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Napa-Sonoma Half Marathon, July 20, 2014
Noble Canyon 50km Trail, September 20, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Checking out, Going Native

I’ve been stuck in the Olympic system since I arrived in China nearly three weeks ago. Everywhere I turn, I flash my Olympic credential and sashay through all the security checks, jump on a free shuttle bus or have a Team USA representative hand me a bottle of cold water. I’ve gotten so accustomed to being treated like a VIP, it was a shock today when I left the Olympic Village for good. No one offered to carry my luggage for me. I got all sweaty and no one was there to wipe my brow and hand me a cold beverage. I went in to the store and had to buy the food. This could take some getting used to. Paris Hilton never had it this bad.

When I got up this morning, I finished packing and looked around my suite and saw tons of stuff strewn around the common area: clothes, shoes, bags and random packaged food containers, mostly unopened. I had to assume Tyson Gay hadn’t checked out yet; there was so much miscellaneous stuff and everyone else had left. I mentioned it to one of the USATF staff and was told that he had already left. Anything in the room was trash that he didn’t want. So, if anyone wants Tyson’s underwear, I’m starting the bidding at $10. Just kidding. I should be able to get at least $50, right? Do I hear $60?

I was amazed, though, to see in other suites how much stuff people left behind, and we’re talking nice stuff like Closing Ceremonies shirts and shoes, the Nike Team USA t-shirts and pants. I hope that the volunteers who have worked so hard to put on these Games get to take some of the stuff home. With all the security checks on the way in and out, though, they might be asked where all the loot came from. “Really, Tyson gave it to me, I swear!”

On my way out the doors of the Village, there were tons of volunteers swapping gear with athletes and each other. When they saw that I had a few USA t-shirts to trade, they went crazy. I had 15 different people crowded around, passing my shirts back and forth, making offers of this or that shirt, pants or hat. I ended up with a complete volunteer outfit as well as a few shirts from other countries.

Once I was out the exit, I marched up to the apartment where my family is staying. I said I was done with this whole walking thing, but I lied. I enjoy walking to get from place to place. It’s already been four days since my race, so my legs are feeling almost normal again. The only time I really feel the fatigue from the 50km is when I try to jog a few steps or really hurry up a flight of stairs. Give me another week, and I’ll be raring to go.

A couple days ago, I met the family down at the Temple of Heaven. Today our plan was to hit the Forbidden City and tour until we dropped. Well, getting going around here is a bit tricky sometimes. I dallied in my departure from the Village, and then Miles needed a nap, and when we finally had lunch and rode the bus to downtown Beijing, the Forbidden City was only open for another hour, hardly enough time to see it all. We wandered through the hutongs just north of the Forbidden City and into Jingshan Park. Wow!

View of Forbidden City from Jingshan Park

In the middle of Jingshan Park is a large hill, topped by a temple and crowded with tourists, that looks out over the entire city down onto the golden-tiled roofs of the Forbidden City and out over the glistening skyscrapers of modern Beijing. It’s quite a contrast to simply turn your head and watch 600 years of history spin past. There are places in Beijing where time has stopped; there are no cars, no high-rises, only one-story buildings and cobbled streets. But most of the city is teeming with traffic, neon signs, and fancy shops or apartment buildings that reach for the sky. To see it all laid out below from atop Jingshan Park is a marvel.

Descending the backside of the hill brought us through a wooded pathway and onto what would normally be a quiet, secluded path adjoining a small, open pavilion. But through the trees we could hear a riotous banging of bamboo sticks, crazy percussive sounds and odd singing. When we finally got down the trail to the pavilion, it was filled with a group of musicians practicing on their ‘bamboo clackers.’ Liz tried to get a better translation of what the instruments were called but that’s as good as we got – bamboo clackers that sound like horses galloping over cobblestones or large wooden knockers on thick, oak doors. And it was crazy, banging, music. I’ll try to post a sound bite from what I recorded.

Liz and Miles trying out the bamboo clackers

The rest of the afternoon and evening was much less dramatic, with the exception of the weird crazy food stands that we found east of Tianenmen. In the heart of a very modern shopping district, they were selling all sorta of mouth-watering treats on skewers like silk worm cocoons, river snakes, scorpions, sea horses and tripe. Hmm, can't get enough of those crunchy snake heads!

Snakes, squid, and cuttle fish ready for frying

1 comment:

Dora said...

Those instruments are probably clappers. The one with 2 pieces might be the Zhuban Clapper. The one with 5 pieces might be the Paiban or Jieban Clapper (more info here and here).

Think I'll pass on the Tyson underwear. :)