Yesterday we had an interesting cultural exchange at Shinyu. One of the rowers, Vicky, has a guide dog named Angus and he has become quite the celebrity. It’s apparently very rare for the Chinese to see big dogs. In fact, it’s illegal to own a dog over 30 lbs here! So the reactions to Angus are interesting. A few have been scared, but most are in awe. Yesterday some brave volunteers ventured over to meet Angus and that started a constant stream of visitors. He also has cameras constantly flashing, so we’re learning how the stars feel with their papparazi. Or at least Angus is! Today when Vicky was on the water she put Angus in a spot more tucked away so he could get some rest.
When Angus came to China he didn’t have to go through quarantine, but he does need to be inspected by a vet a few times while here. The vet came to see Angus while he was at the rowing venue yesterday and was accompanied by a group of about 10 (there are a lot of volunteers at these Games!) They needed to talk to Vicky and so had to wait for her to finish training. While we were waiting they started to ask many questions about guide dogs. It was the first time we’ve had a good interpreter so we were able to have a pretty interesting conversation. One of the men turned out to be the Chairman of the Chinese Association for the Blind. He had come down to learn about guide dogs. In China they only have seven guide dogs in the whole country! However, they are building a guide dog training institute here, so hopefully that number will increase rapidly.
Here’s another interesting fact; in China there are about 110,000 blind massage therapists. Massage therapy is the most prominent career for the blind.
Training is now in full gear. We had some technical issues on our first training day (including a couple broken oars). Today they got in great workouts despite the fact that it was hazier and also very humid. I am really enjoying getting to know the team. They are fantastic people and I look forward to watching them compete.