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That’s East Nanjing Road, one of the shopping thoroughfares in Shanghai. It’s a street that knocks your senses upside down. The lights, the superstores, the over-sized malls, the aggressive touts, the hawkers, the pimps, the prostitutes, the scammers. They’re all there.
I arrived in Shanghai on Friday afternoon. I spent the evening walking East Nanjing Road, where I was approached by at least five guys selling Rolex watches, a handful of women selling fancy hand bags, several more guys offering me bar girls and massages (one guy cut to the chase and asked, “sexxx?”), what seemed like a mom and daughter team trying to get me to help them out with a transaction and another girl who wanted to practice her English with me. Yeah, right.
Apparently, I do dress and look like a tourist. Maybe it’s the camera I’m holding all the time. Or could it be the plaid shorts or the Wilco t-shirt? Probably all of the above.
And I got the infamous phone call once I returned to the hotel around 11:00 p.m. Could it be the front desk ready to come fix the crappy internet connection? Nope. “Massageee?” the girl asked on the other line.
Welcome to Shanghai.
I mentioned the impromptu parade in one of my articles about the atmosphere (or lack of it) at the Olympics. I finally uploaded the video I took of it. It’s not as long as I wanted since I caught the tail end of it. Not exactly the Rose Bowl parade.
I finally had the chance to explore the city on Thursday, my last day on the shores of the Yellow Sea. The city isn’t anything like I imagined. It’s spread out, metropolitan (1.3 million residents) and not walkable. Bike-able, yes. I was hoping to drink Tsingtao on the beach, eat seafood in a restaurant overlooking the pier and pretty much lounge outside all day underneath blue sky. Not of that was accomplished during my four-day stay. It didn’t help that I spent most of the time catching up on sleep in a hotel 20 minutes from the city center.
But the time I did spend in the city was mostly enjoyable. I feasted on seafood, consumed my fill on Tsingtao and jumped into the Yellow Sea. I’d say that was a successful trip.
The negatives, however: the city is pretty filthy, especially the water in downtown. Construction is happening on every block, as cranes dotting the city erect mammoth, gaudy skyscrapers. The crucial question: who’s going to fill all these buildings? And even though the sky was cleaner that Beijing’s, there seemed to be a haziness to the blue skies. Probably from all the factories that I saw emitting who-knows-what when I rode the train from Beijing. I guess the Olympics are over, so it’s OK to turn on the smokestacks again. Who cares about the Paralympians.
The weirdest sight of the trip though must have been when I walked around the pier and saw this:
What the … ? That was my reaction. I wasn’t expecting Mickey Mouse in the middle of Qingdao. But there he was, sitting at the end of the pier, waving at kids and creeping me out. My friend and I stood there for a couple minutes just watching him. My friend, Yi, said he might be a crazy guy dressing up for attention. Or a performance artist.
But when a kid posed for a picture with the ersatz Mickey, another guy — his colleague — came up and asked his father for money (10 or 20 RMB … not sure). It was all a business ploy. Disney should get on the case and file a copyright infringement. There’s a man loose in Qingdao with a Mickey Mouse costume.
Sorry for the lack of updates. The Internet has been spotty ever since I left Beijing on Monday. I’m in Qingdao, home of Tsingtao beer and the site of the Olympic sailing events. Work is done and it’s time to enjoy some R&R.
I met up with my friends Josh and Tye and we were able to explore the city a bit. We checked out the Tsingtao Brewery and Museum (above), had lunch on Beer Street and dinner on one of the restaurant rows in the city. We also jumped into the Yellow Sea. But honestly, we were all so wiped out from our time in Beijing we spent most of our time sleeping in our hotel room.
I’m spending one more day here, hanging out with Yi Song, a translator I worked with in Beijing. He’ll make my life a little easier, since I’ve had to rely on my butchered Pu Dong Hua to get around and translate for Josh and Tye.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Shanghai, the pearl of the orient. Once I sit down and get a couple hours to think, I’ll try to write a post recapping my time in Beijing and my experience covering the Olympics.
After each article for msnbc.com I’ve posted my email and blog address. I believe in open dialogue and transparency. If some one has a problem with what I write, I want to know and respond. The feedback from my articles has been mostly positive. But there are a couple negative comments now and then.
Like this comment from “duh” on my piece about Spain’s basketball team making their eyes more slated in a newspaper advertisement.
you are part of the problem in the u.s. asian community — i wonder if you think you are white. do you not feel any outrage? if this episode had anything to do with the african-americans, i’ll bet the whole thing would’ve erupted with condemnations from al sharpton to david sterns. yet, we have the likes of you writing this pathetic piece that seems to make light of the incident. boy, i can just see you laughing it up with that cook family — laughing at yourself…
First off, I’m not sure “duh” got the point of my article. I was writing about the Chinese reaction over the photo. Not the Chinese American reaction. Big difference. The gesture is something Chinese people have never seen. The goal was to get a variety of opinions from regular Chinese people. Some felt it was offensive when it was explained to them, most didn’t. That’s the point of the article. It’s not brain surgery. Perhaps “duh” should stop projecting and start reading and comprehending.
Also, it’s pretty gutless to make a comment anonymously and bury it in a blog post about my salt shaker moment with Brian Williams. If you’re going to blast me, at least be man (or woman) enough to do it publicly. My email is at the end of the article, so “duh” could have emailed me to start a real conversation. I’m sure firstname.lastname@example.org — which the reader entered as his email — is not real. Just a guess. I’ve made myself and my work transparent, how about you.
And here’s one email I got the other day.
How about a grammar check? Are you ESL? E.nglish as a S.econd L.anguage, if you are then please disregard this email and congrats on learning English well…
But if you aren’t: “was began” and “still experience” don’t seem to fit. I’m no English professor, but don’t you have and editor?
Sincerely and not maliciously,
Concerned about Internet Media quality guy…
“Halo” was right. There were some grammar mistakes in one of my articles. I could blame the long hours, the lack of sleep and the thousands of words I’ve typed in the last two weeks.
But would it be wrong for me to answer “Halo” this way?
Technically, English is my second language, so thanks for the compliment. Also, I do have an editor, but he is from Tajikistan and ETL: E.nglish as a T.hird L.anguage. So he’s doing the best he can and deserves a congrats just for being able to read English at a third-grade level.
Sincerely and not mockingly,
Not that concerned about Internet Media quality guy…
Yep, I’m a little jaded right now.
Here’s my story about Mao Live, one of the best venues for live music in Beijing.
And here’s Wang Xiao Long, the front man for Fire Ballroom, in action. One cool, talented dude.
Well, only three more days to go here in Beijing. I have to admit that I’m dragging to the finish line. But at least I can see the finish line.
Here are some random news and thoughts from the last week or so:
— All the facilities have been well run. Logistically, organizers couldn’t have done a better job. The bus system is efficient; the main press center coddles journos with free massages, a hair salon, a gym and snacks; the information network at the venues are top notch. There are touch screens that display information in real time for every event. Very cool.
— But it doesn’t seem like that the venues and the Olympics are very fan friendly. The Olympic Green is impressive, but it’s a big square with a lot of concrete and not a lot of shade. That’s a problem when it’s 90-plus degrees with 60 percent humidity. It’s like they modeled the square around the Bird’s Nest after Tiananmen Square. Another complaint from fans: where’s the food? There aren’t a lot of concession stands around the Green. Moreover, the food choice is rather limited. Hot dog on a stick, a box of Chinese food, or McDonald’s. That’s pretty much it.
— What happens when Paralympians and their families arrive in two weeks? The city and the facilities just don’t seem accessible to people with disabilities. I saw one family hold up their grandfather while some one else held the wheelchair when they were going down an escalator. And this was at the Olympic Green subway stop.
— Just because you’re wearing a journalist credential doesn’t give you a free ticket to be disrespectful. When I was at the Bird’s Nest last night, there were three medal ceremonies. It’s only appropriate to stand up when the respective country’s anthem is played. But I saw many in the press area stay in their seats during the anthems. OK, I can understand if you’re on air and have to continue working. But some people were talking on the cell phones.
— Another example why not all journalists deserve a credential. A group of reporters had gathered around a TV that was broadcasting men’s rowing. The camera showed the Cuban team. One guy quipped to his friend/colleague, “They should be good in this sport, right? Since they’ve got so much experience paddling to America.”
— I’m definitely feeling the grind of the last two weeks. I’ve snapped at a couple Olympic volunteers and employees when I didn’t get the answer I wanted. If they’re reading this (which they’re not), I apologize.
— I love the breakfast buffet at the hotel, the Continental. Among the many food choices: scrambled eggs, dumpling soup, egg rolls, fried rice, spaghetti, hard boiled eggs, steamed pork buns, miso soup, sausages, corn on the cob … the list goes on and on
— One more thing about the hotel: they post an employee on every floor, 24 hours a day. They greet you every morning and every night and press the elevator button for you. Basically they keep track of your movements. Big Brother is always watching.
— I saw a kid pee on the grass of the ridiculous CNPC building in the Olympic Green. It was awesome.
— David Hawpe of The Courier-Journal gave me a plug in his column on Wednesday. Thanks for reading, Mr. Hawpe. Loved the column, not just because I was in it.
Olympic organizers must have a cheerleader fetish. They are everywhere — at the volleyball matches, at basketball games, at handball and at BMX. It’s a little odd to see them dancing on the dirt track. Perhaps the rationale of BOCOG (Beijing Organizing Committee of the Oympic Games) was this: most sports fans are male, most spectators will be male, thus the more cheerleaders the better to keep the men in their seats.
Here’s a video of a routine at the BMX event Wednesday. They obviously need to work on their moves, but they had one big fan in the stands. You can barely hear it but around the :50 point mark, a guy I met from Las Vegas (he’s the long-haired dude in my Flickr feed) said, “They are so hot, mmm, whooo!”
I went to Club Bud on Sunday night. Athletes who had finished competing after the first week were out in full force. Among the highlights: free Budweiser, Carl Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Chinese gymnasts (the entertaining kind, not the team), gold medal-winning U.S. rowers, Cullen Jones, go-go dancers and this guy:
Here are Denmark fans celebrating their thrilling handball victory over Russia Thursday night (here’s my article for msnbc.com).