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Scorpions on a stick

Time went by quickly in Beijing. I have been here almost a week, and although not seeing much of this amazing city due to being heavily jetlagged, recovering from my ac-induced cold and having to prepare the oii-summer school, I still managed to collect some vivid impressions. I took an evening stroll with a couple oii sdp fellows on a small street of Wangfujing Daije where all kind of strange foods are on display for curios tourists like us. I had a bit of a roasted scorpion-stick, which although looking spectacular tasted less so. I skipped the roasted maggots, but already had jellyfish and sea-cucumber, both which taste like salt-sea-flavored jello.

I went shopping in the Zhong Guan Cun Area, basically these are three or four huge six-story shopping centers that act as stacked basars. Thousands of dealers, each occupying just a small compartment, nested besides another spilled out endlessly over the floors offering every gadget imaginable. I felt lost in a sea of mp3 players, which were present in the millions. Prices fluctuate widely and shopping, though possibly rewarding when compared to the offerings in Europe, gives a vivid lection in how much stress markets are.

I took a taxi back to the hostel and driving through the city in a taxi exposes the traveler to the very palpable impression that torrents of capital stream together violently here only to crystallize as architectures. Somebody asserted that nearly 50% of the world cranes are currently in Beijing and I am willing to believe this claim. Building after building is climbing towards the sky, concrete, steel, glass is shaping into one modern office tower after the other. Seeing this I can’t help myself to think about all the lifes that are wasted in this boom.

The oii summer program finally started yesterday. First I moved from the hostel to the Paragon hotel across the street where all participants are accommodated. Funny thing is that the Oxford Internet Institute put us lot of 27 exponents of the always-on generation who work and live on the net into a hotel that does not offer Internet access in the rooms. Even the hostel offered that. The hotel instead forces one into a small room called ‘Business Lounge’ and charges a whopping 80rmb (10$) an hour for Internet. Every Internet café in China charges a fraction. So I have been off the net in my spare time, which is probably a good thing;)

Nic Suzor, an oii Fellow who had stood with me in the hostel, and I immediately wished ourselves back. Not only because of the Internet, but also because the rooms where bigger, brighter and in their simplicity aesthetically much more pleasing – at one fifth of the price. Having a minibar with lots of spirits in the room is nice, but I can live without that.

Our first day of the program was very much overshadowed by the London bombings. But the introductory sessions took place and so far I can say that we are a truly international group of 27 young people facing the same problem with current academia: working on subjects that just don’t fit into the compartments of traditional disciplines. Bill Dutton of the oii got it right by pointing out, that our commonality is having a problem-oriented approach.

More on our procedings on the first days soon here.

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