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Chinese Takeout: Time is the master of all things

Published:Thursday | August 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMAndre Lowe

Thursday was Usain Bolt Day in Beijing. Well, there was no official declaration or anything like that, but there might as well have been.

Bolt was the toast of the day as he fielded questions from the world's media, talking about everything from chicken nuggets to doping. More than 200 journalists attended a press conference that also saw Javon Francis, Hansle Parchment, and Asafa Powell speak, but it was clear who was the real draw for the massive gathering.

If body language is anything to go by, then it's hard to see Bolt losing to anyone here, but we know there's more to it than that. Still, the word is good - Bolt is fit, relaxed, confident, and ready. What you see is usually what you get with Bolt, and when he is in this frame of mind, good things tend to happen for him.

Asafa also seems to be in a good place. We'll have to see if that translates to a top performance when it counts on Sunday.

I almost forgot how serious the Chinese are about time and order and general control. Don't get me wrong, they are very jovial and pleasant people, for the most part, as far as I've seen, but 'A' is 'A' here. 'A' can never be 'a'. Right means right, it doesn't mean 'right most times and left sometimes' or 'right when you feel like'. There's no space for wiggle room or 'bly' or compromise in Chinese society, it seems.

Funny story.

Our photojournalist Ricardo Makyn and I were told that there's a complimentary breakfast from 7a.m. to 9 a.m.. After not getting the chance to have a proper dinner the night before and nowhere open in the 3 a.m. region when we had wrapped up work, 7 a.m. seemed like an aeon away.

So much so that we got to the restaurant at 6:58 a.m. The doors were open so you would expect that they would allow us to go inside since it was only two minutes away from opening time.


two-minute wait


Instead, this is what happened:

Staff: "Where you go?

Me: Restaurant. Food time.

Staff: No food time. Two minutes. Wait.

And with that, he closed the door behind him and smiled.

Still smiling, he would open the door at 7 a.m. on the dot, but you know what they say about a hungry man.

You know, it's in times like these that you realise how hard it is to distinguish between a bottle of lotion and a bottle of shampoo when you don't understand a single thing written on the bottles!

A group of us made a quick trip to a nearby supermarket yesterday to see if we could grab a few items. It was supposed to be a quick in-and-out thing - five minutes tops. It took more than that to simply figure out that we were looking at shampoo when what we needed to find was lotion.

Unfamiliar packaging and not a word of English turned a routine supermarket run into a full-on treasure hunt. We quickly realised that none of the staff spoke English, so they offered very little help. In the end, there was a bit of a gamble in our pick ups, but everyone got what they wanted for the most part - except, I didn't know that body wash could smell so much like lotion.