HANGZHOU, China – On his first full day in China, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner barely ventured out of the team hotel. Sunday, his only forays beyond the front door of the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou were a short walk and then the Yellow Jackets’ bus ride to Hangzhou Gymnasium to lead his team through its first practice in China in preparation for its game next Saturday against UCLA.
Even within the hotel’s confines, though, he still managed to experience an unusual and memorable cultural exchange. Pastner’s room was too warm, so he called the front desk to send up someone to help him adjust the air conditioner. A maintenance man arrived to his room, but he couldn’t speak English. Likewise, Pastner’s Mandarin is equal to his team’s margin for error. Which, as Pastner will be happy to remind you, is negligible.
So at first, Pastner said, he tried to communicate the issue by speaking slowly and pantomiming, crossing his arms and rubbing his hands on his upper arms in the manner of a person who is trying to warm up. Naturally, the employee interpreted this to mean that he was cold, so Pastner said the man turned up the heat.
Pastner said his wife Kerri was amused by the exchange, as her husband tried to communicate by slowly speaking in a language the listener did not understand.
“She kept saying, ‘Josh, he’s a grown man,’” Pastner said.
Pastner eventually turned to a more effective means, using the Google Translate app on his phone. The two men took turns speaking into the phone, which translated into the other’s language. Problem solved.
“It was amazing,” Pastner said.
Pastner completed the exchange by telling the maintenance worker that he wanted to tip him, not a customary practice in China.
“I tried to give it to him,” Pastner said. “He was adamant (about not accepting).”
If you’re wondering, Pastner said he did not sleep much in his first night in China. Unable to sleep, he spent the night texting and trying to follow the Georgia Tech football team’s game against Virginia online. He fell asleep at 6 a.m. and slept for 30 minutes.