What’s the Chinese word for feng shui?

It’s been a ridiculously busy week at work, with many important deadlines approaching and much work to prepare for them.

On Tuesday I got a little break when three of us from the office got to tour parts of the Olympic Green Sports Centre, which is a large area in the northern part of town. The Green will house multiple facilities (11 I think) that will be used during the Games. We looked at the Olympic Green Sports Centre Stadium, the Olympic Green Sports Centre Gymnasium, and the Ying Tung Natatorium, all of which are existing facilities being renovated for 2008. If I understood our guide correctly, they were all originally constructed for the Asian Games in 1990 – I don’t know how much use they saw after that.

The trip was unscheduled (at least on my part), so I didn’t have my camera along. Luckily, one of the others has generously offered to share some shots, so I’ll post them as I get them. We all had to wear hardhats and watch where we were going carefully. These were definitely construction sites, with unfinished walls, holes in the ground, and debris scattered around.
First is the Stadium, which will house the modern pentathlon running and equestrian events. As I understand, there will be some kind of sand on the field, not grass, with the track around the outside.
Next up was the Gymnasium, which will see some team handball action next summer.
Right now, the entire interior volume is filled with scaffolding. It’s quite a strange sight.
The Natatorium will house water polo and the swimming portion of the modern pentathlon.

Some of the facilities are supposed to be operational this fall, with some exhibition events already slated. There’s lots of work to do, but I have no doubt they’ll be ready.

There’s my expedition for the week.

The other morning I turned on CNN and got a little picture from home. Amid all the coverage of the devastating tornadoes that hit the South, there was a brief shot that they labeled as “Seattle” – which I could tell from looking was actually I-90 up towards Snoqualmie Pass. 60-vehicle pile-up in nasty snowstorm. Not the best news from home, though as far as I know, nobody I know was involved.

Now it’s time for my Annoying Linguistic Observation of the Week. In English, we call this country where I’m now living China but that’s not what they call it here. The French call it Chine (pronounced sheen), Russians call it Китай (pronounced key-tie), and other languages have other names for it. In Mandarin they say Zhong Guo (normally they put it together without a break, but I want to emphasize the two parts). Zhong means middle and Guo means country; so China is the Middle Country. If you’ve read anything about Chinese history, you’ve probably encountered the phrase Middle Kingdom. Make of it what you will, that’s what it’s called. What’s interesting (to me, at least) is what they call the United States. In Mandarin it’s Mei Guo. Guo again means country, and Mei means beautiful. I am curious how it was decided that of all the countries on earth, America should be blessed with such a name. Certainly America has much beauty in it, but so do lots of other countries, including China. So just remember that whatever Chinese people may say or think about the United States, every time they mention it, they call it beautiful. (And please forgive me from using the terms America and United States interchangeably. I know America can refer to an entire continent – or two! – but let’s face it, the USA has a particularly unwieldy and imprecise name, and all over the world anyone who says they’re American is not going to be mistaken for a Canadian or Mexican – or Argentinian for that matter. The United Kingdom suffers a similar difficulty, though I suspect most Scots are more likely to describe themselves as Scottish than from the UK.)
The last couple days have seen something very rare in the time since I’ve been in Beijing: rain. While I haven’t seen anything that would really be called rain by Seattle standards, we’ve had a light drizzle on and off this week. Weather forecasts seem to be as haphazard here as anywhere else, and I’ve heard everything from snow to sandstorms predicted for this weekend. So far, just a vague dampness is all I can report.

Yesterday was the start of the China Super League (China’s top professional football – er, soccer – league). I caught most of Beijing’s opening game against Shanghai on TV. The field was a wet, muddy mess. All the commentary and graphics were in Chinese, so all I could do was watch. Beijing won 2-0. The league has been struggling for a number of years, with some scandals marring seasons and driving away fans, but I’m hoping things turn around. I’d like to go see a game or two, especially once the weather gets nicer. So far, it’s just about impossible to find out anything about the teams or schedules or players, as the local online media seem completely uninterested. The English version of the team’s site hasn’t been updated in about two years. The best info I’ve found is on a French site. Today I watched another game. Changchun Yatai (a new team in the league) beat Xiamen Lanshi 3-1.

I have finally found some information on Barcelona’s trip to China this year. They will play Beijing Guoan in August at Workers Stadium, which is only a short walk from my place. The stadium is currently undergoing renovations for use in the 2008 Olympics, so they’re apparently looking to line up a backup facility in case Workers Stadium isn’t ready yet. August should bring another major event to the building: the Seattle Seahawks are supposed to play an exhibition game there (the “China Bowl”) against the New England Patriots.

Last night CL called all the expat staff to a meeting at the Pavillion. He’s heading back to the US for some meetings next week, and he wanted to make sure we all have a good idea what’s going on next week – who needs to be where on which days, and so on. TG and I walked over there at 6:00 in the rain, and by the time we walked home, it was snowing.
Here’s that familiar view from my living room with a little of the white stuff on the ground.

Tonight is the last night of the Spring Festival, theoretically the last night of fireworks. They’re going off all around again, not quite as frequently as on New Year’s Eve, but a dull roar and flashes from some direction or other every few seconds. The Chinese do love their fireworks.

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