was surprised that almost all the highway signs had English subtitles below the Chinese characters.
▪ I’d been warned to be wary as a pedestrian of the aggressive drivers. Our bus driver was one. We never felt in danger, but the man was constantly weaving from lane to lane. Some of us chuckled when he did a U-turn in a busy intersection. He pulled off the move, but that wasn’t something you’d see in Charlotte.