Summertime is the perfect time for a road trip, and this year the Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders decided to go BIG, crossing the globe to Taiwan to perform as part of "NBA MADNESS". A total of six girls made the trip, and they took plenty of pictures and wrote journals to give fans a behind the scenes look at their time in Taiwan.
Bright and early at 5:30 a.m. it was time to say tzai jian (good-bye) to Taipei, Taiwan. Although we miss our friends and family in the states and are purely exhausted from the intense daily schedule, we were all still very sad to have to leave. It came and went so fast. We turned in our room keys, loaded the bus and started the 45 minute drive to the airport. We all were a little more quite then normal, gazing out the window, taking the last few pictures and trying to take our last memories of Taipei.
We arrive to the airport and that's where we said our final good byes to Miss Duo Duo, our amazing host from the NBA who got us everywhere we needed to be each day. It was like she became our 7th teammate on the trip. That's when it really hit us that this was it. We gave Duo Duo a hug and said our sad goodbyes.
After checking our luggage (that weighed an extra 10 plus pounds after our tripe), it was time to focus on the exciting 23 hours that it will take to get us back to Atlanta. Suddenly we realize that we all had Taiwanese money and needed to exchange it…OR we could do the next best thing and just find a store in the airport and spend it. As if we didn't do enough shopping at the markets, we decided that it seemed like the easiest and best thing to do. Of course we all found things WE HAD TO HAVE like key chains, picture frames, chop sticks that said Taiwan on them. You know, fun little keep sakes.
After our little shopping spree we headed to the gate where it all hit us at once. This is going to be the longest trip back to Atlanta EVER. First destination, Tokyo. We were on one of the biggest planes I have ever seen in my life, A HUGE double decker plane. Nikki was very excited about this, she's "always wanted to fly on a plane with an up stairs" she said in her hyper voice haha. It only took 3 hours… so a quick nap, few bags of pretzels, and a movie later we arrived in Tokyo-Narita. After an hour layover, it was on to the next plane.
This ten hour flight to LA was not one we were at all happy about. After lots of naps, many stretch breaks down the aisle, several movies and miles of conversation and laughter we finally made it to LA! The first thing after getting our luggage and rechecking it, we were starving and decided that a good ole American McDonalds meal would do the trick. That was successful!
Now for the home stretch Only 4 more hours to go then it was “hello ATL.” It felt like the longest four hours of our life. I knew we were done the last hour when my coach, teammates and I were just laughing at the silliest things. We were completely delirious and worn out. Nonetheless, we made it safe and sound back on the ground in Atlanta. A total of 23 hours it took us to travel back to the states. A complete 12 hour time zone difference, it will take us the next few days to get back to normal.
I have to say, although it took us an entire day to travel half way across the world, I feel I can speak for my teammates and coach when I say it was worth every mile and we would do it again in a second. We all got our luggage, gave our hugs and said our goodbyes (even though it won’t be goodbye for long –we have our retreat this weekend)! I must say that this journey opened my eyes to so many new things. I will never forget the unique culture, food, fashions, and how the Taiwanese simply greeted us with open arms and warmth. We are so grateful towards the NBA for putting together a unique experience and giving us the opportunity to do perform and meet everyone in Taipei. Not only did we make new memories, I feel as a team, we were brought closer together through this experience. That is priceless!
It is an exciting experience to take into the upcoming season. For that and everything else I am very grateful to the Atlanta Hawks for choosing myself and teammates Nikki M, Zakiya, Denisse, Jessica H, and Kristen L. to represent this great organization. I am even more thankful to our coach Donni Frazier for being not only our coach but our friend in life. The trip wouldn't have been the same with out her. What an amazing once in a lifetime journey that I got to share with such special women. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that this trip has changed our life.
Xie Xie (Thank you ) Taiwan and everyone who made this outstanding trip possible and one to never forget.
GO HAWKS! - Stephanie
Today was our last full day in Taipei, Taiwan! This entire journey has been amazing, and like the previous days, we had a crazy schedule today. We started by feeding our stomachs with a five-star breakfast from the hotel's enormous morning cafe, and also conversed with some passionate locals. Last night's "Night Market" had left us with another hunger for more of the Taiwan culture to bring home with us. That's why the Taipei "Jade Market" was our first stop this morning!
Upon walking into the Jade Market you can immediately tell that the stars of the show are the authentic individual Taiwan Jade jewelry pieces. The market tables manned by individual sellers continued as far as the eye could see and though I thought I was nearing the end with every step I was continuously proved wrong. Jessica found a great jade heart shaped piece and the rest of us found many other great finds from both markets. Tea pots, hand-painted fans, necklaces, carved tiger-wood bracelets, hair sticks, bags, clothing, key chains, earrings, and some items we had never seen before. My personal favorite buy was a lipstick carrier with a flip up mirror (for my Hawks red lipstick of course)!
After all of this tiresome shopping we still had a show to put on at the NBA 2011 Youth Madness Championship being held at National Taiwan University. We had performed two different dances a day since our arrival and today was no exception! We were not the only show however, our coach, Donni Frazier, also served as a judge for the dance competition that had narrowed down the top 4 dance teams in Taiwan as they competed to be named number one; winning one-hundred thousand Taiwan dollars.
The university, fans, and youth teams all welcomed us with incredible excitement! It happened to be the only rainy day we saw in Taiwan but that didn't stop the hundreds of fans from coming to support the NBA along with their local youth basketball teams. As we prepared to perform inside the university sports center I felt like I was at home in the Highlight Factory! The crowd was cheering, the lights were low, and we had a full court to leave our hearts and hard work on! Without missing a beat, your Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders got the championship started and we couldn't have been more honored to be representing the organization half-way around the globe in beautiful Taipei, Taiwan! - Kristen
Hello everyone! So far this has been a great exciting journey and I'm getting pretty sad that is all about to end in a couple of days. My day started today at 5:30am with a hard workout and following a delicious breakfast with some of my teammates. We got dressed and went straight to practice to get ready for our performances for that day.
We where pretty excited because they where taking us to the Jade market to do last minute shopping for friends and loved ones... and you all know us ladies love to shop! We found cool authentic stuff like jade stone (in Spanish "piedra de ijada") bracelets/necklaces which in the Chinese culture the jade means "The stone of wisdom and prosperity" also the Jade is said to change colors depending on the mood of its owner. When he or she is down or depressed the jade might be a darker shade. If fortune is good, the stone might be of a lighter tint. It is also believed that when a jade piece cracks or breaks, it has shielded its holder from an evil and harmful event! We also got Buddha statues and teapot sets, Oh my goodness we spent a milllliiiiooonnn dollars :) Just kidding!
Afterwards we went straight to the NBA MADNESS event, we where greeted by fans and dancers! We had a small break before performing so we practiced a little bit more and had some bonding time. It was very exciting because after we got the chance to perform we found out that we where going to be special guest at their dance competition. Theywere amazing!!! Great energy and technique! They were all 10's in our book!
The event came to an end and we where all very sad to say goodbye but happy because we had so much fun and met some great people. We went back to the hotel, and had some team bonding time and ate dinner. Went to our rooms and started to pack for our long flight the next morning. This has been a great and exciting journey; the girls and I feel so blessed to have an opportunity like this. - Denisse
We just finished our second full day here in Taiwan, and trust me... .it's been a FULL day! My morning began at 5am when my body decided it was finished napping, because that is exactly what I felt like I was doing every night... .taking a nap. Being so used to Eastern Standard Time my internal clock felt like it was 5pm... so why was I still asleep!!! I have to get up and get ready for Hawks practice right?!?! So after staring at the ceiling for a bit I decided to take advantage of the amazing workout facility in our beautiful hotel. Not too long after arriving; in walk two of my teammates, first Kristen then Denisse. I suppose they couldn't sleep either so why not workout when you're bored... I mean "Wow I have responsible teammates... they must have set their clocks early so they could get a good workout in before our day got started ;) (Brownie points Quick Fitness Solutions??? Probably not.)
After our invigorating workout... we stopped by the restaurant for breakfast. I have to admit being a raw vegan (Google it), I was pretty nervous about starving in Taiwan, but I was pleasantly surprised! The variety of fresh fruits, veggies, and juices was amazing. Most of the produce there is grown very clean without the use of chemicals, and boy can you taste the difference. I didn't even need dressing on my salads!
After getting all freshened up and ready for the day coach Donni had all of us meet for a quick run through of our dances for the day. We needed to make a few small changes, but hey no sweat... we're professionals.
Once our tour bus arrived... (oh yes America, we had a celebrity tour bus) we headed to a monument for former President Chiang Kai-shek also known as CKS. He was a very influential political and military leader of 20th century China, and played an integral role in Taiwan's secession to become an independent nation. After his death in 1975 a month of mourning was declared, and soon after that the executive branch of Taiwan's government established an entire funeral committee to build his memorial! When architect Yang Cho-cheng was designing this masterpiece he incorporated many elements of traditional Chinese architecture. The memorial began being built in 1976, and was completed on April 5th of the year 1980... (it was April 4th here in the states). Since then, the CKS memorial has become a heavily visited site in Taipei, Taiwan... and I can see why. The memorial is absolutely stunning!!! Once I stepped foot on the premises I didn't even want to blink (that will come up a little later... just keep reading). As I walked in I could feel the strong Chinese influence in the massive buildings. And apparently, so could everyone else. Surprisingly, many of the people visiting the monument were citizens of Taiwan who had probably seen the structure a time or two, but who couldn't resist frequenting a place of such beauty... .not to mention they have a concert hall there where many major concerts are held. As we approached the main memorial hall we slowly looked upward and realized that 4 long flights of stairs stood in front of us, and then we slowly looked around waiting for an elevator (or at least and escalator) to appear. But to our American eyes... .no luck. After looking around at each other in desperation our quest for knowledge and truth began to revel up in our spirits as our legs took us one step at a time out of the valley of despair. Then two steps at a time, and before you know it we were halfway there! Soon after we were jogging (slowly). And finally we had conquered this mountain. Was it worth it? Absolutely! The first thing I noticed was the huge statue dedicated to CKS. It stood there still and powerful. Its presence seemed to lure you into a place of serenity, reflection, and admiration all simultaneously. That's when I truly fell in love with Taiwan. After that, my attention was taken away by a very amusing site. Two wax figure soldiers stood life like in front of the monument to keep watch over this sacred place... how cute. Wow, they look so real. Madame Tussauds wax museum ain't got nothing on these guys! Wait... .wait one minute... no, they can't be... ..no way... .are they?!?!?! They are real!!!! They are real people! I couldn't believe it! I stared at them waiting for movement, but still none. Now, back to the blinking comment. These men are not allowed to blink... not allowed. Talk about serious muscle control. Ok, moving right along. After a quick stroll through the museum taking a peak into the rich history of the former President's life we hurried back up for a special treat (as an fyi we found an elevator... of course). The changing of the guards. They performed a 12 minute extravaganza where two new guards were lead in, and completed a series of drills, then took the place of their colleagues. Of course leave it to my bff Denisse to yell out "Oooh, I saw one of them blink... .one of them just blinked!" "Shut up D... .he's gonna get fired!" "Oh... oops." Poor guy, maybe he can generate some income by starting and online business... (sigh). After this took place we started to leave when we realized that Kristen and Jessica were taking a picture with a real live monk! Why didn't they come and get us??? So selfish lol. But that's ok; he took a picture with Me, Denisse, Nikki, and Stephanie too! He seemed super nervous, but we all thought that was super cute. After that our time at the monument was complete. Part 1 of our long 4 part day was over... back to the hotel to freshen up, and get ready for our first day of NBA Madness.
The bus ride to the madness was fairly quick. Once we arrived we realized that we weren't going to have the luxury of becoming acquainted with our performance space before we danced. To a dancer... that's like a dreaded blind date... you have no idea what you're getting yourself into so you just go for it. And that's exactly what we did! The stage was slightly smaller than we anticipated, a little shaky, and carpeted, but Donni had us so well prepared that none of that mattered. We did great! After we performed we all introduced ourselves to the fans, and NBA Hall of Famer Robert Parrish joined us onstage to introduce himself. Everyone loved us! After some successful media interviews (everyone was so eloquent and cute with their answers to the media... .hmmmm I think, sometimes the translations seemed a bit sketchy. Like Nikki may answer a question with a simple "I'm having a great time" type of answer and her translation would take 2 minutes, but then pageant princess Kristen would answer a question with a long detailed answer that ended in the cure of world hunger and homelessness and the translation would be one word... then people would laugh. Whatever, I'm sure he was just summarizing for time sake... .possibly... ) Our time at madness ended with lots of pictures and autographs. Part 2... .done. BOOM! On to our next adventure... Taipei 101.
I have never seen a building so tall! Taipei 101 stands as the 2nd tallest functional building in the world! It towers at an amazing 1,671 feet tall. From the top you can see a breathtaking view of the city. Sometimes, it's good to stand back and take notice of how big the world is, and how small you are. Just when you think your boyfriend, or your career, or you not getting a callback for an audition (that doesn't pay residuals anyway) is a disaster... you realize that in the scheme of the world... it's not that serious. Taipei 101 has it all figured out, and they have a statue right in front of the building to prove it. It's a statue of one simple word... .it says LOVE.
After we left Taipei 101 we headed back to the hotel for a much needed rest. As we were zooming down the highway Donni makes a startling discovery. "Ummmm... what happened to our body guard?" (Up until this point I didn't even know we had a guard... talk about undercover. We could learn a thing or two from this dude.) Nobody knew... so he was stuck at Taipei 101, without a ride. It's tough out here in the mean streets of Taiwan... it's tough.
Part 4 of our intense day ended with an anticipated trip to the night market! We had no idea what to expect other than shopping and souvenirs! We got that, and a whole lot more. There was everything from authentic fans, to jewelry, shoes, clothes, sunglasses, trinkets, exotic fruits, and strange smelling meats... I mean any and everything that you could imagine was there. Before you knew it the girls had accidentally split up and gone into individual shopping trances. And how about this... the prices weren't set because it's a market!!! This made shopping even more fun... "Well what if I buy the bracelet, fan, and the shirt? What kind of discount can I get then?" We were probably still getting finagled but we didn't care. We had a wonderful time.
After the market we were all exhausted. We headed to our rooms to prepare for bed, and then fell asleep quickly. Now, it is 4am and I have awakened from my evening nap... maybe I'll hit up the gym again, or maybe I'll read my ‘World Beyond World' book by Woo Myung, or maybe I'll just go back to staring at the ceiling until breakfast time. - Zakiya
Still can't believe we're actually here in Taiwan!!! First official day here and I'm exhausted!!! But, so far, it's been amazing!!! After traveling so many hours, I feel like I am dreaming! I woke up to a beautiful view of a skyline of mountains and uniquely designed buildings outside my hotel window.
I think for me one of the best parts of this experience is the amazing assortment of foods we will eat for breakfast. Bottom line, the food here is truly AMAZING!!!! We ate pineapple soaked in a form of liquid that gave it a distinct taste; we had fresh fruits that I have never seen before such as a yellow watermelon!! Breakfast was a dream come true; I don't think I've ever had so many choices for breakfast before; and to top it off, everything was organic and healthy!!! I must add that another awesome part of our breakfast experience is we had chefs there to prepare our choice of eggs, noodles or whatever combo we wanted!!! People, some of you know how much I love rice; I got to eat rice for breakfast!!!!!
After breakfast we got ready to head to the Cathay offices to perform for the media and meet the Cathay VIPs. The President of Cathay is an American Taiwanese from Boston!!! I thought that was pretty neat! He was so sweet to all of us and treatment us with total kindness!!! The employees at the offices treated us like royalty!! It was the best feeling ever!!! After we met the President and all the employees, and ROBERT PARISH (NBA HALL OF FAMER), we performed for the media of TAIWAN!!! Amazing...flashing lights, cameras everywhere!! Again, I must say, it was amazing!!!! After performing we signed autographs for everyone. Everyone treated us with such admiration and kindness!! We took a ton of pictures and Zakiya even got a little present from one of the girls! It was sooo sweet!
After we finished signing autographs and taking pictures we went to the event venue to rehearse for the I-Fun Jazz Party. Can u say BEAUUUUUUUTIFUL!? We walk in and we were all in amazement at the venue...looking at the ceiling, the tables, the lights, and then we saw the stage and almost freaked out! Well I know I did, but that's what rehearsing is for!!! We marked our spacing, did what we had to do and we made great use of the stage! We were amazing!!! After rehearsal we were all very hungry and we had the best authentic food one could ever have...we ate at TGI FRIDAYS :) yeah I know not very authentic to the Taiwanese culture, but it was fast, convenient and oh so good.
After TGIFs we all loaded on the bus, which by the way I think our driver used to be a NASCAR driver!!! He drove so fast every time I tried taking pictures they came out blurry...maybe I was moving too slow..hmmm nah. We get back to our hotel the beautiful Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel with a couple hours to spare. We had a big performance to get ready for, so we all definitely used our time wisely... (hint hint zzzzzzzzzz) So the time comes for us to head back to the venue to perform and meet n greet, oh and eat :). Once again, I must say it was such a beautifully decorated event! When we got there we all felt like super stars. The cameras were there filming us as we walked in hair blowing in the wind..ok there was no wind but it sounds good, we get to our dressing room and finished up our hair and make-up and just got ourselves ready for the performance! Then, it was show time!!
The M.C. for the night was hilarious! He gave us the introduction of a lifetime...! We put on an amazing show, gave them a taste of our ATL swag!! They loved us!!!! After the performance we changed into our all white dresses for the rest of the event! I must say we looked AMAZING!!! Glad we all wore white! We stood out and of course we were a hit! We took some more photos with Robert Parish and the fans! Then it was time to eat! The food looked amazing and it was! They had sushi, duck, rice, chicken, lots of fruit and the best variety of a salad bar I think I've ever come across! And of course the desserts were on point!!! YUMMY! As were sitting down eating we were entertained by a young magician and her girls. They also did a cute little dance routine! And the highlight for me of the night was meeting the Taiwan Idol winner. She was amazing and we even sang along with her when she sang her last song!
Today was absolutely amazing!!! Now we're all back at the hotel getting ready for an even more amazing day tomorrow!!! We're going site seeing, so I'm pretty excited for that! Can't wait to take in more of the Taiwanese Culture!!! Yay! GO HAWKS! :) - Nikki
Today is the day we leave for TAIWAN!!! We are all so excited about what is in store for us, on the other side of the world! Our flight leaves at 1:45pm and we land in Taiwan around 9pm (the next day after 22 hours of travel)! I cannot wait to try the food and learn more about the culture, and hope we have some free time to do so.
So, our flight from Atlanta to Tokyo lasted FOREVER!!!! Luckily we had comfy seats that laid back far, unlike the planes for national US flights. And, our movie selection was awesome!!! Denisse, Nikki and I watched, for the first time, "Black Swan" along with about 4 other movies..haha.
We were fed 3 times! We had shrimp cocktail, salad, barbecue chicken w/ sweet potatoes, and chocolate cake as our first meal... and the portions were small, but the perfect size to fill our tummies up. And then we had fruit as a snack, and a turkey sandwich.... we got fed like, every 3 hrs. I'm stuffed!!!
We just landed in Tokyo, and we cannot find our gate! We had only studied our Chinese cheat-sheet...there was no lesson on speaking Japanese. Zakiya asked some scary immigration officers to help us and they were really nice. I think we have walked like 10 miles in this airport!
So we finally got to our gate, and we are all thirsty but have no money converted to yen :( So, we will just have to wait until we get on the plane for our next 2 courses.
YAY!!! FINALLY!! We made it to TAIWAN!!! However, we are trying to get through customs and Zakiya's visa is expired so she had to pay for a new one... that took FOREVER! While we were waiting we found the Taiwanese version of the Jonahs Brothers.. haha! And took a picture w/ their cut-out. So cute!
Dou-Dou is our host while we are here, she is very punctual and responsible and was waiting patiently for us... she has a lot handle with us girls! We converted our money, I converted $150 which ended up being over $4200 TWD... we all feel like ballers!
It took an hour to get from the airport to the hotel, but we are staying at the beautiful 5 star hotel, Shangri-La. And we all get our own rooms!!! Our rooms are amazing! A big comfy bed, spacious walk-in closet, glass shower and a big tub! AND, when you turn on the TV, it says your name in the upper left hand corner. (It's the little things in life). All but 3 channels are in Chinese.
Well, we have to be downstairs and ready tomorrow morning at 9:15 am, so I better get to sleep....I am so excited to be here! Neen-how Taiwan!