Monday, September 1, 2008

Last Post for some time

Hello all. I want to thank you for visiting my site and reading about my travels. The experience of writing a blog has been very interesting. While I certainly have the time to write I find that I want to take some time off. This will be my last post for a long time. In the year before the next Olympics I might start this again. Thanks again all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pictures and Chwar

These are photos from my time here. My sister got shirts that had the website on them for my competition. I thought that was pretty cool. The last couple of days I have been watching modern pentathlon and eating out. The Chwar (meat on stick) last night was so good. Chile drenched and perfectly tender. They are a lot like the spicy cheetos. If you stop eating them they get to hot.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cooking School in Beijing

Today I am blogging from the Lenovo Ilounge at the Bank of America home town hopefuls. The bank of america house is very nice offering families and olympians a place to relax, get tickets, eat, and have something to drink.

I took a cooking class on wednesday at a cooking school in Beijing. Despite some intial trouble trying to find it we arrived ten minutes early. The school is small with only 12 or so classrooms. Some of the rooms were big enough for 18 people and a couple of others had full sized kitchen woks.

Our instructor was a famous sichuan chef. I didnt know him but the school indicated that he was very young and very famous. After 5 hours of cooking I was very impressed with his skill. Everything he made tasted fabulous.

The first dish he taught us was Kung Poa chicken. We learned how to de skin and fry peanuts. I think he taught us how to de skin peanuts so that we would do it for him. While no hard there is a special technique that takes a while to learn. When frying peanuts you have to scoop some up and let them drop on the other peanuts. When the falling peanuts hitting the other peanuts start to sound hard that is when they are done.

Saving all the oil he drained the peanuts and moved onto making fresh chile oil by fring chiles in oil and then draining off the chiles. The chicken was coated with corn starch and egg white then fried. To finish the dish the chef sauted some large scallion, garlic, vinegar, laoxing wine, sugar, msg, and salt with the chile oil. He threw in the chicken and peanuts and it was ready to serve. It was not super spicy but it was very delicious.

The second dish was sweet and spicy beef. The process was much the same. The main flavor for this dish was a chile bean paste. The one thing the chef added to the beef coating was baking soda. This was my favorite dish. The peppers and beef really stood out on their own. The sauce took a back seat but made the dish.

The final dish was peppers in oyster sauce. Very straightforward. Pull out stems on peppers, cut into thin strips, saute with oyster sauce and normal mise en place. These were very good. The only problem is that when I made them for the group we had a lot of peppers to cut. The room filled with capasin and we all were coughing. Even the head chef had trouble breathing. Too many peppers in a room with poor ventalation is a bad idea.

All who wanted to got to try there hand at the wok. I have used woks in the US but never like this. The wok was small but utilitarian. The hand so short and close the the flame that you needed a soaked rag to hold it. The flame underneath looked like the exhaust from a jet engine. When i tried flipping a dish like a pancake i found out exactly how hot the flame is. When flipping things in a wok do not put your hand in the flame. The comibination of fire and chile oil on my hands tingled for the rest of the day.

Overall it was a great day. The cooking class was fun and the food all very good. I would recommend if you are in beijing seeing if you can get into a cooking school.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Palace and Dining Out

So after the big day what does an olympian do? Enjoy the city. Paige suggested that we go to the summer palace and what a great idea it was. The summer palace was great. A huge lake, the worlds largest covered walkway and a number of pagodas.

I orginally thought the summer palace was small but I could not have been more wrong. The palace covers more than 200 hundred acres and has all sorts of buildings. We didnt get the audio tour so I am not sure about the history of each building. The one thing that stands out though is the tranquility of the place. Despite 12000 plus people things were quiet and reserved. The food and drink was cheap and the building intricatlly painted. My favorite things besides the annoying cicadas (why must ye be so loud) was the high bridges. I am not sure why a bridge must be so steep but they are so pretty.

After the palace I at at the training center and watched half of the womens final. Vezzali from Italy is the most intense competitor I have ever seen. After a short cab ride and an infuriating 2 mile walk involving security (where I had to argue to keep the two cans of diet coke I brought) I made it back to my hotel.

My sister, paige, and ben (sisters boyfriend) and I headed out to dinner. Depsite a misunderstanding and some dangerous road crossing we found a place to eat. We had four beers wich were cold and tasy. 14 kebabs of lamb which tasted exsquisite (all of which were very small). The lamb and daikon radish soup could not have been more perfect. To top it off I had some bajou. After ordering and a small chuckle form the waiter that spoke no english a small crowd gathered to watch me drink the 56% liqour. Depsite the alcohol content and the fact that my tongue went numb the stuff is pretty good. The dinner was great and in the end the total bill was 12 dollars US. I couldnt believe it. Wanting ice cream we headed next door and bought what I thought was ice cream. Turns out I have no idea what the frozen treat we had was. It tasted like something but I cant figure out what.

Overall a great day. Pretty relaxing. I am looking forward to our tour tomorrow. We are eating with a family, visting some old houses, eating peking duck, seeing the night market (where they sell scorpion, silk worm, and bull testicles) and seeing an acrobat show. Should be fun.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mens Epee Individual

Well the big day has come and gone. I found out who my draw was two days before the event, jeanett from france. I never thought I would curse my high ranking but Jeanett should not be ranked 28th.

Jeanett had to fence a bout before he got to me. The kirgistan guy fenced really well. The match was close all the way and for moments I thought Jeanett would lose. But every time Katurchin changed so did Jeanett. Katurchin just ran out of things to go to and Jeanett won by a slim but easy margin in the end.

After months of politicking, arguing, and bargaining I wasnt able to have my real strip coach with me. Cody Mattern has been the best coach to me. I really felt that together this year we did some great things and I had some huge results. I am thankful though that on the big day I at least had Ed Korfanty. Ed was my coach for 6 years. He really built the foundation of what I do on the strip and even after not giving an epee lesson for 8 years he did an amazing job. Although he was a little winded.

As I walked onto the floor I heard three things Kevin MO to my left. Andrea Lagan to my right and a huge american delegation with my family cheering at the top of their lungs. I am very lucky to have such great support.

In my bout with Jeanett things started off bad. I was hesitant and I wasnt retreating fully. So Jeanett hit me in the leg three times as I retreated to what I thought was a safe distance. Looking at the score 3-0 I thought to myself "Seth you should probably try an action." So I tried some actions and I tied it at the end of the first period. In the second period I managed to get the lead but then ended down 1 at the break. Jeanett was moving well but I was able to jam him up. It is so hard to move with him. You just never know when he might go.

In the final period i got down 13-10. I rushed forward getting a quick touch. I rushed forward again we both miss but I hit the remise. the judge awards the point. Jeanett asks for the review and my touch is overturned. time running out. I try to draw him out and take the blade but lady luck was on vacation.

I fenced a good bout. There are things I could have done better. but I was happy with what I did. Men's epee right now is very deep. There are a lot of talented fencers in the world. I just happened to draw the one that was fencing great that day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pearl Market, Temple of Heavan, Zoo, and Practice

Well it has been a busy couple of days. I have been practicing hard in the mornings and then trying to go out in the afternoon.

So far this week I have gone to the Pearl market, Temple of Heavan and the Zoo. The pearl market was similar to the silk market. Crazy sales ladies. However the setup was a little nicer and the selection of products was different. The bottom floor has electronics the other floors soft goods and on the 4th and fifth floor the pearls. Our team manager Bob has done business with on the of stores for a number of years and they treated us great. RuPeiPei is the name of the store. They had every kind of pearl you could want. If you wanted a necklace with certain pearls they would just make it for you right their. Cody bought some simple and elegant pearl necklace and earings. I think a set was 13 dollars. No haggling.

The temple of heaven was fun to see. You really feel like you have taken a break from the city. I stood where heaven could her me. There are these rings and then one stone. Seemed like a big deal. The building were very ornate. I guess this was essentially a agricultural beaucratic center. However the main temple was awesome. Towering and intricitly detailed. China really put some work into this thing. I think it is one the of the largest wooden structures in the world. I seem to remember that it has been rebuilt several times.

i have mixed feelings about zoo's. they are sad in that the animals dont roam as they are supposed to. On the other hand it has to be better to bring the animals to the city rather than the city to the animals. Despite what ever moral qualms I had I went to the zoo in Beijing. The zoo is a 2 dollar cab ride and a 3 dollar entry fee. The zoo clearly is a little run down but their collection is astounding. Birds, cats, lemurs, pandas, tigers, elephant, rhino, hippo, and the original chicken species. overall very impressive. the enclosures were sad and the animals not very active but it was still good to see. If you are in beijing it is a definite must see and you cant beet the price. I would leave 5 hours to see it all. I am trying to get back there today to see the aquarium.

Training has been good. My plan has been 3 days on 1 day off. It felt awesome to take a day off. i felt very fresh. Today though I am tired but I feel as ready as I can be. Rob Stull fencing and pentathlon olympian from the 80's came to help me out. Tomorrow will be my last day of practice before the big event. Then time to march in opening ceremonies and get ready to fence.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Silk Market

Today I got a taste of China outside the manicured lawns of the Village. Some of the saber girls wanted to go shopping at the silk market (while they do sell silk there it is really a crazy mall). The silk market sells many things. Mostly clothes, shoes, silk, a few electronics, toys, and pearls.

The ride to the market was interesting. The building here all seem to differintiate themselves with architecture. There is almost always something interesting. It is nice to see so many different buildings. The streets were busy but there still wasnt the throngs of people I expected to see.

Entering the market you hear the buzz. Each of the 7 floors are packed with 8x8 stalls. Just trying to walk down the first aisle the sales people call to you. On the more aggresive bag section they would actually grab your arm to make you look at what they had. Nothing has a price on it. A friend wanted to buy a north face jacket. The initial price offered was 1500 RMB (currency of china). 220 dollars for jacket is outrageous. Before he even said anything though she dropped to 600 RMB. After 10 minutes he finally got her down to 100 RMB. Most things you needed to get 1/10th of the asking price otherwise you were getting ripped off. However for silk there wasnt much bargaining. I think due to its commodity nature the price varies very little.

This store was pretty commericial and popular. There werent any pirated dvds or video games. The nintendo ds were the same price as in the US and the vendors were unwilling to bargain. Cody and I eventually felt overwelmed and went for a walk. We walked down a random street that turned out to be the embassy section of the city. At one point we found a park and had a beer. It was nice to find a little oasis.

In one part of the park we saw people fishing in a what would genorously be called a pond. Emerald and cloudy green the fished. Simple poles with a bobber that looked exactly like it was taken from the Zelda game for the Wii. We saw one person with a guppie. While fishing is fun it would be nice to catch something weighing more than my cell phone.

Overall a great day. I didnt get back and in bed till ten. As soon as my head hit the people I was out and 8 hours of restful sleep went by. More practice today and hopefully we will get to see the zoo.