Monday, August 18, 2008


It's another 3.30am arrival home. The smell of hosta flowers permeates the still night air as I make my way home through a maze of asphalt and red lanterns. The full moon is starting to wane and I have to pinch myself to think about what happened. I didn't think I'd get to see any events, but fortune smiled on me and there I was at a swimming finals! I still can't believe I was there. even with pictures. it was just amazing. A million years ago I used to swim and it was so sweet to walk into the water cube and be assailed by the smell of the pool. such good memories came back and little did I know I'd be part of history that day too! I had a "lollipop" sign and was one of those tour guides, like the pied piper, leading big executives through the most gorgeous day I've yet experienced in Beijing. We finally got them settled with races underway. Libby was there from Australia, Natalie was there from America, and then Aaron Piersol and Michael Phelps. Just incredible. We were so close, i could hardly contain myself (but because I was on duty, i had to stay serious...and you know me- that was hard!). I can't describe how profound it was to hear the National Anthem and see our flag raised, next to China and Germany and surrounded by people from everywhere. it's certainly an experience that transcends politics! so, i left early and took the subway back to the hotel and found myself next to three people from Jamaica who looked lost. I helped them change subways and got them to their stop, and found out one of the women is the Mother of Usain Bolt. What a day!

I've made friends with the staff working our hospitality suite- i think they think i'm crazy, but that might be true (but at least I can make them laugh)- and they taught me to say "Mei guo bi sheng!" which loosely translates to, "America can't not win" :) so, of course, every time I walk by them I say, "Zhong guo bi sheng" (China has to win) and they say, "Mei guo bi sheng!". it's pretty funny. that's the good part, but wow is it frustrating trying to run an event where your "staff" can't understand you. how do you explain that steamed vegetables doesn't mean wilted bok choy? or, "can I get some nuts?". that was a good one. I'm getting used to the slightly panicked, blank stare. this place will either make you insane or teach you patience like you wouldn't believe. :)

OH. i forgot. I got totally scammed the other day (TWICE) and it just made me sick. the website for the Chaoyang Theatre had a number, and because of a rain cancellation, we had to get 38 people to do something fun and time was of the essence. Well, the guy on the phone said their credit card machine was broken (yeah, i know, but hindsight is 20/20 and i'm going on no sleep), so i borrowed a quite substantial sum from the hotel and got there just in time (in the rain, no less). so, i'm a superstar. then i go to get the fa piao (receipt) and Poof. he's gone, and his phone is turned off (the guy who met me to give me the tix). sigh. OMG. i almost started crying. I had all these fantasies of putting him in jail, etc. but eventually realized, it's not personal here. it's a business. he made a dummy website and even has staff. i know this because the story actually has a happy ending. I gotta say, it felt pretty good. I called him back, later, and said we needed more tickets for the next night, and could he meet me at the theatre. I took my friend Ray (who speaks Chinese) and made sure he brought the official receipt. So, he actually shows up, and gives us the receipt (another thing you can manufacture in China) and then I was like, "o.k., so tell us about this scam. not cool. we want our money back". i can say I've actually seen a deer in headlights now. The funny thing is, the night before, I was so angry, and eventually (because i needed to sleep) i made the effort to try to look at him with compassion. my anger was probably more at myself for getting taken for a ride and my pride was hurt.

So, there we were, and he put up a really convincing fight (like, the tickets really were that expensive and let's go talk to the manager), but Ray was great and told him we had his "information"- so he knew the game was up. the best part was, though, when I asked for the money back that he scammed, his last ditch effort was, "Well, that's the price on the website" and I came right back with, "but that's a fake website". man, it was perfect. you had to feel sorry for him then. and when i said he made me lose face in front of my boss and he made China look bad he totally apologized for himself and his country, and put out his hand. I took it and that was that, knowing full well, he'll probably be back at it tomorrow. what a day though.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

OMG - I am so amazed and proud to have found this... have been so curious about you (and of course worried for your safety) and what you have been doing oh so far away. Sounds like you are having another Katie Kasben adventure of a lifetime (how many is that now?)!! I love and miss you, so happy to see everything is going well, proud of you lady for following your heart and having so much courage. Blessed journey, lovely! ~Stephanie Motley P.S. - found you on myspace too, will have to befriend me. ha!