Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Beach Volleyball

Well I think it's been awhile again since I've written - I've been really busy trying to get caught up from missing so much work!  It's late and I'm tired - so I'm going to start backwards this time and make it short! :)

This afternoon I went ice skating with my boss' kids.  There is an ice skating rink across the street from our apartment in the shopping mall.  The kids don't know how to skate at all, and I'm pretty sure my back is broken from skating backwards bent over and picking them up the whole time.

I went to beach volleyball this morning - coolest event/venue I've seen so far!  We got to see Misty May and Kerry Walsh whatever...I can't remember there names right now, but they're unbelievable. Then another US team played Cuba and won, and then Australia played Greece.  There were tons of crazy Australian fans doing all their cheers and chants - it was great! 

(my boss and our Chinese worker/translator)

So up until now, I've had a pretty good sunglasses tan going on (my eyes are white and my cheeks are tan!)  But today I forgot my sunglasses, and believe it or not, the sun was actually out in Beijing!  It was just a beautiful day - perfect weather and blue skies!  So I'm fried- my eyes are bright red from not seeing the sun in so long!  And my shoulders got plenty of sun, too.  It's usually so polluted and overcast here you don't have to worry about it, but of course the one day I don't take sun block and forget my sunglasses, it's hot and sunny!

Last night Shannon and I went out for dinner to Texas Tim's Barbeque -- yeah, in Beijing!  I couldn't believe it.  BUT THE COOL THING WAS there was a K-STATE flag in the restaurant/bar!  CRAZY!  There was on Texas flag, a few A&M flags, and one big K-State flag!  I ate real American food and was so happy! Of course I got a couple of pictures by the flag! 

After dinner we walked around and found a little DVD store.  I bought 20 DVDs and a couple of series of TV shows for some friends...all for like $40, which is still a rip-off in Beijing.  But it was all the NEW movies, the Dark Night, Kung Fu Panda....the ones out in theaters now!  Let me know if there are any movies you want - they are so ridiculously cheap over here! I love Beijing

After that we went and got massages at the same place we went when we first got to Beijing.  I've never been in so much pain in my life!  I literally couldn't breathe he was pushing so hard...I actually sat up and told him he had to do it softer, but I don't think he understood me.  He hit every single pressure point in my body.  And who uses an ELBOW to massage the side of your HEAD!? Come on...NOT going back there!  (But I guess it is better than the ASS massage I got the other day…)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic Basketball

I didn't do a whole lot during the day yesterday (Wednesday).  I just worked and caught up on emails. 

Last night Shannon and I went to basketball.  The gymnasium was SO cool from the outside...right next to the two baseball stadiums and it was all lit up and changed colors.  It is a new building they built for the Olympics. 

We took the driver, Liu, and I showed him on the map where we wanted to go.  It was literally straight down the main road that we live on...quite a ways away, but still, straight down the road.  Well Lui took us all over...I have absolutely NO idea where we went or how we got there, but I think he just gave us a little tour of Beijing!  I didn't care though...I rolled the window down and cranked the music up and sang along to Coldplay!  I've found a couple of good radio stations over here that play American music, and Lui thinks its hilarious when I turn up load music and hang out the windows and sing along. :)

Once we got in the stadium and walked in to the gym to find our seats, we realized it was WOMEN'S basketball! Haha!!  We were actually kind of excited to see some men's basketball, but that was quickly gone when we saw all the girls down there.  Thankfully, it was halftime of the Australia versus Korea game.  When the Australian girls took off there warm ups to start the second half, we both almost fell over from laughing so hard.  They wear body suits to play basketball in!  Who does that!?  It was like a one piece leotard...I don't even know how to describe how hideous it was...it made us laugh for the whole second half.  It was the most unattractive thing you could ever put a girl in...even the tall skinny girls looked terrible!   I still can't get over it...they were just terrible.  And we sat right behind the family of one of the Australian girls players, and she said all the girls complain about them and hate them.  No wonder!! 

So we were going to leave after the game - Australia killed Korea by like 30 points.  But then we saw that USA played next, so of course we had to stay, even though it was already after 10pm and there was a 35 minute break in between games.  We sat there and talked to the nice Australian family and waited.  During the break, a solid row of Asian security guards walked in, wearing all black and blocked off one whole section.  The Asians in the crowed were all going nuts, apparently knowing what was about to happen, and three big black guys form the USA mens' basketball team walked in.  There was literally almost a stampede of the Asians trying to get to them, and I don't even know who they were.  I think one of them was Tim Duncan, maybe.  Is he even on the team?  The other two didn't even look like players, I think everyone was just excited because they were big and black and from the USA.  The one I thought might be Tim Duncan had on a huge diamond earring and you could see his huge watch sparkle from across the gymnasium, seriously.  They sat down in the front row and the whole gymnasium was just snapping pictures and waving and yelling.  It was absolutely hilarious.  We could've cared less who they were -- it wasn't Lebron James, it wasn't Kobe or Tony Parker or anybody big I would've recognized...just some random players I think.  During the national anthem before the game, those three guys turned to look at the flag, and the whole section next to them just stood there and jumped and waived at them and snapped pictures throughout the song...SO funny. 

Anyways - the USA team played Mali...where in the world is Mali?  There are so many random countries I've never even heard of.  They were all black and had crazy red and blue and died hair, and they played Jamaican kind of music - maybe some island or something?  I don't know, but they were terrible at basketball.  The US was up by like 30 at half, so we decided to leave.  We walked out and couldn't get a taxi, so we walked across the street where there were less people.  I'm usually pretty good at getting taxis, because I stand out from all the Asians, and I'm just pushy and walk out in front of them sometimes. :)  So I flagged down a taxi, or I though I did, and two Asians walked right in front of me and got in!  I was so mad and started yelling at them but they had no idea what I said and just got in...SUCKED.  So I walked farther down and got one like two seconds later, but they still stole MY taxi! ;) 

So remember how it took Lui like an hour through little streets and neighborhoods to get us there?  Well this taxi driver went STRAIGHT down the street and we were back in like 10 minutes.  No fun music though, so I'll take Lui's crazy driving any day! :) 

Went to bed around midnight and got up this morning at 7:30.  Just hanging out here at the apartment and working this morning.  Shannon and my boss’ wife took the kids to a shooting event (it's like an hour away from here) and I am going to Wal-Mart here pretty soon to get some more stuff we need.  That's it for now!


Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Field Hockey / USA House / Boxing

Well after the long day on Sunday, all I wanted to do was sleep in on Monday, but of course, it was Monday, and I'm not allowed to do that!  So I was up bright and early and went to breakfast as usual.  One of our clients was eating by himself, so I sat with him.  He said he had two tickets to field hockey that morning, and no one to go with.  So of course, since we are supposed to take care of the clients first, I said I would go with him if he couldn't find anyone else! :)

 I kind of wanted to go just to get out of the hotel, but come on, it was field hockey.  I don't even know what field hockey is...seriously...never even heard of it!  I hadn't even taken a shower or anything, still in my pajamas (shorts and a tshirt), but we were late, so I just hopped in a taxi with him and took off.  About half an hour later, the taxi driver stopped at an intersection and ushered for us to get out.  We had no clue where we were, but we weren’t by any stadium, that’s for sure! 

He was pointing to the road blocks ahead and said, "no go" so we just got out and started walking.  Doing the usual, of course, stopping every block asking someone where we are going.  The Olympic tickets are big and have the Chinese and English name of the event, as well as the name of the venue, so if you have a ticket, you can usually get to where you need to go.  We walked and walked and walked forever...and ended up going right by the entire Olympic Village.  It was pretty cool! 

All of the little apartments had flags hanging off the balconies so you could tell who (what country) was staying where.  There were some people practicing fencing, some boxing, some running...people from all over the world there...it really was cool to see!  But we were in a hurry to get there to the event.  Our tickets were for 9am and it was almost 11 now. 

We finally found the stadium and the spectator entrance, after walking a couple of miles at least.  We sat down in time to see the second half of the Pakistan vs Great Britain match.  Pakistan is supposedly really good at this sport, but Great Britain won. 

It was kind of exciting to see, but I'm confident in saying that is the first AND last field hockey match I will ever go to. :)  We left the stadium and decided we would try to sneak me in at the USA House with our client.  It's all about who you know over here!  Turns out my boss went to Stanford Business School with the son of the founder of GAP.  And the guy I was with was a business school friend of there’s too.  Somehow this whole family had passes to the USA House, and got the guy I was with TWO passes.  Each country (or the big ones anyways) has there own "house" over here, where all of the athletes, their families, and sponsors get to go for free food and drinks, to hang out, etc.  And I FREAKING GOT IN!!  I guess this GAP family was a huge sponsor of the Olympics, and got us passes!  It was seriously the coolest thing I've seen since I've been here!  You have to where the big VIP passes around your neck and they usher you in to this amazing three floor restaurant overlooking a lake.  And it was full of famous people!   I took a couple of pictures there, too.  OH and the best part is that they have a huge gift shop there with all of the official USA Olympic stuff.  Yeah, I went a little crazy there, but come on!  I'm at the Olympics for the first time, and in the USA House, which I can almost guarantee I'll never be at during another Olympics again!  I bought some t-shirts, some jackets, bracelets, bags, ya know...whatever I could get my hands on! :)  Everything else I've bought here so far (which really hasn't been that much) has been knock-off ridiculously cheap stuff from the silk market, so it was okay that I bought all the real expensive stuff! :) 

(The entrance - and amazing DID await!)

After we had lunch there with the GAP family, and listened to there stories about staying at the same hotel as the USA men's basketball team, we headed back to the hotel.  (But not before I got my picture taken with some old Olympian and some GAP family member!)

My boss and his wife were heading out to see tennis that evening, but he wanted to take his kids down the street (STRAIGHT down the street) for some ice cream first.  Oh by the way, there is a COLD STONE right down the street!  I was in heaven when I saw that!  So anyways - he said he'd be back at 4pm to leave for tennis.  Well at 4:15, he wasn't back, and had been gone over an hour with two of his three little kids.  We were all getting a little worried, and then we got the phone call that he was lost.  It was kind of funny at first, until we realized he was REALLY lost, and REALLY angry, and had the kids with him.  So off I went, on foot, with a hand-bag, a big camera, and a back-pack on.  I have no idea why I didn't just leave it all in the lobby of the hotel or something, but everyone started to freak out, so I just started running towards the ice cream place.  I thought maybe when we came up from the subway he kept going straight instead of turning, so I sprinted that way...probably ran half a mile with all that crap on, sweating to death, and no sign of a tall bald headed guy.  So I turned around, ran all the way back to the intersection, and ran the OTHER way.  I literally thought I was going to die from running that far in the pollution and the heat, but I eventually found him, dripping wet from sweat, and dragging the tired kids.  He was SO SO mad - or frustrated for getting lost.  We walked back to the hotel and he calmed down, and they left for tennis.  But what a crazy 20 minutes that was!   

Shannon and I hung out with the kids that night.  We walked them down the street a couple of blocks and through a shopping mall.  I found THE COOLEST pair of multi-colored Nike shocks I've ever seen.  I asked the guy if he had an 8.5 and he looked at me like I was crazy.  Oh no...no big sizes.  Come on!  An 8.5 isn't that big is it?  Well in Asia, a 7 is enormous, so no cool shoes for me.  They weren't knock-offs so they were actually really expensive.  We shopped for a little bit, and then took the kids out for dinner.  And guess what we found!?  A Sizzler in Beijing!  Of course we had to try that out!  It was pretty bad, but we had Cold Stone for dessert so that made up for it.  I went to bed pretty early (9:30ish) as I was still exhausted from my late night in Tianjin!

This morning was the last day at the hotel, and the last night with the clients.  We had a little work meeting this morning around breakfast, since all of the Jayhawk staff is leaving today (except me).  After breakfast, we loaded up all 8 thousand of the bags from the 50 rooms we have, and checked out.  I took all of my boss' families stuff as well as mine to the apartment, which we moved in to today.  I took the driver, because there was no way we could fit all that stuff in a taxi. 

I'm getting to know our private driver pretty well, even though he speaks limited English.  He never has the radio on, so I said, "Let’s listen to some music!" and pushed the power button.  I always sit in the front seat and people always look at me weird.  Most of the rich people over here who have drivers sit in the back.  But not me, I want to see what's going on!  So I hit scan until I found a good station, and found one that was playing Pussycat Dolls, and after that Coldplay!  I was SO excited, I rolled the window down and cranked the music and started singing along.  Liu (driver) thought I was crazy, but got a good laugh out of it! :)

We dropped off the bags at the apartment, which literally filled up two carts FULL, and went back to the hotel for Shannon and the kids.  We were hungry so we walked next door to try and find some sort of food for all of us.  There was a little store of some kind...not sure how to describe it because I can't even tell you what in the world was in there.  After several minutes of walking around trying to find something edible, we picked out some sort of crackers with some lemon filling in them, some chips which turned out to be disgusting, and some juice.  And that was lunch! 

The older kids went to a boxing event, and Shannon and I took the youngest one (4) with us back to the apartment with the rest of our stuff.  We walked across the street to the China Word Shopping Center.  It is huge (ice skating rink in it) and very nice, and they have a Subway!  Of course we had to eat again...the crackers and chips didn't do it for us. :) 

I decided to do another "quick" trip to Wal-Mart with the driver to get some more things for the apartment.  I tried to tell him where I wanted to go, but he didn't get it.  I told him to just drive and I pointed to tell him how to get there.  I'm actually pretty familiar with this area of Beijing now, and Wal-Mart is only about 10 minutes away.  When we pulled up he said, "OH, WAAAL-MAAART"...yeah, he finally got it.  Normally, the driver just sits in the car and waits for you, but I told him to come in and shop with me.  I think he was happy, but I'm not really sure.  He pushed the cart for me and I told him what to get...it was great! :)  We got some fruit:  apples, oranges, kiwi, and bananas.  It was so fun...I'd say apple, and then he would teach me the Chinese word!  I can't remember most of them now...they were all really hard to say...apple is so much easier!  We eventually found a trash can, a hammer, some batteries...a bunch of random stuff.  He didn't know some (okay most) words, but his cell phone has a dictionary in it.  So I would write a word down, he would type it in to his phone, and then figure out the Chinese word for it...it was pretty fun at first, but got a little annoying and time consuming by the end of it.  Of course we had to wait in the massive lines and my "quick" trip wasn't really so quick -- almost 2 hours when it was all said and done! 

When we got back and unloaded everything, Shannon and I went out to see some boxing.  Neither one of us were very interested in it, but the tickets were free and we wanted to get out and do something.  (I'm going to be so sad when she leaves and it's just ME!)  So we hopped in a cab, showed him our ticket, and he dropped us off...with the gymnasium no where in sight.  I hate it when they do that!!  So we just got out and started walking...showing my ticket to people every block or so trying to figure out where to go.  About 10 minutes later, we finally found the gymnasium.  I don't why cab drivers do that...maybe just to Americans because they don't like us! :)  Anyways - when we got in and found our seats, they were terrible...almost at the very top.  That's probably why they were free! :)  So we just decided to put our ticket away and walk down closer.  We sat down in two empty seats, and this Chinese guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder as SOON as I sat down and just said, "NO!" and shook his finger at me.  Haha! Okay okay -- we got up and found two other seats...jerk.  We could at least see what was going on now! 

Turns out I don't know the first thing about boxing, and neither did Shannon.  We couldn't even figure out how they were getting points.  It was kind of exciting, but got really old really quick.  We only stayed for a couple of matches, and decided to leave because we couldn't figure out if there was going to be a USA guy that night or not.  So when we got home, we checked the internet, and the HEADLINE was "BOXING SHOCKER" about some USA guy that night, and the same gym we were at, right after we left.  PERFECT!  We missed it...I didn't even read the article, but some American guy was supposed to be good and got killed I think (not literally).  Oh well!  At least I can say I've been to a boxing match now I guess! :) 

So that was it, we went to bed and I just woke up a little bit ago.  It is so much nicer to be here at an apartment where I can unpack and have some space.  Living out of hotels was about to drive me crazy!  Today we are going to a baseball game (Japan vs somebody) and then basketball tonight (Australia vs somebody).

I'll write more tomorrow (or tonight if I have time!) :)


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Soccer in TianJin

Sunday morning I got up and had breakfast again with everyone at the hotel.  We decided that a big group of us would like to go the USA Soccer match that evening in TianJin, which is a big city about 2 or 3 hours (depending on traffic) away from Beijing.  I honestly didn’t know that at the time we decided to go to it, I thought it was just a suburb or something right outside of Beijing

Do I scream "Amerca" or what!? ;)

So there were 18 of us who decided to go, and the match started at 5pm.  We worked out the logistics and sent two guys down to the north train station to buy train tickets for us for the 3pm train.  We had heard from the day before that the trains were sold out and people were waiting for hours to get on them to get to TianJin, so we planned ahead!  The guys for some reason only bought 15 tickets, thinking that some people would drop out or change there mind.  So at 2:15pm, we all met in the lobby of the hotel and got in taxis to take us to the train station.  We had a lot of people (investors) that were still pretty nervous about traveling and the whole idea, so I had to round up 4 taxis and make sure each driver knew that we were together and we all wanted to go to the same place…that isn’t too easy in China!  But somehow, we all made it to almost the exact same spot at the right train station about 20 minutes later. 

I got everyone out, did a quick head count, and headed in to try and find our gate.  The train station was very nice, clean and new, so that was good surprise. Well, like I said earlier, we had 18 people, and only 15 tickets.  Two of the guys (who took a different cab on there own to try and get to the station earlier to buy more tickets, actually ended up at the WRONG train station!  (There are 3 or 4 big train stations in Beijing.)  So they were late and were obviously not going to make our train.  The next one to TianJin didn’t leave until 5pm, so that really sucked for them.  I got everyone down the terminal to the right train, and it was me and Joe standing at the gate with one ticket left…and about 2 minutes to spare before we missed the train.  He handed it to me and said I had to go, so I left him standing there, the train sold out, and the next one not leaving for two hours.  I felt so bad!  :(

So I went running down the terminal, and luckily one of the investors was standing outside the train waving at me to hurry.  I made it on, sat down in my spot, and the train took off about 30 seconds later!  The train was very nice (just like the station) and it wasn’t until then that I figured out it was one of those new high speed bullet trains that pretty much goes so fast it just floats along the tracks…and that’s when I put two and two together and realized we were going a LONG ways away from Beijing! 

30 minutes later, after literally FLYING through the countryside, we arrived in TianJin.   Of course no one had been there, and no one had any idea where we were going.  So that was just great.  Everyone was following me, and I was just following the crowed walking off the train…no clue.  We found the “taxi waiting area” and decided to take a cab to the soccer (futbol) stadium…thinking (or hoping) that the cab driver would speak enough English to get us there.  Well of course that didn’t happen!  None of the cab drivers speak English…I have no idea what I was thinking.  So now I have 15 people with me, and am waiting in line for taxis and just know that it’s not going to work.  And I was right.  There were police officers lined up all over at the waiting area rushing people on to the taxis.  He yelled at us to go, so I ran to the taxi and asked him if he could take us to the football stadium – Olympics – soccer game – you know?  Blank stare…great…run to the next cab and same thing.  Well now the police officer is yelling at me for holding up the line and not getting in, and he puts a couple of my people in to a cab.  It was so loud and just crazy - sensory and emotional overload, but thankfully I saw them get in.  No! NOOO!  I started yelling and yanked them back out…we had no idea where we were going!  I tried to talk to the cop, but he quickly figure out we weren’t communicating!  He grabbed me and the rest of my group (who had scattered out along the street) and put us all together and yelled in to the waiting line something I'm sure to the effect of, ‘Who here can speak to these stupid Americans!?”  We were all dressed up in our crazy red white and blue USA outfits, so it was very obvious where we were from!  One guy raised his hand a came to the front, I told him where we were trying to go, he told the police offer, and stressed to him (after my prompting) that it was VERY IMPORTANT that all four of our taxis stay together.  So he got all of us in four taxis, and we were off…hoping and praying now that we all end up at the same place again! 

I mean come on…four taxis in a huge city in China during the Olympics staying together??  WHAT was I thinking….   Tianjin is very big…and it was very crazy since it was Sunday and I’m pretty sure at least 90% of the city was going to this soccer match!  We all stayed together (the four taxis) for probably 10 minutes…and then I couldn’t see all of them anymore.  Shocking huh.  After 30 minutes or so of driving through the city and sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, the guy stopped at a busy intersection and pointed to the right…where there were approximately 80 thousand Asians walking.  So we got out, thinking we were doomed and never going to find the other taxis.  About two minutes later, another one pulled up, and some of our crazy red, white, and blue guys got out.  So now we kind of stood out.  We stood in front of everyone – practically out on the middle of the street, and waited.  About 10 minutes later, another taxi pulled up.  So now Michael (another co-worker) and I decided we had to find tickets.  Not too many people spoke English (shocking!) so it wasn’t going so well.  I found a nice guy who kind of spoke English, and told us we needed to go across the street away from the stadium (and the row of police behind us) to buy tickets.  Just then, some old lady walked by with a little sign that said “I have tickets”.  Michael tapped her on the shoulder and followed her away.  He texted me a couple of minutes later and said she had five for 500 RMB per piece (around $80 USD) and I told him to take them.  I wasn’t having any luck standing in front of the stadium, and the other people (still missing one taxi) were getting restless and doubtful that we would get tickets.  Of course I couldn’t let that happen! :) (Side note: Who drags 15 investors to an Olympic event half way across China with no tickets??  This girl does!)   So I went back to the nice guy that spoke to us – he was just on the other side of the street, and I asked him to write down in Chinese that I need 15 tickets to the soccer game.  He kind of laughed and wrote it down.  So off I went…wandering against (the opposite direction) the sea of Asians heading to the game.  I got a block or two away, and the ENTIRE way, everyone looked at me, read my sign, took a picture (seriously), and laughed!  It was great. :) Eventually (probably 10 minutes later) this one guy was kind of following me.  Some other guy pointed to him, so I asked him if he had tickets and showed him my sign.  He started talking to me in Chinese…I mean full sentences.  Blank stare from me.  I said, “I ONLY SPEAK ENGLISH!” very frustrated.  So we weren’t getting anywhere.  I called Chris Wu (translator!) and told him what I was trying to do and that I thought this guy might have tickets.  I don’t know why, but I just handed my new cell phone to this guy.  Sometimes I’m a little na├»ve – he could have just run off with it I guess.  But he just stood there and talked to Chris for a couple of minutes and handed it back.  Chris said the guy had tickets and to go with him.  Go with him?  Where are we going??  By this time, everyone knows that I am buying tickets and what’s going on…that I’m not trying to get them busted by the cops or anything, so there is literally a swarm of guys around me pulling on me trying to get my attention showing tickets.  Seriously, I’m talking at least 10 guys trying to pull on me and get my attention.  The guy who talked to Chris pulled me over to the curb of the street and yelled at all the other guys to leave me alone I guess, so they just stood there lurching behind me.  Creepy.  He had his little entourage of 5 or 6 guys with him, and he handed me 10 tickets.  I looked at them, counted them, and said how much?  He took my piece of paper and wrote down 2,000.  That’s only 200RMB/ticket, which was much cheaper than what Michael got, so I said okay and got out my money.  I counted out 2000 RMB.  I handed it to him to re-count and he handed me the tickets.  I still had at least 100 in my hand, because I hadn’t put it all away yet.  He started to re-count and all of a sudden he just put the money down and turned away from me, and all the other guys disappeared in to the crowd.  Not really knowing what was going on, but feeling that it wasn’t good, I turned around to see three cops standing right there.  It is very illegal in China to scalp tickets, I knwe that.  One guy still standing there grabbed the other cash out of my hand and ran, and one of the cops reached for my tickets and I just ran the opposite direction from the guys.  They ran, so I just ran the other way!  I didn't know what else to do - it's not like I had time to sit there and process what I should or shouldn't do at this point!  This all happened in about 1.5 seconds and with lots of loud yelling from the cops.  Two of the cops went after the guys with the money, and one came after me.  Talk about an adrenaline rush!  I was freaking getting chased by a cop in Tianjin, China!  I was TOTALLY freaking out and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do if I got caught or what I was going to do when I got to the busy intersection a few blocks ahead that I had to cross to get to the stadium…I was just running and dodging Asians as fast as I could!  I don’t even know how far he chased me, I’m sure they were more mad at the Asians for selling the tickets, but I jut kept running right through the intersection, which was pretty much at a complete stand still with traffic so it wasn’t that hard…just around a couple of taxis and I could see my group standing there.  I came sprinting up to them, completely out of breath, and drenched in sweat.  It was about 90 degrees (seriously) and probably 90% humidity – typical China summer – so I was dying.  The cop was gone by known from what I could see, but I was still a little worried, so I said we needed to go in quickly before they spotted me again.  I wasn’t too hard to spot…in my red white and blue USA shirt and bright red socks up to my knees, and a short jean skirt! :)  The other taxi still wasn’t there yet, but after explaining what had just happened, we decided to move over to the side of the street – away from the middle of the intersection.  Michael had got a text that the other taxi got dropped off at a totally different section of the stadium, so we went off to try and meet them…all set with tickets now and still a little hyped up from my chase! :) 

The stadium was HUGE…I took lots of pictures! 

(The Asians LOVE me!)

 Not all of our tickets were together, so we kind of split up, and decided to meet at a bank across the street from the stadium after the game.  We got in and found our seat right at half time of the first match, Japan versus Nigeria.  Those boys from Nigeria could run forever!  The Japanese were no match for them.  In between games we went down to the souvenir shop and tried to find a bathroom and some food.  The bathroom was a hole in the ground, no toilet paper, no soap, and no paper towels.  Pretty typical, but still disgusting!  I don’t remember what they had for food, but it was terrible.  I took a picture of the concession stand sign and all the weird food they had to offer.  I ended up eating a snickers bar for my lunch/dinner. 

USA played the Netherlands and it was SO SO exciting!  There were little pockets of Americans throughout the stadium, and we all waived our flags and did U S A chants.  There was a big group of crazy Americans that ran around the stadium waving flags everytime we scored.  It was just so cool to be there.  The whole crowed went nuts anytime there was a goal, and turns out the Chinese LOVE doing the wave! :)  The US was up the whole game, but during extra time there was a penalty shot (with literally like 5 seconds left) and the Netherlands scored!  The game ended up at a tie 2-2.  A little disappointed it ended like that, but it was still really cool and fun to be there. 

We chartered a bus to take us back to Beijing, because the last train left at 9:30pm and the game didn’t get over until 10:30pm.  So we found our little tour lady we had hired and started walking to our bus.  Along the way, I saw three young guys wearing red white and blue and found out they were from the US and living in Beijing (working).  They were also looking for a ride back to Beijing, so they followed us to our bus and we squeezed (and I mean squeezed) them on.  Over three grueling hours later (after sitting at a police check on the highway for 45 minutes) we made it back to our hotel in Beijing around 1:45am.  I pretty much crashed that night!  It was raining in Beijing all day and night, so I slept with my window open and it was just like a summer night back in Kansas! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics in Beijing

I think the last time I wrote was Friday…after the opening ceremonies.  So Saturday morning was pretty un-eventful.  I had breakfast here at the hotel (like I do every morning).  My boss’ wife and I went to IKEA early afternoon-ish to buy things for the apartment we are moving in to tomorrow.  I don’t think many people in Kansas probably know what IKEA is, but you should look it up on-line.  There is on in Sacramento (a couple of hours from Tahoe) that I LOVE to go to.  You can pretty much get anything you would need to furnish a house or apartment dirt cheap, but it is fun, nice stuff!  We already tried Wal-Mart once and they didn’t have quite everything we needed.  So we took the driver (yes, we have a private car and personal driver!) to IKEA, which was about half an hour away.  It was a MASSIVE warehouse FULL of stuff…and full of Asians too of course.  Found out later that it is actually the largest IKEA in the world.  Three floors of house stuff to go through.  We literally filled two shopping cards to the RIM and had our arms full…we could barley walk and push the carts up to the check out stand, and only spent a couple of thousand dollars.  Rugs, towels, dishes, kitchen utensils, sheets, pillows, bathroom stuff, paintings, flowers…you name it, we got it there!!  Thankfully we had the driver, so he came in and carried everything out for us…after over two hours of shopping there!  We drove to the apartment and dropped it all off…and kind of quickly made sure we liked the way everything looked. 

We had to rush back to the hotel because we were throwing a surprise 50th birthday party for my boss (his birthday was actually the day before, 08-08-08, but he was at the opening ceremonies).  We reserved the restaurant here at the hotel and had AMAZING food/appetizers and an open bar.  Well about half an hour before he was supposed to show up, he called me, and was just FURIOUS about his cell phone not working.  We bought these crazy Chinese cell phones over here (one for him, one for his wife, and one for me) and we have had a heck of a time getting them to work properly.  My boss literally LIVES on his phone – it is his life and his way of conducting business, which he does 24/7, so he was NOT happy at all to say the least.  He told me to go out right then and buy him extra batteries for his phone, and to find something that charged batters outside the phone.  So…off I went…after talking to the concierge desk and having them write down the name of some place in Chinese.  “Oh yes, only 5 minute walk from here!” they said…like they always do.  So I set off, dressed up, in my strappy heels, practically running down the busy street in 100% humidity to try and find this place I didn’t even know the name of.  I’ve learned to stop and ask someone (well, show them the Chinese symbols written down) about every 50 feet, because you always get a different answer!  So after being told that the place was on my side of the street, I later found out it was across the street.  And these aren’t little streets, you have to find a place to go down under the subway tunnel to go under the busy road and then back up on the other side.  So I did that, and found what I thought MIGHT be the cell phone place…they had cell phones anyways.  I asked a lade working if she had the same batter I had in my phone…and she had no idea what I said…shocking.  It really is terrible to not be able to speak the language over here (I’m learning pretty quickly)  So she found someone who understood me, and he said no, he didn’t think they had any more of those batteries, and they did not have a stand-along charger.  He wrote down some OTHER name in Chinese and said to go back across the street and down a few blocks (only 5 minute walk from here…this way)…yeah, yeah…I’ve heard that before.  So off I went again…still running as I was missing the party.  Found place number two, no luck.  New address, in Chinese…and I’m off again.  This is no joke…it was unbelievable.  And still stopping to ask every 25 feet now…So I get to this mall, a pretty big shopping mall for Chinese standards.  And walk in and frantically start showing people my little piece of paper.  I eventually make it to the mall next to it, and up to the sixth floor through some dark stairs, somehow, and find a massive floor full of cell phones and accessories!  They didn’t have extra batteries, but they did have some crazy little contraption that charges batteries.  I took two and ran out.  Forget the walking; I got a cab, as I was completely drenched in sweat by now.  So much for looking nice for the party.  The cab ride was probably 10 minutes, with little traffic, so I have no idea how far I ended up walking, but it was no where close to five stinkin’ minutes!! 

I made it back, and of course had missed the surprise and my angry boss was now somewhat calm…so that was good.  We enjoyed the food and drinks for the evening, had a couple of toasts, and his little kids (4, 5, and almost 6) brought out the cake and sang to him…it was so cute. 

I heard that evening that there had been a fatal stabbing of an American at Tienamen Square that afternoon, which is very close to our hotel.  It of course was never on the news here (the Chinese cover that crap up pretty good), but I heard it did make it on the news back home.  I still don’t really know the full story, but it gave us all a pretty good scare. 

Later that night, a few people went to watch a women’s basketball event, but I was pretty worn out.  Joe (colleague of mine) and I went out and walked to try and find some food (the appetizers didn’t do it for us).  We found a Sizzler and a Pizza Hut in a shopping mall (coincidentally back across the street from where I was at earlier for the cell phone) but they were both closed.  So we settled for some McDonalds.  I really don’t like McDonalds, but I was craving some American food.  We both got cheeseburgers, and did our best to order them with ketchup only, but we got nothing on them at all…which was pretty good!  We thought we’d end up with everything on them…they don’t speak so much English around here.  It was SO SO good to have a burger and fries again!  I am so sick of weird Chinese food and stuff I just end up spitting right back out! :) We walked back to the hotel and went to bed around 11pm.

Friday, August 8, 2008

08-08-08 Opening Ceremonies

I've been trying to buy tickets to various Olympic events since I got here to Beijing.  One of my contacts for tickets called today and said she had found some tickets and would meet me at the hotel in the afternoon.  6 tickets which originally cost $50 USD a piece...and I was now paying over $1,200 USD.  It just makes me sick to think about how much we are paying for these cheap tickets --but that is all you can find now! 

Well she takes cash only, so I went down to the atm next door to take out cash to pay her.  Turns out my bank only allows me to withdraw $500 a day, so I had to call a colleague of mine to come down and take out the rest of the cash we needed.  The lady called me on my Chinese phone (yea, I have a Chinese cell phone now!) and said she was in the lobby with the tickets.  I said okay, told her what I was wearing (we hadn't met yet), and that I would be down in a minute with an envelope in my hand (and it was a big envelope stuffed full of 8,800 RMB in 100 bills).  So I get off the elevator and this girl walks straight up to me, grabs my arm, and says, "Where can we go?"  It was like a freaking drug deal! I was freaking out!  We walked to this dark corner off the lobby, she took my money, counted it, handed me the tickets, and walked out.  It was INSANE.  I mean I know it's really illegal to be scalping Olympic tickets in Beijing, but come on!  I thought I was going to jail or something! :)  Oh well - we got some tickets and she got paid a ridiculous amount of money for them...that's how it goes this late in the game.

I was pretty hungry at this point (late afternoon) and decided to go down to the Times Square shopping mall just down the street to try and find some lunch.  It was a high end mall (Gucci, Prada, etc) so no shopping for me.  I was headed down the escalator for the food court and I caught the glimpse of a DQ sign (Dairy Queen!).  I LOVE my ice cream, and I nearly trampled over this Chinese family to get to it - seriously.  Turns out, they don't really have the same flavors of blizzards that we do.  They had seven flavors:  fruits (couldn't they be a little more specific?), green tea (puke), brownie (I don't like chocolate), cookies & candy, blueberry storm, cheesecake, and the best for last "special recipes"!!  LOL...God only knows what THAT could be!!  Needless to say, I passed on the DQ blizzard.  Right next to it there was a New Zealand Natural place that had fruits and smoothies and ice cream, too.  On top of the "corn juice nectar" (what in the world is that??), they had ice cream flavors that were quite interesting as well.  The rainbow ice cream was green and brown...looked very appetizing.  ;) They also had chocolate (spelled chokolat), rum and raisin, fruits of the forest (really?) and strawberry and surprises!  That's what I went for...two scoops of strawberry and surprises please!  I was pretty surprised that they spoke absolutely NO English.  I pointed to the strawberry and pointed to a cup, and held up two fingers and said two in Chinese.  She got the picture!  So now I just needed to find some real food.  There were lots of little places there, but nothing looked good.  I finally decided to try some little Chinese place that had what looked like spaghetti.  The girl said a complete sentence to me in Chinese, and I just looked at her blankly like I always do when someone talks to me in Chinese.  She then said, "You speak Chinese?" and I said no in my best Chinese. :)  So I pointed to the spaghetti and she brought it over with a bottle of water for a whopping 24 RMB (about $3 USD).  The noodles were edible, but I have absolutely no idea what was on top of them.  It definitely wasn't beef - some sort of weird ball of something, and it definitely wasn't tomato sauce either.  Strike out number 8,000 on food since my time in Beijing!!  Oh well, at least the ice cream was good!  So I walked around for a little bit, realized I definitely could not afford anything in that place, and left the mall, out a different door on a different level than where I came in.  I was kind of in a daze about all of the security guards lining the street and how dead the whole city was with streets shut down etc, and just started walking.  I tried to cross a street to get to a book store, but they wouldn't let me, so I just kept walking...thinking about who knows what.  About 15 minutes later, I realized I had absolutely no idea where I was, because I had left the mall out a different door and walked the wrong way.  Perfect!  So I turned around and back tracked back to the mall, went back in, and back out the other side where I came in, and walked the other way back to my hotel.  Thankfully I remembered where I was going that time! :)

Back at the hotel, I met up with some of the other guys I work with, who were all dressed up in crazy red, white, and blue outfits with American flags and beads hanging all over them. 

I got my festive colors on too and we decided to head out to this cool outdoor area to watch the Opening Ceremonies with a couple of the investors.  I got the China Daily newspaper this morning and it had the Top 10 places to watch the ceremonies live.  We decided to go to "The Place" - real original, I know - and we decided to take the subway!  Taxis were pretty much non-existent today, as most of the roads were shut down.  I hadn't been on the subway yet, but I knew there was a metro station right down the street, so off we went. 

(Michael and a random Chinese guy - they thought we were all crazy!)

The subway turned out to be a good decision!  It was really pretty clean, was air conditioned, and was like .60 cents for a one-way ticket to the stop we needed to go to!  We managed to get on and off at the right stops with no problem.  However, when we got off, we couldn't figure out where we needed to go to get to "The Place."  I had the address written down in English and in Chinese and stopped several people along the way, who all pointed in the right direction, while giving full-on details in Chinese...I just gave them my blank stare, nodded and said thank you in Chinese.   (Do these people really think we understand a word they say??) 

So we finally found it...it is the largest TV screen in Asia, and the second largest in the world.  It covers the entire street between two new five-story, high-end malls, and two 23-story office towers.  It was MASSIVE!  And surprisingly enough, it wasn't that packed! 

So we walked around trying to figure out how to get in, because it was all blocked off, and this voice came on the loud speaker and said (in English) that all of the tickets were sold out.  The newspaper didn't say ANYthing about tickets!!  So I asked around, and turns out the tickets were free, but they were long gone and we weren't going to be able to get in to watch.  We were SO bummed out!  

There was a lot going on outside the blocked off part, so we found a really cool bar with big TV’s and tried to walk in.  VIP with reservations only...no luck.  So the guys decided to walk a couple of blocks away to an area that had some restaurants, but Shannon and I decided to stay and try to watch the ceremonies on the big screen from the outside.  Well I got tired of that and come on, it's China...so why can't I get in where I want?  I walked up to the lady at the cool bar, with her fancy list, and pretended to be really busy and on the phone, and just walked right past her!  She grabbed me and I said, excuse me?  I said I had friends in there, acted really annoyed, and just kept going in.  My friend knew the drill and just kept on walking too...with her and now two other people following us trying to talk to us.  We made it in the big bar, which luckily was pretty dark and very crowded, and disappeared in to a sea of people. :)  It was PERFECT!!  It's CHINA...anything goes, right? :)  So now we were in the air conditioned, VIP bar where drinks and food were free and got a seat right in front of the big screen with unbelievable surround sound!  It was way too hot and humid to stand outside for 4 hours to watch.  The show really was amazing.  I'm sure you guys all watched it too...not sure if it was shown live over there or if it will be played tonight?  We don't have NBC over here, so I'm not sure what you guys will see.  But over here, they zoomed out and you can see a lot of Beijing and all the big fireworks going off throughout the city.  The fireworks were SO cool!!   (Especially at the end after the torch was lit!)  I was pretty sure the Birds Nest was actually on fire at one point in the beginning...turns out it was just the fireworks. :) 

The whole city of Beijing was completely shut down for this.  It was almost scary.  It's like seeing New York City with NO cars or taxis anywhere!  INSANE!  The fireworks went off all through the city, around all of the big venues.  And there were cool lights in all the trees along the main road, which is where our hotel is.  It was a cool experience.  So we decided we wanted to stay at the bar until we saw the US team walk in at the stadium.  The place was full of people from every country.   We sat with a guy from Germany, and another from Russia.  There were some people from Australia and Argentina...you name it, and they were there!  However, we noticed everyone cheered and clapped for Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba and Russia.  Hmmm...we were kind of wondering, how much does everyone really hate America?  I mean I've always kind of joked around about it, but we were putting two and two together at this point.  I had on red, white and blue with an American flag hanging out the back pocket of my skirt, my friend just had on jeans and a white shirt.  So when USA finally came out...we kind of clapped and my friend waived the little flag a little bit...and everyone started booing the screen.  I honestly could not believe it.  And when President Bush came on, everyone REALLY booed!!  It was actually kind of sad...everyone really does hate Americans!  No one booed for ANY other country...it was just unbelievable.  I didn't know we were so disliked throughout the entire world...it was definitely an eye opener.  We left about 5 minutes after that...with the  American flag put away in my purse. :(

The city was still completely dead -- eerily quiet.  We walked a couple of blocks without seeing one person or car, and then some little white car pulled up along the street next to me and just kept driving really slow beside me.  I kept walking, kind of ignoring it.  Then the guy rolled down his window and turned the light on in his car and said something.  I thought he was asking if we wanted a ride, so I hollered no in Chinese and shooed him away.  He stayed there, driving really slow beside us and we walked along.  I kept kind of glancing over at him, trying to figure out what in the world he wanted.  I finally looked over at him, just in time to see him turn the light on again and point down to his crotch...haha...I think he thought I was a hooker or something!!  (I did have on a pretty short jean skirt and a tank top but come on!)  So we just stopped walking at that point, not sure what to do, and thankfully he just drove off.  Crazy!!  We walked another block or two and got to a main street, and one sole cab came by a couple of minutes later - we didn't really want to deal with the subway again because it's not that fast (6 stops between where we were and our hotel).  I got in and handed him a card from the hotel with the address in Chinese written on it.  He didn't really act like he knew where it was, and started talking to me in Chinese...blank stare from me again, so he called someone and figured out where to take us.  We drove down the main road in Beijing, and could see where some of the fireworks were going off.  There wasn't anyone around...just guards lining the street.  We drove right by the Raffles hotel, and it was completely barricaded by police cars and the biggest, coolest army tanks I've ever seen!!  Probably where President Bush was staying...I can't imagine any other person needing that kind of security in China!  It was pretty impressive!!  The security in Beijing really has been great so far.  I mean nothing crazy, but very tight...makes people feel safe!

So anyways - I'm back in the hotel room, it's after midnight, and I'm going to bed now!  (If the fireworks every stop exploding all over Beijing! My hotel is very close to the Forbidden City and
Tienamen Square, which are completely blowing up at the moment!)  Not sure what is going on tomorrow or the next day...if nothing exciting happens I probably will stop this every night novel I've been writing! :)