The President left yesterday, and the Embassy breathed a collective sigh of relief as their workload racheted down a notch. Of course, there are still a bazillion other important folks roaming the streets of Beijing, so after they finished that sigh of relief, most of 'em went back to their desks and continued working.
George W, George Sr and Mrs. Bush all came to the new Embassy, which is scheduled to open shortly, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Immediately following, they planned to take a photo with the Embassy kids. Make that: they planned to take a photo with any Embassy kids whose parents wanted to wake up at 5 a.m., board a bus for the Embassy, and then sit in a holding room until 9 a.m. or so. Picture me, doing that with all four of mine? Me neither. Luckily, my neighbor graciously offered to escort Shay, who reallyreallyreally wanted to go. So off he went at 5 a.m. to hang with the Prez.
I hate going to those kinds of things because you usually spend a lot of time standing around, elbows deep in a crowd, but you seldom get close enough to throw out the phrase “last fall, when I was hanging out with the President…” Jimmy Carter came and went a few months back, giving an interesting speech but shaking few hands. I still remember waiting hours to see Madeline Albright (kind of a hero of mine), only to discover I was on the wrong side of the crowd and wouldn’t get close enough to shake her hand. So, wake up at 5 a.m. to stand around for nothing? Not me, no thanks. But apparently, the President did a fantastic job of working the line, shaking hands with just about all the kids there and stopping to talk to quite a few. The kids were thrilled. Shay even had a little chat with Laura Bush. Apparently, she apologized to him for making him get up so early, to which he responded “that’s okay, I’m not a sleep kind of a guy, anyway.”
My friend Jen was hired by the Embassy to photograph the event, but at the last minute, some evil secret service guy denied her access to the press box, even though she’d been cleared by the Embassy. So, sadly, I don’t have a picture to post here, yet. I’m told the White House photographer will be sending along a picture shortly. If so, I’ll post it here.
The Olympics are everywhere here, and in Chinese. Kinda fun to see the events live on TV and know they’re happening just down the street. It’ll be even more fun to go to an event this weekend. The Chinese are just so proud of themselves for hosting the Olympics – it’s interesting to be privy to all of this excitement. The stories I’ve read seem to make a big deal about their “nationalistic pride,” as if it’s a bad thing. But back in the States, we run our flags up poles and chant “USA.” Nothing wrong with being proud of your country, I think. I was in a hospital waiting room yesterday (another story entirely), and the waiting area was full of people watching synchronized diving. The Chinese guys were awesome, and the crowd was cheering, right there in the waiting room. And no, it wasn’t a “someday we will rule the world” kind of a cheer. It was just a regular old “go, hometown heroes” cheer.