Thursday, August 21, 2008

3 days in Beijing... Day 1

All I can say is "WOW".

There really are not words to describe the experience of being at the Olympic Games and witnessing some of the incredible athletes first hand. Perhaps, I now have an even more immense appreciation for all of them because I really do understand the sacrifices and dedication it takes to chase that dream. Regardless, it was completely inspiring and has only succeeded in making my Olympic itch even bigger.

I arrived in Beijing on Sunday morning (8/17) after flying direct from Los Angeles. It was a nice 11hour40min flight across the Pacific with nothing of note occurring... because I pretty much slept the entire way.

Upon arrival, at 4:45am, there was no one in the airport, so there were no lines to stand in and since I only had a small carry-on, not even baggage claim to deal with. I hopped in a taxi after getting the American name of the hotel translated into Chinese and headed off to Changping District of Beijing where the hotel and the triathlon venue are located.

I was greeted by my family, all still half asleep, but clearly dealing with some jet lag of their own, and went out on a 45 minute run with my little brother. I felt great for about 20 minutes and then my legs started to remind me that I had just sat on a plane for 11 hours.

After a quick breakfast we were off to the Great Wall. I had been to another part, Badaling, before, as the post race party for the World Cup had been held there, but this section of the wall was supposed to be a little more remote.

You would think that after seeing it twice before that it would not appear so impressive the third time around, but it was simply magnificent and simply exhausting! I opted to take the cable cars up to reach the wall, instead of walking, and then walked around a few sections of it and took some photos before grabbing the cable cars back down. It may have been the "lazy" approach, but there are a whole lot of stairs and I was a whole lot of tired!

On the way out there were vendors lined up trying to sell "cheap t-shirts" and other knick-knacks. There were sets of beautiful carved chopsticks (5 pair with table rests) that I decided I really wanted, so I set to work bartering for them. I started at $1 and that didn't really go over very well, so then I switched to working in RMB (the Chinese currency). After sorting out that 20 RMB is the equivalent of roughly 3 dollars I decided that was a good asking price. I slowly worked my way down, vendor to vendor, no one wanting to bend and let them go for such a cheap price. By the time I got to the final vendor, still holding strong to my asking price (as opposed to the 120 RMB they wanted), I finally got him to crack and I got my chopsticks for $3!! My uncle was in absolute disbelief and could not believe that I had actually managed to get them so cheap. Needless to say, anytime anyone wanted anything after that, they came to me to help them get the best deal.

That evening my whole family headed to the Birds Nest to watch Athletics. Since I had not decided to go to Beijing until much later, there was no ticket for me to the event. I was so exhausted that I waved goodbye and used the time to relax and sort myself out since I knew I would get downtown to watch events the following two days. It also gave me a chance to spend some time with Jarrod and to have dinner with him and his coaches which was really nice since I had not seen him since April in Japan.

By the time my family arrived back from the stadium it was well past midnight and I had fallen asleep about three hours earlier. We moved a second cot into the bedroom and the four of us - Mom, Martha, Jake and I - packed into a room for two settled down to sleep in anticipation of the Women's triathlon which would happen the following morning.

(There will be plenty of photos to come. Unfortunately, my camera broke while on the cable cars heading to the top of the Great Wall (superb timing I know), so I will have to wait for my family to pass their photos on to me!)

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