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Stephanie Neppl … Reporting from Beijing

By Staff | Aug 12, 2008

Reporting from Beijing, Stephanie Neppl shows her Chinese Coca Cola and Olympic ticket during the early rain.

Editor’s note: Stephanie Neppl, a 1993 graduate of Estherville High School, is currently the communications manager for the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand.

While attending the 2008 Olympics, Stephanie will submit articles on her experiences at the games in Beijing.

Her first two submissions are combined today.

Stephanie is the daughter of Linda and Craig Neppl of Estherville.

Kia ora from Beijing.

Stephanie Neppl, left, along with a group of American and Dutch women she met while standing in queues waiting for buses, show their disappointment after rain cut short their day to watch Olympic tennis. Photo submitted

It’s now been 48 hours since I landed at the Beijing airport. It was surreal being on a flight with Olympic athletes (we even clapped for them upon landing at the airport) and seeing the special queues for the athletes and officials. It’s an amazing feeling to see the Olympic signage all over the city and know that I am in the same place as so many world-class athletes.

The main event is now under way as I write this following last night’s four-hour opening ceremony. Heaps of Olympic tickets are available if you’re willing to pay the price and rumor has it someone paid US$30,000 for a single ticket to the opening ceremonies.

The motto for the 2008 Olympics is “One World, One Dream,” but during a lunch near Chaoyang Park (venue for the beach volleyball competition) yesterday, my friend and I were dining at an American restaurant which is one of Kathy’s usual hangouts.

We were in the middle of eating when the owner came up to us and told us the police had just come and ordered her to take down the American flag that was hanging outside its entrance.

When the owner (a Chinese woman married to an American) told the police that the restaurant served American food, she was told ‘but you aren’t American.’ As if that wasn’t enough, when we exited the restaurant we all noticed that a Chinese flag had been placed in the spot where the U.S. flag had been before.

The smog is pretty bad, but no worse (or better) than when I lived here before. It’s quite a transition from New Zealand’s lovely blue skies and fresh air, but this is part of life in Beijing. It’s a city of 14 million people, huge industries and a growing class of people who can now afford to buy cars.

Today we are off to watch the men’s cycling event, and tomorrow night (10 August) I will be watching first round tennis action.

Zai jian (goodbye)!

Monday, Aug. 11

I have had a nice few days wandering around the city and visiting old haunts.

I may have a bad memory, but the friendly locals seem very interested to chat with lao wai (foreigners). Yesterday I decided to go see my old neighborhood by the China Daily newspaper. I asked the Olympic volunteers (they are everywhere) for directions in my basic Mandarin, and was told where to go.

As soon as I started walking away a young Chinese man asked me in English if I understood where to go. He was a student at a nearby university and we had a nice chat and he made sure I was heading in the right direction.

Whether or not I speak to the locals in English or Mandarin they have been very friendly. However, as an American, I was definitely shaken by the murder of an American man here on the weekend.

In my two years living here here I never felt unsafe, so the news that two Americans were attacked in broad daylight at a very popular tourism attraction is pretty unnerving, but hopefully it truly was an isolated incident.

Yesterday I was buzzing to go to my first Olympic event. Sad to say, it was a bit of debacle (I’m sure I’ll laugh someday). I headed on the subway toward the Olympic Green for my tennis night session, and then joined a long queue of people waiting for the bus to go to the venues.

The heat and humidity were pretty unbearable but we all crammed into the bus and made our way. When the bus passed by the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube it was amazing; sadly it was very smoggy so they didn’t appear in their full glory.

We got to the Olympic Green and went through all the security checks without incident. Then the rains came; not just a light sprinkling but a full-on thunderstorm with huge bolts of lightning. We all stood in the rain for about an hour until everyone was soaked. They finally cancelled the night’s matches and told us we could get our money back. I spoke to quite a few people who were so bummed as it was the only event they’d had tickets to. Thanks Mother Nature.

I’ve managed to get a ticket to tomorrow’s tennis so let’s hope for a better Olympic experience!