Around The Yard: Henry Welsh

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Henry Welsh
November 28, 2016

It is amazing how many places the game of basketball can take you. My older brother, a junior on the basketball team at UCLA, has been to the Bahamas, Hawaii, Greece, and Australia for various tournaments and basketball games. He relishes in the opportunity to see the world while also doing something he loves. For the first time, I had a similar experience when our basketball team here at Harvard took a weeklong trip to China to play a game against Stanford.

Many have asked my teammates and me, “Why go all the way to China simply to play Stanford?” The simple answer is that the PAC-12 (the conference in which Stanford competes) has a global marketing initiative that sends a PAC-12 team and a guest on this China trip every year for a game, but to me, it was so much more than that.

Prior to our team trip, I had never left the country, so I knew little of what to expect abroad. We landed in Shanghai and then took a bus to Hangzhou, where we spent the first portion of our trip. The infrastructure throughout the parts of the country that we were able to see was very impressive: clean streets, efficient highways and railroad systems, and effective public transportation all contribute to allowing the country to run smoothly with about 1.3 billion people. One of the things that struck me the most was how “green” Hangzhou was; I was expecting a very developed city with little greenery, but its gardens and forestry fostered a sense of tranquility that I was not anticipating.

While basketball was the focal point of our excursion, we were lucky to have the chance to experience China in a variety of ways. On our first day, we visited the campus of Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce corporation and got a feel for how they are able to maintain a smooth operation despite the company’s vastness. On top of that, we were able to meet and interact with two of the company’s most tenured and successful employees. With China quickly growing to be the world’s most productive economy, it was fascinating to see how a giant like Alibaba contributes commercially while also setting an example in seeking to protect the environment.

Before leaving Hangzhou on the bullet train, we made a trip to two of its most renowned temples. First was the Lingyin temple, one of China’s largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples. A walk up a lush hill with streams and bas relief sculptures lining the path allows the individual to center himself or herself before entering the sacred space. It seemed like it would be a great chance to slow down and appreciate our surroundings, but our tour guide quickly raced us through. Our next stop that day was a memorial temple to General Yue Fei, a successful military leader of the Song dynasty. In a display comparable to the Lincoln Memorial, Yue Fei is immortalized in a beautiful temple.

After arriving in Shanghai for the remainder of the trip, we were settling in to the jet lag and the pull from our weekly routines. While many of our teammates enjoyed a day visiting museums and touring Shanghai, five of my six fellow freshmen on the team stayed behind to study for our EC10 midterm, which we would take the next night, but not until we enjoyed a very fun day at the recently-opened Disney Shanghai, where we spent the day Thursday! After the phenomenal day Thursday and the test, our trip’s focus turned entirely to basketball as we held one final practice at the arena on Friday before Saturday’s game.

While the outcome of the game, which we lost 80-70, may not have been what we had worked for nor hoped for, the trip was nonetheless extremely enriching and full of learning experiences both on and off the court. I am incredibly grateful to have been given such a wonderful opportunity, and I will surely remember all the good times I shared with my teammates for a long, long time.