Sorry for not posting for a while but I’ve been working a lot and when I get home it is usually late and I either haven’t eaten or just want to go to bed. Plus there hasn’t been a whole lot in the last couple days.
First an update from the past few days, then a look into my Thursday.
We’ve been continuing to set up for the Ceremonies and been doing the same thing for the past couple days, which isn’t a whole lot actually. They have to do a lot of technical checks with the cameras, so a couple times everyday we take the cameras out to the field and wait. It can become pretty boring just sitting and waiting and that’s the only thing for us to do until tomorrow.
Also, there are a lot more people here from Asbury which makes it that much more fun. I think just about everyone is here now, but there might be a few more on their way. Last night we went to Silk Street Market which is a lot better than Ya Show where I went a few days ago. It seems to be easier to bargain with them, and I got a lot of better deals. I really am not one to shop but it’s so hard to pass up some of the deals. I’m going to go back and get a tailored suit, my friends paid about $120 for a cashmere one, and I’m hoping they give me that kind of deal.
On to today…I really think that today might have been the most annoying day of my life. We are one day until Opening Ceremonies start and we still are having access issues. We arrived at our venue around 11 am and almost immediately were told to get back a bus and go back home. The president of our company had finally had enough of us not being allowed to do our job, and given the run-around with access to the stadium and field so he sent us home. It’s not very often anyone in our company will hear of him giving orders to do something so this was a big deal.
When we got back we were told to check in at 2:00. That gave me enough time to take a nap, but that also meant that we weren’t fed lunch so I didn’t eat. We went to check in and they told us to wait and come back at 2:30. We waited, came back and were told to come back at 4. Then 5. And then 6. Finally to come back at 7. Before 7 rolled around we found out that we were supposed to just come to work tomorrow, I’m guessing that things are worked out enough.
I forgot to mention that we had to walk to the other end of the village every time we had to check in. That is what made it the most annoying. Most people lived in the building that we had to walk to, but we had to keep going back and forth. That means that we couldn’t go out and do anything because we had to keep checking in, so we were stuck. Hopefully things run smoother tomorrow because it’s literally the biggest show in the world. They are expecting 4 billion people to watch the Ceremonies and if things aren’t worked out to give us what we need then only those in the stadium will see it.
It truly is a different place over here. I really don’t expect for there to be anything that will hinder us from actually doing our jobs, but I don’t expect things to be easy tomorrow either. I’m sure there will still be some issues and we won’t get everything we need, but I’m sure the show will go on and everyone will see it.
Do not miss the show. Record it if you have to because it really is going to be excellent. I don’t know what NBC is doing for the show, how much they will show and when exactly they are showing it. It starts at 8 pm local time here so that is 8 am back in Kentucky. Find out what NBC is doing and then look on-line to see if anyone other broadcasters are putting the entire thing on-line.
Tomorrow is an exciting day, I just wish today could have been somewhat enjoyable too.
Last night we had a rehearsal for Opening Ceremonies and if was fantastic. This time we actually got to get on the field and in position. I’m working with a steadicam operator. All of us that are camera assistants are on the field, which is really awesome. When you’re watching the real ceremonies in a few days, I’ll be sitting right next to a speaker on the top right, I’m between the Chinese/Olympic Flags and a gate. My camera operator pretty much does his own thing, except when he needs a break or a battery and I help him, otherwise I’m just sitting there watching the event.
You probably won’t see me, and if you do you won’t know that it’s me. I’ll be in all black and doing my best to stay out of any camera shots. Watching it live is totally different than watching it on TV. But you still must watch it.
Today was really nice, I had the day off and got a chance to go to one of the markets for some shopping. I’m not much of a shopper at all. I hate going to the mall and I hate having to buy stuff, that’s why I try to get my sister or mom to get it for me. But today was totally different, I was excited to experience the markets. We went to the Ya Show market which is just a big box building with six floors, five for shopping and one for eating.
Inside the floors are broken into tiny little cubicles almost where people put their merchandise. When you walk by they call out to you and tell you that you want this shirt or whatever. They all know English so they can try to make a sale. One of the best things is that no matter what price they tell you, you should get it for less. You bargin with them and try to get it to what you want to buy it for. Can you imagine doing that at Wal-Mart or Sears? They have a lot of name brand stuff, who knows if it’s real or a really good fake. I got a few gifts but I’m going to try and get to a few more markets before I leave.
I also want to say that the last few days were kind of strange for me. I knew that they would be when I left, but once they came it still was weird. On Friday two of my best friends got married, and I had to miss it. There are the first two really good friends of mine to get married and I was really sad that I couldn’t be there. I just want to say Congratulations to the Jake and Lena (Haire) Stevenson.
Also around the same time two more of my best friends got engaged. I also knew this was coming, and was sad to not be there. Mark is easily one of my closest friends and I’m very happy for him. I think he picked a great girl and I wish them the best. Congratulations to Mark Baker and Kaylene Proctor.
This is the other side, the not so fun side of this trip. Yes I am having a fantastic time and I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but at the same time I have to miss out on a lot that’s going on back home. I guess that’s the one downside of this trip, missing out on some of the things I care about most. I guess that makes this even more of a learning experience for me.
Today and yesterday were the first two days of work, that means a lot of physical labor for a long time in hot weather. The whole idea is to build relationships with the people you work for and earn their trust. It’s also pretty cool to walk around the home of the Opening Ceremonies and Track and Field.
I got to walk out on the stage (which is built for the ceremonies and will be taken away and replaced with fresh sod and a track for the Track and Field events). It is without a doubt the biggest stadium I’ve ever been in and walked out on the surface. It was so surreal. In about a week there will be 90,000 people in the seats including some of the most powerful men of the world, plus thousands of athletes and participants in the Opening Ceremony.
I didn’t just walk around gawking at the stadium all day, I did actually work. The first two hours on Monday was spent moving bottles of water off of a pallet into a storage building that just tells you how low on the totem pole I am. My official job is camera assistant, but during set-up all the students are more or less interns, jumping whenever anyone needs help doing anything.
We run a lot of cables from building to building (there is a compound built behind the stadium that houses all the broadcast trucks and the location offices of TV networks NBC, BBC, CBC, and others. Today I helped the cameramen move these huge boxes that house their cameras and helped them setup. The cameramen are hilarious, and they are all from Finland. There are a lot of Fins in the compound as well as Belgians, Chinese, and Aussies. It’s a pretty diverse group but everyone is great.
I’ve seen some of the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies and it’s going to be incredible I encourage you all to watch, and if you don’t like it then you can blame me. Tomorrow is a full practice for all of us so I should see the whole thing. I know you want me to take pictures or at least give you full descriptions of what to expect but I really can’t show you or tell you, I want to but I could get fired and deported.
A couple of quick things: Today was the first day we saw a blue sky and the sun, and that naturally means it was the coolest day temperature wise. It rained last night and that cleared a lot of the smog from the area and cooled it down. I expect to see more and more blue skies as the games get closer. The government can shoot a “rain bomb” into the sky that makes it rain and clears the air, which allows you to actually see buildings in front of you.
Also, I think I lost my iPhone in a taxi yesterday, that sucks. I think it slipped out when I was pulling out a map because our driver was lost. My friend who paid didn’t grab a receipt so we couldn’t directly track the cab. The group at our front desk called the company to try and track it down but at this point they told me it can’t be found. It’s days like that I wish I drank, heavily.
I’ll send some pics of the National Stadium and the Water Cube. The Cube is the home to swimming and lights up at night, I’ll try to get some pics of that tomorrow night after work. I’m also going to send a picture of the Dragon Hotel; it is right next door to the National Stadium and just looks cool, I took that today since the air was so clear. The last two show the difference in air quality, one is from my first night out of my hotel window and the other is from tonight.
One thing you learn pretty early here in China is that rules change constantly. You would think that we would take the same route to work everyday but different roads are closed everyday. There is a lot of security around any Olympic Venue, including our Village, and everyday there is some different security measure. It can be frustrating but you just learn to handle it because that’s just the way things are done here, and if you argue you’ll go to jail. It’s just the way it is here.
Yesterday was a rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies and the stadium was packed out. I wish I could tell you all about everything, but I didn’t even see anything. When we got to work we were given a ticket to get into the stadium for the day, our credentials apparently weren’t going to be enough. Around 3 or 4 we were told that the production team wasn’t going to be allowed to be in the arena to practice. That means that no cameramen were allowed at their positions.
We were told to go home by our boss so we did, that turned out to be a big mistake. Some people stayed behind and used their ticket to get in as any other spectator, which for some stupid reason I didn’t think to do. So, they watched the whole performance minus the torch lighting, and I missed out. They all said it was incredible, and the way they describe it, it should be. Luckily there are two more rehearsals, one on the 2nd and one on the 5th. Hopefully that means we will be able to get in and practice like all the people on the stage. We’ll see.
I really don’t want you all to think that China is wrong or bad for these decisions. I don’t agree with them and neither do a lot of people and it certainly makes our jobs harder, but that’s just the way things are done here. It’s a different culture and you really don’t have a point of reference until you come here. They live a different way for different reasons than we do, but that certainly doesn’t make things wrong in whole. They are great people and a lot of fun to be around.
I think we will be assigned cameramen to work with pretty soon and I’m excited. I have been trying to get to know some of the cameramen and build relationships with them, because those are the guys I’ll be working next to. There is a chance I could be on the field for the Opening Ceremonies, but we’ll wait and find out. I’m hoping we get assigned in the next day or so, but who knows.
No new pictures at this time because even if I could take pictures I won’t be able to post any from inside the National Stadium till later. I’ll try and take some and post them later.
Sunday we set out to make it to The Great Wall, but only some of us accomplished this feat. About 10 of us wanted to go because most of us start work tomorrow and don’t know when we will have another day off.
We went to the front desk to find out the best way to get there and of course to get it written in Chinese. Well they told us to take a taxi to a bus stop where we could jump on a bus that would take us to the wall. The taxi took us to the bus stop, and we found the bus but we had no idea where to get off. We thought we’d just ride until we saw the wall, I’ve said it before, we just shouldn’t think for the rest of the trip. The bus eventually stopped and they told us we had to get off and that the wall wasn’t here. But then up popped a man off the street that said he’d take us to the wall. It was about a ten minute ride from the bus stop and for the three of us 100 RMB total, so about $4 each.
There are a few different portions of the wall you can go to in the Beijing area and we went to the one at Mutianyu. The site is absolutely unbelievable, nothing in this world compares to it. We walked a good portion of the wall, but there are so many steps and it’s very very steep. At some points each step is about 18 inches or so high.
It was very long and very hot and humid (as it is every day, the air quality is so poor it’s not even funny) so we didn’t spend a long time out there. We took a lot of pictures and I’ll try to send some with this entry (again I can’t post to wordpress from China the site is blocked).
There are vendors on the wall that sell water, beer, and postcards. Just like any good business it’s all about placement. Since we’re up on the Wall there just aren’t options or competition for these vendors so they sell water for three times what you can get it anywhere else in the country. When you get down from the Wall (maybe one of the coolest parts) there is a street with vendors on both sides yelling out to you to buy shirts, postcards, pictures, water, beer, bananas, whatever you can think of pretty much. They are very aggressive. One lady pulled my arm to get me to look at her and another hit me with a bottle of water.
I mentioned coming down was one of the coolest parts, it’s kind of sad that that is what I liked a lot but it’s just so cool. I said you take a ski lift up and you can also take it down, but you can also ride a speed chute down. You get on this little cart with a lever between your legs, to go faster you press the lever forward and to slow down you pull it back. The only rule: you go as fast as you want. The course winds it way back down the mountain and has some pretty sharp turns, but boy is it fun. It is very similar to the luge from the Winter Olympics except you sit up rather than back, but it has that same feel.
When we got all the way back down there were two men dressed in traditional Chinese Warrior uniforms with old style weapons that want you to take pictures with them, they also want you to pay. I figure it’s not often an old Chinese man is going to be dressed in a warrior uniform and offer to let me take a picture of them, so I jumped at the chance.
Getting back was not as tough of a task, thankfully. The man that drove us was waiting in the parking lot and drove us to the bus station where we hoped back on the 916. This time we knew where we were going and when to get off so that wasn’t as stressful.
The Wall is such a tremendous site; it is almost surreal to see it, to touch it, to walk it. I can’t believe I got to go. I hope I can get back to it at the end of the trip. Monday is my first day of work so we’ll see how that goes, don’t know exactly what we are doing but hopefully I’ll get to see inside the National Stadium and maybe walk around in it.
I think I’m getting settled in here pretty nicely. I’m adjusting to the culture and learning quickly how to get places. The best way is to ask one of the workers at the front desk of our building. They will look up anything, call for us, and write down directions so we can give it to the taxi driver. They really are some of the nicest and coolest people I’ve ever met. They are so willing to help in anyway they can and they always greet us in English and tell us to “have a good day” every time they see us, and always with a big smile on their face.
With that being said, yesterday I went with some friends to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. That was incredible. To me looking at a site and realizing the history that happened there is phenomenal. Standing there and thinking about that one man standing in the way of those tanks is truly a lasting moment. The Forbidden City was even more impressive. I never realized how big it really was. I guess every time I saw it on a map I didn’t realize how big the city of Beijing was. We didn’t go into the entire city, we didn’t have enough time. Plus it cost money to get into the inner area and we didn’t want to pay 60 RMB, which is about $8 or so.
While we were in the Forbidden City 4 or 5 different Chinese people wanted to get their picture taken with me. The four of us couldn’t figure out why each time they singled me out rather than the other three guys. We have two theories: I was the tallest out of our group, and I have a nice (almost) full beard. We could be totally wrong.
Later that night one of the guys that was with me (Thomas) and I went out to dinner with our professor and his family. They took us to their favorite restaurant (they moved to Beijing for a brief time so he could do planning with our company). The restaurant was called “The Great Wall” not to be confused with the restaurant of the same name in Wilmore, no corporation going on there.
It was a nice meal served family style, and the only reason I bring it up is because I tried duck for the first time. Now I’m not a person to try a lot of different foods ever. I like what I like and I don’t like to try things I might not like. It’s just how I am. It really wasn’t that bad, but it won’t be my favorite dish either. I figure it’s part of my responsibility to try new things while I’m here because who knows when I’ll be back.
One more note: if you would like to contact me or make a remark about one of my posts please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com or Facebook me. I can’t see this site over here so I can’t see any comments obviously.