Saturday, August 9, 2008


I wasn't even in Beijing, but the excitement was huge. On 08.08.08 morning, as I sat drinking my Nescafe & writing some professorial emails, I got bumped out of my seat to a fellow hostel guest with a huge TV in his hands. "Will you move please? I want to watch the Au Yun Hui (Olympic Games)!" It wasn't even 10AM... over 12 hours to go.

As the sky grew darker, TV channels changed, faces looked hurried, & transient tourists slowly migrated to Lijiang Old Town's main screen in the central square. Red flags flew back and forth as people chanted a Chinese wallop of excitement. And of course, in the background, Naxi grammies were still enjoying their evening circle dance--their stereo-blasted local music competing with the main screen's Olympiad tunes.

The Oohs and Ahhs were typical of any brilliant light-display event (who knows how much energy went into those spectacular Opening Ceremony light shows, holy cow!) but the fervor & excitement was very particular that night. Their country was hosting the Olympic Games. The pride was wonderfully pervading.

After about thirty minutes of the extravaganza, I walked away from the bright lights & cheering to meet up with my friend Marie, who I had run into by accident on Lijiang's busy streets. An old friend from a student leaders conference I attended in Taiwan last October-- thanks NU's Center for Global Engagement & National Chengchi University!-- Marie and I agreed that it really was a small world. Since she had Olympics-protesting leanings, we ignored about an hour's worth of the 4-hour ceremony to drink some Dali beer in a non-lao wai (foreigner) restaurant.

After saying goodbye to my friend, I walked down the empty streets to my Mama Naxi's hostel. It was evident that the Games were finally in full swing--everyone was tuned in to watch. As I skirted over the smooth cobblestones of my little Lijiang Gu Cheng, utterly in China, China, China... the sound of bagpipes wafted through the air, trailing me no matter which way I turned. How very odd and un-China-like this music was, despite my very China-like setting! I slowly found myself wondering a very scholarly & globalization-reflecting question: Why on Earth did the Beijing Olympic procession of athletes have constant Scottish bagpipes playing?

Just kidding, really. About the question.

As I walked home, the multitude of Chinese TV-sets broadcasting Western tunes showed that on this night, without a doubt, Olympic pride was on high.

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