Between the Water Cube & The Birdsnest

I truly had such high hopes for blogging daily while I was traveling last month in China and Japan. The initial challenges with Internet access and (alas!) work got in the way of good intentions. So, in bits and pieces, I hope to recreate some of my favorite memories and experiences… especially now as I’m going through the pictures from this amazing adventure!

Blue Sky at the Water Cube

Blue Sky at the Water Cube

 Top 5 reasons why the Beijing Paralympics lived up to its “Amazing Awaits” tagline:

1) The People. No matter where you are in the world – no matter what the political or economic or religious situation/strife/mentality – it all comes down to the people. In Beijing, I encountered some of the most friendly and open people I’ve ever met, with contagious enthusiasm for whatever the moment had in store.

2) Unexpected Blue Sky Days. Note picture, which is not photoshopped.

3) The Venues. Yes, I am narrowly focused because I spent 95% of my time in – and working from! – the Water Cube (officially: National Aquatics Center), but the venues were phenomenal. The Cube was mesmorizing, especially seen from night with the outside bubble exterior changing from turquoise to violet amidst the festive music coming from the plaza.

4) Shooting Star. Yes, I actually saw a shooting star one night – and no, it was not a lead toy being thrown out a factory window as one friend accused! While we were there a total of 20 days, we had at least three clear nights of seeing stars. Granted, it was nowhere near what we get from our clear Colorado skies and the air wouldn’t even come close to an autumn day on the east coast, but hey, when you set your expectations low, you can be content with less than stellar outcomes. (However… don’t even get me started on the topic of low expectations when it comes to Palin!)

5. Photos. Topping my list of experiences during all of September was my walk between the Water Cube and the Birdsnest. Whether it was early morning with only a handful of people walking about and the fountain water show just warming up; or the evening walk back to the hotel with joyous music blaring, people posing for pictures everywhere you turned, little kids yelping as they ran through fountain dodging the spurts water…. I took my time and slowed down during that walk, taking in every moment and trying not to forget it. I’ve never seen so many people so unconditionally happy in one place. To me, the smiles, enthusiasm and simple appreciation for a new experience that I witnessed in that plaza epitomize my experience in Beijing.

Still pictures won’t do it justice, so check out Joe’s blog (the entry “Random acts of Happiness”) for a quick video.


The Show’s Not Over, Folks

Today’s news is all about the end of the Games. Yes, the Olympic Games closing ceremonies were last night. But the show’s not over…yet. In just a couple of weeks, another elite, international sporting contest will take center stage in Beijing: The Paralympics.

The Paralympics follows about two weeks after the Olympics and takes place in the same venues as the Olympic athletes recently occupied. Highly competitive, the Paralympic Games is for elite athletes with physical disabilities.

Jessica Long, Paralympic Gold Medalist

Jessica Long, Paralympic Gold Medalist

Unfortunately, the Paralympics is an under-reported event, especially in the U.S. media. While you won’t have access to 24/7 TV coverage of the US Paralympic Team, do keep an eye out for local newspaper coverage and broadcast stories.

A week from tomorrow, my husband and I will be traveling to Beijing to work the games, he as a photographer, me as a press officer for Paralympic swimming.

Even some of my closest friends (who know the work I do with US Paralympics) will tell people I’m going to the “Special Olympics.” No, the Paralympics is very different: the Special Olympics are for people with intellectual disabilities with a focus on medals for all, while the Paralympics is for elite athletes with the same Gold-Silver-Bronze medal hierarchy as the Olympics. There is a place for both, but I am always trying to clarify the difference in order to introduce more people to the stories, people and competition that make the Paralympics one of the best sporting feats out there (no offense Red Sox fans!) 

As they say: “Amazing Awaits.” Check out the Paralympic video to see for yourself!

Beijing Bound…

It’s official. We leave for Beijing in just over a month! The first three weeks of our trip will be working with the US Paralympics (the elite event for athletes with physical disabilities, which follows the Olympics), followed by 10 days in Japan (… a true vacation? We’ll see!)

Yesterday’s NYT book review featured Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: a Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, by BBC Reporter Fuchsia Dunlop. In general, I do love food and I love experimenting with new tastes and flavors. But admittedly, I am not looking forward to the food in China. I’ve definitely added this book to my pre-China-trip list in hopes of changing my bad attitude and embracing my inner omnivore!

I also recently started reading a great blog, called “Behind the Lens at the Beijing Olympics“, which my photographer husband turned me on to. In a recent post, Zach Honig writes:

Chinese Food: Flexibility is Key

I admit — I’m a picky eater. I don’t know why I don’t like onions, but until I came to Beijing, I’d pick them out like I was performing microsurgery. Beijing helped me learn to be flexible — and to just eat the darn onions. A couple friends traveling with me were vegetarians before they came, and they’ve learned to be much more flexible as well. When it comes to dining out in Beijing, there are a couple things to keep in mind…

Thank you Zach and Fuchsia. I – and my tummy – are working on our sense of culinary adventure!