Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Closing Ceremonies and other points of departure

I watched the closing ceremonies in bits and pieces in the town of Lijiang, first in a tiny, delicious little Chinese Muslim restaurant where Sarah and I ate delicious mutton stew, eggplant, and greens and sat and watched the young 7 year old waitress and her very old, adorable grandmother the cook both attend, attentively, to the barely perceptible image on their tv screen... Then, as we walked through the twisty, touristy streets of trinket-selling booths of old town, we watched locals watching the ceremonies in virtually every stand that had a tv...
So, ceremonies closed, I have taken to the air, land, and water, to get away and think about this all for a little while in southern Thailand, specifically Ko Ya Kai, an island off of the island of Phuket... a place mostly without internet... for now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Keeping It Light?: Thoughts On Cheryl's Competition

Many people have emailed me to ask how Cheryl did and how she is feeling about her competition, which is kind of a tricky question to answer, I am finding, especially in the format of this blog. Of course, it is my intention as a filmmaker to answer this question in a thorough and compelling way that goes far beyond the types of answers one would normally provide in simple conversations (ie, "She's disappointed, but doing well; she's determined to come back for London 2012; she's done with the sport and relieved that it's over, etc...)... The great thing about documentary making, is that the answer can be all of those things at once, that a complicated, visceral, moody, poignant sense of things can be developed given enough time, skill, and footage. And so the answer to the question will therefore have to wait (and weight) until the film is complete.

But, in order to do justice to the event here in the blog, I will say this:

I think that for all of us who felt the stakes of Cheryl's competition in Beijing, including and especially Cheryl herself, the results were disappointing. We all know that Cheryl can lift, and has lifted, much more weight than she did on August 16, 2008. We feel frustrated at the injuries she's experienced in the past year and a half, and at at those injuries' evasive demands to move slowly with the training - too slowly to allow Cheryl to hit her maximum potential last week. There is speculation: was it all the walking at the Olympic Village that hurt her? Was it the cold she developed the day before her competition?

It's easy to think about these things and harder to feel about them. How does Cheryl feel? I think that this is something that will take some time for her to sort out. There is always to tendency for most people including Cheryl to smooth over pain and difficulty, to not admit the real challenge of things as they are happening.

My job, as documentarian, is to witness as honestly I can and to not get too involved in trying to insist on keeping it light, though it's temping sometimes, to remind myself and the others who might not know so much about what elite weightlifting means that Cheryl placed 6th - highest of any American lifter male or female, and that in spite of the disappointment there is certainly a huge amount to be proud of too in what Cheryl has accomplished both on and off the platform.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Admiring in Lijiang

I've fallen from the sky into some kind of heaven here in Lijiang. 

Sarah can't believe how lucky I am to be greeted with this day: the first sun in many, many days, and only the second time in 2 months that Sarah has seen the "Snow
 Mountain" in the distance.

Next door to this artists' complex called Lijiang Studios are some Naxi neighbors, one of whom is an adorable old woman known simply as "Grandma." 

When she came over this morning to get some water I believe, Sarah introduced her to me and she immediately responded to Sarah with the clear observation stated in Naxi language (or was it Chinese?) but still totally comprehensible to me: "Her butt is bigger than yours." To which I agreed heartily.

Shortly thereafter, Grandma came back with breakfast - a stack of flatbread, and talked to us, pointing to my butt. I imagined that she said something like, "your butt is hungry, and very large. Please eat some breakfast." And she seemed very pleased when I did a little butt-shaking dance to indulge her. We understand each other, Grandma and I.

The Force of Deliciousness

I am recognizing a certain inevitability here: It seems that blogs written by me would evenually land at the topic of food. Here are a few pictures of things we ate in Beijing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Sense of Scale

photos courtesy of Beth Haworth, Cheryl's littler big sister.

Breakfast at 7-11

Walking into 7-11 the first time on our arrival day, purely for the purposes of buying some water: a huge wake up call to our days in Beijing.

I should, and maybe I will, post pictures of the delights within the aisles and refrigerated cases within. And then, the two counters of various bundles of noodles, dumplings, tofu in about 12 different formations. Each one costs about 1 yuan (15 cents) and whichever collection you chose comes swimming in little container of delicious broth...

Game Face

August 16th: at the lunch table, Anne and I are overcome with pre-competition anxiety. Or at least I am. Do you know how it feels to be full of delicious dumplings and nervous at the same time? I recount to Anne and Fairy my experience of tapping in to "the Zone" to find my inner determination and calm at the recent Creative Capital Retreat, and we decide to do it here and now: go into the Zone for Cheryl's competition.

And so we did. These images are from early in our training cycle. You can see that Anne is cultivating her inner fire, whereas I'm about the Zen (or is it Yin) approach to the game.