Saturday, August 09, 2008

...And we're off!!

Since most of you have probably seen the opening ceremony by now (wasn't it amazing?!), I thought it might be fun to post our experiences watching it at Wangfujing last night, engulfed within the most densely packed hoard possible according to the laws of physics. It felt the way Times Square on New Year's Eve always looked, except with Chinese people. Go ahead, let your imagination run with it. At one point, a man and his two sons tried to scoot into this spot in front of us and were practically sitting in Josh's lap for about 2 hours.

Anyway, it was definitely a night I will always remember. I lack the literary flair and acumen to adequately describe the energy and explosive excitement I felt all around me as the Chinese people welcomed the world to their door, and celebrated what can only be described as A Moment. Instead, I'll say what I can and leave the rest to pictures.

Now, I know there are all these issues floating around the 2008 Olympics (I italicize issues because the word is heavy with overuse in the states' coverage of this year's Games), and boy do issues suck. But, I can also tell you that what I see here is so much more complex than the issues we keep hearing about back home. Mostly, it's the story of a billion or so people trying to make it in this world. They don't always agree, they don't all speak the same language, eat the same foods, or wear the same clothes, and they definitely don't always do the right things, but they are fighting decades of living behind closed doors, and are now trying to capture the attention of others who had all but dismissed them from the global playing ground, writing them off as casualties of the other 20th century road: Communism.

So, maybe I'm too much of a nerd, but this is what weighs on my mind as the Olympics begin. I grieve over unnecessary violence anywhere, sure, (and I hope you don't mind my being a little vague...I am writing from China, after all :P), but there is a strange mix of desperation, ambition, and hubris here that sends a very clear message: for China, there is much at stake, and the nation's leaders are doing everything they can not to lose at the table.

That's why last night was so intoxicating: watching the Chinese nationals go crazy for what I personally thought was an innovative and dazzlingly impressive (if at times a little over the top) opening ceremony, we could feel both the buzz and bated breath of the people. It was epic.

Now, on to the pictures. If any of you ever get a chance to watch an opening ceremony in the host city, do so in a crazy public space with people from all over the world. Seriously. Josh and I were originally planning to stay home and keep it low key, but we are so glad we went, even if we were super tired and sweating sheets.

First, let's take a look at the crowd:

People as far as the eye can see!

So probably one of the most fun things about watching with a crowd is the Parade of Nations, which I'm ashamed to admit usually bores me to tears when I'm watching at home. (Yeah, I'm an ignorant self-absorbed American, what can I say?)

But here, people were popping up left and right representing their countries, so it was fun to see who was around and who the Chinese would cheer for.

Like this guy, from Colombia:

And these guys, from Costa Rica:

The Mexicans were super rowdy:

As were the Peruvians (ok, so maybe there was just one, and maybe it happens to be my friend Victoria).

And of course, we can't forget the Americans (the guy on the right decked out in Chinese gear and clutching at the American flag is our friend Ken).

It was sweet to hear all the Chinese cheering for us. Until of course we got out of hand with the "USA! USA!" cheers and the nationals began responding with their own "Zhongguo jiayou!"

It's also pretty funny to see people react to Bush. We got some clapping, some boos, and a little bit of laughing?

Then, when the Chinese flag finally paraded through carried by the great Yao Ming, of course the crowd went abso-freakin-lutely wild. Josh was smart and whipped out his iPhone to capture this video:

Good times! The throng screamed nonstop for easily 15 minutes, at times with much greater gusto than that captured in this video.

When it was finally over (and our butts were reasonably sore), we chased the fireworks to a street with lower buildings, then walked around for 45 minutes looking for an open subway stop. We'd been told Beijing was keeping its subway line open 24 hours so that people watching the opening ceremony could get home afterwards (usually they close it at the unfortunate hour of 11pm), but a lot of good that does if you won't let us onto the trains!

Anyway, that was our night in a nutshell (yes, a very large nutshell). I have to say, even though I find Beijing a rough place to live in, being here at this exact moment still feels insanely surreal. How did we end up here?!


tamela said...

awesome!!! what a cool experience to be right in the middle of it all!

Barry said...

That sounds so freakin' awesome. I'm so very, very jealous. I like your headbands, too.

Victoria said...

seems like so much fun!!!

oh even better you guys should get hired as volunteers to go watch some of the games!!


Anonymous said...

waoh marilyn/josh.. didn't know you guys LIVE in beijing O_O that's awesome. ok, just saying hi.

-john cheng