August 13th, 2008

birds nest

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

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!
birds nest

日记 -- 八月 旗号 -- Thursday, August 07 - Tianjin: Shopping, Dog Who Wouldn't Come, Olympic Soccer (x2)

Tianjin -- 天津

Entering the tourist area As China used to be four separate provinces, each with an autonomous ruling hierarchy, each region had their own capital. Tianjin was one of those capitals and it remains one of the larger cities. Some of the old charm still holds in the antiquity district, a tourist shopping area. In addition to keeping that charm, the city also contains two Olympic venues, one for golf and the other, right next to it, for soccer and track. We sought the former; also, the shopping.

Going shopping Within the tourist shopping area could be found a variety of 东西 (stuff), the highlights being the scroll paintings, one of China's famed creations; the weaponry; the tea sets; and other traditional Asian wares. Many of the girls went for the paintings and jewelry straight off; the boys, to their swords. Oye. I looked over everything with an equally avaricious eye and ended up finding a ring with mother-of-pearl inlay, a multicolored jade ring (munao), a dagger with Mao Zedong on the sheath, another dagger with a fish-eye on the hilt and its body on the sheath, a scroll painting, a few souvenir flint-and-steel match sets, a variety of other small things, and the best bit: friendship bracelets! A couple of women on the main drag were sitting around doing macramé, so I sat down with them and got an Olympic-ring bracelet (like, actual ring design in the colors) and asked if I could buy some string from them (since I'm running low). They said sure, so, while they counted off my string, I sat and worked on a friendship bracelet of my own. They were duly entertained by both my poor Chinese and my handiwork, so the one woman gave me another bracelet (the Olympic colors, in a zig-zag / straight-across pattern) as a friend. 新的中国朋友 (New Chinese friend)!

The outskirts of the tourist shopping The majority of the tourist area was pretty well-populated by stores, booths, and tables; also, tourists. However, in the farther reaches, I found a few courtyards full of books laid out on the ground; and, in another set of courtyards, old coins, other antiquities, and beads to make into bracelets. Quite curious!

That Dog Don't Listen

Tianjin also had standard, modern shopping Lunch was to be had at a famous restaurant in Tianjin, 理不狗 (gou bu li), the Dog who Wouldn't Come. The story behind the name is that a man, who was nicknamed Gou (Dog), ran a very popular restaurant; but it was so popular, he couldn't tend to all of his customers at once! So, when a customer wanted a service, they would call for him: "Gou! Gou!" but Gou would be too busy, and he wouldn't come over. Thus, the restaurant was renamed to Gou Bu Li, the Dog who Wouldn't Come. From this story, we expected Good Things (namely, food).

The restaurant was inside a nice hotel Due to a little mix-up, we actually went to two Dogs: the first one we visited, which was the first one built, was indeed too crowded for us! So we walked a few blocks across town to another one, which was inside a hotel. Verra fancy! They took us up to a banquet room with several large, circular tables, and heavy lazy susans mounted upon them. Then, they served us appetizers (a variety of meat slices and vegetables), pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings (marked with a red dot on top), broccoli dumplings (yellow tip), and some rice porridge. Ye typical Chinese dumpling meal, they brought out three circular trays of eight or nine dumplings each to the table at a time and laid them out on the lazy susan for us. Also, jasmine tea! Finally, watermelon for closers, as in all the restaurants. The food was delicious, although some people found themselves unsatisfied. (Some people also haven't been eating other Chinese food, anyway.) I found it yummy and now want to go out for more dim sum, maybe later in the month.

A Sporting Type

The golf arena, right next door to the soccer field

Approaching the soccer stadium

The stadium was epic after the smog settled in