I love the expat life. I love the job...I love the cultural experiences we endure and learn from. I love the food...the weather. I don't love the crowds, nor the pollution. Every now and then you are surprised with the life that it brings you, like coming home and finding the neighborhood kids (Dutch, Danish, French, Filipino, American, Australian) in front of the house playing a hearty game of road hockey.
But there are challenges, and trying to follow my favorite team from 5,000 miles away has been an ongoing challenge for me the past 5 years. Here is a list of some of the challenges and triumphs that I find and use to get my addiction of Canuck hockey fed...
1. Time differences. It's 15 hours difference from China to the west coast of North America. But, instead of trying to do the math, I just subtract 3 hours from the clock and think of it as the opposite time of day, yesterday, back home. So, game time at 4pm for you on Sunday, is 7am on Monday morning.
2. Work can get in the way. When the Canucks play in GM Place, games start at 10 or 11 am here...making it difficult to concentrate on earning a living. When it does get in the way...this comes in handy...
3. Mobile Phone. Ahhh...the internet scoreboards. I've got the Canucks mobile site, TSN's mobile site and Yahoo's NHL mobile site bookmarked on my phone for instant score action. I can remember 2 years ago refreshing and refreshing my phone for hours during game 1 against the Stars...only to yelp YES! when the Canucks finally put one away to win it.
4. Team1040. Ahhh...thank god for the good people at Team 1040, not only for streaming the games, but posting podcast files of each period's call...as well as podcasts of their daily shows. I faithfully listen to Rick Ball and I get as much information I can out of those podcasts as anything.
5. Streaming. Yeah, there are some sites out there that stream the games live. Brutal for me, for the most part. China isn't known as a 'free' society and the Internet is tightly controlled. As such, everything flows through filters and servers that ensure only the 'good' stuff flows through. For instance, right now, YouTube is blocked here in China. As a result of the extra censorship, bandwidth is brutal. In addition, entire housing blocks and compounds are linked together with one line, with thousands of users on it. As the day progresses, bandwidth slows to a crawl. Game 2 was the first game that I was able to watch for an extended period of time...about half of it on a very grainy, jumpy picture. Reminded me of the old black and white TV's back in the day.
6. Friends. Gotta have friends and I have some pretty damn good ones that record and send me games when they can. Yeah, it takes a couple days to get them, but they are usually worth the wait (especially in HD). I've got a couple buddies here that have tried Slingbox too...but the afore mentioned bandwidth issues cause so many problems, its difficult to use here.
7. The web. In the old days, it was just NHL.com and Yahoo to keep me up to date...then I discovered Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed (now Canucks and Beyond) and began to build that database of blogs that I could access (Blogspot was blocked here for the longest time too).
8. Early drinking. Ahhh...it's terrible. Ever had a beer at 9am? It can be mighty tasty if the Canucks are winning after 2 periods.
9. Evening headache. But, it usually causes problems around dinnertime.
In short...just take some time to remember the folk all around the world that are dying to see, listen or just get a score update of Canuck games this playoff season. When you are sat on your sofa flipping from Center Ice to Versus to CBC...remember there are always alternatives. It can take some work...but if you love your team enough, it's more than worth it.
Hell, you never know...you can follow a team without really experiencing them from a distance, and still come up with observations like this and make yourself look pretty f*ing smart.