August 13, 2008

As a coach, I build my swimmers' training around rest. It's when their bodies recover, when they get stronger and sets them up for the next training cycle. After two days of World Records, Great Walls, Gary Halls, and the Today show, today was my equivalent of a rest day. With ten people here and just four swimming tickets, it was also my turn out of the ticket rotation, so no swimming (except on TV where we watched five World Records go down) today or tomorrow.

Here's what I've decided - rest is over-rated. I'm chompin at the bit, have the Olympic bug, spring fever, call it what you want, but tomorrow I need to get into an Olympic venue and I don't care what sport. In fact, I'd love to try out a few new events, especially after hanging out watching soccer and volleyball on the bigscreen at an outdoor pub with some Brit rugby players.

Even though it was a rest day, I still put on about 7 miles of walking according to the GPS, and about half of that was spent climbing steps to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is where seemingly every emperor prior to 1860 hung out to keep cool. In 1860 though everything was burned down by invaders (think the Chicago fire but set by Mongols not Mrs. O'Leary's cow). Like most modern pork-barrel spending, the Summer Palace was constructed with funds from someone else's budget. In this case it was the Navy's. Though there's a marble boat there as a monument, the Navy would have preferred, to Quote the Insider's Guide to Beijing, "real ships to marble ones - the fleet was decimated in 1894 by the Japanese."
The Summer Palace - like everything else here (the Great Wall, Tinnamen Square, Forbidden City, and traffic) - is vast. It's also quite a hike. Confuscius says a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step, and if that's the case, the Summer Palace chould serve as the launching pad for a million lightyear space journey. The attached photo was taken from almost the top of the Buddhist temple where, there was (not suprisingly) a brass Budda. They wouldn't let you take photos of the Budda, but they would let you buy one for about 25 RMB.
After hiking through the summer palace, Roberto, Crystal and I jumped in Mr. Leo's (our driver for the week) van to head back to swimming. Roberto and Crystal actually went swimming - I went exploring the many neighborhoods called Hutongs. These are little alleyways that are formed with the walls of peoples residences. From the outside they are pretty run-down, but inside each block of about four houses is a courtyard, some of which are apparently pretty elaborate (I haven't been bold enough to just barge into someone's house asking if I can see their courtyard).
I wound up in a bit of a jazzed-up nightlife area. It was really reminiscent of the San Antonio Riverwalk area. Every restaurant/pub had either volleyball (China vs. Cuba) or futbol (China vs. Brasil) on it. I stopped in one place which had a lot of Chineese folks in Brazilian attire, but since my Portugese was about as useful as my Chinese, I meandered down a little further until I happened across three British rugby players. Sure they were anglo English speakers, but it was great because it gave another chance to interact with different folks. They also told me how they'd seen team handball, fencing, archery, equestrian and beach volleyball.
Also made me resolve to not pursue a second "Rest Day" and get out to see some events tomorrow.



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