Maria Holland

二零一零 (2010)

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2010 at 10:30 pm

This will further date my Chinese studies, but I recently learned how to say Vancouver (温哥华) and Winter Olympics (冬奥会) in Chinese.  The Olympics are seriously one of my favorite things in the world.  It started out as a little girl’s love of gymnastics and ice skating, but somewhere around Sydney, Salt Lake, and Athens I started noticing how freakin’ cool the Opening Ceremonies are.  In 2008, a few short weeks after my summer in China ended, I spent pretty much the entirety of the Beijing Olympics on the couch watching.

I love it all.  What’s not to love?  I still love ice skating and gymnastics, but I’ve discovered other beautiful sports as well – synchronized swimming and diving, trampoline.  I love the obscure and unglamorous sports too, though – ping pong, fencing, badminton.  There are a lot of sports that I never care to watch – running, snowboarding, volleyball – but if they’re in they Olympics, I’m there.  I nearly wet myself (multiple times!) during the epic sand volleyball matches of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. 

My favorite part, though, is the Parade of Nations.  I love watching every participating country, big or small, walk in in alphabetical order just delighted to be there.  I love hearing the numbers – how many athletes, how many medals, how many years – and the stories of obvious contenders and obvious underdogs.  I LOVE it.  I think the Olympics to me is summed up in the word “hopeful”; it’s not just the athletes, it’s everyone hoping that the Games go well, that everyone does their best, that every country goes home proud.

But the Olympics also breaks my heart.  From the little bummers (imagine being a Chinese winter olympian) to the incredibly moving paths some people have taken to get there, I get choked up a lot.  Some of the underdog stories are just too hard to hear; heck, by the end of the Games sometimes it’s too hard to think about the favorites who didn’t win. This year the pain starts early with the death of the Georgian luger.  I want to cry when I hear about athletes who miss their once-in-a-lifetime (or at least one-in-four-years) opportunity due to injury or plain bad luck, but the news of an athlete dying in preparation actually brought me to tears during the moment of silence.

Even after yesterday’s late night, I woke up today in time to catch the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.  I will say, though, that the Parade of Nations is way better when viewed in your native language.  I usually don’t recognized the names of specific athletes in English (and there are usually some countries that, frankly, surprise me by existing) but in Chinese it’s beyond hopeless.  I seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time quite frequently.  It’s not that the Olympics are always in someplace far away, it’s that the Olympics are being held in ridiculously convenient locations that I seem to be going out of my way to avoid.  How else to explain why I left China less than 3 weeks before the start of the ‘08 games and why I’m now on the other side of the world when they’re being hosted by our northern, English-speaking neighbor?  FAIL.

Still, I noticed some things.  The Georgian contingent with their black armbands was sobering.  The Koreas came separately after a few years of marching together.  In another confusing development in the China-Not-China situation, Hong Kong came under their own flag?!

In non-Olympic news, it’s New Year’s Eve.  I know, right?  This year I am experiencing the Great Migration known as 春运 in person.  In addition to swarms of people at every train station and really expensive plane tickets, it also brings a lot of store and restaurant closings as the proprietors and workers return home.  It’s become significantly harder to get takeout around here but my foreign friends and I are somewhat comforted by the knowledge that McDonald’s and KFC will never leave us. 

I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to find lunch today but it’s okay because I have fruit.  With strawberries, bananas, and Nutella, who needs other food?  I’ve just discovered kumquats, which are the new crack.  We are so fruit-deprived in America!  There are so many kinds of fruit here that I’ve never eaten, seen, or even heard of.  I guess I had heard of dates and kumquats and pomelos before, but that was about it.  I’ve had passionfruit, dragonfruit, and lychee-flavored candy before, but never seen the real things.  It makes the vocabulary significantly harder when you don’t have a firm grasp of even the English translation. 

With that said, my tropical island is temporarily disappointing me right now.  It’s currently 9°C (48°F).  I think we should get our money back anytime it’s below 20. 

  1. Maria – we didn’t understand your point about “imagine being a Chinese winter olympian”. What’s the big deal with being a Chinese winter olympian? Mom and I watched the opening ceremonies last night; they were great. I like the Parade of Nations too. Some of the winter sports are very exciting (like short track and downhill skiing), some are spectacular but not for me (half-pipe), and some are just too painful to watch with my knees (mogul skiing).

  2. I just think it would be a bummer to miss out on the 2008 Summer Olympics because your sport isn’t part of it . . . like, everyone in the entire country is psyched for it, and you’re somewhere else (maybe another country even) practicing downhill or luge. It also goes for Canadians who will never compete at a Summer Olympics in their home country, and people like that. Americans are lucky because we, somewhere in the country, have the ability to host both.

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