Contrary to popular belief, there is internet access in China. Obviously, I'm logging on pretty regularly to write this blog. I've been in country for almost a week now, and as strange as this may seem, I feel the need to defend China a little bit here.
Reading Jay Mariotti's column today in the Chicago Sun Times, I think I can add a little to the picture of Beijing that he's trying to paint prior to his arrival. Now, granted, my concern with the Games has been a bit more personal, like trying to avoid strange foods, and hoping to be able to get over jet lag. But I've also gone out into Beijing each and every day, preferring to get a taste of the city as opposed to being holed up in the media compound. Yeah, really. Me, going out in the city. Strange, I know.
What I've seen is a city that is trying extremely hard to be open and welcoming. Whether it's on the subway (which I've been on at least twice a day) or in the grocery store, or in the Silk Market, it's a country that is doing it's best to put on a great face for the Olympics and the crush of visitors it will see in the next couple of weeks. Sure, I ate at Papa John's, but I also ate in a small hole in the wall restaurant deep in the heart of a Chinese neighborhood that served a terrific roast duck meal. I've enjoyed mingling in the markets, and have been told that I have to get a Chinese finger press massage before I leave. No, there's not a happy ending involved in this procedure.
China is a fascinating place....a country that seems to have plenty of issues, for sure. But a country that seems to be filled with people who have an unabashed pride in their country. It's certainly been more than I expected on my first trip here, and I imagine most foreign journalists will feel the same way if they venture off the media road here in Beijing.