Bill Kauffman Blog for Aug. 1 - Not Another Brick in the Wall

Aug. 01, 2008, 10:38 p.m. (ET)

Aug. 1, 2008

Breakfast in the morning
Although in China, I was able to wake up to an American-style breakfast at Beijing Normal University where many of the USOC contingency is staying, including the press officers. It definitely provided a comfortable feeling in a new part of the world to be able to choose from scrambled eggs, ham, waffles, omelets, cereal and other basic breakfast stables. It truly was a nice way to start of the first morning in Beijing.

Tour of the Media Mecca
Along with the other USOC press officers that arrived the day before, we were able to tour the massive Main Press Center (MPC) that will be the hub for Olympic news. The USOC press officers will use an office within the MPC as one area it can work, along with the Beijing Normal University Press Room. To see all the news agencies accredited and located within the MPC, this Olympics Games is bound to set a new standard in press coverage.

Great Wall Not Just Another Brick
Bill Kauffman on the Great Wall of China. Photo copyrighted by USA VolleyballWith a break in the afternoon and sporadic Internet coverage at Beijing Normal University, B.J. Evans of USA Volleyball and Craig Sesker of USA Wrestling and I decided on the spur of the moment to catch a taxi to the Great Wall of China. Being maybe our only opportunity to get out and see the sights in China, the 40-minute cab ride to the Badaling location was well-worth the experience.

The Wall provided a glimpse of history, then and now. Parts of the Great Wall of China was built as early as 5th century BC as a means to fortified the country and keep out warring factions. With height of the Wall and the surrounding mountainous terrain of the Badaling location, I can see how the structure was a key defense structure.

On the Wall, climbing the incline sections were okay to start, but continuously got tougher and tougher the further one went. To make matters worse, I was wearing dress shoes that thankfully had a little traction, but not enough to go up the steepest area without considerable effort not to slip. I walked 2-3 sections of the Wall, but ultimately stopped as Craig and B.J. went up another steep incline – the tallest section that could be seen in that area of the Wall.

Now, the Wall has a capitalist component to it. It cost $135 Yuan for the three of us to enter the Wall. Along with the Wall itself, there were local shops similar to a strip mall hawking the Wall paraphernalia, water and yes, beer.

I stopped into one of the shops just to look around and see about possibly picking up a gift for a friend back in Colorado Springs. I stopped by a shelf with Panda bears that did not have prices listed on each one. Three sales ladies quickly hovered around me thinking I might buy something. At first, they were trying to get me to buy an oversized panda close to 500 yuan. That was more than I was prepared to spend.

I started to look at smaller sized pandas and they noticed my Olympic credential and asked what sport. I said I work with volleyball. They had some pandas holding sport specific balls that danced to what sounded like Christmas music. Without saying the price, one lady punched in the price on a calculator for the volleyball panda as 400 yuan, and I shook my head.

Remembering the advice of one of our women’s volleyball players, I mentioned that I work with and know Lang Ping. In an instance, the price on the calculator dropped to 250 yuan. Thinking I had a great bargain, I bought the panda.

Shortly after that, the three ladies were trying to sell me just about everything else in the shop. First, it was a sweatshirt, then postcards, then t-shirts. I kept saying no as the price on the calculator was always more than I wanted to spend. Then at one point, they offered to combine the postcards originally for 50 yuan and the tshirt for 80 yuan down to a combined 70 yuan price. I again bought the bargain.

The ladies tried to make one more sale, a picture book of the Great Wall of China. I told them I did not have any more yuan to spend, which in turn came an offer for $12 in U.S. currency. The offer was dropped to $8, and I just figured the more I bought, the more they would keep selling. So I did not take the offer and stepped outside.

Awaiting outside were Craig and B.J., and I looked at my cell phone and noticed I had a missed call from Craig. He had called trying to rescue me from the sales ladies.

As we were walking out of the Great Wall entrance, we noticed one other aspect that has shown China with a Western influence. Starbucks had a store in the Great Wall complex with large amounts of people going in an out.

Pizza in China
Upon arriving back at Beijing Normal, I took a quick shower as the climb on the Wall during the hottest part of the day produced sweaty attire. I was able to work in the USOC Media Office at Beijing Normal the rest of the afternoon writing various articles.

Taking the recommendation of the USOC’s Kevin Neuendorf, Craig and I walked quarter a mile to a restaurant offering New York-style pizza. Jen Lowery, a press officer with USA Diving, joined us later in the evening. We ordered Cro’s Nest special with just about every topping available. Who would have thought some of the best pizza I have ate would be found in Beijing.