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Adventures in Beijing

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  August 7, 2008 08:03 AM

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In this country, there is only one Chairman, and it ain't Sinatra or Whitey Ford.

You folks have George Washingtons, Abe Lincolns, the famed "Benjamins," and so on. Here it's the Maos, the Maos and nothing but the Maos. His slightly smiling countenance (I'd call it a modified Mona Lisa look) is on the one, the five, the ten, the twenty, the fifty and the hundred yuan ...

Had my first subway experience the other day. Throughout the 20th century, the American standard of reference concerning crowded subways was the Tokyo subway, where they actually employ people to push people into the cars. I believe Beijing will be the standard of reference for the 21st century.

Of course, it was 8:30 a.m., height of rush hour. The first car arrives and I have never seen anything so crammed with humanity. I watch with interest and astonishment as a young woman attempts to exit the car. People here are not good about ceding space. No one made any attempt to help her leave. And she didn't. The door closed, and off she went. She may still be going.

Seconds later, a second car arrived. Again there was no possibility of gaining entry. I decide I will make my move on the next one, and so I did, managing to squeeze in. I was hoping there might be a key stop, a Park Street equivalent, where many people would exit, and so there was, about three stops along. Whew. Now it was just crowded.

Their subway car etiquette aside, the people here have been exceedingly friendly and helpful. I attempted to find a popular Brazilian restaurant the other night, and at least 10 different people tried to help. Two phone calls were made for directions. Of course, I still couldn't find it, but the thought was there. I did find a very acceptable French bistro, so no problem. And I will find that restaurant before I leave.

Tell me if this has ever happened to you. A very nice lady takes me to my hotel room. She checks out the nice HD TV and something is amiss. She makes a phone call. About 15 minutes later a man arrives with an entire new TV, which he installs in about five minutes. With all due respect to the Marriotts, Hiltons and Hyatts of America, that's not happening back home ...

I see that the pampered NBA guys are again passing up the Olympic Village in favor of a high-end hotel. That's too bad. I really believe agreeing to live in the Village should be a requirement for all American athletes. All accounts are that the Village is truly outstanding. It might do our guys good to meet a Romanian wrestler or Turkish weightlifter ...

I was struck by the large numbers of people taking the subway late at night. It was just a Monday, and the town was hopping. The oldest face had to be no more than 30. There is an entire generation of young Chinese who were either very young or not born when the celebrated events of Tiananmen Square took place 19 years ago. And, as colleague John Powers points out, many of them know little about what took place there since the government has made it a taboo subject. But the fact is these young Chinese have a distinct world view. They are both highly nationalistic and aggressively capitalistic. They accept the trade-off of the chance to live like Westerners in a one-party state. This is their China and they plan on taking it somwhere it has never been ...

At last, there is a place where the dollar goes somewhere. My assistant sports editor Greg Lee and I were stuck in a cab for an hour and 20 minutes trying to get from Point A to Point B the other night. The total cost: 66 yuan, or between six and seven dollars. I don't think you'd get off that cheaply in Manhattan.

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1 comments so far...
  1. I always love Bob Ryan and reading that he is enjoying his time in China is great. I am Chinese American and just returned to the States from a two months staying in China. I am glad that a highly respected jonarlist in the US can have a first hand experience in the Olymics.

    Posted by Nellie August 7, 08 02:35 PM
 

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