The 29th Beijing Olympic Games were rated among the most successful events ever to be recorded by the International Olympic Committee. I am one of the lucky thousands to have enjoyed the intimate moments of life in Beijing over a good two week period. Enjoying not just pleasurable sporting moments but China’s cultural dynamism too.
The Chinese have transformed Beijing from a city of one option into a vibrant city of endless choices.
The Beijing Olympic Games experience unearthed many things; guess what…rubbing shoulders, dinning, chatting with the world’s leading sports-men - simply unimaginable!
The few that I managed to land on included Ronaldinho Gaucho (AC Milan), Kobe Bryant(Los Angeles Lakers),Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Juan Ramon Riquelme (Boca juniors),Janvier Masherano(Liverpool),Rafael Nadal(No.1 world tennis star),Roger Federer(No.2 world tennis star), Usain Bolt(100m Jamaican sprinter), Avram Grant(former Chelsea manager).
After the Games, I had a guided tour of Beijing to get a personal feel of the exquisite life the city had on offer for us visitors.
On offer were not only superb leisure facilities but also excellent services for visitors; whether they sought to dine, shop or just needed decent accommodation.
Globally China is a leading manufacturer of everything that an African like me needs for daily survival. An endless list of good quality products, that will withstand competition with say European or American products on any day.
These include beer, computers, all kinds of electronics, precious stones, fur clothing, assault rifles, light weight metals, posh cars and beverages to mention but a few.
The defining moment in my Beijing tour was when I actually ate from the select Chinese restaurants in town, now China is known for its world famous exquisite oriental cuisine.
So then imagine me at the source of the fine cuisine enjoying local delicacies especially the roasted Peking duck.
A standard Peking duck dinner (duck pancakes, scallions and duck soup) in some of the restaurants costs an average 60 yuan (approx. $9 per person).
But another place where I managed to trace another tasty Peking duck was at Liqun. Liqun is located in down-town Beijing easily identifiable through a wooden duck at the entrance; painted in black ink by the restaurant owner Zhang himself.
The restaurant is ancient, small and rather cramped. The ducks are roasted over an open fire using fragrant apple wood within the view of salivating diners – very popular amongst us foreigners. I even developed the palate for dog-meat digging heartily into this sophisticated dish on offer.
Chinese ‘wine’ is very different from the vintages you might drink in Europe, America or Africa. Closer to liquor than wine; it has an alcohol content of 38-60 percent and to drink these wines, you must be a hearty ‘Beijinger’ able to consume a multi-course meal. The national spirit is maotai, a throat-singeing rice wine usually served at national banquets as a starter wine.
Other popular brands which I managed to taste included; the five-grain liquor, fen liquor and grape wine of the great wall which was considered ‘real wine’ by my colleagues from Kenya and Uganda.
In Beijing a tour guide is essential, you need one or else it would be rather difficult to order, a dish of tasty dog-meat or to find your way around the busy city.
I only managed to pick a few Chinese words though it would certainly take me years to fully master their language.
Care for a little lesson?
Here we go; ‘zhen’ equates to ‘really’ or ‘authentic’ while ‘bang’ is a slang for ‘awesome’. ‘Jia you’ (Go go go) a popular chant among the Chinese fans as they cheered their country-persons.
‘Nihau’ means ‘how are you ’ while ‘wo yao qu’ would translate to I want to go, the character for ‘I, me’(wo) is placed before the character for ‘want’(yao), these are then followed by ‘go’(qu) to form the start sentence, I want to….’e.g., ‘wo yao qu can ting’ means ‘I want to go to the canteen’.
And now to the Chinese calendar
We are now in the year of the Rat which makes the start of a new 12-year cycle that symbolizes shrewd intelligence and quick-wittedness, and many parents whom I managed to talk to bestow these lucky charms on their children.
It follows the year of the pig, which is also popular in china because it implies wealth and prosperity due to its portly nature.
The twelve animals are in chronological order, the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Dragons and tigers are popular as they imply strength of character and power while the dog symbolizes honesty - but maybe its taste too.
The Chinese deserve the credit for hosting spectacular Olympic Games though I bet you if you think it’s an easy task; without sacrifice and patience, there is no way we (Rwandans) will develop to the level where China is today.
The memory of the 29th Beijing Olympic Games I will always carry close in my heart.