Monday, August 25, 2008

NPR Podcast with Betsy Ross "On the Front Row"

To hear the podcast, please click on the title above: NPR Podcast with Betsy Ross "On the Front Row"

Thank you!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: NOT the end

What a journey! After leaving Beijing we flew to Seoul, Korea for an 11 hour layover. We got in a 11:30pm and were all getting prepared to sleep on those not-so-comfortable chairs in the airport. As soon as we got off the place I could see us all jockeying for position to find a place to lay our heads. Then...somebody noticed the words Transit Hotel. I wasn't sure what that exactly meant but the hotel part appealed to me and you didn't have to exit the security part of the airport. Speaking of security...do you have any idea what it is like try and check a backpack that has more electronics in it than Circuit City? And oh...by the way...you can no longer travel with batteries in your checked luggage. I found that out leaving Beijing when they called me back to search through my checked luggage. Apparently the rule changed the day before we flew out...NO BATTERIES. They scanned 3 times and I had to find the batteries located in a camera I packed and two baggies carrying extra double AAs and triple AAAs. The worst part were the "unmentionables" that fell out while the male agent was riggling through everything.

The transit hotel was great. For $60 apiece, you could get a double room with 2 single beds, a shower, and TV. So we all doubled up and got about 7 hours sleep in a real bed. Priceless!

The trip back to the States was long but I listened to my iPod, watched 2 movies, and read a book. I don't sleep well sitting up but managed to doze a few times. By the time we hit JFK airport in New York, I was over it. With a 3 hour layover there, Megan and Mo got us all in the Delta Crown Room and it was a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of JFK. Free eats and drinks and comfortable chairs. It was very nice. The connection to Cincinnati was slightly delayed due to heavy flight traffic but we landed early at 5:45pm. Have you ever been so tired you felt sick. Just when I thought I had already hit the wall...I hit a few more.

I got home and put on my jammies. I turned on the Olympics and got online to catch up FINALLY on Michael Phelps and other Olympic updates that had escaped us in Beijing. NBC had proprietary rights to the footage in Beijing so we could not pull up any of the videos. You could only do that in the U.S. Chinese television emphasized primarily the Chinese teams and athletes. So I was in heaven. I had seen many events live and in person so I could identify with the venues and the fans but watching at home was great too. Besides, I could DVR and rewind and understand the language.

I am ready for London 2012. Bring it on. I know people in London. They are going to get to know me a LOT better. But let's thoroughly enjoy the rest of these 2008 Beijing Olympics and appreciate all they have to offer. It's a ton and then some.

Bravo Beijing, it was amazing and I will be thinking about this experience and opportunity for the rest of my life!

Friday, August 15, 2008

USA vs Taiwan and hotter than pistol!

Packed!

The Bird's Nest and Water Cube

These two facilities are spectacular. I was in the Bird's Nest today for Track and Field. Both venues share the same security checkpoints so we were able to see the Cube close up also but alas, couldn't get inside. Megan and Greg took some pics when they went in so I'll share some of those.

As for the Bird's Nest, it is aptly named. From a distance, it certainly looks like a nest. As you get closer, you get sense of how enormous it is. It seats approximately 95,000, so it is very large. But unlike our American football stadiums, the infield is much larger with the field events taking place in the middle and ends and the 400m oval track in the middle. There is plenty of staging room for several events to go on at the same time and several meters of room between the track and the seats. Criss-crossing steel girders create the pattern you see and provide the frame for the interior. When lit up at night, it is backlit red and the Water Cube a beautiful blue. They are about a football field's length away from each other.

Once inside we were treated to men's shot put, the men's 100m qualifying heats, the women's 800 qualifier, and the first two events of the women's heptathalon. There was a lot going on a one time but seeing Gay and Bolt run was awesome as well as Fountain in the heptathalon. Also going on was the men's hammer throw. For both the shot and the hammer, there were these little remote controlled robots. The officials would use them to transport the shot and hammer back to the athletes. I could use one of those at home for any number of things. Laundry, toys, garbage...

Anyway, after taking 5,000 pictures of everything we tried to find some swimming tickets, but it just wasn't happening. We decided that there were still things in the Official Olympic Store that were waiting for us to buy them. We took the Beijing Subway for the first time. Very fast, very crowded but better than the bus. Too bad it didn't go to the Olympic Village where we are staying.

Needing energy before the jostling at the Olympic Store, we went to the Oriental Mall for food. I opted for KFC with the Karens and Peg and Mo had hot pot. You really shouldn't ask but I'll tell you anyway. It is a boiling pot with a divider in it. One side is spicy and the other not so much. You can drop in raw meat and vegetable and things that defy description. Kind of like fondue.

As for the Mall and the street on which it was located, it would give Michigan Ave. in Chicago a run for its money. All the best stores along a beautiful street with fountains.

After eating, it was off to buy those last minute gifts. We're running out of time as we go to the softball venue first thing in the morning and then rush back to shower again (it is VERY hot and humid) and get ready to head to the airport by 5:30.
Shopping the Official Olympic stores is like trying to see how many people you can fit in a volkswagen bug or telephone booth. Arms and legs are flailing and you feel like "Flat Stanley" when it's all over. It's push or be pushed. It could be the next 'Survivor Beijing'. It wasn't my best moment. I shoved back...hard... and made it through the gauntlet with my stuff in tow and my head still attached.

I deserved a gold medal for sure.

Sadly, this will likely be my last post from Beijing. I cannot even begin to tell you all what this experience meant to all of us "Beijingers". We made new friends with our host family as well as getting to know the members of our traveling group better. We are in pictures of several Chinese that we'll never meet. Conversely, we will take with us snapshots of them and their lives that we could never completely understand but who capivated us nonetheless. We met on the other side of the world to share in an experience that knew no barriers. Be it language, culture, or country, we were all here to celebrate our love and appreciation of sport and its athletes of the world.

I'll leave you with this...at the Bird's Nest today, there was an 800 meter women's race in which a very small country (I believe it was Jordan) had a runner who finished 15 seconds or almost 100 meters behind the second to last runner. As the crowd became aware that she was still running, all 95,000 of us from all over the world, cheered her on. The roar of the crowd for her was louder than that for the winner.

'Nuff said!!!

The Water Cube

The Bird's Nest

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Inside the Bird's Nest!

The Real Journey Begins When You STAND UP Again!!!

Heading to Track & Field today. We have tickets this morning. Video will also post hopefully on the Summer Palace, the monsoon and the activity at the Bird's Nest.

The Summer Palace and the Hutongs

Today was a sightseeing day for most of us. We had breakfast and then took cabs to the Summer Palace. We must be adjusting to the taxi drivers. I don't even hang on anymore or close my eyes. If you think New York cabbies are crazy...the Chinese drivers are New York cabbies on steroids. I'm convinced it's the test of a real Beijinger.

Anyway, the Summer Palace is even bigger than the Forbidden City. It is a 290 hectacre park (okay, I looked it up for you...it's 10,000 square meters)and most of the space is under the Kumming Lake. It was originally a retreat for Emperor Qianlong's mother on her 60th birthday in 1750. After being plundered and burned by the Anglo-French armies in 1860, funds were taken from the Chinese navy to rebuild it.

There are tons of Pagodas and Temples perched on the hills rising above the lake with stone bridges and tree-lined walkways all the way throughout the complex. One really interesting highlight was the marble boat which was built by the Empress Dowager Cixi in the late 1800's with money meant for the navy. Eventually, she got in really big trouble for that but you are better off taking a history class on China or going to Wikipedia for more information.

The Karens, Mo, Shirley, and Peggy got in a paddleboat and pedaled around the large lake. Dr. EZ, Ali, and I thought that seemed like a lot of work and decided to hoof it around the place. We all met up in the nick of time. As we were walking toward the back part of the Marble Boat, Shirley (an avid Ohio River boater) looked at the sky and said we should not pass go and collect $200 but run like the wind for cover. She was right. The monsoon hit just as we got inside a tiny little cafe located in one of the original Palace buildings. We were just beginning to enjoy our Tsing Taos and meat dumplings when all H-E-double toothpicks hit. Thanks, Shirley!

Peggy and I will post the video later that shows a bunch of runaway ferries and paddleboats with people in a panic on them. It was an impressive storm to be sure. It looked like the rain was going to stay so like the experienced Beijingers we now were, we pull the umbrellas, and ponchos out of our backpacks and set off to find the bus. We found a bus alright. Not the right bus, but a dry bus nonetheless. We decided to get on and ended up in a whole different section of Beijing. It turns out it was Old Beijing and quite by accident, we found the incredible Hutongs. These are narrow streets or alleys that people live in and have shops out front. Amazing to live like that. I can't begin to describe them so I'll let the pictures say a 1000 words. Because of the lightening quick growth of the city, many of the Hutongs have disappeared. Fortunately, the Chinese government has stepped in to preserve some of them.

We stumbled upon a wonderful little restaurant with a Western toilet (it's the little things). The food was fantastic and more similar to the Chinese food in the States. We were happy campers. Not to say we haven't enjoyed trying the ethnic Chinese food but it really is exotic and an acquired taste.

We are now home and watching the Olympics in Chinese but we understand what's going on. Sport transcends all languages and cultures. The team with the highest number usually wins and most of us can count!

We figured that one out all by ourselves.

PS: Track and Field tickets tomorrow! Yippee!!!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Palace Temple.

Breakfast! Tea eggs, fried dough, bean! Note the peanut butter in the background!

Today is Thursday...I think

I have only a small idea of what day it is...I need a vacation from my vacation. I wonder if out new President of the Mount, Dr. Tony Aretz, will let me start a month late????

The Shanghai 5 is all back in one piece. Ali, Dr. EZ, Greg, Megan, and Shirley had a great time and had funny stories to tell. They said it was wall-to-wall highrises with the 2 of the five tallest buildings in the world. I just might have to come to China to see Shanghai someday.

Today is finding tickets for events for some and the Summer Palace for the rest of us. Balancing sightseeing and the Olympics is hard work! I know I have Track & Field tickets tomorrow and softball on Saturday so I feel good about that.

I'll be blogging again tonight so you will hear about our day later. Yesterday, if you were wondering, was the "lost trying to find Pizza Hut" day. Karen W., Karen R., Peggy, and I walked as much yesterday as we did at the Great Wall or the Forbidden City. We did find it, however and I must tell you it was quite the experience. A maitre' de sat us and we had two servers. I posted a picture of the "Hut" and the local Outlet Mall. It was fun! Later...

Video for "A Spontaneous Day"

Here are some of the youTube videos so you don't have to leave this page. Enjoy!
video

If you have trouble playing the video, you can go to www.youTube.com/drljschoen
This new widget has been a bit touchy. Thanks!

Podcast

Click on the words "Beijing Olympics Podcast" on the right side of this page to hear this podcast.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One man and a bike!

Lost in Beijing and talking to strangers

A Spontaneous Day!

All of the time we have been here .... THERE WAS A PLAN .... until today! Half of our group left at 6:00 am to fly to Shanghai and the other half of us decided to wing it. In all the time it took to start the day, it not so gently reminded us why plans are helpful. The dillydaddlying though gave me enough time to take a call from Amy Wagner with Channel 5, out of Cincinnati. She was very kind and interviewed me about our experiences in Beijing for the Olympics. As it turned out, throughout the day, several of us would be interviewd by NBC Worldwide and ESPN Spectator but more about that later. (That 15 minutes of fame is running out fast!) I'm sure my footage is on the cutting room floor.

After the interview, we went to the bus stop and climbed on our trusty steed (this one without air conditioning), and headed to the Water Cube full of confidence that somebody, somewhere had 5 tickets to sell us to get into swimming. We stood right in front of the entrance looking at likely purveyors. Funny how scalpers have the same look about them regardless of where in the world they are. I should note that as I understand it, the Chinese government was very smart in pricing the tickets at a fairly reasonable price. They were hoping for the first SOLD OUT Olympics in history ... and it is. The Chinese people bought up most of the tickets and the rest of the world got what they could. However, not everyone who has tickets here is going to the events and the government does not want them resold or scalped. No one seems to know for sure if it is legal or not. With the way they were acting around the strong police presence...we're guessing it isn't legal. Hence, the careful attitude of the scalpers. So standing in front of the Cube wasn't the smartest thing for us to do.

I had some 3 x 5 cards in my backpack and we wrote in Chinese and English "Need Tickets"! We started walking down the block saying (and I am writing this phonetically), 'Now Pee Ow' which, of course, means 'need tickets' in Mandarin. The further away from the entrance we got, the more people sidled up to us, guiding our group to the fence far away from prying eyes. Roberto from Chile had a few soccer tickets, several Chinese and Eastern Europeans had field hockey tickets. There were a few men's basketball tickets to be had but we were holding out for swimming. As we continued walking, various press corp doing random interviews on the street spoke to a few in our group. I talked with CBS and ESPN and while I know it would be difficult choosing whether to air my sound bites or Michael Phelps', I'm afraid we all know the answer to that. Karen R. and Mo got great face time too.

Finally, after exchanging phone numbers with the brokers, we met Niem from Paris, France. He had 5 boxing tickets for tonite. We huddled up, made a decision, and sadly bid adieu to the dream of watching swimming today.

Our day was finally taking shape. We had more event tickets! We decided we were hungry so Mo's mother took us to one of her favorite authentic Hunan restaurants. I have to say, I don't know how anyone finds things in Beijing. You go up and down hutongs or narrow alleyways to get to the good stuff. I knew I should have brought bread crumbs or string. Several times stopping to take a picture, I looked up to see everyone had disappeared. My heart has never stopped and started so many times. But all was well...Mo's mother steered us right there and I managed to make a few good directional guesses.

If you haven't had food from Hunan, it's spicy. I asked what the difference was between Hunan and Sichuan dishes as both Provinces serve hot and spicy food. The Hunan dishes use red peppers and Sichuan dishes use red peppers and another type of pepper that acts as their version of a hot pepper secret weapon. I'm a wimp and painstakingly picked out all the red peppers with my chopsticks. Yes, we were there for awhile. I picked up the tab this time for the 6 of us. We had several dishes plus beer and bottled water. The bill was 202 yuan or about 30 dollars. Food is very inexpensive.

We then got on the bus and rode to the area of Beijing very close to the American embassy. Mo's mom went home and we were left to investigate the area. It is a place where a lot of foreigners hang out especially Europeans. We decided to grab some Cokes and gelato in a little shop and it was very relaxing chatting about the trip and people watching. It was much better than the airport.

After chilling a bit, we went to shop the market next door. I can't even begin to say the name or spell it, but it is several stories high and each floor goes on forever. The floor is divided into booths where vendors sell everything like pearls, videos, charms, watches, silks, knock off everything-you-can-imagine etc. You name it, they have it. I bought a "Tag Heuer" watch for 20 bucks U.S. and a Christmas ornament. In fact, all of us bought watches. Interestingly, when Peggy asked for a Rolex, the vendors looked around. Seeing no police, they pulled a special case from the cabinet below the counter. It seems that you can reverse engineer other brands of watches but not a Rolex. If found, Mo said, they are confiscated. I liked Karen W's question. She wondered if you could take it to a watch repair shop at home if it broke. She was kidding.

Peggy and Mo bought Abercrombie & Fitch sweatshirts for 15 dollars, and Karen R. got some silk PJ's for her grandkids for practically nothing. Around 5:30, we decided to head to the Worker's Gymnasium which was the venue for the boxing. The taxi's will only take 3, so we divided up. Peggy and I ended up at the soccer venue by accident. We just asked one of the young and helpful volunteers (who are everywhere and then some) who speak excellent English, where to go. We were off target by only half a mile and arrived to the boxing event in plenty of time.

The boxing was pretty cool. They had the fly weights and bantam weights in preliminary matches and we snuck down to very good seats. Actually, our new best friend Niem gave us tickets that put one of us right in front and the rest in the nosebleed section. The venue had plenty of open seats so we sat together in the lowest section. If anyone knows how to score Olympic boxing...let us know.

So with no plans, we ended up having a great day. We learned to do illegal things in a foreign country, eat Hunan food off the beaten track, and barter with the Chinese vendors who made you feel like you were a steely negotiator while happily taking you for a profit.

By the way, we spent 500 yuan for the boxing tickets....about $75 bucks.

It doesn't get any better than that!

Anything you want to buy here!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tips for you readers

If you are looking for additional posts, please go to the very bottom of the this page and click on the post you want to read. You can also post comments to the posts. I will be giving an update later today on our most recent exploits as well as a special blog for my Sport Management majors on issues related to the Sport Industry.

Volleyball Event

We stepped on the bus. This time we needed Olympic #7 bus. And miracle of miracles, we all found a seat and were in 7th heaven. This bus wasn't crowded at all and thus, started our day wonderfully. I gotta tell you, the busses have been the bane of our existence. You'll just have to believe me.

Anyway, volleyball tickets in hand and one bus transfer later, we were standing in front of the volleyball venue, Capital Gymnasium. It was a great venue with about 10,000 seats. Security has been very tight with every venue and most tourist attractions checking bags and having us pass through security machines like at the airport. The upside was that we didn't have to take off our shoes! To top things off, we were all body searched with scanners and hands. My security person even put a hand in my pocket to check that the metal cylinder was just dental floss. We really don't mind the stepped up security. It really is for the spectator's benefit. They have uniformed volunteers everywhere and it is difficult to turn around and not see another at the ready to help and answer questions. For a minute we thought we were at Disney with all the "cattle" pens channeling us up and back as we snaked closer and closer to the ticket takers.

We ran into several USA women's Olympic Team members out front posing for pictures and signing autographs. We were unsure of who was actually playing. We had a 50% chance that USA's pool was playing. They were. We saw the USA women play Cuba. Well, the word play should be used loosely. They didn't play well at all. The first game was a blowout and the second game went down to the wire but serving was a disaster for the US. I realized missed serves still was a pet peeve of mine. You can take the coach out of vollyball but you can't take volleyball out of the coach. Cuba went on to cruise to a 3-0 victory. We cheered and whistled...but they must not have heard us or I just know we would have made all the difference. Then we watched the Russian Federation play Brazil. Again, the word play is in dispute. Brazil made Russia look terrible. The Brazilians had (as always) great fans in big numbers running around the inner concourse chanting and singing. Poor Russia had a lone young lady with a big flag trying to compete. I was secretly rooting for her.

I think everyone is impressed with the level of precision and organization with which Beijing is running these games (okay maybe not the buses all the time). They have plenty of security, information volunteers, and event helpers. Risk management is well-organized as is the actual game event. The scoreboards are well-synched and announcing is very good and in both English and Chinese.

To end, most of us went to dinner and Megan and Greg took off in search of Beach Volleyball tix and found some. The rolled in a bit ago and said they had a great time. Beach volleyball is always high energy and crazy.

Brazil vs Russia

More Forbidden City

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Peggy, Mo, Karen R. and Karen W.

USA vs Cuba

First Event

We have all determined that we have calf muscles. After the climbing the Great Wall the day before yesterday, and walking about 10 hours yesterday, and doing the balancing act for 50 minutes on the bus each way...WE ARE SORE! We even ate at the KFC and found the proverbial squat toilet. It is difficult in the best of circumstances but with sore legs...almost impossible. You can see a picture of this lovely invention in an earlier post.

There is NO one in Beijing tourist or otherwise who has seen more of the city in the time we have been here. NO ONE. We started yesterday by riding our favorite Olympic #2 bus to the city. We saw a nanosecond of the women's road race. We took in Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the new $300,000,000 renovation of the Old Beijing Historic District, the exotic foods at the Donghuamen Night Time Street Market where you can find the best sheep penis, starfish, dung beetles, fried bees, scorpions, seahorses and other delicacies. Of course, we all tried everything...NOT. But we did try Lotus Blossom (fried potatoes, lo mein, and meat/fish balls) to name a few. Yes, we are a bit pedestrian in our willingness to try things. Karen R and Peggy were very brave. Greg refused the sheep penis although he was assured it would ... oh never mind.

And through most of it there was rain...rain...and rain. We holed up in a nifty little internet bar and cafe and had a few Tsing Tao's. Then hoofed it (in the rain because it never really stopped) to shop the market and go to an official 2008 Beijing Olympic store for souvenirs.

Then we tried to find a taxi in the pouring rain. Two hours later after no luck, we were slopping through the puddles back to our bus stop on our trusty Olympic #2 bus. Then Peggy and I posted our third video and another is in the making. Peggy deserves all the credit. She has been a filming fiend and a great editor. So you youTube buffs are seeing some good stuff. Also, when you see me in any of the video, remember the camera puts on 50 or 60 pounds :)

TODAY (Monday), we see our first real event. We have tickets to Pool B women's volleyball. We'll see USA vs. Cuba and Brazil vs. Russia Federation. Yippee!!!!

Forbidden City

Tian'anmen Square Memorial

Saturday, August 9, 2008

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So much...

So much has happened in the last 24 hours. We awakened this morning to hear some bad news. Let me first give my condolences to Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman who was a member of the 2004 Women's Olympic Volleyball Team. Her father was murdered in a knife attack and her mother injured in an attack by a Chinese man yesterday at noon. The tour guide and Elisabeth were with them when it happened but were uninjured. The killer then jumped off the Drum Tower and killed himself. I recruited Wiz when I was coaching at Iowa. I spent some time in their home on a recruiting visit and spoke to Wiz many times. It has been many years, but I remember the family well. I know this is no reflection on the Chinese or anyone in particular. It appears random and can happen on anyday, anywhere but it still stinks. It will serve, however, to ignite the passions of many of the athletes to perform better, and push themselves to be stronger, jump higher, and run faster. Tragedy has a way of pulling people together and forcing themselves to dig deeper than they ever knew they could dig. Viva the USA!!!

Yesterday was a big day. We were up and at'em by 6:00 am to beat the rush at the Great Wall. There are two access places to the Wall near Beijing. We went to the one a bit farther away with less people traffic (still tons of people by the time we left) at Mutianyu. It was very misty and even rained a bit so we couldn't see but a mile of the 4000 miles at any one time. It got a little better as the sun burned off some off the mist and we could see farther. On good visiblity days, the long vistas of wall are very impressive. and you can see for miles. It is unbelievable that these stones and bricks were cut and laid by hand. No wonder it took millenia to build. As we serpentined through the vast markets of sellers leaving the tourist site, I was struck with how much English the vendors new and how they worked together to make a sale. Some of us must have a big stamp of 'S' (sucker) on our forehead because few of us escaped without a souvenir or ten. I bought T-shirts for the kids and myself and some friends. You could get 2 shirts for 30 yuan. or about 3 bucks each. I felt like I had wheeled a great deal. All of us were trying to haggle like the tourist books advised. They start at a 100% and you are supposed to counter at about 10%. Then you meet somewhere in the middle. Frankly, I think it would be easier to just price things in the middle and be done with it. But where is the fun in that. Mo and her cousin Wang were really helpful too. If you got stuck, they jumped in, and after the yelling and haggling in Chinese, they would calmly turn and tell you how much yuan to pull out of your carefully hidden wallet. Good stuff. Can't wait to try my hand in the big market in Beijing today.

After that, we were dropped off in the heart of the city where the Bird's Nest, Water Cube, and other venues were. We were offered some gymnastics tickets by a couple of Russians. One hundred dollars US. We had reservations at a very famous Peking Duck restaurant and then Cincinnati Pops tickets at the new and amazing Concert Hall in Beijing. The restaurant was authentic and very interesting. Once again the motif had lts of red and yellow and the meal was designed around it's focal point. Duck. They blow an entire duck up with water and then roast until the water is gone. So the meat is very tender and retains it's flavors. Every bit of the duck is used so the side dishes included duck feet, duck livers, duck intestines...I think you get the picture. Some of us tried duck tongue and duck tendon. Not my favorite. I did think the wine called Great Wall wine was decent and was a good foil for the duck. Funny, I don't remember grape vines on the Wall. Our hosts took us and were delightful. Mo's mother and father and brother and cousins who have all made our stay wonderful and easy, had dinner with us. We were quite a group and I will post the picture as soon as I get it off Dr. EZ's camera.

We were then driven to the new Chinese Nationl Performing Arts Center. In words: stunning and gorgeous. It looks like a titanium egg surrounded by a square pond of water. You walk in the building UNDER the water. There is no entrance at ground level. Then you see this huge, and I mean HUGE expanse of dark wood, metal, and different marbles that give you a warm, but contemporary feel. Erich Kunzel was at his best. Funny and engaging with the primarily Chinese audience who appreciated his attempt to speak Mandarin. Mo said it was a great honor to be invited to perform there, not to mention how meaningful it was to be invited during Opening Ceremony weekend. The symphony played a nice selection of music from previous Olympiads as well as a tribute to composer John Williams, and the theme from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It was funny though because the jet lag hit right about the start of the concert. There were many open mouths and closed eyes at various points of the performance. I sat between Karen and Ali and can vouch they got some power naps in.

After leaving the Concert Hall, we sleepwalked through the streets trying to get to Tian'anmen Square but the access points were blocked off. There is a bike road race today so that may be the reason why. We walked by the where Mao is entombed and where some Olympic exhibits were. It was beautiful at night all lit up.

Then we took the bus...OMG. Seventy-five people in a space designed for 40. We were on that bus for 45 minutes standing and packed like sardines. And if you haven't heard, the drivers are well... to put a fine point on it...CRAZY!!! Had we not been packed in so tight, we would have flown threw the windows on many occasions. After we finally got off that bus, I had to look around to be sure I didn't have someone I didn't know still attached to me.

Today, is an "up in the air" day. Foot massages, shopping, and scalping tickets are possibles as well as seeing how close we can get to Tian'anmen Square. You'll know when I know.

One World One Dream is the motto of this Olympics...as we watch the Olympic coverage and Michael Phelps setting a WR, and China leading the gold medal race...it sure is.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

New Friends

Just wanted to do a quick shout out to the friends and family of the people with whom I'm traveling. Dr. Mo (our Chinese friend and interpreter whose family we are staying with), Peg, Dr. EZ, Alison, Shirley, Greg, Karen, Karen R., and Megan. They have been wonderful traveling companions and as with any time you have 9 or 10 people in one abode, we'll know everything there is to know about each other before long.

We are all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed about the coming days... more tomorrow after more sleep.

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View of lights and fireworks during opening ceremonies

View from condo.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Finally in Beijing

Wow, the longest flight...EVER! But now that we're here, it was worth every second. Remind me I said that on the trip back home. We left Cincinnati on Wednesday night at 9:05. We met up with some additional travelers in LA and flew all night to Seoul, Korea. Korean Airlines was quite good in terms of service. We were given choices of western meals and Asian meals. Most of us chose the western meals but I'll get plenty of chances to eat meals native to China. More about that later. The flight attendants were very attentive and looked very put together in their uniforms. Incredibly, they looked exactly the same at the end of the 12 hour and 25 minute flight. They were very courteous and polite and most spoke pretty good English. As English is the international language of business today, most of the educated Asian s and Europeans all speak at least some English. I wish the US focused more on foreign languages in our schools.

We arrived at Incheon Airport around 3:45 in the morning. The Seoul airport is amazingly clean and gleams with care. They have women on carts that have dust brooms to keep the floors tidy. The restrooms are made of marble tile and look like 4 star hotel bathrooms. I wish mine at home looked that good. We had a 5 hour layover and I was bummed because my phone was not showing any network connectivity. And I was ready to do some work!

Arriving in Beijing at 10:35 am, I was anxious to see if my phone would sync up and it did. Yea!!!! I was also curious to see the "fog" in Beijing. It is quite impressive and I can see why this has been a concern for the athletes. We were met by Mo's mom. It is their family's condo we are staying at through the Olympics. It is very large and bright and their 19th floor condo overlooks the Olympic village and the Bird's Nest. The Bird's nest is less than a mile away but it is difficult to see it. Visibility is approximately 9/10's of a mile. Hopefully we will be able to see the fireworks and watch the opening ceremonies on television. There is an English speaking television station that is highlighting the Olympics which will make it nice for us watching. If we can stay awake, that is. The marketing for the Games is impressive. There are literally hundreds of Chinese dressed in identical uniforms that are ready to help you in any way. The venues all have maps and the city is dressed up in flags and Olympic rings lining the streets and adorning buildings. I can't wait to attend the first event.

Mo's family as I mentioned is hosting us. There are 10 of us staying in the condo and we shared many gifts with them. Her mom, brother, and cousin picked us all up from the airport and then took us straight to the local police station to register. It is required that aliens (us) register with the police if you are staying with local families. It is a security measure. In fact, the Chinese have 50,000 police making sure the Olympics are a safe place to be. Their presence is everwhere, even lining the streets at attention to protect the visitors.

Once registered, we went and had dinner at the cafeteria next door to the highrise where the condo is. We had a marvelous dinner with our hosts with stewed cabbage, chicken and vegetables, beef, eggs, soup, dumplings etc. It is common to drink beer (Tsing Tao) and it comes in very large bottles that I think are 24 oz. Interestly, the area of Tsing Tao was settled by Germans and that's why they make a very good beer. All the food (and beer) was served family style and placed on a Lazy Susan that spun around to everyone sitting at the round table. It was great fun because our Chinese hosts have a wonderful sense of humor. They were very polite too, as they watched some of us try and use chopsticks. They rightfully should have been pointing and laughing at us.

As I look around the living room a few of my travel companions are out like a light. Others are on their way after full stomachs and the Chinese beer. After all, it is 3:15 in the morning where you are and most of you are sound asleep. It is the exact opposite. It's the middle of the afternoon and I can't wait to sleep. Catch a few winks for me will ya?

Tomorrow it's off to the Great Wall of China at 6:00 am to miss the crowds and then off to the Forbidden City. After a traditional Peking Duck dinner (I'm wondering about that...) we will be off to see the Cincinnati Symphony.

Checking in with the local police

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Big Day

Ni Hao,

After over a year of planning, it is finally the day of departure. It is also my birthday. Some have accused me of leaving today on purpose so that I don't have to blow out, well, let's just say, a few candles. Not true. Anyway, we leave tonight from Cincinnati at 9:05 pm and get in to Los Angelos at 10:48 pm. We leave LAX at 12:30 am and arrive in Seoul, Korea at 4:50 am. We leave Seoul at 9:30 am and arrive in Beijing at 10:35 am. We actually leave on August 6th and arrive on the 8th. About 24 hours of traveling once you take out the 13 hour time difference. I am tired already.

I think I have plenty to keep me occupied on the plane and in the airports. My iPod is updated and has thousands of songs and quite a few podcasts. I downloaded a novel (unabridged) and brought 2 paperpacks. There will probably be a few movies. I have cameras galore and my computer (I still have fall syllabi to finish). And candy... must have candy. I also will make some new friends. I plan on talking with Maureen, my new Chinese friend to get all the inside scoop on Beijing. I should probably be reminded how to say bathroom, beer, hello, thank you, and good bye. Also, the courtesies of interacting with the people. Americans do not always have the best reputation in other parts of the world. But we can change that...one American at a time.

And my phone works! We'll see if it does in other parts of the world. You may see some random posts of pictures on the blog. My camera phone is very so-so but I'll try and caption them. If I have wireless access along the way, I can post more descriptions on the blog and download photos from my digital camera which will be much better.

So guess who is carrying the US flag into the Olympic stadium for Opening Ceremonies. Lopez Lomong. You can read about him and see his picture in a previous post below. Pretty cool!

I am getting very excited about this trip but it is not without some trepidation. I'll miss my kids but know that I will have many stories and experiences to share with them. Besides, I will have my phone to hear their voices every day..............won't I?????

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Social Networking and 2008 Olympics

Here is the first podcast. Just click on the title of this post: Social Networking and 2008 Olympics and a media window will pop open. Hit play and it should start playing. I found a nifty little tune and then I go on a short riff about social networking before discussing some tidbits about the upcoming Olympics.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Troubleshooting

It used to be that double checking things was a sensible and responsible course of action. Today I am pronouncing that septupling (seven times) should be the norm. I have been preparing for my trip by practicing with my gadgets and posting media. My cell phone is a big part of what I want to do in Beijing. Theoretically, if I am walking down the street and see swimmers Michael Phelps, who is on track to win more medals at one Olympics than anyone...EVER or Dara Torres, the 41 year old phenomenom in the 5o freestyle, I can snap a picture from my camera phone. I can immediately upload it to this blog and presto...you see what I just saw. I can also insert text descriptions or observations as well in case more explanation is needed. This takes a lot of figuring out for my not so agile brain. So after double checking yesterday that my phone was ready to go and adding unlimited text as well as an international data and text package, and AT&T's World Traveler option for phone calls outbound and inbound for China, guess what I find out?

MY CELL PHONE WILL NOT WORK IN BEIJING!!!!

Here I am five days before leaving and my mobile phone with all my new found connectivity that double checking assured me would work...and it's for nothing. I spoke with Roger, Nathan, Cassandra, Chelsea, Victoria, and Linda on the customer service line. It was like playing telephone when you were a kid. You started out with the first person and tell them something like "Be sure to watch American Idol tonite" and it comes out after 20 kids and 20 new permutations..."Your mom wears pink-striped army underwear." I took notes with every conversation and pieced together something helpful from each one. Here are some of the things I was piecing together: I needed a quad band phone capable at 900/1800 mhz. For two phone calls I could use a GoPhone, then I couldn't. I could switch out my SIM card with any phone and then that changed to only a phone on my network. I had the international package and there was no such thing.

At the moment, I have secured a friend's phone. We'll swap phones and SIM cards. After extensive research on the AT&T wireless international website, I have a list of 3 or 4 phones that fit my needs and won't cost much. My friend's is an older model that will transfer data and text more lowly and therefore be more expensive. But, it will work because strangely enough, it's a quad band and my newer Razr is not. I also put my eBay skills to work and found a later version of her same phone for $49.99. I bought it. I didn't bother bidding. I'm in a hurry! I just pressed Buy Now! I probably should have bought seven in the new spirit of septology.

Hopefully, I get the eBay phone by Wednesday which is our departure day. Hopefully, I figure out how to use it, get it registered, and transfer the SIM card with all my information, contacts, and international packages on it. Hopefully, my widgets still work and hopefully, it works in China. I have a fallback. It is the old and ancient way. Uploading pictures from my digital camera on my computer using a cable of all things and posting the text and media to my blog and Facebook hours later.

I'll leave you with this. I watched Real Sports on HBO tonite and saw a piece on Lopez Lomong who is a "lost boy of Sudan". Lomong literally ran away from the rebels who had captured him as a 6 year old boy to fight for them. Ending up in refugee camps in Kenya, he was finally brought to the US and cared for by an American family. He won the NCAA National Track & Field Championship in the 1500 meters while attending Northern Arizona this past spring and qualified for the Beijing Olympics. When asked what it felt like to have the opportunities he has had in the US, he said, "The US is somewhere next to heaven."

Amen

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Week to Lift-off

Nihao (Greetings),

The trip is getting closer now. I have most of my widgets and gadgets working to make posts and I am calling AT&T to add an international data and text package tomorrow. Most of my students have responded to the invitation to "befriend" me on Facebook and I have found long lost friends and family I haven't spoken with in too long (thanks, Evie).

I've been doing some research. The Chinese are a very courteous and giving people. There is an understanding that if a gift is given, a gift is given back to show reciprocal appreciation and gratitude. We are bringing gifts to show gratitude and based on the host's ideas. We would not go there empty-handed and we may as well bring what they could use or wanted. Jeans, cargo pants and shorts, logo t-shirts, especially with coca-cola on them, quarters of the states (minted in Colorado or Philly), chocolate, and knives made the short list (can you fly with knives?). It is also a status symbol to have alcohol from the US, even empty bottles. I have two bottles to bring. One for them, one for me...both full.

We also have more tickets to events. Track and field, softball, and of course volleyball. Some of our hosts stood in line for hours in 90 degree weather to score tickets for us. And now, the 2008 Beijing Olympics is officially a sell-out. The first ever believe it, or not.

As for food, I will post a few pictures of the delicacies that can be found in and around Beijing. A warning...they are not for the faint of heart. I had also heard that horse has been approved for selling as meat in China during the Olympic Games, but not dog. Whew!

There are a few things I know about the first few days...Friday, August 8th will be a free day to acclimate ourselves and tour the local street merchants and then, of course, watch the opening ceremony fireworks from the condo. On Saturday, we have a VERY busy day. Starting early A.M. we will be transported by a cousin to the Great Wall and possibly Ming's Tomb. We'll return to the condo early afternoon to freshen up for a special dinner at one of the most famous Peking Duck restaurants in Beijing. Then, we'll be dropped off at the Center for Performing Arts for the Cincinnati Orchestra at 7:30PM. Yes, we are going to China to see the Cincinnati Orchestra at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_National_Grand_Theatre
After the performance, we will stroll through Tiananmen Square and down the famous Changan Jie. (Long Peace Street). This is the largest square and widest street in the world. From there we can take a taxi to either one of China's bars, a disco bar, or home.

As you can see, the people who invited me to join them have been very helpful and one is a Chinese National who speaks the Mandarin language. It is her family that is hosting us in Beijing including letting us take over their condo and transporting our small group to the Great Wall, Forbidden Palace, etc. We do have homework and that is to watch the movie The Last Emperor. "It is a dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City, the object of worship by half a billion people; through his abdication, his decline and dissolute lifestyle; his exploitation by the invading Japanese, and finally to his obscure existence as just another peasant worker in the People's Republic." Written by http://www.imdb.com/SearchPlotWriters?Martin%20H.%20Booda%20%7Bbooda@datasync.com%7D

It is "a biography of Aisin-Gioro "Henry" Pu Yi, who at the age of three was named the Emperor of China, and dies as a gardener at the Botanical Gardens of Peking. The movie is told in an interesting flashback/flashforward style, we learn of Pu Yi's childhood, the time he spent imprisoned in the Forbidden City, his term as the emperor of Japans Manchuguo, and his eventual release back to public life in 1959." Written by mailto:%7Bcst@imdb.com

Okay, time to go. Talk at you all later.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Helpful Friends

As the time to fly to Beijing draws near, some people who have been to China or heard about life in that country have been trying to give me pointers. Everything from sights that shouldn't be missed to advice about bartering with the locals, all the food and drink to avoid while never being caught without bottled water, the lack of personal space issues, the fact that China will be fully 12 hours opposite of Ohio on EST (midnight there is noon here). So, the bigger suitcase (yes, I broke down and hauled it out of the attic) now houses Pepto Bismol in tablet form, sleep aids, ear plugs, antibiotics, first aid kit, more Carribeaner clips that I have stuff to clip on, enough microfiber clothing to open my own travel shop, and all the lastest music on my IPod including a downloaded audiobook that will provide me with 11 hours of listening (unabridged) and that's just a sample.

But perhaps the most valuable pieces of advice involved basic survival techniques. The newest and larger suitcase now houses a shoebox full of food. Tuna pouches, granola bars, M & M's (plain and almond), poptarts, and cheese crackers. Nestled right next to that box is my own stash of flushable Charmin wipes. Clear necessities in a land that has different priorities apparently. If you saw my post on Facebook, you would have seen the Chinese Squat Toilet. I will repost here so you don't have to go searching. I am hoping that all the trudging around my yard mowing grass and moving 50 bags of mulch this summer will give me the leg strength (if you will), should I come across this little slice of Chinese life.

Maybe I need two suitcases...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Celebduck Fundraiser

Just wanted to mention that my friends at Game Day Communication dragged me to the Celebduck fundraiser at Newport on the Levee. This is a fundraiser to help the Freestore/Foodbank which is a very worthy cause in Cincinnati. I understand they raised approximately $20,000 that will feeed hundreds of families in the coming year. It was great fun and of course that's where I bid on and won Madeleine Albright (1st woman US Secretary of State) and Bronson Arroyo (Red's pitcher who they are shopping around...and he's won what...5 games in a row? Last, but not least, Twitter is working as is my MMS for mobileBlogger where I can upload photos. So far...

Be careful out there! And if you have any other items, bring them to the Freestore. It is always appreciated!

NBC Olympic News and Videos

Great site for info on USA and international athletes

Exclusive Summer Olympics news & widgets at NBC Olympics.com!

Networking

Okay, some things are falling in to place. I finally got Twitter to work but visualTwitter has been frustrating. Blogger.com has a mobile media tool so I may work with that too. I should be able to link to this blog as well. One of the questions has been internet access in Beijing. I'll get my answer soon enough (after getting to the condo 14 hours later). Some folks have said to text the blog on my cell phone. Are you kidding me. It takes me 10 minutes to write 1-2 sentences. You figure out the math.

On the upside, our new Sport Management faculty member, Dr. Don Lee put his Chairperson on his reference list. It turns out that Dr. James Zhang is managing the Basketball venue at the Wukesong Culture and Sports Center. He will give me a behind the scenes tour and I will post the pictures next to this post. I also got back in touch with a former volleyball colleague, Bob Gambardella Director, Sport Partnerships, United States Olympic Committee. He was formerly at West Point until his various involvements with USA Volleyball and the USOC. I already have tickets to some of the volleyball matches and will see him there. Most recently, I met Dr. Brad Vickers from Mississippi State via the University of Georgia (doctoral work) and he is doing a study on Self-Presentation Strategies of the USA Men's and Women's Olympic Teams. The purpose of this project is to gain a better understanding of self-presentation strategies utilized by elite coaches during a global competition to more effectively perform their duties as a coach. The hope is that this information will enhance our understanding of the ways in which elite coaches portray themselves in order to gain access to information from athletes and other coaches. I get to do the literature review and he gets to do the fun stuff. I'm going to try and get in to the venue to say hi and if I can help him. Security is usually very tight the first few days and then will relax a bit.

I spoke with Jeannette Bryson, the Mounts Media Relations Manager, and she is trying to pitch a story to the Cincinnati Enquirer. You know...local prof doing the techie thing from Beijing. Nobody said it HAD to work.

I find it interesting how anonymous this blogging experience feels except everything written and posted can be seen by ANYONE including my employer (the Mount) and future contacts and career poosibilities. My rule of thumb is not to say anything I couldn't say to my mother. She's pretty cool but she could still wash my mouth out with soap...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Nation's Capital

Washington, DC was very different from the last few times I was there. The National Mall was trampled from the 4th of July celebrations and I lamented the fact that you can no longer climb the Washington Monument (my brother and I did waaaaaaay back when and it took around 45-60 minutes to get to the top if I remember correctly). But walking the 5 mile Mall loop was very cool at dusk. You can stand in front of the Smithsonian and see the Capital to the left and the Washington to the right. We then walked past George's spot and the Reflection Pool to the World War Monument that represented every state and had tons of fountains. It was beautiful. Behind there to the right is the Vietnam Memorial and then the Lincoln Memorial back to the left. Past Lincoln is the Jefferson Memorial. You have to do this trip at least once. Impressive is an understatement.

I was actually there for the NASPE (National Association for Sport and Physical Education) meeting. This was my first official meeting in what wil be a three year stint. The next one will be in Tampa at the AAHPERD national convention. There are folks from all levels of sport and physical education helping to identify issues and needs in this area of education. My role is in youth coaching education. We wrote some position statements, nominated individuals for national awards, planned convention details, and networked. The Mall loop walk was a bonus for getting lots of work done and getting out early on that day.

Actually before the walk marathon, we dropped by the Verizon center (where Georgetown, the NHL Capitals, and WNBA Washington Mystics play. The Mystics were playing the Detroit Shock. It was a blow-out with the Shock up 26. We left at the half and started the walk.

All in all, a very productive weekend... Then I got home, reality set in and I cut the grass.

drsinbeijing

Here is the NBC link to the Olympic Games.

Exclusive Summer Olympics news & widgets at NBC Olympics.com!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Windy City

First of all, Chicago isn't all that windy. I think it actually ranks 14th or so but who am I to change their name. Maybe 'Big Lake City' or 'Tall Buildings City'. At least more emphasis on the 'City of Big Shoulders'. That has a nice feel. It was great to go back through the Field Natural History Museum where 'Sue' the 67 million year old T Rex found in Faith, SD is housed that was found in 1990. She's named for her discoverer, Susan Hendrickson.

There is a pretty cool Egyptian exhibit and an Amercas exhibit that has one of the finest Anasazi pottery (Southwest Native American) collections. The kids were bored with that of course but they were pretty impressed with 'Sue' and the two huge taxidermied mammoth-sized elephants as you walk in the front doors. Everyone is also blown away by the sheer numbers of dead, stuffed animals both big and small in the animal exhibit. Many were collected in the 20's and 30's and still there. Haven't moved since I was a kid. I don't think you can do that anymore given that some of the species are lost forever. I heard recently (on NPR of course) that more than one and one-half million species exist on the earth today. However, recent estimates state that at least 20 times that many species inhabit the planet. AND, 1000 species in the world are endangered. Other thousands disappear every year never to be seen again. Okay, so now YOU are bored.

Then it was off to the Museum of Science and Industry the next day. We went into the coal mine and watched the chicks hatch. That place is more kid friendly. The Cirque du Soleil was fabulous and a must see for anyone in proximity. Some of the stuff they do makes your mouth hang open. Not very attractive, but unavoidable.

Finally, Monday was down in my hometown of Joliet which is about 30 miles south of Chicago. My brother gave us his front row third base side tickets. I put my beverage on the dugout and enjoyed the Joliet Jackhammers who lost in 12 innings 6-3. I even brought my own glove. The Jackhammers are kind of between an A and AA league and I found out that there GM left for the Florence Freedom so SHE is now in this neck of the woods.

One of the big questions answered was my packing. I think it's going to work. I have feeling that schlepping my bags aroung Beijing will be a pain so packing less clothes and more deoderant sounds good.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Trials

I'm in Chicago experimenting with my new widgets. I ran to Sam's Club and bought the FLIP. I took some video at the Museum of Science and Industry and am heading out the door for the Field Natural History Museum. Then it's Cirque de Soleil at the United Center (go Bulls!). So lots of stuff going on. I sent facebook invites to the Mount Sport Management majors and then some... Not surprisingly, most were already registered. I'll try Twitter while I'm out today. VisualTwitter is still a bust. User error, I'm sure!

The packing thing is going pretty well. I got everything I need in that little suitcase. Now I will have to fit my computer in there. I guess I will have to do with a few less outfits. Are two enough for 11 days?

On the upside, our visas are in and that will get us in the country. The question is...can we get out. I'm not LOL.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Packing

I stopped by Dick's Sporting Goods to look for inground basketball systems for my son and ended up with 2 new pairs of shoes and lots of microfiber clothing for me. The basketball thing will have to wait. So I have this vision of dragging luggage around a very crowded Beijing and through the narrow corridors of their streets. The vision also includes miles of walking. My goal is to pack in one small carryon and carry my computer and gadgets in the one other item I am allowed. That will be a backpack for cameras and adapters, Flip, microphone and IPOD accessories. I have already spent about 10 hours loading new music and playlists. That was fun. I'm a bit OCD with that stuff. If I even think I might want to listen to a song, I have to find it and sync it. I also spent awhile on the phone with my phone carrier AT&T. In addition to upgrading my text package, I'll need an unlimited web browser package and right before we leave, I'll add the international data and text package. Sheesh. Glad I started a few weeks ahead of time or I'd be SOL.

I've been watching all the footage for the qualifying meets and trials that I can find. I was really impressed with Dara Torres and Michael Phelps and am glad that Tyson Gay will be back in time from his inury to compete. I have a few contacts working some of the venues over there. Maybe I can talk them into a facility tour or a pass especially for swimming. That is a really fast-paced and exciting sport that I haven't seen firsthand at the Olympics.

The visualTwitter is still causing me trouble. Hopefully, after visiting my tech savvy brother in Chicago this week, I will have that bug worked out. In theory and on paper, I'm in good shape. Reality however, usually throws curveballs and changeups.

Friday, July 4, 2008

First Steps

So...I have been spinning my wheels trying to figure out how to do what I said I was going to do in China at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That is; blog, podcast, post video and photos. Let me just say that it pays to have nice friends. In the course of an hour or two, and at the cost of two bottles of wine, I have a brand new spanking FACEBOOK page with podcasting applications and photo capabilities, a video, 4 new friends, and a brother who have joined. I'm tired now but in case you missed it, Chestnut won the annual hot dog world championship. It should be an Olympic sport...