Zhang Cheng Gan was a very cheerful 48-year-old Chengdu taxi driver. After catching his cab in front of my apartment this morning, I could n’t contain my excitement of going to Beijing. Once it was out of my mouth, we cheered on our countries all the way to the Chengdu International aiprot.
Arrived in a speedy 20 minutes flat.
After I received his strong handshake from his car window, Mr. Zhang gave me his parting English phrase, the only one he knew.
“I love you, Kangni (Connie)! I love you, China!”
A smile, a wave and off he went.
Now that’s a great send-off to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games!
With Olympic competitions already underway at 8 a.m., there was no fear in anyone missing the events/their favorite sports. The Chengdu airport is now filled with TV screens broadcasting live reports and news updates from Beijing. People hover around the screens, watching with great interest. Every once in awhile, you’ll hear a gasp or shout of joy when a Chinese athlete does well in his or her competition. I would think seeing all this in the airport would make one want to exchange that ticket to Nanjing or Hong Kong for a flight to Beijing.
Only Little Flower had a very unhappy morning. A suitcase for her means we (together) are going on a trip. She rushed into her carrier, then waited eagerly for me pick her up and whisk her out the door.
Instead, she was left whimpering at the closed door, then in the glassed in sunroom, as I wheeled my small suitcase out of the complex to the street.
Not this time, Little Flower.
It Pays To Speak Up
The excited buzz on the airplane to Beijing was quite apparent. A majority on this flight were heading to the capital city for one thing: the Olympics.
In the 2-hour flight, things would have been pleasant had it not been for a little boy seated behind me. Not only was he often kicking my seat, but he also was quite loud when talking. It was an obnoxious loud, with whiny sentences of wanting this and that or mimicking favorite children’s cartoon characters.
When the plane landed and we were all standing in the aisles to depart, this little boy began hitting his mother, griping and pushing her to and fro. His mother, meanwhile, just smiled and stroked his plump cheeks to appease him.
I’ve seen a lot of these one-child policy episodes with spoiled brats taking over their parents’ affections. Usually, I stay quiet in these kind of situations, but not today.
“You’re very impolite,” I scolded the child in Chinese.
His eyes widened, seeing a foreigner who can say something in his language.
“This is your mother,” I continued with a frown. “You should respect her, not hit her.”
At this, the mother giggled with embarrassment while her son actually looked quite contrite and ashamed. He nodded his agreement and gave his mom a loving hug.
My deed done, I softened a bit.
“Ni shuo bu shuo yingwen? (Do you speak English?)” I asked him, adding “Hello!”
He brightened and answered back the same. His mother began to lose her embarrassment and pressed him to say something else in English.
“How are you?” he said, shyly.
“I am fine,” I replied. “How are you?”
“I am fine. Where are you from?”
“I am from America. And you?”
“I am from Chengdu,” he beamed.
“Wow!” I praised his mom. “His English is great! How old is he?”
“I’m six years old,” the little boy answered my Chinese question.
After that, I pretty much endeared myself to the family. Mom had questions for me and volunteered that she was a reporter for the Chengdu Morning Daily newspaper. I know this newspaper well because I pass their building every day on the way to my swimming pool.
“Do you have Olympic tickets?” I asked. “I don’t have any and I want some but I can’t pay a high price.”
Her immediate response was to give me her business card saying that her friend, who already purchased them, might have extras. I should call her later and find out.
Lucky me! A contact already and I haven’t even made it to the Olympic park yet.
I guess sometimes, it pays to speak your mind.
It was an amazing experience to walk into and through Beijing’s new airport. I was so used to the former airport, a dinky little worn thing with hardly any shops and only one nasty restaurant, that I didn’t recognize it. The floors glittered. The glass windows and ceilings allowed in amazing light. The tidy shops and fragrant restaurants enticed. The place was incredibly spacious, which was obviously needed. There were people everywhere: Chinese tour groups, reporters lugging around heavy equipment, Olympic team coaches and assistants all in uniform, and those like me who came for the experience.
Blue-jacketed Olympic helpers seemed to be at every turn. I stopped at the Olympic help desk for a map and found where to take the express train into the city. My plan had been to subway it to the Holiday Inn Express as it was very near one of the subway stations. For 25 yuan ($3.50), the express train whizzed me into the city where for 2 yuan (22 cents), I easily changed to the connection subway line. Then it was just a matter of watching the stops, getting off at the Shangdi Station and walking a few blocks to the hotel.
This area of Beijing I am quite unfamiliar with as it’s at the northern outskirts of the city. The main Olympic venues, however, and the Olympic Village are not far away which means I made a very wise decision in booking this room in advance.
And what a great room it is, too! I’m used to my bargain $11 to $20 a night rooms at the lower end Chinese hotels. They’re clean and have TV sets but they are pretty run down. Wires dangle from the ceiling. The bathroom usually has leaks. The carpet is rather disgusting. (Best to wear slippers or never take off your shoes). But here, I have a large screen flat TV, great air conditioning, brand new everything, a small couch/pull-out bed, table, and a computer desk for emailing and blogging.
It’ll certainly be hard to return to my usual mundane accommodations after this.
Now it’s out the door, on my way to the main venue areas. I’m not counting on getting any tickets, not with the reports of the overpriced scalpers, but you never know. Wish me luck!
From Beijing, sending you a Saturday "Ping An".