Harmonious Asia

The Asian Games officially arrived in Guangzhou on Friday. With the arrival of the Asian Games came some changes to our fair city. Since we have arrived, the city has been dolling itself up for the influx of new visitors. Potted flowers have been placed about the city in the millions, if not billions. Commercials will assault you on public transportation and in your own home to remind you of the goal for a ‘Courteous Guangzhou.’ The city has even armed itself with 500,000 cheerful volunteers- in splendorous neon green uniforms and on every street corner.

The month of November even started out with the promise of free public transportation throughout the city. However, after a very crowded first week on the bus and metro, the city thankfully canceled this incentive.

But the day of the opening ceremony was still a bit crazy. All of the teachers from Ben’s school and I live very close to the opening ceremony, so before heading to work we had to get special passes to allow us past security and into our neighborhood to get back home. Work was slow since all classes were canceled. Classes were canceled because the government closed the schools and businesses to encourage the residents to attend the opening ceremony. We still went to work in case any students came by on their day off to check out our services… no one did.

My boss cleverly allowed us to leave at 4:30, knowing that the traffic would be difficult. However, I ended up staying for another 2 hours with my coworkers who live right next to the school. When I finally braved the bus, it was far more crowded than I’ve ever seen it… and that’s saying a lot. But it wasn’t so bad, because everyone was really understanding about everyone else’s situation and therefore very courteous. Still, my bus driver wasn’t able to get to my stop because it’s too close to the opening ceremony so instead I got off at a random stop that I felt was near my home. When I asked a neon volunteer which direction Zhujiang New Town is in, he replied, “Taxi.” However, as there were no taxis available, I found a metro station and made my way into the even-more-crowded-than-the-bus train. As crowded and crazy as my journey had been so far, it still wasn’t over. Once I was able to break out of the station, I still had to deal with the thousands of people trying to get near the Asian Games. After another good 20 minutes marching through crowds I was finally near enough to be able to show my pass to one of the dozens of military personnel. He kindly directed me through a funnel made of military personnel/neon volunteers linked arm in arm- each of whom approved of my pass. Once into my neighborhood I was pleasantly surprised to find it less busy than usual.

Ben and his coworkers had even more of a trial on their way home. But once they made it through we all met up at Landa’s apartment to watch the opening ceremony on TV. You should look the footage up- it was pretty incredible and it really made me wish we were seeing it in person. Each time the fireworks started, however, we ended up missing it. We tried to climb to the building’s roof to see it, just to find it uncharacteristically locked. Then we tried to run through the streets to see it all, but this plan was thwarted by a busy elevator and tall buildings. The result being that we missed all of the fireworks. But we had some fun nonetheless.

On our day off we later decided to go out for dinner and attempt to catch a football game in big, beautiful Tianhe Sports Center. We ended up watching the United Arab Emirates beat the Athletes of Kuwait 2 to 0. Making our Asian Games experience more full, but not complete- there’s still the closing ceremony, after all…

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