Wednesday, August 27, 2008

catching up on sleep

I left Beijing but my luggage decided that they loved China too much and wanted to stay. So my bags took an extra day of vacation much to my chagrin.

"Chagrin" - that's such a weird word. To me it means "lacking-grin." Maybe that's what it means to posh british people who use it all the time too. If that's the case, 'cha' can also be used in a sentence like this: "I got home cha-luggage."

I am pooped. So pooped that I fell asleep in the middle of composing an email last night. Sitting up in a chair. Fast asleep. Maybe the email was really boring - I took it as a hint and deleted it immediately.

Getting home was actually wonderful - we had a charter flight for NBC and got to watch my all time favorite show "30 Rock" on the flight. And then because I just can't get enough - me and my friend Jeff watched the BBC coverage of the men's finals that he'd downloaded before we left. Ahh - the thrill of watching gymnastics when it's not just the americans getting covered.

Yes - after watching nothing but the Olympics for two weeks, I watched the Olympics on the way home.

I feel like I need a few days to really process what I saw in China - all I know right now is that I saw and heard some pretty weird stuff but I have no idea what to make of half of it. Of course, I still don't know what day it is, so I need to first work on that - then genius observations of world politics. Good order.

Good news - sad-berry is about to become replaced-berry and then I can begin texting again. PHEW!!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

RG thoughts expanded

I had to borrow a few ideas from my blog for regarding my impressions of the freak show that is rhythmic (which I can totally spell now!)


Saturday, August 23, 2008

China loves Shawn; hates my knees

CCTV is the government run tv network here - they have about 11-12 different channels (one is in English and the morning anchor is straight out of 'Anchorman'). So CCTV 3 has a nightly show where a guy interviews Olympic athletes on stage with an audience - sort of like China's version of Bob Costas, except taller.

I catch snippets of this show all the time and I've never seen an American - or really, anyone that's not chinese on it and last night I caught the highlight reel that they did for the conclusion of the games and AWWW!!! Shawn Johnson is the one and only American and non-Chinese athlete that was on the show! I'm sure it had a lot to do with her coach being from Beijing but China just loves Shawn Johnson.

The CCTV sports channels do nightly montages of the days greatest moments and it's usually the gold medal winning Chinese (lord knows they've had plenty to feature). When Nastia won I think I saw maybe one of two clips of her but when Shawn won her beam medal, she was prominently featured. I'm sure blonde hair and megawatt smile doesn't hurt.

For me the biggest gymnastics star of the games has been Nastia Liukin, but I think that Shawn Johnson has been just as big - it's hard to judge sitting in the middle of it. I'm really curious to see what the response has been and who's gotten more air time. ... I still can't look at the pics of Nastia on the podium without getting a little teary. By far my favorite Olympic moment.

I thought that America had a lot of repetitive commercials but it's nothing compared to the commercials on CCTV. I think I've seen a total of 5 different commercials since being here. Tsingtao beer, Haeir air conditioners and refrigerators, China Mobile (most annoying song ever), Adidas (creepy commercial where the chinese people first lift their sports stars on their sidewalk of hands and then bow down to him), an ad for Korea called "Sparkling Korea" ... I think there's one other one but I have no idea what the product is. I just know the theme music drives me nuts. Can't wait to get home and have the luxury of at least TEN different commercials in rotation! Whhhheeeee!!!

Jamaica is a very fast country.

Went to the rhythmic finals last night for the all-around and I ended up sitting with a former Chinese rhythmic gymnast who is the Chief Liason Officer for gymnastics here at the games (have no idea what that is but the title is impressive... might have to put that on my business cards). She was sitting right in front of me and turned around at some point, saw my name tag with my NBC card and asked me if I worked in tv. I told her that I was there writing a little thing on rhythmic and how I was trying to understand it (which, should be writing right now) and she immediately got up and said, 'Oh! I will teach you everything!' and she proceeded to give me an rg lesson!

She wasn't much help in my political/gossip questions like why does russia hate the ukraine so much and what's up with the crazy russian coach, but she did have really helpful info like how much is taken off in deductions for turns and ribbon drops, etc. So, ya know, helpful but I want the dirt!!!

A couple of Russians were sitting behind me and it took every ounce of my strength not to turn around and steal their jacket. I'm very proud of myself for holding back my urge to be a thief.

My knees totally hate China. The shuttle buses here are not tall people friendly. Everytime I ride them, I'm uncomfortable and my legs hurt when I walk out - I knwe it was crunched but never really gave it much thought. Well, last night I was wearing a skirt which made my life more difficult on the bus - I looked down at the seat and thought, hmmm, I wonder how much leg room there really is. I put my arm down thinking for sure my hand to elbow would fit ..... umm... I put the heel of my palm to the seat and my finger tips crunched up against the chair in front of me!! There's not even 6 inches of leg room.


Best video ever

Video link
Compliments of the overworked highlights factory back at 30 Rock. Hooray for no sleep!Link

Lost in a hutong

I only have a couple more days left in Beijing and one of the things I've been dying to see is the Drum tower. I have no idea why. I don't know what is there, I don't know why it's famous, I don't know where it is, but I dig the name. A whole tower just for a drum? Must be some drum.

Ok - well, also the tour book said that it had amazing views of the hutong after you climb up the steep stairs. And since I haven't touched a treadmill since I got here, I thought it would be a nice way to get a little workout in before I go back to my merciless trainer Sandi who quite ruthlessly kicks my ass.

Well, the dumb thing was closed! A rickshaw driver was trying to convince me to jump on the back of his bike and after I politely declined, he told me that the drum tower was closed during the duration of the games for security.

Total bummer!

Oh wait..... the Drum Tower! That's where the incident happened during the Opening Ceremony where the American was murdered and the Chinese guy threw himself off the top and committed suicide!! I totally thought that happened in T Square. I didn't figure out that it was the Drum Tower until I got back and people were like, oh well, yea - it's probably closed because of the incident. Ummm.... hmmm..

Again, I'm not very smart in China. I wanted to visit a murder site.

I figured if I couldn't get a good aerial view of the hutongs, I might as well wander through. And so I went and got myself lost in a hutong. I figured I'd get out eventually so I just kept walking. And yay - I did find my way out eventually.

Hutongs are basically narrow alleys and streets where people live - they resemble a corn maze without the corn.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Shiny stuff

Last night I went to discover the joys of the sport of rhythmic gymnastics (RG). Well - mostly just to figure out what the heck it was and why it was so popular in Europe. Yes, apparently RG is huge in Europe. Much like David Hasselhoff

First off - I was completely blinded by the overwhelming glare from the sequins.

There is a very sad housewife in Oklahoma who can't bedazzle her jean jacket because rhythmic stole all of the worlds sparkles.

I was looking forward to a match-up between Russia and Ukraine as apparently they're death rivals. RG has a lot of drama. The Russians (with all their awesome jackets that they won't share - jerkbutts) were out in full force with the flags and the chants of "Rush-ee-AH! Rush-ee-AH!" ('russia' said like U-S-A - copycats.... give me your stuff!!) They were very loud for their people - but they were also extremely supportive for the girls that train in Russia, like the two girls from Azerbaijan. Who even knew that place had sequins? I believe the two girls who compete from Azerbaijan were actually born and live in Russia, but because it's so hard to qualify for the Russian national team, they compete for Azerbaijan instead. And they are still ranked top ten in the world!!

You can only send two girls per country to compete in the Olympics and the third ranked girl in Russia was actually a gold medal favorite in RG in Beijing.... and didn't even qualify. Russia is a great place to be a super flexible freak - and since the mafia is heavily involved in RG, when you retire, you can marry a mob boss! ... I'm only half kidding.

I was sitting next to a couple of media dudes from Azerbaijan (which is really hard to spell, btw) and they were these grizzly old, giant-mustached, Borat-wannabes totally into the RG performances. Literally on the edge of their chairs when the group was performing, practically about to pass out from the nerves.

Again - huge in Europe.

So the poor Ukraine girl who's one of the gold medal favorites, Anna Bessonova, had to go immediately following this stream of Russia-love-fest. It was back to back russians and then the Azer girls and then some other random country that they were cheering for and then Bessonova enters the arena and the Russians all jump to sit on their hands and stare stone faced at her willing her to either drop the hoop, drop the rope or better, just drop dead. So since the Russians hate her and also hate me - she's my favorite.

I actually don't have access to the arena that the RG event is held in so I had to borrow one of intern's credentials who had access. You know how American's can't tell Asians apart? Well the same in reverse for Asians. Honkeys have been swapping credentials left and right to sneak into events because the volunteers can't tell us apart. hehe

so rhythmic - what an awesome freak show!!

Those girls are flexible beyond what is even human. I wonder if they miss their spines?

I actually really, really enjoyed the group routines. 5 girls, 5 ropes, one very complicated game of cats in the cradle. It was almost more fun to watch the teams that were less skilled because you could kind of get an idea of how they were getting their ropes in the various places. With the really good teams like Belarus and Russia, you couldn't see any sort of set up! Just, whoop - 5 ropes in the air! whoop - 5 ropes being flung off 5 leaping girls' feet! whoop - 5 ropes spelling out the complete word "orange".... wild stuff. I highly recommend going to and watching the rope group routines.
Group video

A gallery from last nights competition

One kind of wild thing about Chinese sporting events is that no one really eats in the arena. I wasn't sure if they even sold food in the place so I took a walk to see. Well - they do sell food but ummm... anyone up for a 'spicy beef stick'? Or perhaps a 'biscuit'? Maybe a piece of 'bread'? Well, now I guess I know why no one chows down in china.

Also - the arena smells like feet.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The age issue

About time. The IOC is FINALLY launching an investigation into the underage gymnast thing.

I've had a hard time coming to terms with the Chinese underage issue. If China had any dignity, they would have pulled He with an "injury" the minute the evidence surfaced and saved face. No one would have cared about the age thing if He Kexin wasn't actually competing; the issue would have been dropped and lord knows they could have replaced her with the ten other girls back at the training center who are just as good.

But instead, they acted with arrogance. I don't normally agree with Bela Karolyi because he's ummm, well kind of crazy sometimes, but on this - I agree. To parade 4 girls in front of your country, one of whom recently lost a tooth, and blatantly lie about their ages in hopes of more gold is insane. It's just insane. I knew that He Kexin was too young for the Olympics a year ago. And I'm just a fan with no inside knowledge, inside spies, inside anything. Ok - I'm an uber-fan, but still. How is that I could know this and the IOC completely ignores it?

It's the IOC's own fault for waiting until AFTER the competition to investigate. But now it sucks for the sport. Because now it's in the spotlight. And gymnastics will get a bad rap - again. Ugh. It's terrible for the sport. I think that's why I was so willing to ignore it and just make jokes about it.

I think that China was a better team and they deserved to win - and I'm glad that they won - but the attitude is now driving me nuts. There was an article that I can't find now - but it was a Chinese coach saying that you couldn't go off of looks alone to determine the ages of the Chinese... that if you went off of looks alone, then you would say that the entire US women's gymnastics team was on steroids.


So now I'm just pissed about the arrogance. How can you parade around those young kids, lie about their age and then gloat about their victories? Gymnastics is a sport for small bodies and young girls because it's just so dang hard to do - but the rules are in place that you have to be 16 in order to compete and the rest of the world is coping with that. Broken - but they're coping. Two Americans went down with terrible ankle injuries in the practice sessions just days before the competition - it's a tough sport. And the age rules suck but they are what they are (and should change). America had two great girls who weren't 16 yet and so were left home.

I also find it hilarious that while evidence has come to light about He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Ying Lilin - nothing has come up about Deng Linlin who is the size of a teapot (and is the one missing a tooth).

I just love watching these girls compete - the "artistic" part of artistic gymnastics is a thing of the past, but the Chinese girls bring back the beauty. Perfect positions, attention to line and toe point, it's just gorgeous. Too bad they're so young they haven't even learned long division yet.

Oh wait - I still can't do long division. Never mind.

Misty and Kerri

Awwww... Misty May and Kerri won again! They haven't lost a match for over a year now. A YEAR! That's incredible in itself - but what makes them such an endearing team to me is how much each win means to them. And how much this Olympic gold meant to them. They were so emotional after the win and so excited to win - if you didn't know better, you'd think this was their first games and their first win. I love that they still appreciate the victories and don't take it for granted. Because if anyone has the right to take a win for granted - it's them.

As they were doing their victory laps, Misty caught a glimpse of the ridiculous cheerleaders on the side doing a dance and she started to do it along with them! It was hilarious. One of my favorite moments of the games so far. Next to Nastia winning of course, oh and Shawn. And being nyet'ed by russia.. and chalk!.... Ok, well, it's top ten for sure.

They were so excited to get on the podium during the medal ceremony. While the bronze medal team was getting their flowers, Misty kept putting her foot up on the podium like she was about to jump up - super cute. When they finally were announced, they bounded right up to the top step and forgot to congratulate the other teams. They realized their mistake while they were being handed their flowers and were like "D'oh!!' and turned to give the other teams giant bear hugs while the official Olympic flower dude is like, hey - take my flowers!! Very sweet.

As they turned to listen to the anthem, they both put down their flowers so they could hold hands while it was playing. Again, so sweet. Kerri was so choked up - and being the giant sap I am, I welled up with tears every time they replayed it here. They are such amazing people. So glad they got their Olympic moment.... again. Plus, I'm totally sick of hearing that damn china anthem.

So immediately following their win, as they're bouncing around the stadium and hugging everyone and everyone's soaking in the perfect moment - the track and field producer dead-pans "Well, now they can have their babies" and the room was in hysterics. There was something that had happened earlier where it was either a headline or something about what's next for May and Walsh and the main thing it talked about how they wanted to have babies. And the way the headline was worded was just ridiculous.

I hope that translates in blog language. It was pretty darn funny at the time.

USA House

We made it to the USA House last night and, unlike the Russians, they were welcoming, friendly and extremely encouraging of us to lay down our Visa cards and buy their crap. So I obliged.

Polo Ralph Lauren is a major sponsor of the US team this year - they did the opening ceremony outfits and then a bunch of the t-shirts. Nike did most of the athletic gear that you see, like the wind breakers they wear on the medal stand. For some reason I always pronounce Ralph Lauren like I'm foreign. I don't say 'Lauren' like the name. I say 'Lo-wren' like a wanker.

And I don't think I can stop!

The USA House was gorgeous. It was at the back of a restaurant called Buffalo something so I was expecting "China-Goes-Wild-West" decor but instead it was this really beautiful sort of LA-chic, lounge style place. The place was surrounded by a faux-river and you had to cross a bridge to get over it - always a big fan of having to cross a bridge to get to dinner, makes it feel like I worked to get there - but then inside, the place looked like what you'd imagine Monte Carlo to look like! Fountains everywhere, music you'd find in a yoga class, cool lighting. Very serene.

Bart Connor and Nadia Comaneci were there with their son Dylan - Yay!! gymnastics royalty and their offspring!

On our way there we passed a dance party for old folks. There are two giant common areas in front of the Workers Stadium and on both sides there were a bunch of people gathered around boomboxes doing what looked like country square dancing. But without the square. Actually, one side was a little bit country, the other side was a little bit rock and roll. Just like the Osmonds.

There was an article that popped up on the AP wires this morning that was a jolt. It's so easy to forget where we even are since most of this month has been experienced in Olympic land - not beijing land.... two VERY different places.

There's always a battle of medal count between the countries and right now America is winning with most total medals. But China is SMOKING us in gold. And about to catch up in total medals. CCTV, the govt's national tv stations in China, shows this chart all the time, but they always have China at top. Which made sense to me since they have double the gold medals that we do. Ha - just saw NBC's medal count graphic and oh hey - it's the US on top! Hilarious.

There is a Chinese track and field athlete named Qi Haifeng who has a giant mole on his cheek and 8-9 black hairs growing out of it. Long hairs. Long bushy hairs that are visible when he runs. Hello - how are those aerodynamic? And um, how do you expect to get a contract with Li Ning when you have a troll doll's head growing out of your face?

One of the synchronized swimming teams got their suits banned because they had little light up lights embedded into their fabric or something. They decided that the lights were "accessories" and they couldn't use them. Hmm... I would think that if you're going to make a stink about a synchro swimming outfit, how about throw a fit about the fact that their entire butt is hanging out. Seriously - can they cut those things any higher??? They're practically wearing thongs. The prude in me says "Good gracious!" The slightly crasser version of that prude in me says "slutty whores."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

smacked down

the other day we embarked on "Get Russian Stuff" part deux.

It didn't go well.... Again.

I realize that in these politically charged times wearing anything from Russia is probably not the smartest idea. Just ask Becky Harmon. However, I have been a fan of russian gymnastics forever and scoring a piece of their national uniforms from the Olympics would be almost as good as getting Olympic chalk. ..... Almost.

We went the other day back to Ho-Hai where the Russian House is located. (snicker - bar district) We'd heard that they were for sure selling stuff and you could for sure buy it. Great. Credit cards armed and loaded.

We skip to the house with big dreams of walking away with Russian jackets, confident that this time they'll let us in and surely be ecstatic that we want to wear their stuff. ... ummmm, not exactly. We got so denied, it wasn't even funny. Nyet, Nyet! The dude who we talked to at the door of the Russia House almost laughed at us! He didn't speak the best english so I kept tugging at his team russia polo shirt and saying 'we - want - to - buy - you!' .. I don't know for sure, but he may have taken that the wrong way.

Smacked down by the Russians.


Today we go for a third try. But tonight we'll also hit up the USA House to get some patriotic stuff which I will totally proudly wear. If I actually score a Russian jacket tonight, it may have to just hang in my closet for awhile, number one because I don't want to get slapped by a Georgian and two, because I'm still pretty peeved that the ruskie laughed at my offer to buy him.


The perfect souvenir. I totally just got the PERFECT Olympic souvenir. I am so excited I can not stand it.

Olympic CHALK!!!!

One of the interns came through the other day and she was all excited about getting sand out of the long jump pit and I thought, hmm, what a great idea. What can I take out of the gymnastics arena? and omg - like lightening it hit me - CHALK! I need chalk!

This must be how Einstein felt when he discovered that whole m=ec squared thing. Or no, that's wrong. E=MC? I don't know. I'm not very smart in China.


I put Jess on the case a couple of days ago and she dispatched the camera men on the mission. We had no luck during event finals but today, inspiration as beautiful as poetry - or an Alan Abrahamason blog entry - struck.

We went to the Olympic Gala show today and when we got back, Jess realized that she'd left her bag all the way back at the arena. Holy ugh. So she runs back to the arena and I don't know how she did it but she pranced right onto the podium and snatched a block of chalk for me.

And as if my chalk adventures couldn't any better - it's the chalk that Shawn Johnson was using during the gala.

Unreal - Jess is my hero.

The gala itself was totally lame. It was a couple of medalists performing watered down routines to super random elevator music and then some members of the Chinese National Aerobic team. It started off with 6 men in red gold and white velour shorty unitards - and a LOT of gold sequins. Granted - they were good but it was like watching an all-male cheerleading squad.... except gayer with more gold sequins. And then also a terrible display of britney spears wannabes. Oy!

Nastia and Shawn saved the night with great beam routines. Sigh... one last performance of the games for them. They both wore pink - fun! That'll totally make it into my "Best of the Blue Carpet" gallery I've been keeping on the gymnastics page at Way fun.

Track and field is breaking my heart lately. First the Chinese national hero goes down and then last night Sanya Richards leads the pack by a mile and then falters the last five seconds with a leg cramp. But the saddest one was Lolo Jones by far. When she missed that second to last hurdle and then missed medaling after leading the pack the whole way... ugh!!! NBC must have been working on a package because the feed kept replaying her reaction after the race and then her meltdown backstage over and over again. It was just unbelievably sad.

I thought gymnastics went by fast - you train your whole life and your entire Olympic competing time totals maybe 5 minutes.

But in track, they get about ten seconds! A teeny-tiny mistake in a fraction of a second during that time and your shot at a medal is gone. Had she raised her leg an inch higher, she'd be wearing a gold medal.

I do this every single Olympics - marvel at the inches and fractions that change your life forever. I just can never get over it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Tonight, without giving it a second thought, I identified a clip as being from the 1992 Olympics simply from getting a quick glimpse at the graphic. And it wasn't even a gymnastics clip, it was track and field.

My extensive Olympic knowledge has officially moved into the realm of scary. And I embrace that. And celebrate it. Yay my weird head!

The traaaammmpoline.

If you have the mind of a 12 year old boy, the names of the people competing in trampoline are hilarious.
Karen Cockburn
Dong Dong

In the prelims, Dong chased Chunlong. Seriously.

Of course, I would never think these things are funny for I am SUPER classy.

I have a hard time doing anything with trampoline because all I hear is that SNL sketch where they made fun of Stone Phillips speech pattern and did this thing on "Trampoline: child's play toy or vicious backyard killer?" NBC took all the snl stuff off youtube and I can't find the clip right now and it's making me nuts!! I have to hear it to get it out of my head!!


Oh the draaahhh-ma... we liiiivvvve for it.

He Kexin, the fetus from China, beat Nastia Liukin, the princess from America.

So annoying.

The tie breaking procedure was so complicated that it took a good 30 minutes before people could even say that it was done correctly and yes, Nastia did in fact lose to the girl who is so young, she hasn't even deveolped eye lids yet. Or wait - no, she's just Chinese. Fetus....Chinese .... it's hard to tell the difference sometimes. (and I mean that in a totally endearing, not at all gross or offensive way.)

So annoying.

In fashion news, I think Italy asked "Members Only" to design their team jackets. Aren't the Italians known for style? Ick.

But the saddest thing that happened yesterday, maybe the saddest thing at the Games so far, was the withdrawal of Liu Xiang in track and field. This guy is the biggest star in China - even bigger than Yao Ming. He's a legend. Part of me wonders if he self-destructed because he couldn't deal with the burden of carrying literally a billion dreams on his shoulders. I don't understand how stars in China cope. There is so much pressure on their athletes here.

I was watching in my hotel room as I was getting ready for the day and since it was in Chinese, I was kind of only half paying attention. (Contrary to my previous reports, my Chinese doesn't actually "rock")But I saw him limping a bit and then I saw his practice run where he clearly hurt something. I still wasn't sure if what I was watching was even live, but I knew it was really bad news when the people in the stands, who had been clicking furiously away at him with their cameras, put the cameras down and just stared motionless at him as he sat down in pain on the track.

After he withdrew, I had to walk through the main press center on my way to the IBC and there was a huge group of local voluneteers gathered around the giant tv. They all looked like someone had just died - and we later got reports that people were crying in the Birds Nest and leaving.

It's really sad - for him, for the country, for the sport. He was China's only big hope in track and field. They have figured out ways to dominate most of the primetime sports, but he was their only big ticket in the birds nest. It's actually a good thing that he didn't run because had he raced and lost - he would have let down an entire country. Better to withdraw with your pride intact.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Scott Kelly

Stop bitching that I'm not updating my blog. Go play with your ducks.

Only in China

The best sign in China (click on it and read closely)

The dumbest sport in China

There's a lot of people in China

A ridiculous amount of branding in China

Public transportation in China

Best Headline EVER


"Chinese Gymnasts: Super Babies Able To Destroy The World's Finest Athletes"


The compound turned into Phelpsapalooza today after Phelps won his last gold medal and made an appearance with Bob Costas. I was running across the street to my hotel to grab my jacket since ya know, it's Siberia here. I knew something was up when I heard this huge loud "whoop!" coming from down the hall. I couldn't even get out - all of the halls were blocked with people

People were materializing out of the walls. The halls are usually busy but never packed. People just run from place to place - no one just stops and stands in the hallway. So when someone is standing still here, you know someone cool is in da hizzle. Today, I bet there were about 100 people lining the halls waiting for Phelps. Way to play it cool NBC! In their defense - all the people here are total sports nerds - I've seen 50 year old men getting excited about Bela Karolyi being in the halls. Ahh.. my people!!

Last night I broke one of my golden rules - "Use the buddy system"... but for a good cause! And a great field trip. Yesterday was a totally thrilling competition that drained me emotionally and physically. The trampoline prelims. And by thrilling, I mean lame. Oh - although the Chinese girl who was expected to win totally BOMBED!! She didn't even advance to finals. She literally had a mini-freak out in the air on one of her last flips and landed heaped up in a ball on the tramp. (man - that sounds way dirty). So that was fun. Trampoline is like Nascar - you only watch to see who crashes. Because when they crash - they crrasssssshhhh.

Anyway - I'm digressing. Again,

Fun field trip - Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City! Because the completely thrilling trampoline prelims ended at 2pm, I ended up getting to head out of here at a normal time - who-hoo for leaving work at 5. What a wild concept. I forgot what a sunset looks like. I hopped into a cab and said "tea-an-men xie-xie" because I totally rock at chinese now.

I got to the ticket office by the gate of the square and I couldn't see a price anywhere so I pulled out 100yuan (approx 15 dollars) thinking well, this outta cover it. The woman looked at the bill and said, "No, no, 2 yuan". So I pulled out another 100yuan bill. The woman laughs and goes, "No, TWO yuan!" Ohhhh... wow - it costs about 15 cents to get into the Forbidden City! And I was about to lay down approx. 30 bucks. I laughed and she laughed and we shared a special "Americans so dumb" moment.

I have absolutely no idea what I actually saw at the Forbidden City. I may have progressed in my chinese speaking ability but my chinese reading skills still have a ways to go. Whatever it was that I was looking at was pretty cool though. It reminded me of Central Park - it just all sort of seems the same at first, but then you start looking a bit closer and suddenly there's all sorts of interesting stuff to see.

My favorite part was this rock garden I found. There was a sign in front of one of the rocks that looked a bit forbidding and I thought for sure it said "stay out or we'll murder you with our giant machine guns" but the path in front of it looked pretty worn so I was hoping I was wrong. I walked a bit farther and ta-da! A path that was paved and led right up to the rocks, clearly welcoming me to climb and play and not at all threatening me with death by machine gun. Wheeee! (there are security cameras everywhere... they don't even bother to hide them or make them blend in. They're huge and obvious.)

As I left the forbidden city, I noticed a huge group of people gathered along the square looking like they were waiting for something to happen. I thought maybe a race or something was going to come by. I looked back over towards the gate and realized that the sun was about to set... oooohhh....sweet!! I realized that I was going to catch the changing of the guard thing - that's what everyone was waiting for. Of course, I don't know what actually happened when the gaurds changed - all I saw was a bunch of soldiers out-kicking the rockettes with their goose stepping.

I was pretty close to the front but because it was packed, I couldn't see when the soldiers came out - I sure heard it though! There was a huge rush of "ooohh!" and a crush of people moving closer to the front when the soldiers made an appearance. Every one's hand shot up in the air to take pictures. There had to be at least a thousand people watching - a lot of people were lining the streets so they could see the guards walk across - it would have been a great vantage had I know what the heck was about to happen.... oh well, next time!

After the guards did their thing (walked across the street) the place started to clear out and I realized that I was going to have a heck of a time catching a cab. So I started wandering down a side street with the hope that I would catch one away from the crush of humanity. Um, no luck. Catchign a cab in Beijing.... not the easiest thing to do! I stopped into a couple of cute little stores while I was waiting and met a shop owner who told me loved Michael Phelps by waving his arms in circles and going 'schwimmin! schwimmin! man!' 'Ooohhh... Phelps!' 'Yes, Phelps! Phelps!' I eventually caught a cab about an hour after leaving the square - it was getting dark and the street lamps didn't go on for the longest time! That's about when I regretted not using the buddy system. Luckily, there was shopping to distract me. So mom - don't worry, I may have broken the buddy system rule and accidentally ended up on a sketchy Beijing back road - but I totally got you some good stuff!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


In a shocking development, it appears that Beardy McLongBeard has trimmed his beard.

Off to work on a new moniker.


Nastia Liukin won.

Holy crap - Nastia won!

I've been watching Nastia since 2002 when she was this itty bitty junior who had this precious soviet pedigree, was all legs and forehead, lovely lines and all the potential in the world. But how many times does potential pan out? I just never thought there was any way that this girl who appeared to have it all going for her would actually do it. I always think you need some adversity in your life to give you that extra boost to really achieve great things and it didn't seem that Nastia would have that kind of challenge in her life.

But then 2006 came and she hurt her ankle - and everyone was saying there was no way, no way she could do it. The reign of Nastia was over, make room for the Shawn Johnson. Nastia's old, Nastia's washed up, Nastia's over. She was only 16. It was really difficult to watch - and easy to believe. But to see how she came back from that and fought her way back to the top, even when she was unable to defeat Shawn in 2007, she kept creeping up and getting better and better. Her bar routine is impossible - it was one of the most difficult routines in the world before and she went and made it harder - and better. Her beam routine is gorgeous. Vault, ok, whatever. But what she does, she does perfectly. She does a double front on floor. Nastia Liukin shouldn't be able to do a double front on floor!

I admire her so much for never giving up belief in herself. For always striving not just to be good, but to be great. Man - it's such a cliche in sport, but she actually does it! She strives to be great. What a huge thing to wake up in the morning and go to the gym and know that you're training for greatness. No pressure.

That was probably my most favorite all-around competition ever. I just can't believe that she got her story-book ending! It's incredible. In 2004 she did a commercial for Adidas where she did a bars routine along Nadia's 1976 bars routine. It was the beginning of the 'Impossible is Nothing' campaign. I just am shocked beyond belief that her Olympic dream played out this way.
It's awesome.

I love the Olympics.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Phelps = Awesome

Phelps won by a fingernail in the men's 100m butterfly. A fingernail! Talk about turning up the heat. He won by .01 seconds.

That was just an incredible race. Phelps won because he made that split second choice to take the extra stroke while the other guy made the choice to coast on the speed he'd already built up.

How do swimmers know their bodies so well to know what changes to make in order to gain tenths of a second on the other guy? It blows me away. I'm adding swimmers to my list of things that confuse. (so far we have beach volleyball girl's bikini bottoms and swimmers for this Olympics - I'm sure there will be more.... speed walking being an Olympic sport is inching its way on there) Anyway - the other's guys hands were inches away from the wall and Phelps' arms were up in the air out of the water and he still managed to touch the wall first. He is a machine.

I just watched that race about ten minutes ago and already I have no idea who Phelp's beat. He's just the other guy. Oh - Cabbage. Or no, Cavic. Sounds like cabbage. Makes me hungry for my mom's awesome corned beef and potato and cabbage thing she makes on St Patricks day. Makes me also wish I still ate cow and pig. What am I talking about? Oh, right, I'm at the Olympics. What day is it? Umm..... day 8. Wowsa. I hope I still remember my name by the end of this!

Phelps = half-dolphin, half-robot.

The boss man just walked in here and was laughing about how it took him forever to get here because the speed walking, I'm sorry "race walking" competition was going on and blocking traffic everywhere. Someone joked that he probably tried to jump in and walk with them and he said, well, actually... Ha - he was standing right by the road when he saw the American come towards him. He wanted to see how fast they actually walked so he started jogging alongside them! Awesome.

I love the steeplechase. That's where a rag-tag group of need-to-eat-a-sandwich skinny runners race around the track and jump over what look like equestrian hurdley things. And then there's one with a giant pool of water below it. And they have to jump right into the water. It seems more like a Japanese game show than a track and field event. I mean, I would take offense being told to jump like a horse and land in some water.

There's a dude from America who will compete at some point and he has a giant lumberjack's beard. I have named him Beardy McLongBeard. Not terribly original, but it suits him. I gotta get a picture with that crazy man.

Yang Wei? Yang WAY!

'Doing it the Yang way' is quite possibly the most brilliant thing I have ever written.


Not really

Ok, a little bit.

Me and Bela! Who-hoo! Right before this he was carrying me around the media compound encouraging me to write better headlines.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I've lost my mind a bit

If I was to write an "Onion" headline right now, it would be "Phelps looks confused, asks reporter, 'why am I all wet?'"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Some pics from the past few days

I've been slacking on my photo narrative lately...

The Opening Ceremony!

A TsingTao to kick off the festivities... not sure if that's allowed in the MPC but the night certainly called for some libations.

When the Chinese athletes entered the arena, the place went BONKERS.

It can sometimes appear that the entire nation of China wears these shirts. They're for the volunteers.

The Olympic torch being lit

The fireworks from the Opening Ceremony

My most favorite places in Beijing - Bird's Nest and Water Cube. Picturesque. Even through the smog!

ok - no - THIS is my most favorite place in Beijing!

During the women's team prelims, there was a torrential downpour. As we left, we were greeted by free parkas! Nice! FREE?!?!??

The Olympic torch lit at night - view from my hotel. Sigh...

Well, not EVERYthing is modern in Beijing yet. Olympic land is so sleek, big, modern, fresh - it's always a jolt to be reminded that the country hosting us is still a different world.

How I tell time... and yes, I update it daily, duh.


The U.S. women competed this morning and sigh... happy for China, gutted for America. Poor Alicia Sacramone. Early on in her career she was completely inconsistent, hardly the team member you'd call the "sturdy rock" - but in the past four years, she has blossomed into that role. She had slowly but surely established herself as a solid, dependable beam worker and an explosive, reliable floor and vault worker. She worked so hard to get that reputation. And now? Well, maybe people will forget that she was the one who fell on the team - but she'll probably always remember herself as the 'one who choked'.... so sad.

And really - she didn't lose the medal for team. The U.S. was going to need to be flawless and get a little bit of help from China in order to win. And other people made mistakes. So yes, Alicia fell, but no, she didn't lose the medal for the team.

Which brings me to my story.

John Roethlisberger, a super funny and cool 3 time Olympian, is doing some work for during the games. After everything went down this mornnig, it was pretty clear that Alicia was going to end up being the sacraficial lamb in the media - and he wasn't having it. And he was totally right.

So he came up with this idea of "don't throw alicia under the bus" segment that we were going to shoot by ... ta-da! a bus. Super fun, awesome plan.

So we go out to the shuttle area with all the buses, secure a bus to shoot with, stash our stuff out of sight from the shot over behind some other buses and get going (ok - well, we got going after about 15 chinese volunteers had gathered, discussed and FINALLY gave us the go ahead, ugh) So we start the shoot, it's going great and as we're nearing the end, the bus next to us pulls out and starts to drive away. Aannnnnddd :CCCRRRRUUNNNCCHHHHH::

That was my bag.

Under the buses wheels.

My blackberry is in my bag.

And now it's under the buses wheels.

The driver of that bus had to literally step over my bag in order to board the bus and drive away. My bag was right there in front of the door. How he even managed to get the wheels over my bag I will never know. It took some serious skill.

My nbc issued phone was also busted up but that one they were able to replace right away. So I at least have a phone.

But my blllacckkkkbeerrrryyy...... I feel like my arm just got cut off! They don't call that thing a crackberry for nothin'.

Now I'm gutted for Alcia AND myself. Torn about who I feel worse for.


Me, gobbling a quick lunch at my desk: "Ew, the chicken curry has bones in it"

So-hilarious but serious Managing Editor: "Don't choke before you post that write through!"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jai yo!

Jai Yo!

That's the chinese cheer equivalent to "U.S.A!" - and it means "Add Fuel." It's a chant that is heard constantly when the chinese athletes are competing. "Jai yo, Cheng Fei!" "JAI - YO! CHENG - FEI!"

You know, in America, we just chant the name. USA. Yay us. You're American and that's why we like you. "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

In China, they demand more. Yes, you're chinese and we're going to cheer for you, but you better do more. Add fuel. And they won't be on their feet for anything less than perfect. The Chinese men in the gymnastics team final had a simply stunning day - and the crowd was intensely behind them. But not on their feet. Jai yo. More.

The American men were phenomenal yesterday. That was one of the most incredible competitions I've ever seen. Jonathan Horton - holy crap. Dude is a machine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What day is it?

"What day is it?" is a common refrain here. I had heard that it got confusing and all the days ran together but yesterday I truly felt it for the first time. I finally broke down, grabbed a sharpie and wrote "Today is Monday 8.11, Day 3" and put it smack in front of me. This whole time difference with events being broadcast live in prime time but happening first thing in the morning - so they happen on a Monday here but air on a Sunday in the states.... add that confusion to the lack of sleep, the ground-hog dayness, the freezing cold and florescent lighting of the compound and it's a genuine problem!!

Beach volleyball is so fun to watch but I get really nervous when the women compete ... surely one of those girls is going to lose her bottoms? How do they keep those things on? I'm adding this my list of "Things That Confuse Me." Apparently, did a great piece on how to play volleyball in a bikini. Maybe once I get a chance to watch, it will ease my worries.

And omg - Kerri Walsh lost her ring in the sand while playing on Monday!! The busted out the metal detectors and found it in the sand. Phew! So then what does that crazy woman go and do? She puts it back on and plays with it again! Granted, she put a bunch of tape around it but still. You just lost your wedding ring in the sand at the Olympics. Surely your husband will understand if you take it off for an hour while you play at the OLYMPICS. I get that she's in a bikini and she's one of those totally annoying gorgeous people so maybe this is her way of saying "taken and uh, back off" - but honestly, people probably know that anyway. You're on tv and you have a hyphenated name. Take off the ring!

(Her husband had "6' of sunshine" engraved on the ring - apparently that's his nickname for her. How cute!! awww)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Lady Beverage

This was a letter that was slipped under the door of someone from another hotel today...

"Dear Guest,
Thank you for staying in Dalian Bayshore Hotel!
The 29th Olympic Games is going to open on 8th Aug. 2008. For this coming time, welcome you to lobby bar or Beer Garden to celebrate it. And we offer free drinking:
For man: 1 Tsingtao Beer.
For woman: 1 soft drink (cola or sprite)
Welcome you to join us, also hope you enjoying in our hotel and share the experience with us."

As a devout beer enjoyer, I take offense. Oh, and also as a woman, I guess.


I have been looking forward to the Opening Ceremony ("ceremony" not "ceremonies") since... well, probably since I knew I was coming. I didn't get to attend - tickets are hot real estate - but it ended up being an amazing night that I'll always remember. I was at work until about 9:30 but only serving as backup in case things went haywire. Lucky me was able to sit and stare at the tvs with my jaw on the floor - completely oblivious to the chaos going on around me. When I finally came to, it was a shock to realize that people had been working like busy bees the entire first hour of the show! I was so mesmerized I barely noticed.

It was unreal.

Seriously. That was unreal.

2008 people working in unison? And not just one group of 2008 people but SEVERAL? No lines on the floor? No one directing them. Just total precision and unison. 2008 people moving as one. I wish I was eloquent enough to describe it. But I'm way better at quips so I think I'll just keep the memories alive in my head and not try and ruin them with words. I will say that I was touched and moved beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Wasn't it almost like a North Korean pageant in it's perfectness and unison though? If it hadn't been so beautiful, it might have bordered on creepy. North Korean shows give me the heebie-geebies.

Which brings me to another point - I'm still in China and I'm still on Chinese internet so I won't comment on what I saw, I'll just tell you what I saw while I watched the Opening Ceremony (you can probably insert a nash-style sarcastic quip on your own). Someone emailed me that they thought it was hilarious that I was blogging about communism in China and I was like hmm... yea... that's probably only funny till I get arrested and sent to Mongolia... I should probably watch it.

So I watched the Opening Ceremony with a friend who's a gymnastics researcher here for NBC. We had originally planned to go to a bar and watch but I ended up working late and he was pooped from flag bearer research. How many times do you hear that excuse? Insert comment about large poles being exhausting here. You know how Bob Costas seems to know all sorts of fun facts about the various countries? That's because there' sa room filled with people constantly on the phone getting that info - of if you're Jeff, you walk down to the Iran Olympic committee office, knock on the door and say 'hi, can you tell me who's carrying your flag?' Awesome. I digress.

So we ended up sitting on the floor of the Main Press Center lobby in front of a huge plasma tv surrounded by about 200 chinese volunteers and random press people from around the world. I'm usually bored to tears by the athlete march in but surrounded by this group, the significance of the range of cultures and athletes competing was driven home.

The Chinese people clapped for the most random things - well, random is perception so I should qualify that with it seemed random to ME. They went crazy for African countries - and Switzerland. Actually - it was more like they went nuts for black people and blonde people. They would giggle like school girls for both. I guess it's because it's a rarity to see in China and so it flat out amuses.

The other thing that was surprising was who they booed. I guess if I was more sensitive to world issues, it wouldn't have surprised me, but being more into MTV than CNN, I was taken aback. When (South) Korea entered, there were audible hisses and stony silence from most. And we were in the main press center where these volunteers are aware that they're being watched and monitored to be on their bet behavior... I can't imagine what the reaction was like in a local bar on the outskirts of Beijing. Jeff and I kind of looked at each other thinking, well, that was weird. But they had done the same for Japan, except louder so we didn't think a whole lot of it. But it was when North Korea entered that I truly got shivers down my spine. The Chinese people went crazy clapping and applauding this country's entrance. They also applauded ... and I can't remember now but it was either Iraq or Iran. Sooo... well.... I guess that's all I can say about that for now. I'm in China.

But the absolute best part was when the chinese athletes entered the arena. People were on their feet the second the Chinese flag was spotted back in the tunnel, shouting "Jai yo! Some--thing!" (haven't been able to figure out what the second part of the cheer is yet) Over and over again - it was like the "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!" except more forceful and intense. I took a video that I'm going to try to get onto youtube soon. It was so exciting. The Chinese people's pride in their country was on full display and it was really emotional to be smack in the middle of that wave of national pride. When Yao Ming was on the screen, it was so loud and energetic. It was such a frenzy!

After the lighting of the torch - which EEEK!! Li NING!!! 1984 Olympic gold medallist!!! A gymnast lit the torch! EEEEEKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But after the lighting we all hit the streets to watch the fireworks. I skipped them on the fourth of july and since I can only stand one fireworks display a year... well, I'm glad I picked this one.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A bunker in Nebraska

(This is written with the help of Jessica Steyers)

Top Ten ways working for the Olympics is like living in a bunker in Nebraska.

1) No one knows we're here

2) Daylight is something you just hear about

3) The florescent lighting

4) Lester Holt

5) Really unhealthy food choices

6) You can never find the exit

7) It's not absurd to walk around in a Puffy Coat and mittens

8) Closed circuit are your only tie to this so called "outside world"

9) Conversations about men in speedos can dominate an evening

10) You're not on Beijing time, you're on peacock-jing time.

11) Every single thing you want is in this airline hanger. There's NEVER a need to leave.

(Ok, that was eleven, but we count differnt in China)

("It won't refresh!!! It's still in dynamic!!! AAAHHH!!!!!" You would understand if you lived in a bunker in Nebraska)

Hands out of my coffee!

All right, I may have reached my fill of Chinese helpfulness. This morning, at Starbucks, I got my coffee and like normal, went to accessorize it with coffee condiments. I was able to grab the sugar but one of the workers was blocking my reach for the a coffee stirrer. She saw me reach for it and then proceeded to grab a stirrer, stick it in my coffee and STIR IT FOR ME! Ahhhhh!!!! That's my limit. No stirring my coffee!

Opening ceremony is today! (and I learned today that it's "Ceremony" not "Ceremonies" - very important to not say it wrong. Why, I don't know... but I am nothing if not a strict rule follower. Kidding.) Unfortunately the sky is greyer than ever. There is a huge fireworks display planned judging from the snippets of rehearsals I've caught, but I don't know how they're going to pull it off with this smoggy haze. Firework smoke has a way of hanging around on a clear day, but in this humidity and smog, the smoke isn't even going to move! The first firework will be seen and then the rest are going to disappear into the haze. Very sad :(

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Smoggy Boggy

The pollution is totally improving here. And by that I mean, not improving even a little tiny bit. It's so smoggy, muggy and humid today, it's stifling. I can't imaging trying to run or do any sort of physical activity in this weather.

The National Indoor Stadium, where the gymnastics events will happen, is completely hazy. Did you notice the title? INDOOR stadium.. It's indoors and it's polluted.

And just for fun... They're "Italian Red Meat" flavored chips! Delish! (I do not speak from experience, only sarcasm)

Potty Talk

Another awesome example of communism happens in the bathrooms at NBC everyday. Now before you get any wacky ideas, I'm talking about the people working the bathrooms.... There is always someone stationed in the bathroom to clean it. Usually there's 2 or 3 people in there cleaning. Always. All the time. ALL the time. Constantly cleaning the sinks, the stalls, the floors. I don't know how they find ways to keep busy but it appears to be a very clean bathroom so I guess whatever they're doing is working.

Yesterday, I was washing my hands chatting to another producer who was grabbing some paper towels. One of the cleaning people came in and she was carrying what appeared to be a heavy box. She was having trouble opening the door and the other producer made a move to go over to help her open the door. The Chinese woman quickly dropped her box and ran over to meet HER at the paper towels thinking that she wanted help with the towels. The producer tried to tell her no, no, I wanted to help you! But the Chinese woman just smiled and proceeded to hand her paper towels.

I have quite quickly become accustomed to being waited on hand and foot - weird that it wasn't that hard to adjust to! (I emptied my own tray of food for the very first time yesterday - yay me!!) But yesterday I picked up a gold medal in the "Asshole of the Day" category. I was in the cafeteria and decided that I wanted a sandwich for lunch. Normally, there are a gaggle of workers behind the counters just staring at you and asking you what they can get you. Yesterday there was only one Australian chef. I looked at the sandwich and said "I'll have that please". He gave me a funny look and said in an Aussie accent "Yeh can just grab it yourself mate". I looked down and sure enough, there it was on a self-serve tray.... D'OH!!!! How embarrassing.

Wait, what??!??!?!!?

I just found out Brett Farve got traded to the Jets. There is a giant vomit stain next to my desk now.

For gods sake Wisconsin - I leave the country for a month and the whole place falls apart? Get it together!!! If cows start hitchhiking to Illinois, ya'll are in trouble.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pollution? What pollution?

If you listened to the Chinese media, you would think this place was as clear as a Montana sky... er, not quite. I woke up this morning, threw back my curtains as I do every morning to enjoy the view and oh, hey - wait a second - where'd the Bird's Nest go? It isn't more than a half mile away from my hotel window, but I could barely see it through the dense smoggy haze.



We had a gorgeous day on Sunday that made you pause and think - wow, the chinese govt did it! They sent the pollution to Tibet! But every day since has seen the skies have gotten darker and greyer. I haven't really felt the pollution as much as I thought I would, but I have noticed that a 'gunk' in my throat since arriving. Beijing outlawed spitting during the games and when I heard about it, I thought it was just a manners thing that was both charming and gross. Well, it's actually a legitimate problem - I can see how hauking a mega sized loogie is the only way to get rid of this crap that builds up in your lungs and throat. I don't see any spitting going on in olympic land, but the minute you leave here, you see old men on bikes working up all sorts of gunk out of their lungs and out onto the sidewalks. If I wasn't positive that would be me in a few months, I would be totally disgusted., dumb? bike-riders! (apparently the USOC was piissssseeedddddddd....)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Walk faster!

One of the nicest things about working with crazy nbc folks is the fact that I'm not the only fast walker in da hizzle. Everyone is trying to qualify for the speedwalking marathon here. In Milwuakee, I've had to slow my stride by about 68 percent - and I'm STILL way too fast. But here, I practically get run over by over eager PA's and nutty producers trying to make air. It's awesome. But of course, I'm totally competitive and it makes me nuts that I'm not the fastest walker. Pollution has, for sure, slowed my stride.... that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I've developed a giant blister in the middle of my hand.

At first I was convinced that it was a sympathy blister for the gymnasts - they develop super gross and deep callouses on their hands from working the bars. They develop blisters on their palms and then as they continue to train, those blisters literally rip away and ew, yuck - it's gross. They basically get the hands of a 60 year old carpenter at 13. Well, imagine my surprise when I figured out that it's not a sympathy blister! It's actually from opening water bottles. We can't drink the water here so they provide bottles for us - I'm a rather voracious consumpter of water so the combination of the two has led me to my first battle wound here in Beijing. (Appearances are deceiving - it's small, but deep!! And ouch, it totally kills! Hello - workers comp!) I have tried opening with the other hand, but I can't get the pressure points right and I keep spilling the bottle when I open with the left hand. Again - I'm not very smart in China

Russia House! Russia House????

Space is a luxury not found easily in the NBC compound. And keep in mind, it's still airline hanger huge. But there's also probably a couple thousand people in here; along with a bazillion computers, edits, control rooms, studios, green rooms, a room for the big boss man to sleep, a Starbucks, robots (I might be making that last one up) and many, many, many, many tvs. In other words - not much room for the old elbows.

The dot com room isn't all that small, but it's packed. When the Games start, it'll empty out a bit as the various producers head off to their events. But right now it's rush hour. Always. I sit on the end of one of the rows and there are 8 people who sit on the other side of me. In order for them to get to their chairs, they have to pass between the 1 foot of space between the back of my chair and the back of the guy's chair behind me. Who's got two thumbs and gets knocked into a lot? This guy! (and if you're not familiar with that joke, I'm referring to myself) The weird thing is that I'm not annoyed by it at all. It's almost comforting, like sitting in a rocking chair that says "oops, sorry" every time it throws you backwards. The fact that it doesn't annoy me at speaks muchly to the amount that I'm enjoying this gig ;)

I saw Mary Carrillo, the tennis commentator, on the shuttle bus this morning. I recognized her voice and looked over to see if it was who I thought it was. This woman was wearing a faded men's style blue collared shirt and "Mom Jeans"... you know the really high waisted jeans with pleats and darting? Yea. She was wearing those. I only believed that it was her after someone bellowed "Hey! Carrillo!!" and started chatting her up about Wimbledon. Sigh.... Mary Carrillo wears mom jeans. Oh well, we all have our flaws.

I took a field trip this morning before work to discover the Russia House with Jess, the gymnastics producer I'm mirroring here, and Martin, a researcher who's fluent in Russian, Swedish and an all around smart dude. Each country has a "house" for athletes, coaches, parents, sponsors, fans from home etc - basically a big place to gather, party and just be with your peeps. These houses also typically have stores. We were on the hunt for official Russian team gear.

Winning the "Obvious Choice of Location" award is the Russia House which has buried itself along a long winding strip of bars. Where else would the ruskies have their house? Nice to see they're living up to their reputation as drunken party animals.... even in Beijing! It was this really cool location on a lake. (With a starbucks at the beginning of the row, of course) There was a long wide walkway along the lake and then bars and restaurants lined the walkway. It stank a bit of stale TsingTao, but I bet that smell totally rocks at night.

At first we couldn't find the store, we found the Russia House, but it looked like it was only the bar/house and we were trying to figure out if the store was somewhere else. We stopped off at the Help desk along the lake to see if they could help us - like the sign said. Help desk, ya know. Help. It makes sense that we'd seek help there. However, some language barriers led to an amusing illustration designed to demonstrate the country we were looking for (see, you China, we find Russia! Ruuussssiiiaaaaaaaa) We ended up picking up a Japanese woman who was very kind and offered to try to help us find it. She was very kind, but also a little odd (ok, and one of my normal rules is don't talk to weirdos - except at work - but I WAS using the buddy system so I figured I'd throw caution aside) she also spoke several languages and wore a funny hat. But the kicker is she was also wearing pantyhose with sandals. Seriously - who does that? Even at Northwestern Mutual that would be weird, and although I have no proof, that place probably requires pantyhose to be worn at the gym. Anyway, she probably wasn't a high priced lady or anything, but the mystery of her occupation and place in life will confuddle me forever.

Unfortunately, after all that fuss, it turned out that the Russia House store was closed until the 7th :( And they had some pretty aggressive doormen who told us so! Luckily we ran into some much kinder, gentler, non-wanting-to-kick-our-ass Russians along the street who provided the info on when it opens.

I'm happy to report that Lester Holt has resumed stalking me again. Only this time he's upped the ante by dressing like me!! Today he was wearing a bright orange shirt.... well guess what yours truly was wearing.... a bright orange sweater. Clearly NOT a coincidence at all. He also continues to rock the nerd glasses like a rock star. is live streaming podium training tomorrow. HUGE. It's never been done before. Podium training is the dress rehearsal for the competition - judges get to come and watch and a lot of pre-judging is done during this time. If you blow away the judges during this time, they'll be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if you have a few wobbles or misses. Just plain blow podium training and the chances to max out your scoring potential decreases.

Fun fact: They call it "podium training" because at big events like the Olympics, the equipment is literally raised up on a podium. It makes it more exciting and easier to see, but that extra height can really affect the gymnast's timing as it gives you an added bounce - that's why training on the podium is so important... and they only get one chance to do it! Again - don't blow it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Great Wall

A few pics

I have been extremely responsible with my vitamin intake since arriving in Beijing and apparently housekeeping has noticed and decided to reward me for it. Yesterday I returned home to find a bottle of water along with a tall drinking glass next my perfectly arranged vitamin collection on my bed stand.

I soon put that tall drinking glass to excellent use.

I went to the Great Wall today on a private tour with about 11 other people. Our tour guide was "Catherine" Lu - and true to her name, she was a bit of a Chatty Cathy. With good reason, I mean, she's a tour guide and all. But on the ride over to the Wall, we were mostly interested in looking out the window and taking in the sights. Instead we got an extended and intense history lesson and it would have been rude to totally ignore her - even though I definitely tried at times. Did you know that the Ming Dynasty was the longest? And that so many people died during the making of the Great Wall that it's considered the worlds largest cemetery? Um, creepy.

It was about a 90 minute drive out of Beijing to the portion of the Wall that we visited. It was not commercial at all, but it was definitely geared towards tourists - we got besieged by fan and dragon sellers on the way out. Not the way up for some reason - but on the way out, two of us (the girls, of course) decided to sneak a peek at the goods on sale. Well, that broke the seal. The sellers were after us the minute we made eye contact with a jeweled chopstick. I actually got barricaded by a woman who would not let me leave until I bought something. She had a great opening line though - "Oh, I remember you! You come back!" I mean, how could I not love that? Such a blatant lie - I had to appreciate her moxie and buy a couple of things.

This is the portion of the wall we went to

Once we got to the Wall, it was unbelievable. It was a gorgeous day, very hot and humid, but far less humid than it has been. But holy crap - that is one steep wall! I was imagining a leisurely stroll along the top of the wall but no way dude! I was wearing entirely inappropriate footwear. Unfortunately, my saying over here has become "I'm not very smart in China."

It had some stunning views and I exhausted my camera taking pics. I have a pretty sturdy battery but it threw it's hands up in surrender after I went click happy walking along the wall.

The absolute BEST part of the tour, though, was the trip down from the wall. Before we left, one of the researchers asked me if I was going to take the toboggan down. I laughed thinking, oh those clever research monkeys... too smart for their own good. Ok, no - he was dead serious. The way you got down from the wall was via plastic sled shooting down a metal slide. We went up on a ski lift and I think we could have gotten down that way, but come on, who's going to be the wuss that doesn't take the toboggan down? It was SO FUN! And long! And way, way faster than I thought I would ever careen down a mountain in China. I was right behind the tour guide and she was just flying down the hill so I'm thinking, oh well heck, I can do that too. Stacey, she does this every day. She's a tour guide. The good news is that I totally hung in there and didn't fall off the mountain so, yay me!

I read an article before I left that talked about China putting up giant walls in front of "unsightly" neighborhoods or stores so I was curious to see if I would actually notice them. It wasn't too hard! China has worked incredibly hard at covering up the rough spots of their country. There was a long stretch of cleanly painted grey stone walls. Well, if you looked down the alley ways, about 2 buildings down you'd see what those buildings probably looked like a month ago. Just normal brown stones, but somewhat dirty and uneven. The freshly painted grey walls were smoothed out and spotless. It's almost amusing to see how they've tried to clean up their country. It's like - oh, they won't notice something slightly down the road. It reminds me of a kid cleaning up their room by shoving everything haphazardly into the closet.

All in all - pretty amazing day!!