Sunday, August 17, 2008

Time to go home..

Date: August 16, 2008
Location: Air Canada 7:50pm flight to Toronto, Canada
Time: 9:00 pm

“China is exactly what you needed, that way when you get back, you’ll have a fresh new perspective on everything.” That’s what Steph sent to me in a text right before I flew out of Detroit. Before I left for China I was going through some of the toughest times for me personally. I made choices that would be difficult for anyone to make, but for the first time, I did things for myself. I won’t lie; it was an agonizing and emotional few months. I was placing so much on this trip and that it was going to be one of those adventures you need to really come to some understanding to some parts of your life. From organizing everything to taking care of all the paperwork necessary to make this trip happen, I did it all on my own. I’ve grown up so much within the past year that I somewhat lost track of who I really was. I depended on everything else to make me happy: going to shows, going out, and even work. There wasn’t anything wrong with what I was doing, but I wanted to be in a situation where I could look at my life and find true happiness by myself. I didn’t want to be doing things to make me feel better. I want to be happy all the time. This trip was it. I went to another country with 19 complete strangers and I took on everything that came my way. I stayed true to myself, did things my way and never had any fear of anything. As Kate was telling me today at the airport, “19 strangers placed in a dorm. This what happens when people stop being nice and start speaking Chinese, This is Real World: Beijing.” I thought that was pretty hilarious way to putting it. I might actually use that when I edit all the footage I’ve recorded from the trip.

I want to thank all the wonderful people I met on this trip. I have so many new great friends across the country and one especially that lives only 3 hours away from Providence. I also want to say a huge thanks to our interpreters for the duration of our stay. Tom, Stephanie and Jessica were the greatest and I thank them incredibly for the patience, especially during those late night phone calls from the subway station asking if they can tell the cab driver how to take us home. They were so patient with our needs and hopefully they had as much fun with us as we did with them.

For out last day in Beijing we decided to unwind and relax. Dr. Tiell, Kimmy, Lana, Liz, Leigh, Derek and I decided to spend the morning before a 16 hour flight at a Hot Springs Spa Resort. I got 3 different types of massages for $20 each! It was exactly what I needed to get ready for the long flight home. We packed up our yellow bus for the last time and said goodbye to what was our home for the past 10 days.

A few of us in the group are already in talks of planning to attend the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. I warn anyone who wants to attend the Olympics for the first time: It’s addicting. I’m already planning a trip to London for the Summer Olympics in London in 2012. I hope the plans were out and if they do, you can definitely expect a blog on that adventure as well. Maybe you guys can give me some ideas for a cute name? A Chilly Endeavor: The Winter Olympics? Haha that’s lame.

Mom and Dad, thanks for making this trip possible. I still cannot believe how blessed I’ve been to have parents like you two. Your support in this whole process has made this one of the most memorable things in my life. You guys are really freakin’ awesome. Thanks Mom for the idea of the blog, this was the best way to commemorate such an amazing trip. Thanks Dad for spell checking my blog..all the time. J I love you guys so much and I know that you weren’t asking for too many things just that I get as much as I can out of this trip, that’s exactly what I did…and I got you guys lots of awesome stuff too. All I ask is that can we please have some Rudy’s when I get home? I’m craving some brisket and potato salad.

To everyone that has been keeping up with this blog, especially my butt-kicking family, I’m glad you were able to share this life-changing experience with me. Even if you just carelessly glanced at it a few times for the pictures or my crazy adventures, I want to thank you. You all were my inspiration to record my experiences as I experienced them. I look back at these posts and cannot believe how fast time has flown by. Day by day I looked forward to sharing the little observations I made with you all in hopes that you could visualize what it would be like in this country during such an important time. Beijing Summer Olympics 2008 has definitely made its way on my list of great things I’ve done in my life. Just closely behind? Perfecting the hollandaise sauce in culinary school and beating my awesome little brother in Madden 08’.

It's almost over..

Date: August 15, 2008
Location: Beijing Subway, Line 10
Time: 10:30 pm

Our time in Beijing is quickly coming to an end, some are more than ready to go home and some, like me, wouldn’t mind staying a little bit longer. I would’ve actually liked to stay for the entire duration of the Olympics. There are some lucky ones who get to see the opening and closing ceremonies of the most expensive Olympics in history. One of the things that I was really looking forward to in my visit to Beijing was the incredible architecture. From the Bird’s Nest to the Water Cube, they have all been amazing to see up close. Another interesting building was the city’s new television tower. I’ve been through the downtown area of Beijing numerous of times before but it was always too smoggy to see anything past 2 blocks. Today was the perfect day to admire the architecture of downtown. It was absolutely a gorgeous day in Beijing. Clear skies with light clouds just vaguely scattered around the beaming sun. Even the feel of the air was different than days before: clear, crisp and lightly chilled. The absence of humidity didn’t hurt either. I had the opportunity to sleep in today, so I did all the way up to 9:30. I know, not much of late morning, but my body has gotten to a point to where I cannot sleep past a certain time anymore, I miss those days in middle school when I could’ve slept till 2 in the afternoon easily.

Today was our second to the last day and was the last day of events for a few of us. Mine, luckily was Track & Field. The clear skies made it especially pleasant to be outdoors too. I also realized that I was one of the few people in the group that got to see the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest twice. Getting into Olympic Park was tougher than trying to get Brett Favre to retire…for good (haha sorry Kara :) ) The highlight of Track & Field was that I was going to be able to see a medal ceremony! It was actually the finals for Men’s shot put and although USA didn’t get 1st, we did finish with a silver medal and a our flag being raised. I can only imagine if we did get gold and got to hear our national anthem play live. Wow, I personally think that I might’ve cried. I know it’s strange to say but being at the Olympics really brings great pride for your home country. There was just something so comforting seeing complete strangers carrying your flag, there was a certain comfort that settled in. For me it was seeing flags for USA, Mexico and Philippines. I refused to let my group leave the bad during opening ceremonies until we saw the Philippines’ athlete march on the track. Good thing they were having a great enough time to want to stay. I also got to experience something else really special; I witnessed only the 2nd and 3rd women to ever finish the 10,000 m run in under 30 minutes. The USA also took home the bronze for this one! GO USA!

When we walked out of National Stadium, there were masses of people taking pictures of both the stadium and the Watercube. My biggest regret of the this trip is definitely not being able to go into the Aquatic Center. Tickets were just way too expensive, you know, with Phelps breaking every record imaginable. This night was perfect for 2 of the most ground-breaking sports facilities in the world. I felt so fortunate to be able to attend an event in one of them, this was going to be the new symbol for the future of Beijing. Best part of the Water Cube at night? It magically changes it’s colors.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why isn't handball an American sport?!?!

Date: August 13, 2008
Location: Bed
Time: 1:30 am
Wow it's a little late for an entry but I'm kinda running behind. Sorry guys! So here's the question of the day, "Why isn't Handball and American sport?" Honestly, after seeing it today, I cannot understand why this isn't popular in the states: it's violent, fast paced and involved people having to be ice-packed to health. I'm seriously considering starting a team at my school. Look out Johnson & Wales! For those who want to know what Handball is, it is actually a nice combination of dodge ball, hockey, basketball and ultimate frisbee. It's a pretty easy concept.

This was probably my favorite event to watch, other than gymnastics and beach volleyball of course. After the 2nd game was over, the underdogs from Hungry won by 1 point. I managed to get myself in the madness of the fans. It did produce some awesome pictures though (Who is that random Asian guy?!). GO HUNGARY!

That morning I joined my Canadian friend Derek for a baseball game: Canada Vs. China. I don't know why, but we keeping getting lucky with these China tickets. Canada won by a landslide and although it was a thousand degrees at 9 in the morning, it was still a fun time. It was fun pretending to be a Canadian!
You know what's been the best part about this trip? I've learned to be relaxed. There are so many times in this city where people could easily freak out. I have managed to keep my cool, except maybe when I get really hungry...that's when I just lost all control :) Oh yeah, I hope everyone is having a great summer! I miss you all.
I need to give a shout out to my cousin Kerry in Canada. She's awesome.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Softball, Boxing and Volleyball.. awesome!

Date: August 12, 2008
Location: AP Bus
Time: 11:30 pm
I won't lie, when I woke up this morning I wasn't feeling too hot. My body was exhausted from all the traveling and the fact that I haven't gotten much sleep AND I haven't had Starbucks in 2 weeks! With barely enough energy to get out of bed, I get prepared for the morning softball game at the Fengtai Sports Center. There 2 games to watch: Chinese Taipei VS. Canada (Canada wins) and USA VS. Venezuela (USA wins 13-0). The highlight of the game was that Jennie Finch was pitching for USA. She did amazing! My friend even got my softball ticket signed by Jennie, so that's something that will definitely be framed.

The girls did amazing, it actually looked like they were all enjoying the game and the fans.
The only thing nobody really enjoyed was the beaming sun all morning. It was the first day of clear skies during our stay here in China and it just so happens to be the first day that I did not wear sunscreen. I got so sunburned. I also had a tattoo of the American flag on my arm and now there is a tiny little square on my left shoulder.

We all totally got into the spirit of the games. With face paint and American flags in hand, we made our area of the stands super American!

With one event through, it was to get to event #2. BOXING. I wasn't sure what to expect. Was it going to be like Pay-per-View boxing? Nope. I was wrong. It was more a of a toned down version but still very exciting. We got lucky and saw a Chinese boxer and any pretty much any Chinese athlete draws all the crowds.

I found out that one of the matches we watched was the center of controversy
about the ending verdicts of the fights. Click here for the article! Some say that the fights involving Chinese competitors were fixed. I would somewhat agree with this, especially since I witnessed one of the fights mentioned, the final score did seemed a bit skewed. We will have to see...

Once we left boxing, we hastily made our way to our last and final event of the day: Men's Indoor Volleyball at the Capital Gymnasium. Wow. Talk about intense. Once again we were able to make it to the game where China is playing. Chinese fans were starting waves and chants the entire game! There wasn't a moment of silence. It was actually the fullest stadium I had seen thus far. Of course China won and I had a blast, an extra bonus? Cute players haha :)

Overall it was an exciting day. It was actually the first day we saw the sun in Beijing and truth is, the blue skies made the city even more beautiful.

Pandas and Beach Volleyball!!!

Date: August 11, 2008
Location: AP Bus
Time: 8:30 am
PANDAS! As I mentioned in my earlier entries, I really wanted to see the pandas at the Beijing Zoo. Well, today was the day. Besides having not fully recovering from the crazy adventure day before, I was up and ready for the trip to the zoo at 7:00 am. I haven't slept in once in my time here in China and although I fall asleep whenever I sit down for more than 5 mins. I'm glad I've been enjoying everything this place has to offer. So, oh yeah, back to the Pandas. The Beijing Zoo seemed as though it was in the middle of the city, surrounded by old buildings and rushing cars. Speaking of cars, I've noticed that the majority of cars and buses here are stick shift. I actually remember my mom telling me about the first time she came to the U.S. and drove an automatic car and how excited she was about it. Just another thing that, I think, some people take for granted. I mean, can you imagine driving stick through Beijing traffic at rush hour?!!? Painful.
As we walked in, we passed by a few notable animals, including some lions and foxes.
As soon as we saw the sign for the Panda exhibit, we dashed over.

The pandas were incredibly adorable. We all wanted to steal one, but I figured out that a baby panda weighs as much as 80lbs so I don't think the panda stealing could have been accomplished. There were about 5 baby pandas just playing and eating, I got so jealous.

The plans for the evening included watching 6 matches of Men's and Women's Beach Volleyball! How exciting! My sister demanded that I attend this event, so I did. Hope you're happy Kara!
Good news is that both U.S. teams won, bad thing is my computer deleted a majority of the photos from the game :( but I did get to see Kobe Bryant and Mitt Romney at the event..too bad you guys can't see the pictures I took. I guess you'll just have to make my word on it. Here are the pics that I did keep. The older lady who sat next to me was commenting on 'how wonderful the men were in beach volleyball." haha she was totally checking out all the players. Especially those from the Netherlands.

Outside the venue before the games, I was fascinated by this huge man made sandpit. People were flocking to it, mostly the locals. I was thinking to myself, "Why would you play in the sand? Do they know that sand gets EVERYWHERE?!?" The truth is, people around here don't really have the luxury of driving to South Padre Island whenever they wanted to play in sand. Being really puts everything, even the little things, into perspective.

We ended up staying for all 6 of the matches and when it was finally over, this is what I saw as I walked out of the venue. It was so beautiful.

I'll end this post with one of the best pictures from my trip thus far, thanks for the great camera work Lana.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Adventures in Beijing and my first Olympic Event!

Date: August 10, 2008
Location: Dorms
Time: 11:30 pm

This was the day that I was waiting for. A free day to explore Beijing, to finally get lost in the city...with 2 friends of course. So here is the story: we ordered tickets for Women's Preliminaries
of Team Gymnastics online and they needed to be picked before 1:30pm that day. Why the deadline you may ask? Well, that was when the event was going to begin. So at 7 am in the morning, Allison, Lana and myself venture out to downtown Beijing with nothing more than a few maps and some Yuan to get us through transportation.

We left before breakfast was even ready, plus there were huge chances of a massive downpour during the morning and afternoon.

We got to the bus than to a train and finally to the beautiful Olympic Park. We were set and ready to pick up our tickets from the will call center, too bad there was NO WILL CALL CENTER. I started to panic. I had just invested a good amount of money to an event that we could possibly not have tickets too. To add on to it, we got lost. And it rained.

To make it even more difficult, I cut my toe open on a man hole in the street. I totally McGyver'd the situation and took some huggies baby wipes and a hair tie to wrap my toe to keep it from getting infected. We ran to a Olympic Volunteer tent and a wonderful guy named Liam (?) (pretty English name if you ask me) brought me a first aid kit to fix my toe. I sanitized it and wrapped so well. I was impressed, my dad would be so proud of m

To make matters worse, we still didn't know anything about my tickets.

I was getting depressed. I really wanted to see Nastia and the girls compete for the gold. Lana took control, she made some phone calls.
Look at her "You-better-Have-Our-Tickets" face:
She did something right because we had the info to get out tickets. We picked them was one of the happiest moments on my life. The rest can be explained in these pictures. Oh and I got to do 2 things off my list:
1. Hug the water cube.

2. Picture with the mascot!

This one is for my mom. See? Told you I found the Today show set! :)
The USA gymnastics team!

I have so many more pictures to upload that I might actually consider opening up an online photo album for everyone to see all of them.

Gymnastics was awesome and incredible. I 'll definitely put more up tomorrow. I hope you guys enjoyed this picture-filled post. :)

Pearls and the Weekend Market

Date: August 9, 2008
Location: The Pearl Market
Time: 7:30 pm

Shopping was all we did today. I had actually bought a really amazing book before me trip here to Beijing and the weekend market was definitely one of the must things to do while visiting China. It was like the markets they have in Progresso, except that they yell things in Chinese and will chase you down a whole block if you walk away while they're trying to haggle prices.

I bought a few interesting things for my family and friends. The coolest thing I bought is for ever-so-awesome brother. That being said, he better love it. :)
The hot weather was really bearing down on us so we decided that we all wanted to head over to the infamous Pearl Market. Guys let me tell you, 5 floors of all pearls. Lots of vendors and with that, comes with lots of fake ones. The 4th floor was where all the real and legitimate vedors were. There were strands and strands of beautiful differently colored pearls. I bought some for all the wonderful girls in my life.

Unlike the other days, this was a quieter day. We went home and I finally got some sleep.