Hot and bothered in Beijing

Saturday, Nov 29, 2008 at 15:59

takenbyaliens (Life Member)

Hot and bothered in Beijing

It’s early morning in Beijing, having woken up at 0700 Brisbane time which is 0500 Beijing…a tad early in situ. Comparatively, I have slept in but the overnight flight from Brisbane to Kuala Lumpur and straight onto the connecting flight for Beijing took its toll.

Kuala Lumpur by the way is being buried under a pall of smoke from Sumatra and Kalimantan as rain forests get illegally cleared and burnt…the underlying peat catches fire and these fires may burn for months. The Indonesian government is either powerless or too gutless to confront the two pronged problem of deforestation and pollution! Malaysia as a nation is very angry…schools are being closed, airports shut down, people choking in an atmosphere that in some places is well over the internationally recognised hazardous to human life level.

You meet some interesting people on planes. For many years I was the non-talkative type but recently I have begun to speak to those who end up next to me…and in so doing, ensuring that I don’t become a pest as having been on the receiving end early on led to my previous vow of silence.

My companion to Beijing was Ambassador Jin Guihua, Vice Chairman China National Committee, Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific. He had just been to an anti terrorism conference in Kuala Lumpur and came on board with at least one young and very fit looking security guard. We had an enthralling discussion about China since the Great Leap Forward in the 50’s. Sometimes a very frank discussion ensued about his views on certain issues and the personal impact of events such as the Cultural Revolution ( he was sent to the countryside for re-education and is convinced this was the best thing for him as it purified his revolutionary beliefs ). These personal tales are what brings history to life….it certainly gave me a first hand account of what life was like and a greater understanding of how and why China is where it is today. We also discussed potential issues for China…I particularly wanted to know if there was a fear of disturbance in the Islamic areas of western China, of the security concerns for the Olympic Games, the imbalance of the male/female population and the millions of young men who would not find partners…would this lead to social dissatisfaction, anti authority reaction and/or an increase in crime. He was surprised that I could identify him as coming from outside of Beijing, Shanghai to be exact, and I explained to him that, like Peter Sellars, I ‘liked to look’…in other words I try to be observant both visually and aurally to what goes on around me…Beijingers ( and people from other areas also ) have their own distinctive accent… in fact what little mandarin I can speak is with a distinctive Beijing accent.

Beijing has turned on the sauna. Walking out in the streets last night to go to dinner was only exceeded in uncomfortableness by the return journey ( found a Meo restaurant…food of an ethnic minority group just north of Vietnam…another way to have duck!! ). Today we finalise next week’s event and I have a visit to the Olympic Park at 1300. There is a huge thunderstorm on at the moment so yesterday’s smoke haze will be washed away…but likely to be replaced by fog considering the sauna like conditions. When one thinks that in exactly three years time the Olympic Games will be held in this sort of weather…I am glad I am not an athlete.

It’s now Tuesday and it’s raining! Now this is good news and bad news. It is good news because when I wrote about the weather last Friday I had no idea how much I could understate the situation. It has been unbelievably hot and humid. My prediction of a sauna was correct and for the last three days we have been subjected to the most horrendous steam bath. Traveling around the city became a challenge to stamina. I gave up counting yesterday how many bottles of water I drank…..I sweated it all out anyway. I am also recovering from the obligatory bout of ‘Hello Beijing Belly’…I think it was the Saturday lunch takeaway Japanese food in a shopping centre…ever tried to find a western toilet in Beijing??? Even KFC doesn’t have them. So Saturday evening was the ‘antibiotic/immodium bomb’ again. Knocks you around a bit however so my visit to the Temple of Heaven on Sunday turned out to be a test of endurance.

Yesterday’s afternoon storm was followed by the late evening one…which was followed by rain…then a morning storm around 0900 and still more rain. Needless to say our planned start to our event has been delayed…I had scheduled in an ‘emergency’ day on Thursday so we will make up the program then.

I have been able to rearrange a meeting and bring it forward to this afternoon…I cannot stand sitting around and it will help me with regards to Thursday. Tonight is the Official Welcome Banquet for China Stars coaches and managers…we have attached it to the Official Farewell Banquet for another event run by our Chinese partner organization. I should mention here our Mr Jiang from our Beijing partner organisation. Mr Jiang makes phone calls either at 2300 or 0600…and as you can imagine both of these times are within my ‘sleep zone’ unless I have something special on. I must sound displeased ( surely ) but alas Mr Jiang continues his pattern for a couple of days!

So finally I now get a chance to get back to this epistle. It is Sunday afternoon and I am outbound from Beijing …heading home…6 hours to Kuala Lumpur, overnight there then close on 8 hours to Brisbane. I can hardly keep my eyes open…the only incentive is some well needed food as I have not had any breakfast or lunch although it is now nearly 1730 so I guess this is dinner! Our fledgling China Stars event began, ran and ended well ( much pomp and ceremony done in inimitable Chinese style ) and we now look forward to next year when we have not only a soccer event in August but also a girls hockey event in September.

I went to the construction site of the stadium on Friday morning...it is the world’s first indoor field hockey stadium and to say it is impressive is an understatement. We will have teams from Brisbane, Dunedin, Auckland and possibly Capetown and Durban joining the Beijing team in a really promising start to what has the potential to become something very special. Consequently I have spent much time visiting hotels and talking to sales managers about group bookings, bus companies about buses (obviously! ) etc…thank goodness for my translator. As well, to complete some other tasks for this trip, I have had meetings with our language course partner School and the Guo An Football Club.

Needless to say I somehow got very ill yet again ( ‘Farewell Beijing Belly” ! )…it has come back and forth over three days and have been taking ‘the bomb’ far too frequently…last night was just sleepless…you don’t need the detail! I have finally figured out that whilst none of my meals have overt chilli/capsicum/curry etc., the sauces used on a lot of Chinese food are made from…well who really knows what!!...old car batteries??? ( no….that was the chianti some years ago ).

Really rough at the moment… ‘no hot beverages served for passenger safety’ is the announcement. One of the female stewardesses just went apex over whatever…much embarrassment then laughter. It is a phenomena I guess that one remembers the funny things that happen…so on this trip….I spent a half of a day walking around Beijing with my fly unzipped….forgot to close the door of my room ( wide open ) and discovered this only after having walked around, shall we say, ‘post shower’ and ‘in view’ for some time….had someone to my room for a meeting, on goes the TV in the middle of the meeting…????... I had sat on the TV remote control and then of course could not find it!!!...having dinner and pouring tea for my guest who takes sugar, putting rock sugar into their cup…and then pouring the tea into the sugar container ( my excuse is that it was exactly the same small cup from which you have tea!!! ).

Keep ‘em laughing someone once said. I think I have to agree.
According to modern astronomers, space is finite..a very comforting thought particularly for people who can never remember where they left things
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