Sunday, July 20, 2008

Week 22

Week 22

Have I really been here this long?

Sunday July 13. We do the final packing up an Simon comes at 11. Katie is surprisingly emotional, saying goodbye to each room in the apartment and kissing her favorite pink, plastic chopsticks goodbye. I am really surprised she is feeling so sad. I guess this adventure made a deeper impression on me than I gave her credit for. Stephen and Simon fit in his car with all the luggage. Katie and I take a cab, and we meet at Elizabeth’s. I move in one suitcase and one computer and the computer works fine, so we have a few hours to kill before their flight. We all go to TGIFriday’s for lunch. From there, Stephen Katie and Simon go to the airport and I return to Renmin. Katie is sad and so am I. I really wish I were on that plane too. I take a cab back to Renmin and spend from 3pm until 4am(!) intensely working, getting all the freelance material logged, written and organized.

Monday I work all day cutting up Kashgar audio for a geo quiz for the World. The Changsha audio is less exciting. I eat what is left of the food for dinner and feel like I’ve had two days of a truly Spartan existence. I like being a monk, at least for 48 hours. Very productive.

Tuesday do a final clean out of the apartment. Sue and Dave help me get my stuff out the front door and then I walk to the West Gate for the final time. I am not shedding a tear. I am sorry this university relationship was less than ideal. I really wished I had had better luck getting involved. As a final postscript, I had asked about a month ago to meet the Dean of Journalism before I left. On Saturday, I get a phone text message from Mercy- I can’t meet the Dean but another professor is happy to meet me Sunday at 3:30, precisely when I am downtown sending Stephen off to the airport. Way too little, way too late.

I arrive at Elizabeth’s lovely apartment at 11, unpack for an hour and then head to the next building over to the NBC bureau. The producer that “hired” me is not in today, so I spin my wheels until someone announces that a driver is going to take a few people up to the new workspace at the Olympic Village, so I jump on that one. NBC, which consists of NBC News (nightly and today show, and weekend), MSNBC, CNBC, ITN, and a slew of NBC affiliates, has rented out the Convention Center next to the Village. The rooftop provides a spectacular backdrop for stand ups, overlooking the Bird’s Nest. There will be about a thousand news staff, mostly technical, at the space….and none of this includes the NBC Sports staff which is the main event for the Games. They are waiting for cargo containers full of equipment to arrive, and some of it has been stuck at Chinese customs for a couple of weeks and folks are getting nervous. Quite an operation. Tuesday after work Celine and I go out to dinner for duck at a nice place near NBC, and then I go to the grocery store to get a few things for life at Elizabeth’s. This neighborhood is full of places to explore, and a lot more to my liking than the Renmin neighborhood.

Weds go to NBC and I am the first person there. No one seems to show up until 10am or later. I help log some tapes and Adrienne, the senior bureau producer, shows me how to capture segments of tape to feed to London for editing. I master this task and immediately am busy with work. I need to leave around 4 to go to a school on the far northwest of the city for a freelance story. Eve has set it up. Ironically, I need to meet her and her wushu friend at the Gate of Renmin…..and I thought I was done with this place! One of her classmates is the wushu (Chinese martial art) national university champion, and we are going to what I think is his wushu school. Well it is more than a wushu school, it is one of the Soviet style sports academies that identifies and trains little kids to become future Olympians. There are about a thousand students here 5-15 who are spending many, many, many hours a day, all year long, mastering wrestling, gymnastics, pingpong, track and field, and wushu, 11 sports in total. The third class of the day begins at 6pm with a warm up that would leave me in the dust after the first five seconds, running, jumping, stretching for a half hour, in 100 degree heat. Little 5,6,7, year olds bending their bodies into also sorts of shapes and then the wushu moves begin. The kids can kick their legs behind their heads, one step after the other, turn, stab, twist, leap, fall on the floor, arch their backs and leap back up into another pose. Wild! We are out in the boondocks surrounded by spectacular mountains, and we are glad we asked the taxi driver to stick around for the return trip home, otherwise I think we would have had to sleep in the wushu kids dorm. Nothing out here. We return to Renmin and Eve and I decide to have some dinner, but first she needs to get some things in her dorm room. So I go with her and I am dumbfounded. First, the hallway is the clothesline/closet for every girl on the floor. There are six girls to a room that is as long as two bunkbeds and as wide as three bed widths. And the girls are assigned there as freshman and never move out, not at the end of the semester, not for the summer. So this room has three years of six girls detritus, wall to wall junk, the entire floor space is covered with shoes, sneakers, bottles of shampoo, food, stuff. You cannot even move. Each girl has a box/desk type thing that rests like a hospital table over the foot of her bed. So if you have restless leg syndrome, your entire desk gets catapulted over the top of the bed. I will never, ever complain about my “lousy” Renmin housing again.. I am in a palace compared to what they are living in. It is disastrous. After our brief but enlightening visit we head out to a restaurant and have a very nice sandwich, at a western restaurant I never knew existed in my old neighborhood.

Thurs I go into NBC, and the feeding system that I mastered yesterday is not working today. The tape freezes and cannot be sent to London. The only person in who knows how to do it is also stymied, so we have to call in one of the techs who is working on setting up the Olympic village workspace. He is none too thrilled to have to come in. I apologize profusely for having to drag him down here, and initially he responds, ‘even a trained monkey could do this’. I am sure he will push one simple button to make it work, and be even more pissed, but alas, he too encounters the same gremlin and has to install a new converter to get the system to work. I send what I need to send and all is well. After work I am supposed to talk to someone at the World about ftping my tape. I call and the tech is not in. I talk with Joyce for a while and then figure out all by myself how to send it. I spend the next several hours watching this tape, slowly crawl itself through cyberspace to Boston.

Friday, I wake up to make sure all the tape was sent, and instead there is an email from Joyce saying “take a deep breath”, but the story I spend a kazillion hours recording, logging, writing, and feeding is DEAD. They already had a similar story in house. I am about ready to pass out. So I go back to bed, and an hour later, fuming, send an angry email to Joyce. She assures me I will be paid in full, that it was a communication breakdown and she is very sorry. I calm down a tad, and move on with my day. But I am so sorry my Kashgar tape will not be heard.

Go to NBC and happily log some tape and work with producer on her story on pollution and health effects. I finish two weeks of the blog and head to bed, missing a party that Elizabeth invited me to.

Saturday, I head out in the morning to gather more for the Sounds of Beijing, story for Only a Game. I head to the Ghost/ Dirt market at Panjujian that I have heard so much about. I wish I had gone there earlier, a really interesting collection of junk not found at the other markets. From there I head to a construction site to get some tape. At 4pm, Elizabeth has invited me to the premier of her friend’s film, “My Beijing Movie”, a film about a New Yorker who came to Beijing 12 years ago to learn Chinese comedy, Xiangsheng, or cross-talk (kind of like ‘whose on first’ routines). He took he comedy class with little kids, and now twelve years later comes back to see what they are up to. It is a great little film. See it if it gets released in the US. At the screening I meet Jim and Deb Fallows, and Charles Hutzler. Deb and I talk about her research on Chinese internet use and we agree to talk again. After the film, I go to Houhai, the bar area, in search of “sounds of Beijing” and have dinner.

I am feeling better about the decision to stay on. It has been productive and interesting.

1 comment:

L said...

And the fun just goes on and on - your adventure continues, Anne! I've enjoyed reading thus far; sometimes it all sounds a bit like fiction (but that seems to be China). We miss you! Hang in there - Louise