FAMILY'S PRIDE AS MARIE SETS TO WORK AT BEIJING OLYMPICS
A BALLYCLARE couple will be keeping a keen eye on the Beijing Olympics this month, not only to watch the cream of the world's athletes competing against each other, but also to see if they can spot their American-born granddaughter who is working at the event!
Proud grandparents Neil and Mary Gilmour from Mill Road in Ballyclare are not surprised that their granddaughter Marie Gilmour (25) from Florida, jumped at the chance to work at the Beijing Olympics.
"During a three month college semester at sea, Marie visited no less than four continents, 11 countries and more than 30 foreign cities. She'll jump at any chance to travel," said her grandfather Neil.
"Marie is working for Aramark, a professional services company providing food for the 2008 Olympic Games, and that has given her the opportunity to visit China and see the Olympics up close. Getting paid to travel to the Beijing Olympics - I'd like a job like that!" he laughed.
When she's not off globetrotting, marketing major Marie works for Aramark Higher Education in Macon, Georgia, USA, running a food court at Mercer University.
She is presently part of a 12-member group from Aramark, based in Media Village II, who will be responsible for serving more than 30,000 athletes, trainers, media and guests at the Summer Olympics.
"I'm a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Manager. In other words, I'm an internal health inspector and am working daily with the Beijing hygiene bureau to make sure we meet the highest standards possible," Marie told the Times.
However, it's not a case of all work and no play in Beijing for intrepid Marie and her colleagues.
"We've visited many of Beijing's finest tourist sights, night markets and the various hutongs (streets) that attract rooftop dining and unsurpassed views," said Marie.
"Wangfujing Street night market is very busy and one attraction not to be missed. It's where China's silk shirts come in many colours. Here, polite Chinese assistants donning tape measures around their necks, take stock of your size and help you choose the perfect silk shirt.
"A few booths down, trays and trays of China's delicacies cause a human traffic jam. Folks stop, eye up and then eat grilled scorpions, lizards and silk worms on a skewer. Some simply look, but others partake, just to say: 'I ate a fried lizard on Wangfujing Street, Beijing, and it was great!' "
"I ate a scorpion the other night. Well, let's say I tasted it! I've been to China before, during my three month college semester at sea. But, on this visit, the experience is greater. I get a chance to work with students and professionals every day. It's very exciting to experience the Chinese culture and their way of life." said Marie.
People and travelling are Marie's passion. Among the countries she has visited already are Cuba, South Africa, Tanzania, Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan.
She also enjoyed a summer tour of Europe which included a holiday with her grandparents in Ballyclare, where she spent some quality time both with them and her Northern Irish cousins.
"I've been to Ballyclare four times in all and I love the friendliness of the people. The Ballyclare countryside is beautiful, I was awestruck by the rolling landscape and the beautiful villages close by," Marie said.
"My cousin Duncan Mawhinney who is a bus driver in Ballyclare drove me all over to see historical and coastal sights. I even went to an old car show where we took his 1980 vintage mini.
"And of course I got a real kick out of the Ballyclare sense of humour, even if it's something that needs translation to the American ear!
"I also loved the sausage rolls and fabulous breads found in the local bakeries. But I have to admit it was the breakfast frys cooked by grandad Gilmour that were my favourite meal!"
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Gilmour Overcash grew up on the Mill Road, Ballyclare, and remembers playing hockey with Alison Moore, Sonia Johnson and Michelle Alexander.
A feature correspondent, Overcash has written for the Ocala Star*Banner (New York Times Group) Florida, and other media. She lives in Central Florida with her husband and three college-bound children.
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