Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reaching For The Gold: My Life In China (& the Beijing Olypmics)

Beijing: Day 1

We decided to go for our very own gold medal and headed to "The Nest" construction site - just to see, if maybe, we could talk to people walking around outside. (We had heard how difficult it was to get into Olympic Construction Sites & how we'd never get access...)

Wind wind everywhere. So windy that part of a wall surrounding the construction zone blew down! Right in front of us! So we just walked in! And spent the entire day there! All you need is a little wind, a little luck... And there you are! It was like the universe took a little puff of air & blew down this particular part of the wall just for us to walk through.

This site is HUGE. We walked around for a bit, shot The Nest from different angles, talked to a few different people, etc... and then happened on a small group of workers who were working in the shadow of the unfinished stadium, moving a scrap heap. One of these workers, Xia Hongguang was here from Hunan Province. He came to Beijing specifically to work on Olympic construction. It was Sunday, things were a bit slow & he kindly agreed to talk to us.

His story turned out to be fascinating. He's been at this particular site for about 2 months, with his wife and children back home. He's proud to be helping build the Olympic Stadium & surrounding areas, but mostly, he is here for the opportunity. Construction work in Beijing pays more than farming back home.

He was likeable, earnest, quick to smile but just as quick to be serious. We liked him immediately and talked as long as we dared, we didn't want him to get in trouble with his supervisors. We asked him to meet us for dinner the following evening & he agreed.

Beijing: Day 2

We met Xia Hongguang & a friend for dinner - Beijing style hotpot. They were a bit wary of us at first, but we chatted & showed them some of the footage from the previous day.

He told us about his life, his reasons for coming to Beijing... We told him about our project, what his role it in would be... & he agreed to take part!!! Him & his friend even snuck Jack & Meng into their dorms that night. This was quite risky for them, as they could get in serious trouble, especially if their supervisors think we are a news organization trying to do an expose on dorm life. The dorms are right on the construction site & the conditions are horrendous. 12 men to a room, in bunk beds. Port-a-Potties for bathrooms, a tap with only cold water...

Here is an outside pic of dorms from another Olympic site. (No pics of "Nest" dorms, you'll have to wait for the trailer!)

Beijing: Day 3

This dinner started off with much less hesitation than the previous one! Although Xia told us how his supervisors had cleaned up the dorms after learning that about our visit. We talked over the focus of this portion of the film, which would be his life & choices in terms of his migration, NOT working conditions at Olympic construction sites. We let him know that we didn't want to cause him any trouble, and he assured us that he wanted to be part of this film. That out of the way, we felt a connection with Xia Hongguang almost instantly. We both couldn't express enough how happy we were to have made a friend from the other side of the world, so different from ourselves.

During his interview, he told us of moving away from home with his father to do construction work and how he goes home at least twice a year for planting & for the harvest. He talked of being lonely, but also of his happiness at his wife's upcoming arrival.

We made plans to keep in contact over the coming months.

Beijing: Epilogue

His wife arrived in Beijing the day after we left, also to look for construction work. Their children are with her father. She plans to live in the dorm with him (12 men & now one woman) indefinately. We are sad to have missed her arrival, but our schedule (budget) just didn't permit us to stay in Beijing. Looking forward to Summer '08.

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