August 28, 2008

irrelevant laws!

this, my friends, is how we were able to be at the u.s. men's beach volleyball game the next morning. definitely the most lively event! american classic rock, dancing (and falling) olympics mascots, sunshine, and great competition.


August 26, 2008

Zaijian Zhongguo.

That's Mandarin for "Goodbye China". After two years of calling this country 'home', I'm jumping on an airplane and heading back to the States, more specifically San Diego. No more Chinese visas, or Chinese buses, or authentic Chinese food. Thousands of thoughts are running through my mind, but what stands out most is the people. I'm going to miss my Chinese friends tremendously. Their hospitality, their sense of humor, their kindness towards me, and their loyalty.
I don't know the next time I'll step onto Chinese soil, could be next year, could be ten years from now. But I'm thankful for these beautiful friendships and the opportunities that I had for growth because of them.

August 25, 2008

Battle for the Bronze

Basically Brazil badly beat Belgium.

August 17, 2008

Reunion at the Great Wall

Beijing is a city of millions, with multiple tourist sites, and hundreds of thousands of tourists...I ran into Lomong again at the Mu Tian Yu Great Wall site. This time we took a picture.
In other news, I ate a scorpion last night. It was crunchy.

August 13, 2008

4 Down, 2 To Go

1. Women's Soccer- Canada vs. Argentina
Final Score: 2-1
Commentary: Canada's #15-MVP, Argentina's #6-Extremely Scrappy

2. Women's Soccer- China vs. Sweden
Final Score: 2-1
Commentary: Talk about home field advantage! 98% of the crowd was roaring for China, and 2% for Sweden. All but one of Sweden's starters had golden hair.

3. Men's Soccer- Nigeria vs. Japan
Final Score: 2-1
Commentary: The crowd was totally behind Nigeria (Japan and China don't have the best relationship). The most exciting game to watch thus far, full of action.

4. Men's Soccer- USA vs. Netherlands (Holland)
Final Score: 2-2
Commentary: Most of the action happened in the 2nd half (after we left to catch the only train back to Beijing). I learned some geography during the game, I once thought that Holland was a country- in fact, it's a province within the country of the Netherlands.


Track and Field at the Bird's Nest, August 18th @ 7pm
6 Final events along with Medal Ceremonies!

Bronze Medal Soccer at Shanghai Stadium, August 22nd @ 7pm

On a scale of 1-10 in excitement, I'm about an 9.86.

August 11, 2008

An Epic Race

Trash talking by the Frenchmen before the race, saying they're going to "smash the Americans".

Michael Phelps' goal of 8 gold medals in Beijing.

After three swimmers, USA is behind by about a body length as 32 year old anchor Jason Lezak jumps in the water.

The crowd is roaring, everyone's on their feet.

Lezak swims 46.06, the fastest split in history, and wins by a fingertip.

Crowd goes wild.

Jason Lezak, Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, and Cullen Jones win the Men's 4x100 Free Relay.

Gold medals.

Straight out of a movie.

August 9, 2008

Change, Change, Change...

For the former Beijing laowai's out there, I have some news...there's been changes in just the last month, that might leave you feeling lost in a city you once called home.

Here are some changes that I've noticed:

1. The absence of grandma recyclers. You know, the old women that encourage you to polish off your 1/4 bottle of water so that they can crush the precious plastic and stick it into their rice bag. I miss their little frames, big grins, and even bigger love for our Earth. ;) There must be a law, because the entire city is a recycler's dream.

2. Dongzhimen Station has been transformed. The long distance buses aren't formed on the street, instead there's an indoor bus terminal. (It's the large building that many hypothesized would be a parking lot.) And it's organized with signs! In addition, the much anticipated Airport Express has been opened, it's amazing. It's just like Line 5 (with the Hong Kong inspired glass doors). Don't worry, it still has it's Beijing charm, the entire place is lacking escalators. Travelers clad with 50 pounds of luggage, on their way to/from the airport, have to lug their bags up and down dozens of stairs. Good ole China, looks alright at first sight, but poorly built. Don't be mistaken, instead of spending the money on the escalator, there's a security guard being paid to help passengers struggling up the stairs. Why pay for technology when you can the hourly wage of 2RMB ($0.33/hour)?

3. Taxi drivers wear uniforms! Every Beijing taxi driver now wears the same light yellow, short sleeve, button up shirt with a navy blue/yellow striped tie. It's endearing to see the old men wearing their uniform, yelling "Hallo", and honking their way through the crowded streets.

4. Kro's Nest pizza has closed their Bei Da (Peking University) and Worker's Stadium locations! We eventually found their new location in an area of town that I'm not familiar with. I'm not sure why the Bei Da location closed, but the Worker's Stadium location is closed until the 26th because their location was within the Stadium's security area. We talked with the owner a bit, had a dance off, and my 10 year old cousin Daisy challenged a 40 year old Olympic cameraman to a split competition. Such a great atmosphere, no matter how many times it's moved. Not to mention, great pizza.

Some things haven't changed a bit: The vendors at Silk Alley are still grabby, the toddlers still wear split-bottom pants which makes for questionable puddles, and everyone still 'cuts' in line. Old men still read their newspapers on their fold out seats on the sidewalk, and the "mei you" (don't have) are still abundant and just as frustrating. The "yu xiang qiezi" (fish-flavored eggplant) still sounds questionable, but is as delicious as you remember it. Stop salivating, I know you are.

August 8, 2008

Lomong carried the flag for the US!

It's such an American story. A lost boy of Sudan, refugee for 10 years, adopted by a family in upstate New York and learns English. He then gets a full-ride scholarship for track and field to Northern Arizona University and goes through the process to become a US citizen. Just a year (to the day!) after becoming a US citizen, he qualifies to be on the US team for the 1500 meters. Then, through a democratic process, he is selected to be carry the US flag at the Opening Ceremonies.

Being around my ultra-patriotic grandma has rubbed off on me. I teared up last night when the US team walked around the track.

When asked about being voted to carry the flag, Lomong said, "The American flag means everything in my life -- everything that describes me, coming from another country and going through all of the stages that I have to become a U.S. citizen," Lomong said in the statement. "This is another amazing step for me in celebrating being an American. Seeing my fellow Americans coming behind me and supporting me will be a great honor -- the highest honor. It's just a happy day. I don't even have the words to describe how happy I am."

Here's the full story:

Smoggy Skies and Shaky Fists

Beijing has tried so hard to have blue skies for the Olympics games. They've seeded the clouds, they've created odd/even days for driving (depending on the last digit of your license plate). They've shut down the coal factories, and all other factories surrounding the city. They've planted trees, millions of trees.

And here I sit, on 8/8/08, the day of Beijing's Opening Ceremony and it's smoggy. I can't see buildings just a block away. And I feel bad. I want the skies to be blue, I want the BOCOG to be able to keep their promise to the athletes. I want the media to be wrong, and to write articles about the clear blue skies.

On the August 6th we went to the first Olympic game of the '08 games- women's soccer in Tianjin. The temperature was 95 degrees, with 84% humidity, and smog so dense that we couldn't see the other side of the stadium clearly. Sitting still in that heat was not enjoyable. The game however was a lot of fun! Argentina vs. Canada was the first game and Canada dominated the game with a 2-1 victory. The Argentinian women were scrappy players, I've never seen soccer played like that.

The second game was China vs. Sweden. As a Stilson, I was cheering for Sweden, but the home field advantage was undeniable and China won the game 2-1. There were about 30 fans for Sweden and about 68,000 for China.

The way home was a disaster. All the bullet train tickets back to Beijing were sold out, with the next train being at 3 am. I won't get into the details but it involved a ton of frustration and 'shaky fist' moments. We eventually had to take taxis home, and didn't walk in the door until 1:30am, minus my grandma's wallet. Yeah, that's right...lost a wallet in a random Beijing taxi.

We're headed to the Lido Holiday Inn for an Opening Ceremony BBQ. That's right, celebrating in style.

August 5, 2008

Just pick the best kisser...duh.

At the moment I'm sitting on the couch next to my 12 year old cousin Amellia. We've walked many kilometers today and we're resting before a Kung Fu show tonight. She's reading an insightful novel titled "Invasion of the Boy Snatchers". She's really secretive about the content, but I 'snatched' it a couple minutes ago. The only line I managed to read (before being attacked) was "Just pick the best kisser, Nina said" If I'm ever torn between two great guys, I'll just remember Nina's advice.

I've been immersed into the world of two California teens (10 and 12 year old girls) and it's been kind of refreshing. Phrases like 'IDK' (I don't know), 'perf' (perfect), 'that's haut!' (adopted from the brilliant Paris Hilton) and many others fill our conversations. Last night while falling asleep on the couch I even took part in a giggle-fest. Are we ever too old for that? I hope not.

After a full two years in China, I find it interesting to see the culture through another's eyes. Amellia noticed that boyfriends carry their girlfriends purses almost immediately. We tease Daisy that she's running for mayor of Beijing. Her blonde hair and blue eyes attract stares, but she turns them around into a chance to make friends. She grins, waves, and happily obliges to all photo opportunities.

The photo ops were especially abundant today as we made our way through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. At one point, we were approached by the Phoenix NBC news crew and interviewed about our time in Beijing during what can only be called Olympics Madness. During their interview, Lori and Johnny kindly called me their 'lifeline' in China. Super kind of them. I remember my first months here and being immensely grateful for people that translated for me. After the lifeline title was given, the Action 12 news asked me a few questions about living in China/language/Olympics. So IF you live in Phoenix and IF you watch NBC, you'll find our faces on your screen.

I'll close with another line from "Invasion of the Boy Snatchers" that Amellia allowed limited access to after I told her I was including her in my blog.

"Nina, am I a used Band-Aid?"
"Uh, no." Nina's eyes were fixed on the soccer players.
"Then why did you just rip me off?"

I'll have to remember that line.

August 2, 2008

Plate Spinning Aspirations

After a 25 kilometer/3+ hour bike tour of Beijing this afternoon, we went home for quick (much needed) showers and then to the acclaimed Chaoyang Acrobatics Show.
I sat next to my cousin Amellia. This is Amellia that asked me when I was 17 (and she was 5), "Alli Jo, were you born with those pimples?" This is Amellia that calls on Thursdays with questions galore. She's also the girl that walked up to Vince's black afro, tapped it, and said "Check, one...two..."
Tonight as the acrobats performed and we ooo-ed and ahh-ed with each jump and bend, ever-observant Amellia called me out on a common fault of mine.
It seems that I have a problem. It's gotten me in trouble on many occasions. Without realizing it, I often imitate/mock things that are new to me. Once at a restaurant, I picked up the thick Indian accent of a guy at our table. After a couple minutes, he looked across the table and politely asked "Are you mocking my accent?" I was horrified! I, indeed, was. Cynthia quickly made it better by mocking me.
The plate spinners took the stage tonight with 4 wooden sticks and 4 plates in each hand. What a skill! I pictured myself in my kitchen with 8 sticks and 8 plates, showing my dinner guests my skills. Apparently, what I pictured in my mind...translated to my actions as I sat in the dark theater.
Amellia in true form, leaned in next to me and asked a simple question, "Alli Jo, why are you shaking your hands like that?" Reality: I looked like I either had Parkinson's or was rocking out with egg-shakers.
Embarrassed and exposed. "Uhh, I guess I'm trying out being a plate-spinner..." followed by LAUGHTER, the uncontrollable kind. The kind that makes the guy in front of you turn around, not because he's annoyed, but he longs to share in your hearty laugh. In the same way, I long to spin plates someday.

August 1, 2008

Taking one for the TEAM.

As I checked in at the United counter at SFO, I politely asked for an upgrade to Business class. Apparently, I'm an 'elite' member- I have no idea what this means, but it wasn't enough for a $700 upgrade. It did, however, afford me an upgrade to Economy Plus in the exit row with a full 5 feet of leg room in front of me.
When I arrived at the gate, I was surrounded my Team USA. It seems the US Olympic Committee bought the majority of the seats for my flight. Athletes competing in Track and Field, Judo, and Gymnastics were everywhere along with members of the International press. It was at that moment sitting among muscular bodies outfitted in Nike gear, that it became real.. I'm going to the Olympics.
We boarded the flight and I was stoked about my seat, 12 hours of comfort ahead! This is where empathy got the best of me. Ahead of me in the Economy section was a 6'6" Long Jumper in a seat that literally could not fit his long legs. We hadn't even taken off and he was extremely uncomfortable. He asked the stewardesses for an upgrade, but they refused.
I pictured this guy going for the gold and missing it by an inch because he had just gotten off of a 12 hour flight that killed his legs. So before I realized what I was signing up for, I offered him my seat. He was shocked and jumped (pun-intended) at the opportunity.
As I moved up to the Economy section, I found myself sitting next to more Track and Field athletes. Across the isle from me was Lopez Lomong, seated to win the gold in the 1500 meters. More impressive than that, was his life story that he proceeded to tell me over the next couple of hours. (
Born in Sudan, he was separated from his family at 6 years old. He moved to a camp in Kenya and lived there for 10 years until he was adopted by a couple from upstate New York as a Lost Boy of Sudan. So at 16 he moved to America, learned English in 6 months, and started running. His running got him a full ride scholarship to Northern Arizona University, and now he's a professional athlete for Nike. He always brought back his success to the fact that he hopes to use it as a platform to help the kids in Africa, especially Darfur.
As we exited the plane and he was ushered into the Chinese fanfare, I stood in the long line at customs and told him that I'll be cheering him on.
So it seems, like most things, when we think we're making a sacrifice, we get so much in return. I know Lopez Lomong, he told me his life story, I taught him how to barter in China, some Chinese history, some Mandarin phrases, and plenty of small talk...we go way back.