Wet and Wild

The only other time I’ve been this cold and wet was two years ago in Sweden. Although it was summer, the combination of colder temperatures and wet weather combined for truly unpleasant conditions. I said to my friend, Tony at the time that I had never been this cold in my life. That was still the case until today, as the glorious weather of my first week in China has been replaced by cold, miserable conditions. It’s grey, very grey. It doesn’t help that we can’t turn on the central heating which, suitably enough, is centrally controlled. It’s mid-November, I believe, before it gets turned on. Kate tells me a couple of years ago when she was here it got so cold before the central heating was turned on, that it was warmer in her fridge than it was in her apartment. Thus, my first task of the day was to buy a suitably warm jacket that would double as wet-weather gear. I found one in the “clothing market” I mentioned the other day. Although I haggled over price – as is the norm in China – I probably still paid too much for a “North Face” jacket. Even if I can’t vouch for its authenticity as a genuine “North Face” product, it kept me warm and dry throughout the day, which makes it authentic in my eyes.

I played “tourism bingo” again this morning, getting on the subway and getting off at somewhere which took my fancy: today I got off at the Beijing Olympic Centre. I was travelling throughout Europe for most of the duration of the Olympic Games in 2008, and wasn’t all that much interested in watching television. On the odd occasion my eyes were diverted to a television screen, there were often Australians playing or competing which was co-incidental I guess. So it was with “open eyes” that I visited the stadium today. And guess what? It’s fan-bloody-tastic. The birdcage stadium and the nearby water-cube are both architectually and visually spectacular. And as you walk around the two facilities, the games are very much alive with videos, photographs, souvenir shops, and even a wax-works museum featuring past presidents of the International Olympic Committee.

Although it was fabulous to visit the spot where Matthew Mitcham scored his perfect 10, I was completely blown away by the indoor pool/beach. When I visited there were maybe 30 or 40 people swimming, or just enjoying the machine-generated waves. Oddly enough, since the water was only a couple of feet deep, there were lots of people wearing life jackets. Many were just lying back, relaxing, and enjoying the entertainment – which ranged from Canto-pop to Bollywood – on the nearby stage. Yes, seriously. I loved it. I wish I had swimwear so that I could have joined those below.

On arriving home tonight, the cold, wet conditions have really set in. Thus, we’re faced with a dilemma: do we wait for the frozen home-made dumplings (delivered by Kate’s cleaner) to thaw out or do we venture out for dinner? Venturing out is not an option, as it’s too bloody cold, so we’ll sit and wait for the big thaw, I’m guessing.

Tomorrow, I’m off to The Great Wall, and would be sooooo excited if it snowed. Fingers crossed.

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