So, I feel like I've been really down on Beijing in my first two city-related posts. A lot of that had to do with just sort of getting a wave of culture-shock upon arrival... so I wanted to write and say that I'm doing fine now.
The one thing you can say about the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG - the overseeing group for all-things Beijing Olympics) is that it has been nothing but welcoming from Day 1. The longer I stay here, the more I realize the extent of what it's done to make us feel at home.
For example, we have air conditioning in our residences and private bathrooms. That's nearly unheard of... even on the campus we're staying, most of the students have to walk to camping-style, communal bathrooms.
They decorated the hallways of our building with pastoral pictures of forests, mountains and log cabins. Just like the good, ol' USofA (or so they were thinking). It's endearing.
We were given a 3-day, all-expenses paid tour to Beijing's top sights - the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, the Summer Palace. And we were also shown a couple areas the local government is especially proud of: a state-of-the-art waste water treatment plant and a planned village, which is where the "future of China" lies. While the latter two aren't necessarily what I'd take visitors to New Hampshire to, the fact that the people were so proud to show off their achievements to a horde of Western volunteers was definitely touching.
All the while, we've been inundated with food... over 100 specially prepared Peking ducks one night for the 350+ volunteers, watermelon (a delicacy here) for dessert each night, dish after dish after dish stacked onto lazy susans... the spread has been immense and I'm hoping my waistband won't be the same in the end. I've come to find out that the number one way to show visitors welcome in Asia is the feed them into a coma.
But the most welcome has been shown by the people of Beijing. The entire city is behind the Olympics. It's not just the people we've been introduced to by BOCOG, either. Rather, everywhere you look, people are wearing Games swag, taking pictures of the beautiful stadiums and smiling happily when you tell them you're here to work for the ONS.
There are a handful of Chinese volunteers that have been assigned the task of being ambassadors to our group, as well. One, in particular, has gone above and beyond to make sure the loud, crazy, non-Mandarin speaking Americans feel welcomed in Beijing.
Cindy rocks. She's a grad student at the Communications University of China (the CUC), where we're staying. While she's been learning English for only two years, she's already fluent. On every bus ride, Cindy has been sitting up front, ready to answer questions or chat about life in China in a friendly, outgoing manner. She's already organized impromtu Ping-Pong-Cho sessions, invited a half-dozen of her friends and schooled each one of us at the ping-pong tables.
I just try to think that if a group of 35 foreigners came to my school for two months, would I have done the same? Honestly, it's not likely...
So while Beijing may not have the natural beauty of some other world-class cities, its citizens have already demonstrated (on the individual level) that some of the country's most beautiful people live there.