By Austin Shiner
BEIJING, China, 12:01 a.m. — John Williams’ “Olympic Centennial: Summon The Heroes” makes me cry. Every time. This Olympics was no exception — unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with Bob Costas and his consistently brilliant NBC Olympics coverage, but the fireworks filled in.
And what a show: those drummers! The scroll, the dancing, the characters, the fans, the opera and oh what a torch! Sam says that 300 years ago the Chinese could fly — it seems, after a torch-lighting ceremony for the ages, that at least one man can fly again.
I saw the fireworks in person. Connie hosted an opening ceremony dumpling-making party at her apartment, a mere three blocks away from the National Stadium. As the fireworks burst everyone ran from the TV to get a live shot of the action. Thunderous explosions echoed across the neighboring apartments, and this time all it took was noise to make me tear up. This internet cafe is full of surprises. The latest is my friend Teng, an employee who speaks enough English to assist a poor estranged American.
Literally as I wrote this post (in the middle of the second paragraph) Teng sat and initiated conversation. He and I chat about everything: about Olympic fever, about America, but by far his favorite subject is my Chinese girlfriend. “Ah, I know those characters!” he says, feverishly writing two characters, rui and bao. “Oh wait, but it’s not the common Bao,” I point out. And for half-an-hour Teng tells me about the history of Rui’s name, about how it’s a pictogram showing a prince’s hat and thus his cleverness. We just exchanged email (and by the way he just sat down next to me again — this sentence will likely take ten minutes to complete, which is more than fine by me). China is full of wonder, but more than anything on this trip, from Ge Ge to Sam to Teng, it’s mostly full of hospitality.