I made my first purchase on 亚马孙 (amazon.cn) by myself today! I’m buying some gifts for the labmates I’ve become the closest to, and was able to find what I was looking for at reasonable prices on 亚马孙. They allow you to pay with a [foreign] credit card, and I copied the address of our lab from the invoice that came with the book GuoYang ordered for me, so the two biggest hurdles in online ordering were easily overcome.
The main event of today, though, was definitely the football match at the Bird’s Nest. I first saw an ad on the subway at the beginning of the month – the poster caught my eye because of the faces of Neuer, Robben, and Müller (stars of the German and Dutch national teams). As soon as I deciphered the phonetic Chinese names for the teams (拜仁 = Bayern, 瓦伦西亚 = Valencia) and realized that the date fell during my stay in Beijing, I was set on going. I mean, seeing Luckily, I found a few friends to go with me, and Cheng helped us buy tickets on a second-hand site after the cheapest ones were sold out.
A slight blemish on my day was the announcement that the Olympic Center subway stop was closed. Honestly, I had expected it; remember that time I tried to go to Yanji to watch the Olympic torch and all the buses to Yanji that day were canceled? For some reason, China responds to massive amounts of people trying to go someplace by reducing the availability of public transportation.
I met Cheng and her boyfriend at Tsinghua and we took a taxi over to a restaurant near the Olympic park for dinner. We were joined by a friend from California who I hadn’t seen in probably close to a year. He works for Apple in Beijing and speaks Chinese about as well as me, so we had a nice dinner with a comfortable mix of Chinese and English conversation.
The most memorable conversation topic was, as it often tends to be, “what are we eating?” For instance, we got a bowl of delicious fried shrimp, which came with a bunch of fried balls. I tried one, and it was strange – a cube of fruit, breaded and fried, then covered in crispy sugar shell, plus somehow spicy. I couldn’t identify the fruit inside, but Cheng told me it was “li”. Pear, I thought, and it seemed about right. It’s the same fruit as in the tea we’re drinking, she added – “li”. Plum, I thought; and it made sense because the drink tasted like prune juice. But wait, these are the same thing!? Neither Michael nor I believed her, so this led to a 10-minute conversation of plums, pears, 李, 梨, lǐ, and lí. Supposedly everything was pear. I guess I’ve just never had pear juice before?
As we made our way from the restaurant to the stadium, we passed a lot of people selling Bayern merchandise. (The entire night, there was literally no sign of Valencia other than 11 people on the field.) I bought a Müller shirt for 80元. I love that I probably got ripped off and it was still only $12.
When I got the shirt, Cheng told me to check the size. When I read XL, she said: good, just right for you. What every woman loves to hear, right? But it’s true, she knows; here in China I’m a solid XL.
I was more okay with my body when we came upon a bunch of cutouts of Bayern players, including one where you could put your face. As I went up to take a picture, the girl before me was posing – well, trying to. Even on tiptoes, she couldn’t get more than her forehead in the opening. I started laughing, realized it was mean, and still couldn’t stop.
We had bought the cheapest tickets – originally 180元 ($30) but resold for 250元. They were in the upper level, but I thought we had a great view of the field.
The game was pretty great – three beautiful goals in the net closest to us (2 Bayern, 1 Valencia) and then Bayern scored again twice after the half. I got to see Müller score live! I’d only watched one football game live before, and it was Feyenoord vs. Zwolle, and we were behind one goal and the only goals were in the other one. So yeah, this one was a bit better :)
The crowd was definitely Bayern friendly (with giant Bavarian flags being passed around the stands and constant cries of “Super Bayern!”), but I was excited to see Valencia score just to keep things interesting.
It was such a cool night – watching such a great game in such a beautiful stadium with such good people.
It’s things like this that really make me appreciate my Chinese language abilities. This is why it’s so fun for me to travel and live in China, because I can hear about opportunities like this and make them happen. So glad I noticed that poster in the subway and took a picture! Although huge credit also goes to GuoYang, who helped me extract the QR code, and Cheng, who actually bought the tickets.
The air looked terrible as we left the stadium. The official numbers said it was around ~50 but after a month and a half my eyes know >100 when they see it. I wonder what sort of clauses the players had for air quality – would they get more money if it was worse, or is there a point at which it would have been canceled? It’s sad, these athletes’ bodies are like finely tuned sports cars, and breathing the air in Beijing is like filling them with sewer oil.