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Flames playoffs are sorta like prom night. There is a lot of prep, a lot of excitement and a lot of practicing. And the funny thing is that the pay off is usually the same: disappointment.

So in an effort to escape the overrated Red Mile I decided a couple of months ago to go visit my friends in the far off land of Hong Kong and Beijing. You may have heard of Beijing before. Anyone who has ever read a newspaper knows that it is home to countless atrocities. But if you ask anyone from Beijing (who sadly don’t know it’s true history) it’s also the home of this summer’s 2008 Olympics. I knew my visit would be an interesting one. How exactly does a country that prides itself on keeping itself separated from the world host the world’s biggest sporting event.

When I landed in Beijing a couple of days ago it was immediate culture shock. Unlike Hong Kong there is little to know English. If there is English it’s not translated very well. My personal favorite: Romeo and Juliet’s home of instruments for sexual pleasure. Mmmm sounds fun.

What also surprised me was how much my last two years of being a “Calgarian” have prepared me for my 4 days in Beijing. You wouldn’t think it but the cities have quite a bit in common.

1. The Driving. The only rule when driving in Beijing? There are no rules. Oh wait…there is one. Pedestrians have no rights. I’m being serious, if you get hit by a car in Beijing you have to pay for the damages. Oh and who needs to follow those pesky lines that determine lanes. Those are for losers. Nope they don’t follow those rules. You can go as fast as you want, you honk at everyone, you don’t use your signals, you don’t look in your blind spots and if all else fails you just turn on your fake sirens that you have in your back window. Everyone has them. Normally this would scare the life out of most people. Luckily I drive the Deerfoot at rush hour.

2. The spitting. Beijinians (?) spit a lot. Actually let me clarify, they don’t spit they actually take a deep breath and at the same time gather every single loose liquid type substance that their lungs can handle and all in one instant display their “belongings” along the side walks of one of China’s biggest cities. It really is quite special. While I don’t really know a lot about the conflicts in Tibet, I certainly think this is worthy of a Torch snuff or two. It’s quite funny to see Caucasians be alarmed by such a display of sanitary clarification. But being a Calgary who has survived three Stampedes and regular walks past the Cecile I was prepared. Who knew?\

3. The stare. I wish I could some demonstrate how much people stare at the “short, white and bald boy” in Beijing. Try this: Find a full length mirror in your house. Stand in front of it and then stare at yourself. See how long you last. If you want the experience to be authentic try snickering, laughing or asking to take a picture of yourself. A regular walk in Beijing is just like that. Only more awkward. Which is totally fine. Being a Calgarian I am completely used to people staring at me. Whether I am driving, standing still, walking, riding the bus, buying coffee, looking at a newspaper or breathing. It’s no secret that Calgarians like to stare. And just like in Beijing they’ll only do it until you acknowledge the staring with a gentle hello. Then it will stop. At least until you stop looking. My personal favorite story in Beijing is when I was enjoying a McDonald’s hamburger ( you try ordering in Chinese and see how fast you end up at Mcdonalds). I sat down and noticed this lady staring at me. I nodded. She stared. She then got up from her table and proceeded to sit at my table. Directly across from me. And continue to stare. I said hello (in English and Manderine) and yet I got nothing. This lasted until I finished my burger and went on my way. The Olympics should be interesting.

So for all of you Calgarians who thought that maybe you couldn’t handle the big city of Beijing, it turns out you can. You pack up your bag, buy your ticket and get ready to feel right at home. You eat dog in Bridlewood right?

Mike Morrison