Since Tibet had turned out to be a dead end we were homeward bound, but as I was browsing the Internet in Chengdu one night I discovered the Olympic torch would be passing through Shijiazhuang the day after we were scheduled to arrive in the city. I sent a quick e-mail to Jenna to see if she'd be around and wanted to go to the relay together - of course she was in!
When I arrived in Shijiazhuang I made my way to Jenna's place, dropped off my stuff and took a nice shower before going off in search of food. Jon decided to head back to Handan since he had already seen the torch, but I got to meet Jenna's friend Kim and the three of us spent the next few days hanging out.
I didn't really have anything to do in Handan so I decided to just hang out in the Shiz, lay low for a few days and have a good time. Of course we also had to go check out the torch. We were told that foreigners weren't being allowed to watch the torch, but I don't believe in hearsay so I said we should check it out for ourselves. We left really early in the morning all decked out in our Olympics garb and we were allowed into the viewing area without any problems.
I bought about 100 Olympics stickers from some guy on the street and just started handing them out to people who didn't look particularly excited to be at the relay. This seemed to perk them up and soon there were crowds of people following us, laughing with us and admiring us for attempting to speak and sing in Chinese. I even had one little boy give me an Olympic phone charm for my mobile. :)
Of course we were basically the only foreigners there and we had some great outfits so essentially everyone wanted to take a picture with us.
We posed for pictures, led the Chinese people in cheers, got the crowd pretty rowdy and caused a giant scene for a few hours before the torch finally came through. There was a huge surge toward the front of the line and I got lost in the shuffle, which means after hours of waiting and being patient I didn't see a damn thing. Suddenly the crowd parted ways and the torch was gone.
I looked at Jenna and Kim, "That was it?!?!" we said in unison. Kim's also from Chicago and we talked about how if this was happening at home there would have been a parade and music and dancing and candy being thrown out and everyone would have been going nuts on the street with the torch and on the sidewalk watching. But we had to shrug and decided that even though we didn't really see anything we still had a lot of fun being crazy with the Chinese people.