Friday, August 15, 2008, 10:57 AM

Postcard from the Olympic Games

Hello again. It's been several days since I last talked to you. We've been busy going to various events.

We went to the tennis event on the 11th and watched Nadal Rafael defeat an Italian player and S. Williams defeat a Russian player. The Williams' match was a continuation of the match started the day before but was suspended due to rain. We had first row seats and had a great view of the games. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay to watch Federer. We had tickets to the women's basketball game that afternoon. The basketball stadium is beautiful, inside and outside. Our seats are way at the top but we still had a clear view of the game. The game was between Latvia and Bellarus. It was a great game. In addition to the professional cheerleaders performing during half time and timeouts, there was a group of Chinese cheerleaders in the audience cheering for both teams throughout the game.

We had a lot of difficulty getting to the Tennis Center and from the Tennis Center to the Basketball Stadium. The volunteers couldn't tell us exactly how to get to the Tennis Center and sent us going from place to place looking for the right bus to take. A taxi driver told us taxis weren't allowed to go to the Olympic venues (which turned out to be only half true- they can get to a certain point but not all the way to the gate) and refused to take us. After we finally got on the right bus (an Olympic bus route), we couldn't figure out which stop to get off because they only announced the names of the stops without telling you what venues were nearby. We ended up getting off one or two stops too early and had to walk the rest of the way. After tennis, we couldn't find a direct shuttle going from the Tennis Center to the Basketball Stadium (there wasn't any) which is half way across town. We had to go back into public transit to get to the Basketball Stadium. Luckily, we found a taxi driver who would take us.

The last event we watched was the men's cycling time trial on the 13th. My son Oliver is very into cycling lately and idolizes Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland. This was a road race that doesn't require any tickets, and none were sold. So we decided to go to the finish line at the foot of the Great Wall and watch the final moments of the race and the award ceremony. We couldn't find a bus going that way. Since Oliver was so anxious to watch the race, we decided to take a cab for the 50 or so kilometer ride there. When we got to the point which is about five kilometers to the destination, we came upon the first security road block. We were told that vehicles without BOCOG permit would not be allowed to pass that point. Seeing how disappointed Oliver was, my husband started talking to the guard. After 10 minutes or so, the guard decided to let us through. We came upon another road block at the three kilometer point. This time we weren't able to convince the guard to let us pass. Fortunately, there was a taxi there that had a BOCOG permit. We shared the cab with a local sports reporter who was also trying to get to the finish line. But, we couldn't get to the finish line. We were told no spectators, other than BOCOG employees and volunteers, were allowed at the finish line unless you had gotten there early in the morning before security was put in place. But we were able to get to the 500 meter point and watched the final dash from there. To Oliver's great satisfaction, Cancellara won gold!

Besides watching the games, we hosted two dinners at my in-laws' home to give our American friends an opportunity to visit a home in Beijing and to experience some real Chinese home life. Sam Williams, President of Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, was our first guest. My mother-in-law served one of my favorite traditional Beijing dishes called Chun Bing (Spring Wraps). We had a great time with Sam, sharing stories of attending the Beijing Olympics, watching and playing with fireworks and many more activities.

11 Alive's (Atlanta TV) Brenda Wood and her cameraman David Brook came to our home on the 12th. They talked to us about many things, including our paths from Beijing to Atlanta, cultural differences, and living as both a Chinese and an American. We invited them to join us for dinner after the interview. This time, my mother-in-law served the most typical and homey Beijing food of all, jiao-zi with many cold dishes. It wasn't elaborate but very traditional Beijing. We had a great conversation and had fun teaching Brenda how to use chopsticks. It's a lot easier to talk to reporters when you are not being interviewed.

Our visit in Beijing is coming to an end. This has truly been a lifetime experience from many perspectives. Oliver's interest in and appreciation of what he saw and experienced in China is a great satisfaction to us. He was in awe of the garden house, the Buddhist temple and the West Lake in Hangzhou, amazed by the development in Shanghai. He had a lot of fun cheering for both the Chinese and the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics. As Chinese, attending the Olympic Games in Beijing has been an unparalleled experience. Besides the excitement of watching world class competitions and seeing the world come together for the joy of sports, there is an added element of national pride.

Friends, thanks for visiting our blog. See you back home!


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