Postcards From the Edge, or is it the Brink?

Wish I Were There to Witness the Artistic Prowess, Pride and Raw Energy

Star Anise

Star Anise

Most post cards this time of year say, “Having a Great Time, Wish You Were Here,” with idyllic or crowded beach scenes with smiling faces of family and friends enjoying each other and their time together.

I’m not on vacation, and I haven’t received one of those post cards in more years than I can count, but today I wish I was there. Not some exotic, paradisiacal, idyllic beachside resort, but a haze filled city with millions of people clamoring to make their way into “The Bird’s Nest.”

Soldier at The Forbidden City, 2001

It’s not that I’m a sports fan, I’m not. I used to be a big Olympics fan though. I liked the pomp and circumstance of the opening and closing ceremonies and I liked following the athlete’s progress. The familiar “Up Close and Personal” biographies of the athletes was something I looked forward to and helped me understand how they came to be on the team.

But in more recent years, whether because I was living outside of the US and the news was in languages I could not understand or because there was no team solidarity between me and those I associated with because we were from disparate worlds, I didn’t watch. I tried watching the Australian games when I lived in the Philippines, but I could never figure out when it was being broadcast, and when I would catch it, the broadcast was disjointed and of course not focusing on the US athletes, so I was just lost.

This year will be different. I loved my visits to China and Honkong and I wish I were there.

It’s hard for me to believe that 7 years have gone by since China was awarded the Olympic bid. I was there on a business trip just after they received the news and I saw the work begin immediately. Looking out my hotel window, I saw wrecking balls flattening a hu tong (sp?) or walled village, many stories below and being erected all around. It was clear to me we weren’t going to be hearing about worries of facilities not being completed on time or budget over-runs. With 1.3 billion people, there would be no shortage of labor to help build roads and infrastructure and facilities.

Near Shenzen

News of the shutting down of steel mills and coal plants rippled through the business world I was a part of at the time and I was getting ready for another work assignment; this time, a relocation to Beijing by way of 3 months in Hong Kong.

I was excited. I was curious. I was on the edge of my seat primed for living a historic life. I was convinced in my naiveté that we (AOL) were going to be a part of history in China as we prepared to launch AOL China. I had a dream born out of an overactive imagination and fantasy and dreams that if we were to bring the internet to China, we would be a contributor to the opening of their world to the rest of the world.

As you know, it didn’t happen, nor did my expat life in China. After moving and being there just one week I was asked to come home and help with another project in the US for a year. I did and had I not moved back to the US who knows what life would have thrown my way, but as it turns out, a year after my return “home,” I relocated to India and the next assignment was Argentina, so in the end, life as an expat was not so bad for me.

I’ll never know what could have been had I stayed in China, but I’m happy to be “visiting” again, albeit virtually. I mean come on now, the exciting things in my life during the past 17 months have all been virtual, so it’s fitting, don’t you think? I just wish we were being taken there via a live JTV broadcast. I see a few Olympic television re-broadcasts, but nothing from the view of an attendee. What a shame. What a missed opportunity.

We had an Opening Ceremony Meal of Olympic Proportions!

We had an Opening Ceremony Meal of Olympic Proportions!

I thought that instead of dwelling on what could have been, what wasn’t, that I would make a Chinese dinner to celebrate the opening ceremonies. I have plans for Peking Duck later in the week which will be a first for me, but what could be more appropriate?

There is much talk about the Olympics being awarded to China and about the lack of the traditional Olympic rings on uniforms and signs and the usual placement missing, but the rings were very prominently displayed during the opening ceremonies tonight in a spectacle I think it’s safe to say none of us have ever seen in Modern Olympic history. With 1.3 billion citizens, clearly there is creativity and talent to create a wondorous Opening ceremony.

Differences abound. Politics and feelings about China and communism are widely talked about. I had the opportunity to experience some of it first hand and came home from China with many stories which I recount when the opportunity presents itself and although the assignment was short lived, my memories are not and as we cook our way through this year’s Summer Olympics in Beijing, I’ll be trying to think of ways to get back there.

I see a country on the brink. On the brink of change so large it can’t be stopped and change so significant that we’d better find a way to live with it or be prepared to hide behind a wall of fear.

Now, isn’t it more sensible to understand the change and find a way to work with it for everyone’s benefit?

The torch has been lit in an amazing display of creative engineering and pyrotechnic skill and technology. This is the most memorable opening ceremony presentation ever and I pity Vancouver and I wonder if the Opening Ceremony “competition” will overshadow the athlete’s competition?


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