[Editor’s Note: The Santa Barbara Breakers, champions of the West Coast Pro Basketball League, were invited by the Chinese government to play 12 games Sept. 19 through Oct. 5. This is one in a series of articles by Breakers coach Curt Pickering as he reflects on the experience.]

Our final two days were spent in none other than one of my two favorite cities, Shanghai. By now you should know how we spent our final hours there. What I will share now are a few qualities or items about China that have been overlooked so far.

» Traveling on the highways: It is an absolute madhouse with no violations for passing on the shoulder of the road, passing on double yellow lines or cutting off vehicles that have the right-of-way. There are speed limits, but they are not enforced. We saw several accidents on the major highways.

» City traffic: Like any large city, there are too many cars to accommodate the traffic flow. There are also a vast number of bicycles and small motored mopeds that affect inner-city traffic movement. It is just the way of life, and everyone accepts it.

» Smog: Yes, there is a great deal of smog in the big cities. When there is a strong breeze blowing, you begin to see the blue skies and the dark brown, yellow haze begins to burn off. It also affects breathing during long walks in the cities, close to all the traffic flow.

» Safety: It is very normal to see young women ages 18 to 30 walking the streets at 1or 2 in the morning, going about their business, be it as vendors, shoppers or just the enjoyment of walking late at night. There are also many elders walking their dogs late into the night.

» Crosswalks: They have signs just like basketball shot clocks that allow you to know how many seconds you have to cross the street before the light changes. It is a resourceful tool.

» Taxis: Six to eight miles in the city will cost you $1.50 per ride, with as many people you can load into the car.

» The terrain: China is diverse like the United States. We traveled through the green rolling hills similar to Wisconsin; the Delta looks similar to southern Arkansas and Mississippi; the mountains of California; the barren flatlands of North and South Dakota. There is a lot of land that we didn’t see by bus or train, but China holds many of the same land similarities as the United States.

» Final comments: We experienced a magnificent 25 days in a beautiful country with respectful, courteous and gracious people. Our journey went far beyond the moments on the basketball court. It is about building relationships and friendships. That, I believe, was truly accomplished.

Curt Pickering is coach of the Santa Barbara Breakers.