Ben in China

Ben is a junior from Dallas majoring in history, with minors in Chinese and business, who is spending Spring 2008 in Beijing at the Capital University of Economics and Business.

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Life update, pre-Olympics

Hi all! I hope you like the Gotham blog – I had been thinking about that one for a while so I spent some time working on it.

Life here is getting crazier and crazier by the day! Only two weeks until the Opening Ceremony. I have no idea what I will be doing for the ceremony; I may try to go to the Olympic Green to watch it because of recent reports I have seen. To draw up hype for the ceremony they have been doing firework rehearsals that look amazing. I am also excited for August 8 in general; there is so much riding on that day for the Chinese, so I’m sure the country will come to a standstill as everyone watches the ceremony.

Getting ready for the Games
Security in the city has also become more intense and sometimes a downright burden. They recently closed our campus to all non-students, faculty and staff – the same goes for all universities in Beijing. Also, the subways have screening just like in airports – but it’s a random sample since the subways carry thousands upon thousands of people per hour. Surprisingly people are really patient with the process and understand it’s for the sake of safety. Although, I have to say I’m a bit disappointed they closed a complex that is within an Olympic sports complex. It was a major hangout for me this year and has one of the best pizza places in the city. I guess they don’t want those venues open while competitions are going on next door.

Also, Beijing’s roads are a little bit emptier these days with the new traffic laws in place. Private cars can only be used every other day, depending on one’s plate number and whether it ends in an even or odd number. Unfortunately, the pollution levels here are still awful so I don’t know how it will be come time for the Olympics. Everything else seems to be falling into place well – it’s just the pollution that isn’t cooperating.

What is also great about being here right now is that all these new shopping and entertainment complexes are opening on a daily basis. One right near campus called the San Li Tun Village just opened about two weeks ago – it has the first Apple store in China as well as the world’s largest Adidas store. There is also another major complex near school that just opened, but I have not had the chance to go over there yet.

The other day I was on the subway and ran into two volunteers for the Olympic Press Center. They were decked head to toe in Olympic gear and had on their huge security cards. I managed to strike up a conversation with them for a bit, and they seemed to really like their jobs. They are college students from Beijing’s communications university, and they work as media liaisons in the Press Center. They told me they had spent the day checking in reporters and worked especially close with the staff from Sports Illustrated.

Tickets? Good luck
Today, Friday, the Beijing Olympic Committee released the last of the tickets for the Olympics, so I thought after my Chinese test I would head to Chaoyang Park, which is close to school, to try to buy tickets for sand volleyball. HA, what a joke that was. I got there late because I had to finish my test first. By the time I got there the front gates had been closed because they had over 3,000 people waiting in line to buy tickets. That isn’t even the worst of it. At the main box office on the Olympic Green there were nearly 40,000 people waiting for tickets such as basketball and swimming. If I had arrived at 6 am I would have had a chance to get tickets, but since I had my test no such luck. I can’t complain too much, though, since I still have my tickets to boxing.

Life at ACC is going well – I can tell I am still making large strides in my language development, and reading is becoming lots easier. I only have three weeks left here, and the feeling of leaving is bittersweet. One on hand I miss my friends and family, but now I am getting over the homesickness and am starting to think about what I can do to get back here after graduation in May. This city really draws you in – I never thought I would like it this much.

I’ll give a report once the Olympics are under way.

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