August 21, 2008

Beijing – It’s duck in a bag!

Despite much complaint (namely, Mom’s), I have been too tired to blog the last few days. Also, I heard that some people have been unable to post comments, but other people have had no problem. It’s not blocked; keep trying.

Tuesday we decided to skip handball and have a good lunch. We headed down to Wangfujing, the “snack street”. We got off the subway and walked down a nice long block closed to car traffic with huge malls, the Olympic flagship store, and lots of Chinese brands (with English names). We went into a fabric store/tailor shop and I considered having a dress made, but then decided I’d rather make it myself and got some nice bright blue silk with those Chinese labyrinth patterns. Much cheaper than at home, of course. By the time we got to the end of the street, we were very hungry but had seen no restaurants. However, I had read there were supposed to be millions of little kebab stands. We went back to the restaurant at the beginning of the street, but there was a line; then I realized that we must be in the wrong place because Wanfujing Dajie is fronted by a big decorated arch. We asked some of the Olympic volunteers (by showing them the guidebook) and they took us there – a little side street. (The Olympic volunteers outside the stadium have been incredibly helpful, especially compared to the authoritarians inside). There we found lots of little streetside grills selling kebabs of “lamb” (I insist it looked squirrely), baby squids, starfish, seahorses, cockroaches, and other creatures. I had a noodle bowl and Dad had a shwarma that may have been duck.
After lunch we headed to Olympic Green, where we decided to visit the giant souvenir shop (the official one). Only there was a long line and it was boiling outside. We had nothing better to do and we wanted souvenirs, so we waited. Fortunately many people here carry parasols, so we stole some of their shade for the 20 minutes until we got inside… and were faced with a second line, but at least this one was air conditioned. They were staggering the line so the store wan’t mobbed, but the t-shirt area was still a frenzy. We ended up with everything we wanted and then went next door to eat.
The food options on the green are remarkably slim. They have thousands of little snack stands with Coca-Cola products but with the most awful things. And then there are two giant McDonald’s, which is where we went (the first time I’ve been to a McDonald’s in at least 6 years). Afterwards we still had some time before the gymnastics, and we saw a sign advertising the Qin warriors in the Johnson & Johnson building. After waiting in a short line and seeing lots of propaganda, we saw the four warriors they had on display. They’re really amazing – each one is different, with individual faces and clothing and weapons. And there are 50,000 of them. (It turns out Johnson & Johnson is doing antimicrobial preservation work.)
The gymnastics was great – it was the final of balance beam and parallel bars. We made friends with a Chinese kid sitting behind us, so fortunately we had a win from China (Li Xiaopeng) and the US (Shawn Johnson, who’s adorable and scored a 16.225).
Afterwards was the athletics. I think the best was the Eastern European sweep in the discus. All the Estonians near us were very proud. Christine Ohurougu won the 400m, making her the world’s fastest linguist (she majored in ling). And there was the men’s 1500m, but I don’t really have the patience for anything longer than 800. For the long ones it’s only exciting when they come round our part of the track.

gymnastics

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