Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back in the States

Well I'm back! 18 months in China came to a close a lot faster than I expected or wanted. This is my last semester of classes for my Masters (although I might study abroad or not graduate until May 2009). The job search is starting up and will be a dizzying mix of career fairs, resumes, cover letters, company research, interviews, phone calls, etc. etc. I'll be talking to most companies with the goal of going back to work in China in 2009. I've already registered for 3 or 4 MBA career fairs (not in S.C.) that require travel and weeks of preparation. So let the fun begin!

Don't worry, the blog will continue although I can't guarantee life in South Carolina will be as entertaining as life in Beijing. However, there are always new perspectives to be explored, no matter where we are in the world!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic Ceremony = 15,000 performers

Many olympic writers are saying that this could very well be the most anticipated Olympics in the last 100 years. It's host country has gone absolutely all-out in preparations. It has one of the most unique designs for its central stadium, compared to only 3 or 4 other Olympic cities in the world in terms of best architecture and significance. Any person even remotely involved signed confidientiality agreements to keep it locked in sercrecy. For the opening ceremonies, this stadium + 32 other sites in the city absolutely lit up with fireworks. From where we were sitting, we could see two of the fireworks sites in the city.

The ceremony definitely displayed some typical characteristics of China performance: A) Enormous numbers of people (around 15,000 this time) and B) All of them acting in perfect unison to create a larger image or picture. From the teams with fans to the drumming in the beginning to the people creating Chinese characters, it was all perfect harmonization that made you say: How did they do that?!

Well, it took the 3 months of practice and all the performers were Chinese students. Some received a stipend of a couple dollars a day while others were purely volunteer. They received housing and transportation but mainly worked for their free ticket to China's most exciting ceremony. I'm sure if they didn't, there would be thousands more willing to take their place.

The U.S. team came out with fanfare second only to the China team. They were dressed in sailor-like uniforms and had upwards of 600 in the delegation.

It was a very impressive opening ceremony promoting the idea of peace and cooperation. Now come the events!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Olympic kick-off in 12 hours

Tonight's the big night. It feels like the most anticipated night in China's last 100 years of history. We obviously don't have tickets as they are selling in the second hand market for thousands of dollars, but we do have a pretty nifty plan. Besides the Olympic stadium, there are 32 points of fireworks in the city, one of the biggest in Tiananmen square. The solution: A rooftop bar overlooking the square and the forbidden city with a giant TV to watch the ceremony. That's right, we want it all and Adrian actually found a place to make it happen :) Yin Bar is on top of the Emperor Hotel, just a stone's throw away from the action!

Here the press release for where about 12 of us will be tonight:

>> Yin Bar Press Conference, Opening Ceremony
Chen Dongliang, a representative from the Olympic design strategy team, and representatives from Emperor Hotel meet on the rooftop to discuss design strategy of the Olympics and boutique hotels. Free flow of sparkling wine, plus a big screen displaying the Opening Ceremony. Reservation recommended. Free.
7pm. Yin Bar (6523 6877)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I've never seen a city change so fast.

I went out an around Beijing a little this weekend, being a tourist and exploring some of my old favorite spots that I'd heard had gotten face lifts. I just can't get over how this city has changed in just the 18 months I've been here, not to mention since I lived here in 2004!

The infrastructure is very developed with new subway lines, roads, police forces, etc. The "Odd/Even Rule" is working out pretty well. If your license number is an odd number, you can drive on odd days of the month, and vise versa if its even...cutting the number of personal cars on the road in half for the next two months! And they are strictly enforcing it. Security checks are everywhere, English speaking volunteers are asking if you need help, and the general population has been trained to stand in line! (not a typical Chinese characteristic.) I have to swipe my electronic card 3 times to get into my apartment now. Once for the complex, once for the building and once for the elevator. No thieves getting in there, not that I ever felt it was unsafe to begin with.

In public there are enormous Beijing 2008 banners everywhere, often strategically placed to cover up entire buildings or streets that may not be pleasing to the eye. This is in Wangfujing, the most popular and expensive shopping street in the city. Everything here is in a large scale, and I was surprised to see the whole street was plastered with the banners.

And on every corner there is a place to buy official Olympic merchandise...not the knock-off stuff. And on a normal day before the Olympics are even here, you would be standing in line to purchase anything.

One of the streets that I used to go to a lot is called DaZhaLan street, and is just south of Tiananmen Square. It has a lot of Beijing's "Oldest" or "Firsts" like the first movie theater, the most famous silk shop, the most famous shoe makers, etc. Just recently it and the entire area around it got a very expensive face lift with widened walkways, clean streets and new store fronts, opening just in time for the Olympics:

As you can see in the photos, the skies have been clear for several days now. Perfect blue skies. The cab drivers are saying it's the odd/even rule, but who can explain it. It makes me think that maybe the government might actually be able to make good of their pollution promise. We'll see.

But for the rest of the city, it seems as if a lot of deadlines were met. The Olympic stadiums are all ready and waiting, sparkling new buildings and streets are opening up all over the city, and security seems to double each week. For the opening ceremony we're going to have a party on a roof-top bar next to Tiananmen square so that we can simultaneously watch the TVs as well as the fireworks outside. I can't wait. As for the actual events, I'll just be going to artistic gymnastics on the if you're watching the stands for a blonde girl in the sea of black hair :)