Monthly Archives: August 2008

Day 10 — Beijing Olympic Vacation

Today was our last day in Beijing.  Last night as Craig stayed late on the Olympic Green to get his final HDR (High Dynamic Range) shots of the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube and the other great buildings that China constructed for this event, the girls and I took the Olympic Bus to the Metro and headed home.  Our driver our final day of sightseeing was scheduled to arrive at 8:30 AM and with the non-stop schedule we had been keeping, I really wanted to get the girls to bed before midnight.  

Our plans for the final day included seeing the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China.  While we have spent the last few weeks marveling at the new openness of China, we also wanted to make sure that we took time to also explore the marvels of its past.  I had seen videos on the Forbidden City and the mass of land that it spanned and how until even the beginning of this century that it was open to only the Emperor’s and their families.  It is amazing complex that spans 990 buildings and in almost 3 hours we managed to make it through only less that 1/3 of the building that were open to the public.  

As we left the Forbidden City, our driver took us for about an hour and a half drive to the Great Wall.  On the way we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in rural China that, in the words of my sister, had “great, authentic Chinese food.”  She was right about the food being great.  It was spectacular!  I was slightly worried about other issues related to the sanitary nature of the place, for example…the waiters didn’t have shirts, but as I looked around neither did most of the other male patrons.  We were instructed to wash our hands from water that came out of a pipe in the wall and fell into a bucket of already semi-brown water.  There was a really nice television on the wall, but the floor looked like it had not been cleaned in several days.  Our driver, Albert, who spoke a little English and great Mandarin, ordered for us.  And after about 6 plates of family style dining food, the Maccubbin family was definitely full!  (Only three of us really ate, Summer just had this horrid look on her face until they brought her a bowl of plain white rice and then her world was totally fine!)  Albert had ordered for all of us (we never even saw a menu, but this didn’t look like a place that actually even had a menu) so we were at his mercy regarding what we actually ate.  But every plate of food they brought tasted so very good!  

Albert had ordered beer for Craig and tea for the girls and me.  I kept drinking Craig’s beer because I figured if there were really a health issue here, the alcohol would kill what ever it was on the way down.  After we left the restaurant we traveled through rural China and on to the Great Wall.  The mountains were beautiful and the Wall was amazing, but it did take a climb.  We reached the platform with the Cable Car entrance and then rode up to the wall the rest of the way.  It was amazing to be on one of the Seven Wonders of the World that you have heard so much about.  

As we headed back to the house, it was about 4:30 in the afternoon.  And Cathy had ordered us Peking Duck for dinner.  Our evening plans (for the girls) included visiting the Tailor for our clothes and getting manicures and pedicures so that we could look great for the first day of school.  Craig’s evening plans include another foot and back massage at the spa downstairs.  It was a great evening and we all headed home to pack.  Our flight in the morning was scheduled to take off at 9 AM, so we needed to be at the airport by 7 AM.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Olympic Journal — Days 6-9

One of my goals for this vacation was to share it with everyone back home by sending updates. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded at this, but I definitely am failing on the homestretch!

The first thing I need to let you all know is that we made it out of Hong Kong before the Typhoon hit. Our last two days there were as beautiful as the first one, which I wrote about in my Day 5 journal.

Our final equestrian tickets gave us a chance to see the medal round of the Dressage Event. Dressage is a term for dancing horses and we really got to see some good ones! The gold medallist from the Netherlands also won gold in the same event in the last two Olympics, her third gold medal set an Olympic record!

Day 7 was the first day of our vacation that we did not have any Olympic tickets, so we decided to take a harbor tour of Hong Kong. This involved a 3-hour boat ride around Hong Kong Island with a view of the world’s largest suspension bridge and the world’s third most high traffic port! This made my husband, the photographer, very happy! And as with all the shots, he is still working through them. We also ended up on the same boat with the Canadian Equestrian Team! If you remember this team was in a jump off with the US for the Gold medal and the US won. So needless to say, I did not haul out my USA jacket, but my husband really enjoyed talking with them.

In the evening of Day 7 we headed out to try to find the Hong Kong Olympic Superstore and we ended up in “Times Square” of Hong Kong Island. It was most amazing to see a 7 floor high end shopping mall with stores like Cartier and Dior next to mom and pop stands selling fruit and tourist items. There seemed to be millions of people everywhere that we went!

Day 8 was our day to fly back to Beijing from Hong Kong. We had a 4 PM flight, but when it is an international flight and when you are not a citizen of either country involved in the flight AND when this includes a family with children…you better allot at least half a day of travel to the airport and prep time. So we left for the airport around 1 PM. But our stay at he Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong was a pretty amazing experience! I loved writing from the 53rd floor overlooking Hong Kong Harbor and I truly enjoyed breakfast buffet and sitting and reading the Olympic section of the South China Times!

Day 9 found us back in Beijing and with three Olympic events:
11 AM — Gold Medal round of Men’s Beach Volleyball! It was a long hard fight, but the USA won! The Maccubbins’ have been very blessed at the number of events where they have had medal ceremony ticket and where the US has won the Gold. (Maybe we are a good luck charm!)
3 PM – Synchronized Swimming — I wish we had seen more of this event, but they cracked down pretty hard on security and it took us a whole lot longer than we expected to get through security. The USA was awesome, and tied for 5th in the Team Technical Program
6 PM – Gold Medal Match of Field Hockey – China vs. the Netherlands (after watching several events, I’ve decided that if I ever get kicked out of the US, the Netherlands is the country where I’d like to next be a citizen. And if dual citizenship is an option, I’m ready!) I don’t know much about the political leanings of the Netherlands, but I really like the spirit of their people!

On Day 10 we head for the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. A bit of history before we leave Asia. We have all been very blessed to see this side of the world in both its past and its future glory! I can’t begin to put into words what an awesome vacation this has been for all of us!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Day 5 — Beijing Olympic Journal

I can only thing of one word to describe this day and that is definitely WOW!  So far there have been two real stand out days with regards to our event tickets.  The first was the day we saw Nastia win the Women’s Individual Overall Gold and the second was today, our first day of Equestrian events. 

I think I’ve lost all sense of time during this vacation, because right now I’m not sure I could tell you what day of the week it is and I have no sense of what time it here vs. the actual time back home, so when I write I want to be careful not to write about something you will hear about tonight during Prime Time.  In other words, I don’t want to tell you who won the Super Bowl before it happens in your space-time continuum.  

Today we woke up at 4 AM to make our 7:45 AM international flight to Hong Kong.  I have decided that I love Asia and I want to explore more of it.  Our flight to Hong Kong was about 4 hours on Cathay Pacific.  We arrived in Hong Kong just before noon and took the Airport Express train to Hong Kong Island and then a shuttle bus to our hotel.  Hong Kong looks like a state of the art central business district and a Caribbean Island combined.  The mountains seem to shoot out of the beautiful blue waters in the same way that the skyscrapers do. 

After checking in to our hotel we went to a burger place in the mall for lunch.  My sister has lived in China for two years and was craving a real American Hamburger.  And we found a pretty good one for her in Hong Kong.  After lunch we came back to the hotel and while my family took a quick nap, I caught up on my writing while Cathy (my sister) worked on our itinerary for tomorrow.  Pretty soon it was 5 PM and it was time to head to the Equestrian venue for our 7:15 PM event. 

The one disadvantage we have in Hong Kong is that we have lost our language specialist.  In China they speak Mandarin, but in Hong Kong, while English is more prevalent, their main language is Cantonese.  The written characters are the same or similar, but the spoken language is very different.  So all instructions to our cab drivers must be in written form.

Since there were five of us, it was cheaper to catch a cab to our venue rather than take the subway.  Per the instructions from the IOC, we arrived (via cab) at the parking area where we loaded up on double-decker buses, which then transported us directly to the stadium for the Jumping Competition.   My girls, who rarely even get to ride a school bus, were more than excited by the opportunity to ride “upstairs” on the bus. 

The jumping competition was hot and steamy and the girls were a bit exhausted from our 4 AM morning wake up.  The first portion of the competition was the 3rd round of Individual Qualifiers.  The events are in the evenings here because it is so hot that it is only time it is bearable for the horse to come out of their luxury, air-conditioned stables. 

The second half of the competition was the team jumping competition.  For this competition we had the privilege of seeing four US riders jump for a team medal.  Throughout this competition, three countries – the US, Canada and Great Britain went back and forth in the standings.  While Craig and Cathy were enjoying getting some great pictures, the girls were hot and tired and wanted to go back to the hotel.  But the US was too close and the last rider was a US rider.  I really wanted to see if they could pull off the Gold. 

As the last rider for the US pulled off a penalty free run, I was sure we were going to watch Team USA take home the Gold.  But as we have learned in this Olympics, things are not always that clear cut.   As they posted the scores, the officials announced that there would be a “Jump Off” between the US and Canada for the Gold Medal.  This involved redoing the jumping gates and having all four jumpers for each country re-jump.  It was a pretty amazing experience and while we gathered together and screamed and waived our flags with a bunch of other crazy Americans (some with Red, White and Blue wigs on), we watched the US Jumpers pulled off three flawless performances to win the Gold.

One of the things that has not lost its sense of awe and wonder for me is to be a part of the masses when our National Anthem is played.  I can get so lost in the meaning of the song and the lives that were (and are still being) sacrificed so that we can be part of a country as great as the United States of America. 

When they announced the US team, we pulled out our large American flag to waive it and support our team, but it was late and the girls were pretty tired, so after 10 minutes or so, I had to enlist a little help holding the flag from another American behind me.  As we got to the point in the ceremony where they were raising the flags and playing the Star-Spangled Banner, I went to put down the flag we were holding so that I could put my hand over my heart.  When I went to thank her for helping me hold our flag she responded:   

“Don’t put it down now! We’ve got to keep supporting them!” 

It was a great end to a great evening.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Day 4 — Beijing Olympic Journal

Remember how I promised to get up in the morning and finish my Day 3 journal before Day 4 started.   Well, I failed! 

Craig and Cathy woke up early (around 8 AM) to go to the vegetable market.  Cathy wanted to get her fruits and vegetables and Craig wanted the chance to take some photos.   My intentions were to get up and write about Day 3 and then have the kids up and ready by 9:15 (when they returned) so we could make it to our Beach Volleyball game by 10 AM.  These tickets were to the Women’s Quarterfinal Match that we knew would feature the USA Beach Volleyball Team.   I must have been super tired, because I did not even hear Craig get up and leave for the market.  The first thing I remember is waking up and looking at the clock that read “9:15.”  We made a mad dash and managed to get ready and to the venue by 10 AM.  I wasn’t too worried, because up until now, security had moved pretty quickly.  But today was obviously an exception.  

We did not get through the security checkpoint until almost 10:35.  We dashed to our seats to make the last half of the last set of the USA vs. Brazil game, which the US easily won.  The most important thing was we had great seats and Craig got a chance to shoot some really good photos of the USA team (even clear shots of their tattoos).   I’ll be sure to post a link to his photos once he gets them online. 

When we were done with the Beach Volleyball game, it was lunchtime and we took a leisurely walk home from the venue.  As part of “Olympification” (a term that my sister gives to all the changes that have happened in Beijing over the last year to prepare for the Olympics) they added a new high-end shopping mall between the Beach Volleyball stadium and my sister’s apartment.  Craig and the girls have been anxious to visit this mall and decided it might be fun to stop for lunch on the way back.  One lesson we have learned the hard way is that if you don’t speak the language and you don’t have someone with you who does, you aren’t going to get very far.  We found the food court and some of it looked very appetizing, but its really difficult to bring yourself to order food (or even communicate with employees what you would like) when you have no idea what you are really about to eat.  About 30 minutes into this adventure (when we were all really starving), we decided that the leftover chili back at Cathy’s apartment was starting to look really good! 

The afternoon of Day 4 was reserved for shopping at the markets.  Beijing is famous for its markets!  First, we stopped at the Dirt Market.  This massive covered market was for the more modest shoppers and a place where you were much more likely to find the touristy stuff.  This market was also covered with an abundance of handmade and carved items that looked like they came from rural China.   If the theme of your home décor has an Asian flavor to it, you would have been in heaven shopping at this market.  I could have spent hours here. 

Our second stop was the more famous Silk Market.  This market is indoors and looks like a someone took a the Shrinky Dink paper to a typical American Shopping Mall.  The stores/stalls were smaller, but the merchandise was pretty much the same.  The Silk Market is focused on clothes, jewelry, luggage, handbags and other similar items.   I got a beautiful strand of pearls and a skirt and Craig got two pairs of cufflinks.  

Sydney may have scored the biggest find of the day, her new dream purse. 

The key to market shopping is good bargaining techniques and knowing just the right time to walk away.  Since most vendors speak limited English, they use a calculator to display their starting price.  You then take the calculator and type in what you are willing to pay.  With Syd’s purse, the vendors starting prices was 830 RMB or about $130.  By the end of the transaction she had them down to 150 RMB or about $20.  Needless to say she is very proud of her new purse. 

We finished our day with Dinner at a Chinese Restaurant in an old historic Park in the Embassy District.  We headed home with our finds and prepared for our potential appointment with the tailor for a first fitting of our clothes.  When we called at 8 PM, our clothes weren’t quite ready yet, so we packed for Hong Kong and headed to bed.  Our flight to Hong Kong was at 7:45 AM and we have to be at the airport at 5:45 since it is an international flight!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Day 3 — Beijing Olympic Journal

Day 3 and 4 were a bit slower for us.  We only had tickets to one event each day.  On Saturday, we saw Trampoline Gymnastics; an event I never even knew existed before.  We headed to the subway around our usual 9 AM hour (our event started at 11 AM).  The subway ride is about 30 minutes, but by the time you clear security and transfer stations to catch the Olympic Metro line with the masses, the arrival time was about 30 minutes prior to the start of our event. 

Trampoline gymnastics is interesting, but it did not hold the level of fascination that some of the other events did.  Most countries, including the US, were represented by two athletes; one woman and one man.  China was the only country to have two of each in this event and was the main medal winner in this sport. 

As we left the trampoline gymnastic competition, we headed on the mile long walk to McDonalds.   While it is tough to get the Maccubbin girls to walk a mile for anything, when your only other dining choice for lunch is bread and water, they will walk a mile to McDonalds with a loaded backpack.  We have come to the conclusion that McDonalds, as part of their sponsorship agreement with the IOC, negotiated that all other food vendors could only serve bread and water (or similar food products). 

Next to the 25,000 square foot standalone McDonalds is the Olympic SuperStore.  About twice the size of the McDonalds building, the exterior of this building looks like a ride at Disney.  The line waiting to get in snakes around the maze of ropes that have been placed outside to contain the crowds and while the littlest Maccubbin is desperate to go shopping for more “Fu ahs” (little creatures that have to be modeled after the Teletubbies, which are the official mascots of the Olympic Games).  We tell her there is no way we are waiting in line for 2 hours to shop at the SuperStore.  We will find them elsewhere. 

Secretly, I’m hoping for a clearance sale at the end of the Games where everything…including “Fu ahs” are 50% off or more.   But this is probably not going to happen. 

We left the Olympic Green and arrived home at about 3 PM, most of us relished the idea of a quick nap before we headed off to see the Flying Acrobat Show.  Cathy had almost front row seats at a Chinese Theatre for the event.  It is always fascinating to see the risks that these folks will take to impress the audience.  Several times I leaned over to Summer to reminder her that we need “to work on that stunt” with the cheer team when we get home.  However, most of the pyramids involved more than the 9 girls that she has on her cheer team!

For dinner on Day 3 we headed home and cooked some good old Texas chili in Cathy’s kitchen.  As we were cooking dinner, we sent Craig downstairs to the Spa for a foot and back massage.  For about $20 he got a great 45 minutes massage.  After dinner, I spent time writing, but was pretty exhausted and headed to bed. 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Day 2 — Beijing Olympic Journal

I love my sister’s apartment in Beijing. Right now I am sitting on her 13-floor balcony overlooking the City. From my view I can see new shopping malls and Olympic venues. I can also see older apartment buildings that remind me of my days in Washington DC. Beijing reminds me a lot of DC. The transportation is very similar and our lifestyle (at least this week) is much the same. Wake up. Grab some breakfast. Run downstairs and grab the paper. Head out the door and walk two blocks to the metro. Metro to the Olympic Green (along with the masses that are traveling to work). Enjoy our day at the Games and grab the metro home. If we want to go out for dinner in the evening, we either walk to the metro or grab a bus or cab.

Metro is free (if you have an Olympic ticket for the day). Most of the metro lines just opened in the last year, so it is modern, new and very clean. The bus ride is 1 RMB (US equivalent is about 30 or 40 cents). The cab ride is 10 to 12 RMB for about a 10 minute ride (or about $1.40).

And there’s my favorite mode of transportation…the little guy on the bike with the carriage on the back. He too, charges 10 RMB for a 10-minute ride, but somehow I feel we should be paying him more.

For Day 2 we had tickets to two events: Artistic Gymnastics – Women’s All-Around Finals. I didn’t blog last night because I didn’t want to blow the surprise. We Won! TWICE! It was pretty amazing to watch Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson take home those medals. The girls and I were waving the flags and wearing our Frisco shirts and crying along with them when the played the National Anthem. It’s very cool to watch a local girl take home the Gold.

In the evening Craig and the girls got to see both swimming and diving at the Water Cube. They watched the diving practice (my husband photographer was in heaven here!) as well as some swimming heats.

Because we only had three tickets to each event, Craig and I split the events with the girls. Needless to say, our two little ones fell asleep really fast last night.

My free evening gave me a chance to go to dinner with my sister, something we don’t get to do very often. She took us to one of her favorite Italian restaurants where we had great pasta and wine and caught up on each other’s lives. And on the way home (I convinced her to take the bike with the carriage)…we crashed the USA House.

The USA House is the Headquarters/hangout for the USA Team. The athletes come here to relax, hang out and watch the events. It is exclusive access for the athletes, their families and other US diplomatic personnel. Most importantly, it is the exclusive site for US Olympic Team clothing! My sister’s diplomatic credentials got us in and my VISA got us out.

We made it home to a tired, but overwhelmingly fun day. So far, no problem transitioning to a 12-hour time change, but our schedule has been non-stop and the girls have crashed fast!

I’m only one day behind on the “the blog.” Craig and Cathy are headed to the vegetable market in the morning, so I will catch you up on Day 3 before we head to the Quarterfinal match of Women’s Beach Volleyball. Then we have to hit the Silk Market and have our fitting with the Lisa’s Taylor Shop before heading to Hong Kong really early on Monday Morning. I’ll send you more from there!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Our first Olympic Day!

Today was a great first day at the Olympics. My sister Cathy lives within walking distance to the Beach Volleyball venue (our first tickets to the Games!). Our walk this morning was about a mile and a half, but since we had all day tickets we left a little late. The Chinese are fascinated with our pre-teen girls, so our mile and a half walk was also delayed by the requests of several groups of Chinese fans who wanted to take pictures with them.

As we came through the airport last night and entered our first venue today I was amazed at the amount of work the Chinese people have put into these Olympics. But sometimes the most entertaining things are free. I have decided that (at least in China) people watching has been taken to the level of an Olympic sport. Craig took some great pictures today, which I will try to post tomorrow, but it was fascinating to watch the fans go all out for the country of their choice.

But even amidst the great infrastructure, there were also some seemly simple things that were a bit lacking. For example lunch at the Beach Volleyball Venue: Our choices were dry ramen noodles, bread, sausage (this one is a bit hard to describe…maybe like a cooked but cold spicy hotdog) and biscuits (don’t think Babe’s here…biscuits in China are a bag of Oreo cookies). So for lunch we had bread, water and Oreo cookies. But what is great, are the prices. We can feed an entire family of four lunch for less than $5, including Coke. And while I didn’t partake of any today, beer is about 80 cents a serving.

About 2 PM, the thunderstorms headed our way. I guess those rain dispersion missiles failed, or they were on lunch break and fired them too late and the rain actually dispersed on Beijing. Either way, true to form, the Chinese were prepared. The volunteers handed out rain ponchos to everyone in the crowd (at no cost to us). Our walk home was about 2 ½ miles because I was just SURE that I could find us a short cut (twice) in which we ended up walking in a circle in the pouring rain. Despite my attempts to sing Girl Scout camp songs to cheer them up, everyone was pretty miserable and soaked by the time we got back to the apartment.

But not to worry…things got better.

Tonight Cathy took us to one of her favorite restaurants in Beijing! We feasted on great dumplings, rice, edamame and noodles and yes, some Chinese beer. We were totally stuffed when we left! It was one of those restaurants where we had to have reservations well in advance and we could not be late or they will not take you. Dinner for the 5 of us was a total of $40. And if you tip at a restaurant in China, they will not accept it (part of the culture).

Our final event of the evening was to visit Cathy’s tailor. Lisa’s Taylor Shop in Beijing makes great custom suits, shirts and dresses. Three custom suits and six custom shirts for Craig cost us less than one affordable off-the-rack suit would have cost in the States.

This may have been the girls favorite part of the day as the started designing their own custom dresses and pulling fabric off the wall showing the tailors exactly what they were looking for! Our first fitting is on Sunday before we leave for Hong Kong. It will be interesting to see if these girls have a future in fashion design!

It’s almost midnight here, which means its Noon in Texas. Tomorrow morning… our first visit the Olympic village and the Women’s Final Individual Gymnastics Competition. We will be wearing our Frisco Shirts and waving our American Flag!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Created for Community

Some of the most favorite years of my life were the ones I spent in Washington DC.  It was a place where I was certain that God wanted me at that time in my life.  It was where I met and married my husband and delivered our two babies.  DC was, and still is, a City where many people are very different from one another.  I always feel I have a lot to learn from those who are very different from me.  

One of the more famous churches in Washington DC is the Church of the Savior.  I am still a huge fan of their work and ministry.  I subscribe to their daily devotional and Saturdays are especially great.  Today was no exception, so I wanted to share it with each of you.  

http://www.inwardoutward.org/?p=793

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized