We’ve spent several days in the different markets throughout Shanghai, and the ubiquitous words are “ok, ok, ok.” The Shanghainese people have been so warm and kind. We have enjoyed the trip incredibly, but are also looking forward to heading home in the next few days. Always fun to travel, even better to get home.
The American men had a great swim last night in the 4×200 freestyle relay, albeit it a close one until the last 100. After the medal ceremony, Michael came over to us to present the rabbit and flowers. When fans see Michael coming over, they rush down and circle around, which can make it tough to leave. We try hard to take photographs and sign everything that we can, before having to leave the pool for the evening.
Dinner last night was at the top of the Hyatt, which overlooks the older side of city. Shanghai is split into two parts: the new Shanghai and the old, more traditional Shanghai. The city lights up at night, but shuts down around 11pm, when all lights turn off. Even on a Saturday night, the lights are dim all around the city.
When we were traveling from the market today, the cab driver asked from where we were visiting. We said the United States and he said “Oh… Phelps!” The culture really embraces Michael and it’s great to see. I was trying to explain that “we are Phelps’ family.” He didn’t quite understand, so I pulled out my camera, on which I had photos from the holidays and showed him the one of our family, showing all of us together, thinking that it would help with the connection. Michael’s hair was longer and he had a beard, so the explanation didn’t make a connection. We had a card with Michael’s picture and his agent’s contact information on it, and handed it to the driver. He still looked confused, which is probably the same look Peter (Michael’s agent) will have on his face when he receives an email from the Chinese cab driver who drove us around Shanghai this afternoon!
Tonight, we watched Michael compete in the 100 butterfly, which was his 25th World Championship gold medal. He was a little off of his best time and made a face as he traveled over the lane lines, to climb out of the pool. As I watch Michael on the medal stand, with his hand over his heart and a smile on his face, with his hair short and his face shaved, I see a little boy. Every time. I try hard to not tear up, but it’s tough. He’s worked so hard, for so long, and every gold medal is one that was earned through hard work, not simply handed to him because he is the best swimmer in the world.
We left the pool and wanted a traditional Chinese meal of Hot Pot. Not a well thought out plan, as it feels as if it’s close to 100 degrees outside the restaurant, so imagine all of the heat inside. Hot pot is a traditional Chinese meal, much like fondue. You select a broth of varying tastes and spice levels, that boils over a hot flame, in which you cook your meat, vegetables or seafood. One of the funniest things of the night was when we were brought boiling hot water, in wine glasses, to drink with our meal. I think there was a bit of a language barrier there, when ordering bottled water.
Tomorrow is the last day of the 14th Annual World Championships here in Shanghai, China. It honestly seems like yesterday, when we were standing in the stand, in Rome, Italy, in 2009 for the closing ceremonies, when the words “See you in Shanghai 2011” flashed up on the screen.
Those two years flew by in a blink of an eye. And I know this next year will be the same, with a bittersweet element, momentous swims and many a DP moment thrown in for good measure. As this trip wraps up and we move into the next year, I’m reminded daily by the Chinese culture, everywhere we travel, that things will be “ok, ok, ok.”