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August 6th, 2008

Originally published at Andy Does Beijing. You can comment here or there.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008 - Taichi, Olympic Torch runner (not), Restaurant nearby

Life at Home

Breakfast at the hotel was the usual: fried pumpkin mini-patties with characters embossed on them, boiled eggs, yellow empty-dumplings, rice sponges, warm drinks.

When we arrived, not many people were there After breakfast, a few of us watched the Olympic Torch relay on TV, because the Torch is running around Beijing at the moment (of course). We looked in the newspaper and found out that the Torch was supposed to run in to the Temple of Heaven at 3:50pm, which is relatively close to our hotel, so we voted to go see as a group. Master Sun held an abbreviated taichi class so that we could get to lunch and then head out to go see the Torch. Since it’s kind of a big deal, we wanted to get there early to get a spot; some of us took taxis to the north gate right after lunch on Liz’s suggestion (since she was a volunteer at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics) and then walked around to where we found the crowd at the west gate.

Several thousand people ended up showing up We got there around 1:30, 2pm. It wasn’t too bad, several hundred people. By the time 3:50pm rolled around, there were several thousand. Chinese crowds are pretty sedate, compared to American or European crowds, but they still had plenty of national spirit: ZHONGGUO DAQIAO! ZHONGGUO DAQIAO! (Go China! Go China! except I don’t know how to spell it properly). The cops came out to make sure the crowd didn’t push too far and swamp the streets.

The Beijing police showed up en masse to protect the streets Unfortunately, ultimately we only ended up seeing a Coke truck, a Samsung truck, a van with the Olympic torch runners, busses full of athletes and workers — but no lit torches. An awful lot of build-up for not much at all! but seeing the crowd was cool. Also, I met some internationals in the crowd, a German tourist who was heading to Australia after the games and a Norweigian TV reporter gal who is living in a media hotel. The former was quite tall and had no difficulties taking pictures over the Chinese people; the latter went through security every time she entered or left her hotel, along with the rest of the reporters. Besides them, I saw families, singletons, and what looked like one gay couple. (Yeah, I know — cultural norms are different between East and West, but they actually looked together rather than simply being comfortable with closer physical contact.)

No room to see, so people hopped in the trees After the lack of Torch ceremony, all the locals dispersed and the Delawareans were left with a conundrum: hotel food, Pizza Hut, or find a local restaurant? Most of the group branched off to do their own thing; about a dozen went to Pizza Hat; and Linda, Victoria, Davis, and I stayed to find somewhere nearby to eat. While we were asking around, a college-aged couple (Gordon and Carol were their English names) offered to help us find a restaurant. Their English was OK, so we said sure, thanks! They walked with us and asked some locals about where to eat, then walked us down to the restaurant. We enjoyed chatting with them — they’d only been dating a few weeks, over the summer, and were both undergraduates in nearby universities, cute kids. The restaurant where we ended up was also pretty cute; it was decorated inside-out, with the ceiling painted in blue with white clouds, picket fences separating the tables, eaves hanging inside from the walls, and fake trees growing up into the ceiling. Groovy effect. We had a little difficulty ordering food, but with the help of the manager (who doted on us a bit) and a dictionary (which had the word for “chicken”), we managed to ask for a few plates and something to drink. It all worked out nicely and ran us under 100 yuan — USD $15 for the whole table. The food was delicious, typical Chinese stuff; chicken with peppers, sweet and sour chicken, beef and something else. Plus we got take-out!

Cab home and done my day!

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