Thursday, August 21, 2008

Week 26 Adieu

Week 26 adieu

Sat. August 9. Return to the dirt market looking for fabric but find none; go to jenny lou’s for groceries and then to hotel pool for a swim. Security is nuts going into hotel and I learn that an American was murdered at the Bell Tower (and ironically my story on NPR that day is partially recorded at the Drum Tower, so I answer a few emails assuring folks that I am not the victim of this bizzarro murder. So un-Chinese….maybe the canary in the mineshaft?

Sunday, Eve and Stephanie take me out to hot pot and yahsow market. I leave them mid-afternoon for a hair cut and then meet Yuxin for dinner at Pure Lotus. Very neat place and we see Yue Saikan and maybe Gloria Vanderbilt? or someone of that ilk at a nearby table. Papparazzi crowd.

Monday go in to NBC but it is slow. Watching the Men’s 4x100 relay with Phelps and amazing close by Lezak -- great to watch with a crowd. Did more research for Brokaw science story and then drove with him from Oly Village back to the bureau and had a nice chat about his life as a young man. Advice: don’t worry about late starters. He says he nearly flunked out of college and could write a book about all the very successful men he knows who had lackluster starts in life. Nice chat. At 5, I met Helen Du re: BU China exchange program in Shanghai. Then I bumped into Nick Kristof of the New York Times outside my apartment and told him my message for his next column: to the Chinese government: do for your people what you do for tourists: clean up the air, fix the traffic, treat everyone with respect, dignity and fairness, not just the tourists.


Tues NBC. Slow…..Sat in on edit of Mark Mullen story. The limitless options for digital effects could make any edit never-ending.

Wednesday August 13.

Up at 5 to head into NBC to watch Nightly go out LIVE. In addition to Brian Williams, Ann Curry and swimming great Rowdy Gaines were also LIVE on the set. A nice time, very laid back crew and talent. Very funny. Brian Williams wondered how Michael Phelps would get through airport security with all those medals around his neck or in his carry on. He said a good producer would be able to get that image, but his staffer reminded him that he didn’t have any good producers….

After that I walked in the humid, milky white haze for an hour around the Olympic Village, but still could not crack the perimeter. Need an NBC person to escort me back in. I watched Phelps pick up two more gold and watched the women’t gymnastics team cave under pressure on the big screen at NBC. It is much better to watch this at NBC in English than at home in Chinese, and I am regretting I had not stayed here for the Opening Ceremonies. Live and learn. After lunch I said my goodbyes to those NBC folks who I worked most closely with and headed home for a nap which never materialized. At 5:30 I headed out to join Mark and Tingting for a final dinner. We are joined by Terry Fry, Amy Klatzkin and their daughter Ying who published a book a while back. A fellow from Vancouver and his adopted 18 year old daughter named Melissa also joined us. The Canadian was really a pioneer in adopting from China and did it all by himself, kind of creating the rules as he went along. It was a lovely dinner of Hunan food. Need to ask Tingting what most of it is called to try to order it again somewhere. More goodbyes and then head home.

Elizabeth arrives home at 11 dressed in an oversized red polo shirt looking very un-Elizabeth. She is getting involved in this Young President’s organization for young president’s of companies….but it sounds like a mixed bag. Good opportunities, but a little like grown up scouts.

Thursday August 14, 2008

Last Day in China. I finish the last minute packing and hope I make the weight requirements. Elizabeth comes home around 10:30 (again in her un-Elizabeth red polo) to say good bye. This has turned into a very nice friendship and I am sorry I won’t be here long enough to build on it. Next time! Eve and Stephanie arrive at 1130 with snacks from 7-11….Eve is dressed in her Olympic volunteer outfit and she looks very un-Eve. I take a photo of the un-Eve and un-Elizabeth in their Olympic garb. We watch Olympics on TV for a while and then its time to go.
We get all the stuff down to the cab and the skies open up. I give them all a teary hug goodbye and hop in the cab. It is pouring outside and yes, inside too. I am happy to be leaving, but I do feel I am leaving a little of my heart in China.

I spend my time at the airport writing about Favorite Chinese Places for China Connection magazine and it seems like a fitting way to end my time here. If Mao was 70% good and 30% bad, as all Chinese kids are taught these days, I would give this experience 60% good and 40% not so good. Maybe those numbers will improve over time. Ambassador Nicholas Platt, one of the first diplomats to China in the 1970s , gave a talk at the embassy in Beijing this spring and his advice was to not assess your experience in China until you’ve been home for six months. So I will let this all marinate and see what I am feeling come winter. Right now, it just feels good to be heading home to friends and family (and a working toilet and comfortable bed). It is amazing how much those creature comforts colored my experience here. But the one thing I would not do again is go away for six months without Stephen and/or a community of friends to share the experience with.

We are flying north of Ulan Bator heading north by northeast and “Under Pressure’ is in my ipod…”this is our last dance, this is ourselves, under pressure”.

Week 25, still here

Week 25, still here

Saturday August 2. Send photos via email to NBC for cover during live shot tonight. Get picked up by two runners at 6:30 for trip to Olympic Village and head to the roof to appear on the Today Show LIVE to talk about adoption. Lester Holt is the interviewer. It is 2:30 seconds long, and get in about three brief answers. A lot of butterflies but apparently it went well. It was a blur. Stayed on the roof to watch fireworks go off for rehearsal of Opening Ceremonies and then get ride back to Elizabeth’s.

Sunday Simon drives us three hours to Stefanie’s family home in Hebei Province. Flat, non-descript drive, through a major furniture making area. Wished I’d known this before I bought my stuff. We visit her father’s trucking company and then her spacious courtyard home where she grew up with her grandparents and two siblings. This is the upside of economic reform: clearly her parents have a successful business. We have a nice lunch in a local restaurant, learn about the hungrier days of her parents’ youth. Her grandparents have only a grade school education, her parents finished high school, but she is the first to go to college. Long drive home, get stopped at security roadblock. You can feel the tension building. Had a quick dinner at Paul’s diner, then head to silk market for final purchase. Then watch silly movie with Will Farrell, blades of glory.

Monday – Head into NBC Olympic Village and hear about attacks in Kashgar that killed 16 police. Talk with Richard Engle and give him Abdul’s # to see what is really going on. I log more of Dashan, the Canadian who is famous in China. When I get home I need to refeed some material for the wushu story that got garbled in transmission last week. And then I get the edits from the World on my two pieces and they want to run Legacy that day, so I feed those elements first and in a hurry. Its nice to work on a deadline. Gets the adrenaline flowing and keeps me up half the night.

Tuesday stay home and file the second story for the World on visas and hotel vacancy. home. Later I watch “There will be blood”. Eve and Stefanie come for Eve’s birthday and I give her the laptop. She seems quiet but pleased. We first go to Lan for a drink and they think it is totally over the top, which it is. We then head to Made in China for dinner and it is somewhat disappointing.


Weds the Today Show producer Mary Alice invites me to join them at Summer Palace where the Today Show will go out LIVE for two hours tonight. Celine and two other girls are decked out to be valentines because today is the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. There is a woman from Florida, who has been at several Olympics and somehow finagles her way to the Today Show set. My camera died, but her’s worked so hopefully there will be good photos of the evening. It was a warm summer night with a breeze off the lake, a lovely peacock dancer, fan dancers, and a band playing traditional Chinese instruments with contemporary beat. Very nice. Tom Brokaw came by for a cameo appearance.

Thurs. NBC helped Brokaw with research on story on science education USA vs. China. . Evening, got word that hotel piece had not been aired yet on the World, so I reworked the tracks to freshen it up and re-fed it.

Friday 8-8-08 the day we’ve all been waiting for….I left NBC at 3 cuz of security sweep – if you came back in after 3, you were locked in for the next 12 hours, so I opted to go home. Hung around at home, went to Pete’s for margarita and enchilada all by self. Streets are eerily quiet, no one is outside. I head home and then watched the too long opening ceremony alone, in Chinese, and fell asleep. Awakened at midnight with fireworks going off over our building and all of Beijing. I had every intention of going out to Tiananmen Square and seeing the festivities and recording reaction but slept right th