Tuesday, August 12, 2008


But I did it anyway.
It is expressly forbidden to display political signs in Olympic venues, or on Olympic grounds, or anywhere in China for that matter. But I would not be deterred. (Damn it I blinked!) USA vs. China -Women's Basketball, I was there and I unfurled this sign. "USA Out of Iraq, and into the Medal Round." How did I sneak the sign in you may ask?
First I had to beg some volunteers to give me a large piece of paper or poster board. I noticed they had large scale maps that were blank on the back. But, they too, were forbidden. "Just give me the map, I'll give you a free handball ticket." The girls at the volunteer kiosk wouldn't let go of the map. So I did what I thought was best, I said, "I'm taking the map!" and I ran away. Then I found a nearby mall (which was formerly a mosque, sorry Islam) and I frantically went looking for something to write with. On the top floor there was a children's store with lots of tiny little markers, the clock was ticking and the night's events were about to begin. My Canadian friend Cassie (her shirt says 50% Chinese, 50% Italian, All Canadian), who was coming to the games with me joined me at the children's store, and we drew up the map as fast as possible, with dozens of Chinese onlookers wondering what the hell are they doing?

Having the protest sign on the back of a map was the perfect distraction to get it past the Chinese sensors. I just folded it up with the "USA out of Iraq" part hidden and slid right on in. Layer after layer of security let me and my giant map go through without questioning.

We had the map at the swimming event, but its true destination was the USA basketball game. I raced across town after swimming and once again made it into another venue with no one looking inside my map. My seats were nowhere near the court, but I broke out the sign and got a lot of laughs and applause and a lot of photographs. There was one Australian who kept yelling "Security! Security! We have a breach! Free speech over here, security!"

Naturally I decided I wanted to get closer to the court, so I knew I would have to sneak down. This is China, and it's not like a sporting event in Seattle, or at all like Athens, where you can just act confident and walk past one or two ushers and grab a really good seat. Sure there are empty seats everywhere (well done China/Cosport!) but in China, they are checking tickets, even the old beer in each hand doesn't work. Look how many guards are at each entrance; 8 volunteers per gate, and no other spectators to distract.

Finally I managed to get by a giggling girl and a distracted young man. The next person yelled, "Ticket, ticket." I pointed like back at the other ushers and then back at the stands as if to say, "yeah they checked me, I'm right down here.

FIFTH ROW! The sign was unfurled yet again, the game was just finishing up, and USA had just crushed the Chinese by over 50 points. As the players were about to exit I made my way to the guardrail above where all the press cameras were. This is also where the athletes exit the stadium. I let the sign out over the guardrail, and it took nearly 10 minutes for Chinese security to see it. In the meantime cameras from CCTV, CBC, and other organizations all took pictures of the sign. NBC refused as I kept yelling at them, "C'mon NBC, take a picture, it's an election year."

The best part was that as the American athletes were exiting a few of them looked up to see my sign and they loved it. Cappie Pondexter (#4), pointed at it, smiled and mouthed what I think was "hell yeah!"
Tina Thompson (#11) saw it, gave me a point, a smile, a head nod, and a fist pump. That was pretty nice, gave me a very satisfying ripple of shivers up and down my spine.

That's when the authorities found me. I saw two officials from a distance pointing at me, they approached quickly, I handed my camera off to a nice Chinese man who fricking LOVED my sign.

"It is forbidden, no photo," the olympic representative said, but it was too late. I didn't want to give up my sign so, I folded it up and headed back to my seat.

"It is forbidden," they kept yelling at me, but I just walked away like I had done nothing wrong.
I put the folded map back in my bag.

"No, no, you can not have that sign" he repeated, he was holding his hand out, asking for my sign.

I pulled it out. "But I need the map," I said. "I need the map, I don't understand Beijing's subway, I need the map." This really confused them, the guy harassing me spoke little English, and I just kept speaking very quickly trying to confuse him further.

He grabbed my map-sign and said "Wait here." Damn it, he was walking off with my map and heading in the direction of what I assumed was his superiors.

What was going to happen now. Was I in trouble, would I get thrown out? Deported, detained, who knows, this is China after all.

He returned with my sign. "It is forbidden," he repeated, "please put away, if you take it out again, I will take it away."

He handed the sign back to me, I put it back in my bag.

I said "Thank you," and he shook my hand.

"Enjoy the game," he said, and I did.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beijing is a River

Enough with the rain already, OK God!?! Jeez, we get it already.

A mere hour ago I was a mess. I was angry, depressed, and alone; getting soaked in a vicious thunderstorm, walking home from the Olympic Stadium empty handed in my attempt to find some swimming tickets.

Then I got word that some had just become available online. Miraculously after pantomiming "internet" to dozens of drenched Chinese, I found an internet cafe and I scored 4 swimming tickets and one women's basketball for tomorrow before the window of opportunity slammed shut.

B-ball is USA v CHINA and you know what that means. I'm breaking out the sign folks! Chinese bans on protest be damned.
That's from the World Cup in Germany 06, this time I'm updating it for the Olympics.

USA out of Iraq and into the Medal Round!

Now it's time to wrap some paper bags around my feet and head out down the Hutong-River-Alley to the bar where I plan to watch Kobe, LeBron, and the American boys take on Yao Ming and the Chinese! Go USA!

(P.S. Ticketing in Beijing SUCKS. It's pathetic, embarrassing, elitist, ineffective and ARGHHH!!!! So angry!! The stadiums are empty and it's really frustrating and sad! It's so hard to get tickets for so many, but then for 15 minutes online you can get tickets for the next day!! I could go on forever, gotta go get drenched!!)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Beijing is off and running!

Now that the pomp is over, let the games begin! Who likes cycling through heavy smog?!?

Quit yer whining! Do it anyway, and don't stop until you get to the Great Wall of China.

I don't want to spoil the Opening Ceremonies for you, if you hear anyone talking about the torch lighting, cover your ears and sing "Almost Paradise." It doesn't quite top Barcelona's flaming arrow, but it's really creative and spectacular. You had to know Zhang Yimou wasn't going to disappoint.

Now the important stuff: I'll tell ya what athlete hotties to watch for. The flag bearer from Jordan has a killer smile (Zeina Shaban), and the ladies were quite smitten with the dancing Kenyan men. The Danish top the Swedes this year in best Nordic looks, and I give the sexiest nation prize to Italy barely edging out Brazil, but I'm extremely biased.

Kobe and Federer were the favorites of the Chinese.

In this day and age it's really pathetic and embarrassing when a nation doesn't send any women athletes. Qatar, knock it off already, Muhammad didn't say shit about having women in the Olympics. India, really, first of all, if you're the second largest nation in the world, train some frickin athletes already, and no women AT ALL!!! Even your extremely poor neighbor Bangladesh has women athletes and they have to live in a country patrolled by a brutal, fundamental, and radical Islamic police force. For shame India.

Be prepared for a really long march of nations, I miss the days when the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia would save us at least 30 nations. The UN has let this idea of the modern nation state get out hand. Who has ever heard of this country called the Youcrain? Also look for the expression on Hu Jingtao's face when "Chinese Taipei" walks in, it's worse than the scowl Bush gave Iran back in Salt Lake. The real reason Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and Hong Kong will never be free and independent is that the Olympic Committee is worried it could take up to 5 hours to get through a march of nations if China can't hold it all together.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bed Bath and Beijing

It's a controversial title, Bed Bath and Beijing, mainly because my host Erika hates it. However she can't deny it got the most laughs at the bar the other night. A bar called"BED" no less.

A bar called BED seemed really appealing when creeping wearily into the wee hours, but it didn't live up to it's title. It was like the movie There Will Be Blood, should've been There Might Be Blood or There Could Be Blood, but there wasn't all that much blood. BED had no actual beds, just pillows, which would be fine for a bar called PILLOW, I reckon a trendy little bar named PILLOW could do plenty of business. However this place didn't even have sexy lay around kind of pillows, so I had to pass out sitting up. Some bed!?#!

I've been in Beijing a week now, and honestly I've really enjoyed being unemployed and lazy. Some days I go out and do stuff, other days I sit around and eat all of Erika's Lady Crisps. They're made for a woman, but tasty enough for a man, even the Blueberry Potato Chips are growing on me.

(10 Days later)
Wow, that post went nowhere fast, no wonder I neglected it so long. Maybe a picture will help.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Short and Sloppy

I was a little worried when I got to Beijing. After all I went directly from the gorgeous mountains of Yanghou (pictured above), to the smoggy streets of Beijing.
See that little ball of fire, they call that the sun! You can't see it because of all that sweet delicious heavy pollution. There have actually been some beautiful days though, like when Erika and I went to the Summer Palace, that was amazing! The skies were clear and blue, there was a nice breeze and we had drinks (that I mixed and froze the night before, classic) on a paddle boat with an ipod and speakers taped to the bow. We listened to Radiohead and Peter Cetera, cause Erika knows what kind of mix I like.

Right now, I'm not ill enough to write a whole lot. I'm gonna go pick up my Olympic Tickets. I can't wait to see my favorite sport TEAM HANDBALL! Tomorrow I'm gonna hit The Great Wall, hopefully I'll reinjure my ankle, then the blog will be huge!

Despite my early misgivings about Beijing, I'm having tons of fun. Luckily for me this town is littered with American Expats who speak Mandarin, so I'm not totally lost. In my attempts to make new friends, I'm gonna buy a Chinese Cell Phone, because as always, I'm trying to be popular.

Stay tuned for a fancy new blog post in the works.