Krystal's Overseas Blog

Krystal Thomas, the WNBA's fifth-leading rebounder in 2012, is currently playing in China during the WNBA's off-season. Several times each month, Thomas will update us on the challenges of living overseas and the differences between cultures. Be sure to send Thomas any questions or comments by following her on Twitter.

Posted by Krystal Thomas: Jan. 25, 2013

"Chinese Cuisine"

Hey Fans!!

I hope that everyone is doing well! My season here in China has come to an end. We lost a best of three series to Maya Moores team, Shanxi, in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

As I get ready to head back to the States, I wanted to give you a little insight on what eating has been like here in China. Before you read any further, I warn you that what you read is not for the faint of heart.

Or, stomach.

Reader discretion is advised!

First, I will talk about what is eaten here in China. I can sum it up in one word: EVERYTHING! When it comes to what gets put on the table and consumed by the eater, anything goes. Literally from head to toe, every part of every animal is fair game to be chopped, seasoned, and served at the table.

If its walking and has two or four legs, it will get eaten  from the normal cows and pigs, to exotic animals such as monkeys. When you walk down the street, there are even shops on the side of the road that solely sell every part of a duck, from head to toe, inside and out. I would joke with my teammates and tell them that they would hands down win the eating part of a Fear Factor competition without a problem.

I usually ate with my head down and tried not to look at some of the dishes because the crazier it looked, the crazier part of an animal it was. The worst thing I encountered was what my translator called a spawned egg. Basically, it was a chicken egg that had started to develop into a baby chicken. Midway through the growth process, they picked these eggs, boiled them, and served them. Needless to say, I had to leave the table when I saw these eggs being opened!

What I found most interesting was that cheese is almost non-existent here. The only time I ate cheese was if I went to Pizza Hut or McDonalds and had it on pizza or a burger. American-Chinese cuisine is nothing like authentic Chinese cuisine, to say the least.

Now, I will tell you how food is eaten. Im a bit of a germaphobe, so I think this process grossed me out more than the food they put on the table. A typical dinner table seats about 10-12 people. In front of you is a pair of chopsticks, a plate the size of an American plate used for bread, a small spoon, and an incredibly small bowl. In the center of the table is a large, spinning-glass surface. On the surface, the waiters bring out a variety of dishes and place them on there.

From this point on, its pretty much a free for all.

Everyone sticks their chopsticks in these main dishes, and eats directly out of them. The plates were used just to put any unwanted things on them. I couldnt stomach eating out of the same dish as 10 other people, so I would grab the dish first, pile a bunch of the food on my tiny plate, and then leave the rest to everyone else.

There really isnt much etiquette that occurs at the table. There is a lot of spitting, slurping, and smacking that goes on. Because there are no forks and knives, whole pieces of an object get placed in ones mouth, and the unwanted pieces get spit back onto the tiny plate. Sometimes I thought that it was a race to finish eating first because it seemed like those around me inhaled their food instead of chewing it. I tried to come late or wait until every finished eating so that I could eat my food in a much more peaceful manner. When it came to eating, I would definitely pull the Im an American card to try to keep things as sane as possible.

Well, I hope after reading this you still have an appetite for your next meals! And even though it was very different than Im used to, it really is just a difference in cultures. As you know, everything is relative.

Im sure they think some of the stuff we eat as Americans is gross, too!

See you all very soon!

- Krystal

Posted by Krystal Thomas: Dec. 20, 2012

"Giving Back"

Hey, Everyone!

I cant believe how quickly time is flying by.

Were in the middle of the holiday season, Christmas is days away, and the New Year is right around the corner.

Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. From giving and opening gifts, spending time with family, and making family traditions it is just a special time of year.

My favorite family tradition was when we got together to drive around and look at Christmas lights in various neighborhoods throughout Orlando. We would all pile into our family van, grab Slurpees from 7-11 (since its hot enough to drink them in Florida any time of year) and drive around looking at the lights. It was a great time for my family to spend time together and share memories.

This will be my first Christmas that I will be spending away from home. While I admit Im a bit saddened that I wont get to spend this special time with my family, it gives me the opportunity to reflect on why I enjoy this holiday so much.

It is such a refreshing holiday, and there are two reasons why it is my favorite. The first, as I mentioned before, is spending time with my loved ones.

The second (and probably the most important) reason why I love Christmas is because it provides an enhanced opportunity to give back to others. For many, the holiday season is a great time of year because they are able to spend the holidays under a warm roof with the people they love, and exchange gifts with one another.

For others, the holidays arent as simple.

There are many individuals who do not have the means to open gifts or spend the holidays under comfortable conditions. That is why it is so important to take the time to actively give back during this time of year. Whether it is a small donation or a big gift, any form of giving back can change the life of someone else. I know from first hand experience during the holidays how impactful it can be to have someone lend a hand to help make this holiday special.

So, while you are spending time with your families and enjoying the comfort of one another, remember to give back to others who dont quite have as much. Especially considering the recent violence in the U.S., it becomes even more important to spread love, hope and happiness.

Whether it is large or small, any little bit of giving can make a big difference. And it always feels good to put a smile on someone elses face.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

- Krystal

Posted by Krystal Thomas: Nov. 20, 2012

"What I Am Thankful For"

In lieu of spending Thanksgiving halfway around the world this year, I figure there is no better way to honor the holiday than by highlighting a few of the things that I am thankful for.

Side note: In forming this list I realized that I could go on and on for days, but here are a few of the things that I am most thankful for in my life.

1. Jesus Christ: I would be absolutely nowhere if it wasn't for the grace He has shown me each and every day. He has blessed me with many remarkable opportunities, and I am eternally grateful for His love.

2. My Mother, Natalie: She passed away when I was 16-years-old, but they were the 16 greatest years of my life. She instilled so much in me that words cannot describe. The perseverance and drive she exhibited during her life was remarkable.

3. My Sisters and Brother: I've called them peanuts ever since I can remember. They have stuck by me through thick and thin and I wouldn't trade them for anything. They truly make me proud to be their big sister. Loren, Erika, Vic, and Kelli: I love you guys more than anything!!

4. My Father, Victor: My father has faced many trials in his life. Seeing him endure them, and make the changes in his life to rise above and be the father that he is today is astonishing.

5. The Deluzio Family: The family whom I call my "earthly angels." They stepped in and helped my family during a critical time in my life. Their willingness to sacrifice and put others before themselves is truly inspiring.

6. My Grandmother: She is the living definition of a trooper. She has endured so much over her 84 years of life and continues to battle each and every day.

7. My Friends: For all of my friends, past, present and future. I appreciate the love and the care that you have shown me. The adoration that each of you have displayed has made me a better person.

8. The First Academy and First Baptist Church of Orlando: The school and church that I attended since I was in Kindergarten. The teachers, staff, and pastors that surrounded me for my tenure there were more than just faculty. They took the time to invest in me as a person and mold me into who I am today.

9. Duke University: My dream college since I was five-years-old. My fours years of college there allowed me to experience a once-in-a-lifetime collegiate basketball career, and earn a prestigious degree.

10. The Mercury Organization: For taking a chance on me in the WNBA, and helping mold my professional career into what it is today. This organization and the people within it are outstanding, and I am so fortunate to be a part of it!

11. Being an American: After traveling all around the world, I am so proud to be an American. The liberties, freedoms, and opportunities we have within our country are without equal.

12. Basketball: I am thankful to have a career in the sport that I love, and for all the places that it has taken me.

13. The Little Things: Living in different countries as a professional basketball player, you really start to appreciate how great the "little things are in life.

I hope that each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving during this holiday season. Enjoy this special time of being around family, friends, and loved ones!

- Krystal

Posted by Krystal Thomas: Nov. 8, 2012

Hey, X-Factor!

Time is flying by faster than ever.

I cannot believe we are more than a week into November already. It seems as if 2012 just started! As I mentioned in my previous blog, I am going to explain in greater detail the place I currently call home here in China.

The official title of the place I live is called the Jiangsu Sports Bureau Training Center. This center houses athletes of all ages, both men and women, for all professional sports that are competed within the Jiangsu Province in China.

When I first pulled through the gates of the Center, I felt like I was back at Duke. It reminded me so much of a college campus that I immediately had flashbacks of my college days. There are signs pointing towards the cafeteria, and sports fields all around us. The housing is off to one side and the administration offices are off to the other. Even more nostalgic, the housing area is built just like dorm rooms on a college campus  complete with a campus store and other amenities.

Because I immediately connected this training center with my college years, I mistakenly assumed that the athletes came here for the duration of their season and then returned to their respective homes.

I quickly learned that my assumptions were very wrong.

During every Olympics, we typically hear the story of a young Chinese child, say around ten-years-old, who left home to devote themselves to their sport and prepare for their competitions. Well, living in the training center, I became a first-hand witness of these stories on a daily basis.

Here, if a child has the slightest ability to play a sport, they are encouraged to devote the rest of their lives to the sport. This means leaving home and living in a training center 365 days of the year. Amazingly, this decision is made as young as ten-years-old. So, when I walk around the training center, I always come across these young children who have already chosen their future of being a professional athlete.

Once a child makes this choice, it is not easily reversed (if at all). They do not have the option of changing their sport, attending school or getting a regular job. From the age of ten to the age they choose to retire (which, on average, is about 15 years later) they eat, sleep and breathe their sport. Their No. 1 goal is to win a championship or gold medal in their given sport because it will aid them in attaining a prosperous job after retirement.

The daily schedule at the training center is as follows: Eat breakfast from 7-8:00 a.m., train for three hours, eat lunch from 11-12:00 p.m., take a quick rest, train for another three hours, eat dinner from 6-7:00 p.m., shower and sleep. Then, wake up the next day and do it all over again.

Though it is obviously different than our American culture, neither is better or greater than the other  just different. I know when I was that age, I was most worried about having the most up-to-date clothes, the boy I had a crush on or figuring out a way to somehow get the newest gadget that came out. Devoting my entire life to a sport was the last thing that was on my mind.

Knowing the way I grew up, I cant help but think of how these childrens childhood experiences are missed out on because they are fully immersed in the sport that they choose. Its definitely something worthy of respect, the discipline and dedication they make to their sport so early on.

Living in the training center has truly opened my eyes into a new way of life. And it has especially made me grateful of the culture I grew up in, and even more appreciative of being an American!

- Krystal

Posted by Krystal Thomas: Oct. 29, 2012

Hi, Mercury Fans!!

It feels so great to be saying hello to you all, even though I am not in Phoenix. The season ended much sooner than anyone intended, but I know I can speak for each and every one of my teammates in that we will do everything we possibly can to change that next season.

I am also very excited to let you know that I will be continuing to blog all the way from China! This offseason I am playing for the Jiangsu Phoenix in China. My goal is to give the X-Factor a look at what it is like to play basketball overseas in the off-season.

As you all know, as soon as the WNBA season ends, we shuffle exit meetings, physicals, packing, and saying our goodbyes in less than 48 hours, and then head off to our respective homes. On average, we get about 10 days before we have to report overseas. I was fortunate enough to get three weeks at home before I had to leave for China.

The thing that I was looking forward to the least in traveling to China was the actual trip. It involved a five-hour flight from Orlando to L.A., a 14-hour flight from L.A. to Shanghai, and then a four-hour drive from Shanghai to the my teams city, Nanjing. Thankfully, I was able to fly business class for the entire trip, so it was much more bearable.

The most exciting part was when my captain announced, on our way to L.A., that we were flying over Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. I secretly wanted to parachute down, say hello to everyone, and then shoot back up to the plane.well at least in my dreams

I had mixed expectations of what my experience would be like living in China. Ive heard many people love the experience, and some dislike the experience; I was very curious as to what end of the spectrum my experience would fall in. Im happy to report that I have been in China for 10 days now, and so far I have really enjoyed everything about it.

My home is located at a training center in Jiangsu Province, the province that my team is located in. Athletes of all sports from come and train at this facility. I will explain in detail more about this training center in another blog, but I currently eat, sleep, and practice at this facility. It is their version of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I will play my home games in another city within the Jiangsu Province.

It has only been 10 days and I have so much to share as it is, so as the weeks continue I know I will experience more and more to share. I expect to talk about everything from food experiences to air pollution! For my first post, I just wanted to give you a short introduction as to what has occurred thus far, and a small peek as to whats to come.

So, stay tuned for whats next!

Go Mercury!

- Krystal